The patterns are all so beautiful. Such wondrous colours. The fine details. I’m always finding some new pattern within a pattern, even on the favourites I’ve spent so many Saturdays with, think I know so very well.
I am transported, every Saturday morning, travelling to China, to France, to Japan, to Tokyo, Limoges, Jingdezhen, even stuffy old London, where I’d honeymooned so, so long ago. I love to pore over the oriental vases and visit ancient China, think about life there when porcelain was first discovered, what it must have been like to live and work in a time, in a place, creating such a beauty as the world had never seen before.
I love when Betty shows me new arrivals, especially the sets in on consignment. If it’s a slow day in the shop, she’ll set a table for us, with biscuits and tea, and she’ll tell me all about the person who brought it in, how they got it, where it came from. People tell her about the occasions it was used for, the people who ate from it. Sometimes there are stories about famous people. Important people. But I love just as much the stories about the big family dinners, or the romantic evenings with candlelight and roses.
Of course, people also tell her why they have to part with it. Those stories often break my heart. It breaks my heart that people can’t hold onto the things they love. I wish we lived in a world where we could all hold onto what we loved.
We were no longer young when the sirens roared, when the Heinkels and Spitfires left contrails in the skies and the bombs fell, when those evil rockets buzzed overhead. We were no longer young and we’d saved up all our lives to travel the world, to leave our little haven in Woburn and discover all the beauty out there. We had lived a good life, and were about to live the life we’d always dreamed of when the world went crazy. When, suddenly, nowhere was sane. Nowhere was safe, even our quiet little brick house in Woburn, where the rocket landed one night and took our home, took our savings, took my man, took my Harry. The night when a stray V-2 took everything from me but the Limoges we’d bought in London on our honeymoon, just as we were saying grace over Christmas dinner. Not a single piece was broken, or cracked, or chipped.
How is it the most delicate things survive such catastrophes?
In all the years she’s told me stories about the porcelain sets that have come through her shop, about the people who have bought and sold theirs there, Betty has never told me about the people who bought mine, mine and Harry’s.
She’s never told me. And I’ve never asked.
But, maybe, some day they’ll want to let it go. Maybe some day it will be there, in Betty’s china shop, and I will get back some small bit of my old life, be transported back to the place and time I most want to be.
England, United Kingdom
Taken during travels, 1996