Call me obsessive. Some months ago—never mind how long precisely—having a few spare shekels in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me in
at an outdoor stall. Repeated approaches and a plea of colonial poverty dropped the price to just 60% of appalling. I still don’t know its use or provenance, but it’s tangibly magical and was clearly made (by whatever shaman, in whatever century and locale) to adorn my office. A cartwheel tuppence’s weight in purest Rohini oolong from The Darjeeling Tea Lady awaits whoever provides the most interesting and plausible illumination.
soccer football, I made the rail trip into Hammersmith to see if there might be any worthy teaware to bulk up the suitcase left half-empty for just such a contingency. I might have preferred the somewhat mellower
It was a very cold day, even by whaling standards, so vendors were in a mood to sell out and go home. I quickly located a few of the face pots I admire for just £7 each at a stand personed by a seriously hypothermic rosebud, who appeared to be clearing a closet for her SO. After building rapport and indicating the decadal depth of my enthusiasm for this populist art form, I asked if she had any more. She hauled out a large box of the same, and I wound up with six for twenty, thereby illustrating the power of both timing and the bulk purchase. Most were of my favorite marque, Sadler,
with a few more desirable (sez the Web) but to me less whimsical pieces from other kilns. More importantly, at one of the arcade shops, I located stoneware jars originally loaded with various preserved-fish spreads (here Bloater Paste and anchovy butter), presumably invented to make Marmite taste good by comparison.
These are urgently required at home for purposes as yet to be determined. However, we have not yet touched on teaware.
Though somewhat impoverished in paraphernalia generally
(that’s the quotidian equipage), I was not seriously looking for pots as such. The only two uniquely British styles that really appeal are the true Brown Betty and the cute art-deco Railway sets. Of the former I inherited an archetypal example, perfect except for chipped spout; in a hundred or so
Though usefully sized at about 150 ml, neither had apparently ever been tainted with actual leaf; and at about $300 each, even my compulsion to negotiate was stymied. Further, the shop owner didn’t seem to have much use for Yanks. Probably too young to remember the 8th Air Force’s help in the recent unpleasantness.
I also perused a stallful of alleged jade carvings (neither jadeite nor nephrite to be found). The owner saw me eyeing an implausibly viridian gaiwan, and seemed surprised that I had any idea what it was for, much more that I used one daily. It transpired that he didn’t know how to hold it, and only drank coffee anyway. (No shame there—good coffee in
In any event, per above, I wasn’t much seeking pots anyway. What I really wanted was some nice creamers: small for fair-pots, and larger for cold water. Also something nice to display a series of spent leaves. The latter will now be well-served by my first
This pair, the cup with a bisque-firing floor leak and the saucer fine to my eye, were about £15 avec the magenta-painted cup, allegedly Kangxi ca. 1700 and the second most compelling ceramic piece I own, ahead of a small Royal Doulton flambé vase picked up at the Alexandra Palace in the ‘90s. (As a Singaporean friend commented on hearing that a jade amulet I’d picked up for $20 in
The real find, however, was this delightful pair of Art & Crafts pitchers, from the charming people at Orchard Antiques. (Not a twee moniker, that’s actually the family name, and they had exceptionally many nice things.) Only because these caught both my eye and the remainder of my simoleons did I evade purchasing a magnificently kitschy 1960s ashtray in the shape of a shark for a relative who’s in the business of protecting them.
What I most wanted to bring home, as so often happens, was not on offer. The survival of the sessile stallkeepers was ensured by the near-manic peregrinations of a charming and stunningly beautiful young American lass who would collect and memorize the orders of each group of shivering vendors, disappear into the throng, and return moments later in perfect equilibrium with a tray piled high with steaming drinks, sweet rolls and savories. For her extended company I’d have traded all the tea in