I’ve been thinking about items of value, not of monetary value or things which are valuable because of their usefulness; I’ve been thinking of objects which really could do with recycled, or in truth, binned, because no-one else would want them, and there’s nothing usefully re-usable about them.
Today I was looking at the cutlery drawer with its motley collection of tableware and the other things which have ended up there, pop-on milk bottle tops, a strip of paracetamol, corkscrew, toothpicks and dental floss, sweetcorn holders/skewers, and about a million crumbs which reappear as soon as I clean them out. I picked up a spoon with the date 1926 on the back of its bowl. It is quite ornate and patterned, it’s hall-marked, quite fancy, and as well as the date there are the initials, P.M.M., because it was my mum’s Christening spoon -Phyllis Monica Matthews. It was given to her by her unknown god-parent when she was christened. She was christened in Winchester Cathedral, where the family were living when she was born -or so the family story had it. I wrote to Winchester Cathedral and the very helpful archivist couldn’t find any trace of a record of her christening. I wasn’t surprised – these family stories sometimes aren’t as true as we hope them to be. Then I received another letter – her baptismal record had been found in the parish register for the cathedral, so the story is true! My mum was christened in Winchester Cathedral! The spoon has had an interesting history; some time in the 50’s or 60’s it disappeared, as such things do, and was thought to be lost – maybe accidentally fallen into rubbish and put in the dustbin, who knows. Years after it vanished, dad was putting compost from the heap onto the garden, and there was the spoon! Somewhat pitted, but still shiny and, soon washed and cleaned, it was back in the family cutlery drawer. Whenever I use it, I think of its history, and Mum’s history too.
Another old spoon in the drawer is my sister’s coronation spoon; I think all children in Cambridge, born in the coronation year were given a decorated commemoration spoon, with the queen’s profile engraved on the top of the handle. The queen was only just twenty-seven when she was crowned, the same age my daughter is now! My sister was only a couple of months old when the queen was crowned, so 1953 is a special year for our family, nothing to do with royal occasions. I didn’t realise, but a simple spoon has different names for its different parts – well, I knew there is the bowl and the handle, and I might have guessed the end of the bowl is the tip, but I didn’t know at the other end, the end of the handle is also the tip. Where the bowl curves down (or up depending which way you’re holding it) that is the drop, and where it joins the handle are the shoulders. The slim part of the handle is the stem, but where it fattens out at the end – although not all spoons do that these days, that is the actual handle because of course that’s where your hand holds it. Seven parts of a spoon, including two tips. Next time I visit my sister in her care home, I might take it and ask her if she remembers it!
Another spoon in the cutlery draw, is a small, somewhat bent teaspoon, slightly bent, with a deep bowl and a pointed tip, a slim stem, and a fat, almost squarish handle. It is made of some cheap all purpose metal, and could be fifty years old or more, in fact if my dad inherited this same insignificant piece of cutlery from his mother, it could very well be a hundred years old. It has no value, none at all except to me, even though I don’t know it’s history. Actually, I don’t even know where it came from, Dad might have got it from anywhere, found in the drawer of a house they moved into, dug up from the garden! This spoon was the spoon he always used for boiled eggs. Although small, it wasn’t a lightweight metal, but had substance enough to crack an egg when sharply struck. The shape of the handle was perfect for peeling the top off the egg, and then the shape of the spoon with its pointed tip was perfect for eating the said egg. I don’t often use the spoon – mostly for fishing a tea-bag out of a cup on the odd occasions when we don’t make tea with leaves in a pot. I can never pick it up, or even just see it lying with its spoony siblings, without thinking of dad. I don’t use it for my boiled egg – although maybe I should