Getting it Right

22nd October 2014

An important realisation came to me at one o'clock in the morning as I lay awake and wondered whether it was worth getting up and heating a mug of milk to help me get back to sleep. Several things militated against this course of action:

  1. The cat would want to come out of the kitchen and follow me back to bed
  2. I was warm and comfortable and might just fall sleep anyway, if I had the patience to wait
  3. The very thought of drinking the hot milk made me feel queasy
  4. Where was my hot-milk-mug anyway? In the cupboard or the dish-washer?

That was when I had my revelation: other people have matching mugs.

You open their cupboard door and reach up and – there they are: white or cream or patterned, all the same size and shape and the same type of china.

What I have is a whole shelf of assorted mugs: mostly bone china but some thicker and more utilitarian. There are three matching (in blue, green and brown) from Achins Bookshop in Lochinver but I never use these myself because R prefers his tea and coffee in them, to the extent that I fish them out of the dishwasher and wash them by hand if they've already been used. I don't even feel comfortable giving one of them to a visitor (not that he would mind).

Of the rest: there are mugs I use only for my hot water in the morning and last thing at night; there are the large mugs for soup, and the red patterned one with the strawberry inside that I use for my morning coffee. I did have a navy and white spotted one for when I'm wearing blue jeans but it got broken so I'm making a big effort to use the same one whatever I'm wearing.

Good grief. My mugs don't match each other, but they do have to match me. I could no more have used the navy and white mug when I was wearing black jeans than fly in the air. Well, I'd quite like to fly in the air, who wouldn't, but I wouldn't want to use the wrong mug. When (occasionally…) R makes tea for me, I have to specify which mug I want it in. He usually gets it wrong anyway, and I have been known to get up and pour the tea into the right mug.

Matching mugs would be much simpler, obviously. The only way to achieve this is to throw out all the mugs I have already and start again. But there are two huge objections:

  1. I hate waste
  2. I am fond of these mugs and I LIKE having different ones for different drinks

In old age, living alone after my mother's death, my father laughed at himself for liking to do things in the same way every morning, the same mug for breakfast, the dishes put back in the cupboard in the same order. I'm not over ninety, so what excuse do I have?

Actually, I assumed everyone was the same until, some years ago, I watched my sister hanging out her washing and discovered the world is divided into those who care about which pegs they use and those who say 'What are you talking about?'

Washing Day

I do it this way:
orderly, everything in rows
each sheet, skirt, pair of socks
given a suitable pair of pegs.
The clothes billow graceful and gay
towels together, shirts clasping hands,
all the underwear flapping neatly
on the line that's out of sight of the street.
I stand back to watch them fly
and turn indoors content.

This is not how my sister
hangs out washing:
dumps the load on concrete, basketless
grabs each item as it comes to hand
rams it on the line with grubby pegs
left there, in rain or shine
since last washing day;
clumps the socks together
one peg only for sweatshirts, jeans,
when she runs out, half way along.
She goes indoors, not thinking
about washing at all.

And yet, look at us – sisters
one family, one flesh, alike,
sprung from the same source.
We must have something in common.

The trouble is, I've gone too far, and it's taking me ages to hang out washing now. Not only do I have to match the pegs to each other, but I also like to have them match the clothes they're attached to. That's the trouble with these new-fangled coloured plastic pegs. I'm thinking of going back to plain wooden ones for absolutely everything.

The local charity shop is going to do well out of me when I get over myself and give them all these mugs and pegs.

Still, there is hope. When my niece asked me if I wanted the newly washed spoons put back in the drawer under the unused ones (work it out….) my heart beat a little faster as I recognised a kindred spirit. I am not alone!