I didn’t make it to a museum or to any sight-seeing today (and I’m not sure I’m going to this weekend). Instead I had fun with pottery.
You see, I’ve been making bircher muesli lately, and I have tiny cupboards, and . . . well, long story short, I needed a small dish with a lid that I could use to store dried coconut on my counter so that I wouldn’t have to see this unsightly package every day:
I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to find something old and cool in the flea market in the passage where I live. So I went out early to see what I could find and discovered a tiny shop with an old lady surrounded by towering heaps of old dishes. Perfect!
Me: Hi, I’m looking for a small dish with a lid that you might store sugar or something in.
Her (speaking as though to a child, with an undertone of judgment): Hm . . a pot, I think is what you mean? You’re looking for a POT.
Me (nodding as if I hadn’t noticed): EXACTLY. A pot.
Her (pretending like she’s not surrounded by mounds of dishes and pots): No, nothing.
Me: Really? What a pity.
Her (dismissively): Lovely day to you.
Me (deciding to have fun): What about dishes? Plates, say. Do you have any of those?
Her (looking irritated): Dishes? Oh, well, why don’t you go look at the ones out on the table outside in the alley?
Me (gleefully): Yes, I saw those on my way in. What about the large stack of blue and white plates right behind you?
Her (horrified): Oh, but–but everything inside is MORE EXPENSIVE!
Me (smilingly): Yes . . . so?
Her (resignedly): I guess I do have this stack here. You can have a look.
I did have a look. The plates were mostly junk, not expensive but definitely overpriced for what they were. Then a pitcher caught my eye and she let me look at it. It was unique and pretty; seemed legit. I asked the price and it was indeed much more expensive than what was outside; also more expensive than the plates she had shown me. I paused.
Her (magnanimously): Take your time, NO NEED TO RUSH! Let me just take that back from you and you can be on your way.
Me (giving her what she wanted): Yes, of course, I don’t have that much cash on me.
Her (satisfied, as if I had just confirmed what she had suspected all along): Oh, well, good day to you.
So I left and ran some errands and pulled some cash out of the ATM and went back about an hour later.
Me (cheerily): I’m back!
Her (clearly wanting to die): I see.
Me: I’d like to take the pitcher.
Her (spluttering): The pitcher?! Not the plates?
Me: Yes, the pitcher, please. I don’t expect I’ll be getting any plates.
Her (fetching it): Oh. OH! Well, you have certainly SURPRISED me. Hm!
Having apparently decided that she had underestimated my potential as a customer, she suddenly became completely joyful and helpful and charming. She explained the history of the jug (a type of ironstone transferware made in Staffordshire in the 1840s with a lovely scene and an interesting sort of “mask” on the spout that made me think of pirates) and was full of solicitude for me to examine it from all angles and verify her assertions of high quality. Throughout the transaction she just kept clucking about what a good choice I had made and how much happier I would be with this piece than the plates (which was clearly code for “who could have guessed you’d actually have money and even a little taste?”).
So now I have a pretty little blue and white jug which, contrary to the lady’s suggestion of putting flowers in it, I am going to use for milk! I have decanted my milk from the grocery store jugs into the 180-year-old pitcher, which I will use with my breakfast and midnight milk-and-cookies from now on. I already love it.
But what about the dried coconut, you ask? Not to worry, I found a lovely hand-thrown Shanagarry pot from East Cork, Ireland, at a shop up the street that will do just fine. Together, of course, with a tiny spoon carved from organic British cow horn.