stronger in the broken places


My very first job was working at homewares store in Hobart. In the three years I worked there I ended up with an enormous Spode collection, some very fine cookware and intimate knowledge of knife sharpening and Wedgwood china patterns; all of which I'm sure was not usual in a girl of nineteen.

I remember a slow Sunday, unpacking a recent delivery, checking the contents against an invoice and then pricing them and putting them on the shelves.  I unwrapped this beautiful mug and as the last of the packing paper fell away, the mug promptly split into two neat halves in my hand.  It was such a shock, and I was horrified!  It was so beautiful and I was worried I'd broken it, but my colleague reassured me that with such a clean break it had probably happened in transit on the way down from the mainland.  We put it on the "write off" sheet and continued.  I asked what would happen to the pieces and was told they would just be chucked away.  I was so sad at the thought.  I am always full of intentions for creative projects (ask Tom about the time I brought a door home), and had visions of making something arty with the pieces, so I asked if I could have them.  The manager said yes, so they were wrapped in a piece of tissue and tucked into my bag, ready for a salvage operation at day's end.

When I got home, having abandoned the idea of a creative project with the pieces (again, ask Tom about the time I brought a door home!) I just went to my Dad's shed and glued them back together with superglue.  There was a slight chip at the top, just missing the iris.  I figured I'd see if it was watertight once the glue had dried.

Once it was established it was watertight and cleaned to within an inch of its life to wash away anything toxic, it was my favourite mug.

A good five years later, the repairs were still intact and I took it to Melbourne with me when I moved there. I used to make T2 herbal tisanes and drink them on my porch, looking around the garden.  I think the smell of dried lemongrass will always make me think of the first nine months in that city, discovering new places and people, having my senses reawakened.

When I packed up my belongings about a year later to move to the UK, the mug for some reason was placed in one of the boxes.  I don't know why but I couldn't bear to leave it behind.  Somehow it symbolised the years it had accompanied me through my life so far: a flawed but beautiful thing, and with the right binding to put it back together, it had been made whole and useful and beautiful again. 

By the time I was reunited with my boxes a few months later I was surprised to see it.  I had forgotten I'd packed it.  I suppose at the time I was only thinking about essentials.  What did I need?  Books, that was a given.  Warm clothes, for England was a cold country.  A teapot.  A mug to drink tea with.  That was about it.

I remember my first flat in London, my room on the ground floor of a dilapidated house in Clapham, with the fireplace in it.  I lined up all my books on the mantlepiece, and my mug went next to them.  I remember nights when I'd stay up late writing well into the night, only interrupted by hasty suppers of hummus and pitta bread, or an apple and a triangle of camembert, and always followed by a hot chocolate made in my mug.  I'd put a shot of Bailey's in if I was feeling indulgent.

Eleven years and five flats later, it's still in my cupboard. Well, more accurately, it's on my writing desk. 

Things that are broken can sometimes be put back together, and they are all the more beautiful because of the cracks, the life marks.  That's where the stories are.

You can always pick up the pieces and start again.