Fumble Fingers

May 5, 2009 at 1:36 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve been coming over all Greek recently, at least insofar as smashing the crockery goes. I’m really on a roll. I don’t know if my nerves are failing me or what the story is, but I’m doing an awfully good job of clearing the cupboards. The problem is I get emotionally attached to certain items. I still mourn a coffee cup I smashed a few years ago now. I bought it in the Czech Republic as a backpacker, carted it around Europe, took it to London, lived with it there for two years and then managed to get it back to Australia in one piece. It soon moved into my office at UNSW when I started my doctorate, and the coffee cart at the bottom of my building saw a lot of action from the two of us – me and my mug – over the years. Then I moved to Man Town and finished my PhD from home. The coffee cup – it was a beautiful shape, low and wide, with a two-blue glaze and a little navy saucer – naturally came with me, and it was here that I smashed it. In the kitchen. On the floor. It was all over in seconds. I was heartbroken.

The same thing happened with Llew’s coffee cup a couple of weeks ago. I bought that cup at the Gorman House markets in Canberra when I was an undergraduate, years before Llew and I met. But it was almost Japanese in its spare aesthetic, and Llew’s very particular about his ceramics, and so once we were together, this cup became his and has remained his for all the years since. And then I broke it. I honestly nearly cried, which is also what happened when Llew lost the package containing the wonderfully ironic Sarah Palin mug my friend Patrick sent me during the US election. I didn’t even get to say heeeeeello, let alone goodbye. It made me gnash my teeth for WEEKS. What can I tell you? I have a thing about coffee cups.

I’ve never really replaced my own favourite, the blue cup, returning for a brief spell to a Tuscan-ware cup and saucer given to me by my friend S. It’s chipped but still hanging in there. It fell from favour because the handle overheats – a stupid flaw in an item supposedly designed to hold hot drinks. Aesthetically, too, it’s not  quite as fetching as my Czech Cup. I see sets like it all over the place, which immediately lessens its overall appeal. I liked my Czech Cup so much because it was hand-thrown by a local potter and there wasn’t another one like it in the whole world. It reminded me of my travels, and of everything since, and that when I bought it I solemnly held it up and said to my friend ‘This is going to be my writing cup.’ I honestly still miss it, and can see it in my mind’s eye as clearly as if it were still sitting beside me. 

I went from a unique cup to a Baudrillardian celebration of the image over the real: an ‘I *heart* NY’ mug my sister in law brought back for me the last time she was in the States. Flic was under strict instructions, and she did not disappoint. It’s an excellent size, actually, perfect for me, and it has a really good wide handle, not one of those idiotic keyhole handles that are the last word in useless. I love it because I love New York and am constantly enchanted by its hyperreality and super-narrative sweep and the way it just casually wipes the floor with every other city on earth. I look at my ‘I *heart* NY’ mug and I remember the city and think hard about how to get back. The mug is also an idea machine. I find if I stare at it long enough, certain themes always present themselves, and guide me back to my work. It’s been a cheap china co-conspirator. And this morning, because I was looking at the computer screen instead of watching what I was doing it, I dropped it. There’s a little side table beside me here in the sunroom – I don’t blog at my desk anymore because the internet connection seems to have fallen into a black hole in my office – actually, it’s a miniature stool, and I missed the edge. The mug fell to the floor and rolled away across the tessellated sunroom tiles as my heart sank. Bits of china the size of fingernails flew in all directions from the epicentre of disaster. I was almost too afraid to look. Gingerly picking it up from the floor, I examined my little post-modern friend. The handle is now chipped and a line running straight through the midpoint of the handle suggests that it’s going to snap the next time I attempt to bring a full coffee to my lips. I’m going to give it a go in about twenty minutes but I don’t rate its chances of survival very highly. The good news is I do have friends currently living in My Kind of Town (actually, I think that song was written for Chicago, not New York, but you know what I mean), so I may put in a request and then pick up the damn parcel myself… Otherwise, I’m back on the market for a new mug. But I gotta tell ya: parting is such sweet sorrow.



  1. Lilian Nattel said,

    New cup, new leaf? In any case, when I get fumble fingers, it means a break is in order. I hope wherever your new cup comes from, it is lovely.

  2. doctordi said,

    And now, Lilian, it’s my turn to say to you what a wonderful way of looking at it!

    You also highlight a big positive in this… now I get to go hunting for a new mug…

  3. litlove said,

    I wish I had a mug that gave me ideas! Where can I buy one of them? But seriously, I am so sorry to hear about the accident. And clearning up tiny shards of china is no fun, either. Still, as Lilian so rightly says, you can move on in style.

  4. Grad said,

    I’ve never heard of a mug being a muse, but why the hell not? It is sad to see these old friends chip and crack and collapse. (No, I am not describing myself, although I could be). Our well-loved coffee mugs (we all have at least one) are a little like ourselves, afterall…colorful, comfortable, hopefully receptive, and perhaps just a little too fragile.

  5. doctordi said,

    Litlove, you’re just not looking hard enough. Use it as an informal writing exercise. Take a mug from your cupboard next time you sit down to write something, and just stare at it for a while. Things will come to you, I promise.

    Grad, I take my muse white with one! And you can chip, you can crack, but please, don’t you ever collapse.

  6. doctordi said,

    Okay, I have just done it again. The NY mug survived another two days, but I just dropped it off the side of the stool and now the main body is in pieces. I am such a klutz. An idiot who doesn’t pay enough attention, and a klutz! DAMN IT!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. davidrochester said,

    I don’t have anything profound to say about this post, but it was such a pleasure to read … there is something iconic about one’s favorite cup. One of my favorites is one my ex-GF left at my house, and which I can’t use when anyone else is here, because it’s shocking pink, and has art-deco high-heeled shoes on it. But it’s exactly the right size, and the handle is the most comfortable of any in my cup collection.

  8. doctordi said,

    I knew you’d understand. Maybe you have to be a coffee lover to really get this intimate relationship with an inanimate object… and that cup sounds great, David, a bit of high camp and humour never goes astray.

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