Wednesday, December 31, 2008
"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
"Have you made any resolutions?"
Mater posed the question as we perched on the brink of a new year. I admitted that I had, indeed, made some sincere commitments, one of which included the consumption of tea without sugar.
Astonished she was, and thoroughly disbelieving, as she knows well how much I like sugar in my tea; but I assured her that it was my honest intention.
"That being said," I said, "I don't have to suffer it for very long."
Mater, being curious, wished to know exactly why.
This was the truth: the aforementioned vow arrived too late to be of any use. It was a new year resolution, yes, but belonged exclusively to the year just passing, and as a happy result the first day of January would see a clean page upon which I might write another resolution while I drink my sweetened beverage.
Crafty, certainly, but utterly convenient. I highly recommend the last-minute addition of resolutions on the very last day of the year, rendering said promise null and void within mere hours.
I enjoy a bit of sugar in my tea, and I loathe the red tape of self obligation, considering it a dull and joyless way to begin what might turn out to be a lovely year.
Happy 2009 to all.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 2:33 PM
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
"The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy."
They say to always beware of the quiet ones. I was that way in school: quiet, unassuming, blending harmlessly in with the classroom walls.
And then one day when I was fifteen, while my classroom bubbled over chaotically as we waited for the teacher to arrive, I was hit with a heavy glass bottle- walloped with such force that it almost knocked me out of my desk.
One fellow had been aiming for another's head, and my spine got caught in the middle.
I would have let the matter dwindle. I knew well it was an accident, that my presence had disrupted the intended route of the missile. But the thrower laughed, and then some more people laughed, and nobody at all apologised.
I remained crouched in my seat, trying to read my textbook, finding the same sentence over and over as the words blurred and melted together. Everybody forgot, the laughter stopped, the glass bottle was scooped up.
Then I slid unseen from my seat, made my way to the other side of the classroom and halted casually beside the chap with the appalling aim.
"Hello," I said, and he had only a moment of ice-cold understanding before I hit him in the face.
My classmates were stupefied, then got caught up in the hysteria of the moment, chanting my name and thereby acknowledging that a moment of paramount significance had taken place before their eyes- that somebody had come from nowhere and reduced a teenage boy to humiliated, streaming tears in front of his classmates.
Yes. Always beware of the quiet ones.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:28 PM
Monday, December 29, 2008
"Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
A dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest."
It would be erroneous to suggest I return to Ireland just for the sausages.
Most unfair, it would be, to the old hills and the idle sheep and the curling rivers and of course to Mater.
That being said, there are for me no sausages like the ones to be found at home. I grew up on a diet of fat pork sausages that never, over the years, diminished in taste, nor did they leave me hungry; but I am miles now from the sort I was accustomed to. I have long since resigned myself to the loss, and I look forward when plotting my next visit to the familiar taste of home.
So it struck me as a cruel and merciless trick to hear the solemn news that recently broke over Ireland the very day that I was due to fly there.
Due to either an anomaly, an accident or a miserable act of fate, every pork product in Irish stores was deemed a potential health hazard of disastrous proportions, and ordered to be ripped from the shelves, and burned, and those shelves were to remain bare until further notice.
Since none of the experts were quite certain what the precise length of Further Notice might amount to; and since my stay in Ireland was to be little more than one week; and since pork constitutes almost the entirety of an Irish breakfast; and since an Irish breakfast constitutes a considerable portion of what I eat in Ireland, one would have to forgive me for my intensely selfish reaction.
I stood dumbfounded among my luggage and my disintegrating visions of a hearty welcome meal, sure that the entire event was directed at me, concocted to provoke distress in me alone.
With the knowledge that there was not a sausage to be found at home, my feet would not assist in escorting me to the plane and they caused a terrible fuss.
I managed, in the end, to get where I wanted to go, but there was for once no tantalising mound of sausages to greet me on my homecoming.
Upon landing in Ireland, I had an opportunity to glimpse the pork section of a large supermarket. I had never seen such a grim sight inside a store: the back wall, normally dedicated to sausages and similar delicious items, had been scrubbed clean, and plastered all about were official notices apologising for the inconvenience. Crusty-eyed and exhausted and thoroughly miserable, I thought there and then that they did not know the half of it.
Mater, who was sorry for my trouble, made the best of it; and I ate many an egg and many a piece of fish during my visit. In time the matter was happily amended and the conveyor belt of the pork economy rolled once more, much to the relief of all.
Still, it was akin to visiting China for an auspicious tea-ceremony and being informed that the tea supply has vanished into thin air.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 4:28 PM
Sunday, December 28, 2008
"All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward."
Mater grew up in a tiny green hamlet in England.
I knew this, of course, just as I know that today the place of her childhood is as crumbly and antiquated as ever, tufts of determined grass bisecting the smaller lanes and roadways. Time swept through the little nook but altered little in its path.
What I discovered just last month, however, much to my astonishment, is that when my mother was a schoolgirl, she submitted an essay with detailed suggestions on how to relieve the local traffic system and restructure the roads for efficiency- and that she subsequently won a prize for her efforts.
While I am heartened by the new knowledge of Mater's endeavours, I am also refreshed by the fact that, to judge by the present condition of the village, her advice was neither taken into account nor utilised. Progress, for all the praise heaped upon it, is not always hospitable. A stony road with grass streaming through its middle will forever, to my eyes, be the most telling sign of an area's health, and of its indelible character.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 1:50 PM
Saturday, December 27, 2008
"He that can have patience, can have what he will."
There were sparks recently. Spouse and I were out and about on the busiest shopping day of the year; the mall was choked with people scurrying to the November sales, all hoping and hunting for a bargain and not willing to let the presence of other humans get in the way of a fine deal.
As a result we had little room to maneuver around the stores. At every turn some eager person would barrel into us at high velocity, usually because they were not paying attention but occasionally due to callous indifference.
One impatient young lady brushed hurriedly past Spouse as he stooped to examine some overpriced item on a shelf. She refused to wait another heartbeat and boldly pushed her way through, accidentally touching his hand as she did so.
Spouse, who routinely hesitates before grasping door handles due to the nature of the static that afflicts his person, and who is perpetually prepared for the shock when in a crowded area, felt a furious crackling burst of electricity at the abrupt collision of hands.
One would hope that the lady, too, felt the sparks and comprehended what had happened; that after the fright wore off she learned she had sailed too close and too hastily to the wind and had not given sufficient, courteous room to other customers.
Either that, or we shall soon discover a cryptic note in that section of the local paper devoted to Missed Connections, Lost Chances and Romantic Encounters.
The message would vaguely allude to the sparks that a certain girl is absolutely sure she and a fellow both experienced in their brief encounter in (insert store name), and if Spark Guy- who with any luck will be browsing the classified advertisements in a similar search for Spark Girl- would please, please make contact at such and such a number...
The follow-up to that sort of message, however, is patience, of which I doubt Spark Girl possesses a reasonable quantity.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 5:21 PM
Friday, December 26, 2008
"There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth."
In the middle of my recent flight to Ireland I was distracted by an elderly gentleman pacing about and scrubbing his legs with a blanket.
Somebody had stumbled and spilled a lot of water over the poor man, rendering him most uncomfortable.
The fellow's explanation for the wet attire- repeated at intervals whenever a passenger asked- was not so much a grumble or complaint as a calm commentary on his condition.
A stewardess approached and asked if there was anything she could do to help.
Any worries she might have been burdened with on his behalf were gently dismissed.
"It's only water. It'll dry," he insisted cheerfully.
After a moment the stewardess ventured a suggestion with a grin.
"Look- why don't you take the trousers off, and we'll pin them up on the clothes line? They'll be dry in no time at all."
Presently every soul within earshot, including the wet fellow, was laughing at the quick wit of the stewardess.
If one must be cocooned among strangers and recirculated air in a speeding vehicle thirty thousand feet above earth, it is wise above all to garnish the time with a sense of humour and an enduring spirit of camaraderie.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 8:11 AM
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I remember, I remember
One day when I was three
Around Christmas in December,
What happened to our tree:
First of all the fairy fell
And then the lights went out.
And then the decorations fell-
That made my mother shout.
But I was too young then, you see,
As I was only three,
To understand the problem
Of putting up a tree.
I remember, I remember
One day when I was three
Around Christmas in December,
What happened to our tree:
First of all the fairy fell
And then the lights went out.
And then the decorations fell-
That made my mother shout.
But I was too young then, you see,
As I was only three,
To understand the problem
Of putting up a tree.
-TheElementary, aged eleven
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:15 PM
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
"A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow."
Mater and I were side by side in the bed last week; and as the light was turned out I asked if we might go shopping the following day.
There was a long silence. After about a minute, Mater stirred and asked what we had been discussing: she was coasting into slumber and had forgotten the thread of the question.
I repeated it.
"We might go to the forest," she eventually said, to my surprise, given that it was the middle of December and not the most suitable season to be venturing into wooded areas.
I soon gathered that Mater was hovering gently between layers of sleep and that her mind was elsewhere.
I asked, because I needed to know, "why would we go to the forest?"
After a pause in which I thought Mater had finally surrendered the curious conversation and fallen asleep, she answered with a definitive air of confidence that deftly implied my lack of knowledge about the benefits of trees: "well, it might be a very good forest."
I was struck by the happy air of the words, mumbled without a hint of the doubt or trouble that too often permeates the waking hours.
I concluded that indeed it might be a very good forest; and not another word was uttered about it.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 5:53 PM
Monday, December 22, 2008
"Night is a world lit by itself."
My brother moved recently to a crumbly farmhouse in the middle of a great green nowhere. He was insistent that I see his home before departing Ireland again; so one cold night we set out from Mater's gate and sank deeper into the countryside.
My sibling was in a fine jocular mood, full of proud delight to show me where he lived, that he had chosen a corner of heavy silence and unsullied beauty.
He narrated, for my benefit, directions that explained the path we were taking and the precise location of the house.
A colossal full moon shimmered over us, closer than we had ever seen it and promising to touch the treetops in an instant.
From the frost-coated window I could distinguish the silhouette of hedges, the curve of fields dark and bare. The road was suddenly impossibly narrow, pocked here and there with dents.
Then my brother said, "turn left at the moon," turning left and laughing, the house emerging ghostly pale from the shadows.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 3:54 PM
Sunday, December 21, 2008
"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."
Our neighbourhood library is an antiquated, colossal block of granite brimming with printed words, yet for Spouse and I, one rather notable attraction is not even made of paper.
Habitually we push through the doors of the Romanesque-styled structure, pass under grand arches and rainbow-stained glass, scale the vast stone staircase and pause on the landing to peer out the window, where we observe an elephant. After ensuring the fellow is still out there we continue, satisfied, up the steps and on with our exploration of unread pages.
So far as I know, we are the only individuals aware of the animal's presence. To the eye of other patrons and passers-by there sits the remains of a cannon from a bygone era. They gaze and do not see the rear end of a great lumbering elephant. They find a disused battle weapon of tarnished metal.
One can find little fault with their resourceful wanderings. Libraries are, after all, for the pursuit of creative endeavour and for kindling the imagination.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 3:46 PM
Saturday, December 20, 2008
"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."
I had an eye test last week when I was in Ireland, after which it was determined that my sight had significantly improved; partially fulfilling, I suppose, the prophecy of the doctor who told me when I was seven that by the time I turned forty I might not need glasses anymore.
During the procedure I was forced to gaze at my examiner, a pleasant, bespectacled fellow about my age, and he of course was equally obliged to focus on me.
There was something about his face, his head, his hair and his general appearance that unsettled me far more than the actual test did- and having air puffed into one's eyes and having a beam of brilliant light poured onto one's pupils ought to be sufficiently challenging.
Most disconcerting of all, to judge by his baffled expression he seemed somehow to be struck by the same peculiar thought about me; and as neither of us could look elsewhere for the duration, it was an odd encounter.
When the test was finished he left the room. I wiped my watering eye sockets and gathered my belongings.
I met Mater a few moments later and we exited the building after I carefully ensured with the receptionist that my new prescription would be available soon.
Only when we were outside did I notice Mater's own eyes, alight with curiosity and the same bewilderment I had witnessed earlier in my examiner.
"When you came out of the room," Mater gushed, "it was you, but then I saw it wasn't you. Then I looked again and you were wearing a suit and tie. But it wasn't you. The picture was all wrong."
I was aghast.
"Didn't you see it?" she asked. "The hair, the face, the eyes?"
She shivered, remembering.
To my great alarm, I found I understood exactly what Mater meant; and as I shivered a little myself I wondered if the identical other was trembling too.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 10:43 AM
Friday, December 19, 2008
"The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love.”
Hubert H. Humphrey
Illness ought to be seen as a warning rather than a grim finality; as a comma rather than a punctuative full stop.
Last week I sat with my mother in a colourless room and heard, as if from an enormous distance, the delivery of unwanted news.
Cancer, the doctor said softly and sadly to Mater; and for an extraordinary, protracted moment in which nobody drew breath, we did not possess the capacity to believe: that came later.
Mater, who will undergo surgery in a few days, is armoured now with information that previously was somebody else's concern.
She is sheltered by the knowledge that the kindness and humour and compassion of others will be the finest available medicine during the interlude.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 10:22 AM
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I dreamed a dream in sepia tones
From which I have just woken
While it lingers in my memory clear
Let me write now, or it be ne’er spoken.
I chanced along a humming street
In a fine and grand old city
When standing there I spied that poet
How elegant! And how pretty!
She spied me same and stepped across
Through the throngs she swept
She touched my sleeve said let us walk.
I was cheerful to accept.
We strolled the town and heard the buzz
Of shoppers as they passed
Some changes in the streets, Emily,
Since you were here the last.
By and by a frown descended
On Miss Emily’s gentle brow
I knew not the worry that caused such
Not the what, or why, or how.
She grew alarmed, and paler still
And clutched her collar tight
She looked for all the world to be
In midst of woeful fright.
What hell is this? She cried to me
What world? What language uttered?
Dead lie the words that I knew well!
At this her eyelids fluttered.
While trying to bring her from the faint
I listened for a spell
And perceived she may indeed be right
That language is not well.
All about me thundered this:
“I mean, it’s like, you know!
Ummm and ummm and yeah, like yeah,
Like no, you know, I dunno!
It’s so like, yeah and so like, duh,
So totally like whatever?”
I sought to rouse Miss Dickinson
And managed this endeavor.
She sat, and said Please let me leave,
I cannot one more minute
Conceive to shuffle through this world
Oh—why did I begin it!
Those are not words, and less than grunts
This strange tongue and lazy mouth
Can never be translated.
So she left the same way she had come
Into the crowd did melt
I stood in all that baffling sound
And from my dream I woke a sweat
All true! All true! I sobbed.
I had not noticed my good friend Speech
Corrupted, torn and robbed.
If I can stop one mouth from mumbling
One tongue from rolling ‘like’
One lip from spilling ‘you know, nu uh’—
For Language I made a strike.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 9:51 AM
Saturday, December 6, 2008
"Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration."
Traditionally, when Mater informs me that she is whitewashing the hob, I gather that somebody of note is about to pay a visit, justifying her furious clean sweep of the house.
Although she happily whitewashed the hob for a guest just recently, she is at it again this weekend for my imminent arrival.
What Mater fails to see, though, is that I will be so preoccupied tucking into homemade sausage, Irish tea and soft, fresh bread, and greeting the familiar feathered chap who will sing out a warm welcome from his cage that I will not even cast a glance at the hob, the floor or indeed any corner, gleaming or otherwise.
Such is the nature of a homecoming: one has seen the proverbial hob at its best and at its worst and one finds that its condition is incidental.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 7:36 AM
Friday, December 5, 2008
"We all walk in the dark and each of us must learn to turn on his or her own light."
We climbed down to the basement at the approach of dusk. It was a November day, one of great heavy clouds, and our friends from Maine were visiting, keen to explore an old California home. The basement, with its half-completed floor and filthy windows and its shadows seething with the past, was my least favourite part of the building. I had grown to love, over time, the rooms above, filled as they were with sunlight and pleasantly charged atmosphere, but once I set foot on the shivering wooden steps to the basement, I might as well have been stepping into another house. There was, alas, no way to avoid it- the washing machine squatted in a corner of the basement and whispered to me frequently: come down, come down.
On laundry day when I stood in the belly of the house, hopping from one foot to the other and working with immeasurable speed to complete my task, I looked anywhere but in the furthest corners, which I knew were layered with thick, black soil, the walls lined by splintery shelves scattered with abandoned artifacts. The basement's oppressive silence shrouded the most incandescent afternoon.
Spouse had not arrived home from work when I took my friend and her husband downstairs for a brief tour of the gloomy space. The air felt so much lighter as soon as it pulsated with friendly chatter and it helped to have somebody there more afraid than I. If that person happened to be a man of broad shoulder and long hair whose height exceeded six feet then I was, inexplicably, further emboldened.
He was wary of confrontation with eight-legged creatures burrowed in the ceiling and walls, with whatever living thing he might accidentally disturb, but equally uneasy at the prospect of meeting something dead and ghostly.
We all trembled a little, made haste in our exploration and concluded the tour. I began ascending the stairs first- to lead the way, one must understand, as a proper host ought to do, an act utterly unrelated to the increasing sensation of doom that prickled my heart.
A howl, that of a woman, split the basement's quietude asunder with its ferocity.
I hovered on the creaking step, my skin already cold as midnight, but I could glimpse nothing at all through the grey mantle of dust that the commotion had unsettled.
I would not, I vowed, let anything- not phantom, not mouse- frighten my dear friend, and I flew from the stairs and raced to her in blind panic, my mouth so dry it seemed filled with ancient dust.
My friend, when I reached her, was not troubled. She was bent over in breathless amusement watching her husband slap a spider from his shoulder with an insistent violence and determination.
She was laughing not at the insect-riddled plight of an unfortunate fellow, but at a tall, adult man swiping his own tail of hair from his shoulder in unconcealed terror, leaping about in attempts to disengage it from his person, and issuing forth a fractious, high-pitched shriek that I am certain sent every being, living or dead, fleeing from the underground hollow of the house.
The very shadows that haunted the basement must have scuttled away. I never, after that, had any trouble venturing down to do the laundry- because the images I was left with and the imaginative pieces I conjured were of the very best sort.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 12:52 PM
Thursday, December 4, 2008
"We do not remember days; we remember moments."
Seven years ago when I was still just a curious ink-scribble of a name to Spouse, he attended the birthday celebration of a very good friend. The friend turned forty and at the conclusion of the elaborate party each guest was presented with a small bottle of wine emblazoned with an image of the friend as a beaming infant.
Last weekend Spouse and I opened the bottle and consumed the contents. Time had steamed onward in the interim: the friend graduated to other birthdays, to another country. I imagine that Spouse was the sole guest clinging to a remnant of the occasion- the other bottles drained and discarded, the taste vanished and forgotten long ago.
With each sip of the tinted liquid we were both transported. We tasted the party. It was not consigned to the irretrievable, inconsolable past so long as the wine flowed from the glass to our lips, so long as the aroma possessed the ability to overwhelm the senses, so long as we inhaled untainted fragments of an evening that belonged to another era of our lives.
Spouse's clock wound back to where the friend had just turned forty; to where the house was spilling over with friends; back to when Spouse's home was nestled in the foothills of great, grand mountains in Northern California and once unimaginable dreams were being realised daily.
My own memories were entangled in what I might have been involved in- did I work in the restaurant that night? Did I sit up late watching television? Was I engrossed in a book, or composing a letter? I wondered: what book, and of what did I write?
I reflected quietly on a party that had not concerned me in any way, while Spouse mused on an event he recalled with deep fondness.
The goblet ran dry; the remains of the party trickled away though we had kept time at bay for seven years, hauling the bottle from state to state and house to house whenever our address changed, until we decided to drink, and appreciate what was left.
We had often considered that the bottle might get lost or shattered in the process of moving and that we ought to simply swallow the wine and exhaust the supply; but the notion was at odds with the human desire to linger a while over the happiest of memories.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:52 AM
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
I was approached this afternoon by a young man who vaulted off a bus, a question blazing on his face. The question was for me, as presumably I bore the look of somebody who knows the innards of the bus and train service schedule.
"Excuse me- I need to get back to Boston."
There was a perceptible degree of stress in the blunt statement. For the sake of convenience and clarity I added the question mark myself and pointed in the direction of the enormous building that loomed behind us.
"You should probably take a train," I offered sagely, disguising, I hoped, the fact that my vast knowledge was recently acquired.
"Go through that building to the train station. There's an information desk where they sell tickets, and the gate to the trains is on the right. I'm sure the lady at the counter would tell you the best way to get to Boston."
It was all very well and good, or so I hoped, but after he thanked me graciously he added a note of potential significance.
"I have no money. Will they give me a pass, do you think?"
It was not my position to deny or grant the would-be traveller a passage to Boston. The fellow was rather well dressed, spoke decently and appeared reasonable enough so as not to alarm me but his revelation slapped me into a momentary lapse of coherent thought. My answer arrived not swiftly but on the fringe of a graceless stutter.
"I don't know. But you could ask them."
He thanked me again, and jogged toward the station building with a confident bounce.
That was several hours ago, and I continue to envision one of two possible scenarios unfolding in the meantime. Either he has been forced to set up camp in the station, is stranded in misery and has through sheer boredom and penniless desperation read the schedules so often he now can recite them by heart; or his optimism has been fruitful, the world is a better place than I imagined, and he reached home before I fashioned his story into words.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 12:00 PM
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
“Play has been man's most useful preoccupation.”
Whenever I meet Mater at an airport, no matter which one of us is arriving, I prefer to see her before she sees me.
On one such occasion last year Spouse and I reached the airport a little later than intended and glimpsed, by chance, a freshly-landed Mater pressed into a corner. Her back was turned to us and she was happily engaged using a public telephone.
My cell phone soon rang in response; but when we exchanged greetings I never mentioned that I was within sight. I said, instead, as my feet crept me inch by inch toward her, that we were in the car, a good twenty minutes from the airport and miserably embroiled in a traffic jam.
Mater replaced the receiver, turned around to explore the airport, and bumped into two people whose grinning, triumphant faces were shockingly familiar to those she had been promised were far away.
The conquest to see Mater before she saw me- that began six years ago when she made her first visit to California, when she fortuitously saw Spouse and I scanning the crowds. She shuffled soundlessly up behind us, put a weary traveller's hand on my shoulder and breathed into my ear: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"
I wager I leaped about a foot into the air at the fright of a stranger's whisper. I have since made every attempt to be victorious in my endeavours but it depends entirely on the particular airport and the time of day at which one lands.
I will be boarding a plane to Ireland next week; by hook or by crook I fully intend to try the Dr. Livingstone trick on my unsuspecting mother. Unsuspecting, I presume.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 8:47 AM
Monday, December 1, 2008
"What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance."
-Henry Havelock Ellis
The teapot: a humble, simple implement that has faithfully served humanity's needs for hundreds of years. An elementary instrument for a straightforward operation, it has needed little adjustment or alteration through the ages.
But we went this weekend to a department store and found that some clever fellow had decided to improve it.
Spouse and I wandered over to one charming little teapot. Drawn by the exorbitant price tag that piqued our curiosity, we paused to examine the decorative and functional qualities of a designer item.
Spouse made an effort to wrest the lid from the top but found himself struggling and grappling with the flimsy porcelain disc.
We were on the verge of reaching the conclusion that the teapot must in fact be bolted, and I was looking all about for an assistant who might have such a key on their person, when Spouse found success and we were able to peer at last into the depths of the vessel.
Much to our disappointment after all the effort to get a glimpse, it looked like a perfectly ordinary teapot and we soon decided to get on with the remainder of our browsing.
Spouse tried to position the top back onto the teapot but it would not fit into place. There was a distinct protrusion on the lid that required precise alignment with a notch on the cusp of the container and a thirsty person could neither open nor close the teapot without first getting the measure of where the two pieces met.
I had never seen such an intricate system inside a teapot, nor one so utterly useless.
The architect presumably thought that the convoluted arrangement was vital to the progress of mankind, that the classic tea dispenser- along with the notion of being able to pour one's tea while it was still piping hot- ought to be a notion of the past. The change was not efficient: deviation from the established style had failed to contribute positively to the evolution of the teapot and had, in fact, brought trouble to the business of making tea where trouble had not previously existed.
Spouse, an engineer, spent a whole minute involved in a battle to open and close the teapot.
I, a notorious tea drinker and user of a great variety of teapots over the years, wondered why anybody would bother to fix an item not in need of mending; and I went on my way.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 6:00 AM