Friday, June 22, 2012

The triumph of the inanimate object

This morning I had trouble finding my favourite cup, a green flute with dark spots.  I enjoy its colour, its design and size.  The perfect size for my morning cup of tea.  My husband hates this cup.  He reckons it is inherently unstable because its base is narrower than its lip.  It can topple too easily in his view. 

            My husband has threatened to throw the cup away before and when I could not at first find it this morning I asked him if he had.  He was insulted that I should accuse him of such a thing, not that my question had reached the stage of accusation but perhaps it was implied.
            I found the cup eventually where I had left it the night before, having taken an unusually late cup of tea in my study.
            It is not unusual  for me to take a fancy to a particular cup, and when at home, to insist that this cup is the only one from which I will drink.  The cup does not get into the dishwasher. I cannot part with it for long enough between washes. I rinse it out between drinks and put it out onto the dish rack to dry, which is another reason why my husband hates my green spotted cup.  It is always in view.  When not in use the cup sits on the dish rack and from time threatens to topple, especially when my husband tries to get access to the sink. 
            He needs the sink clear to wash the spinach and the potatoes.  He needs the sink dry when he leaves his future bread in a bowl, yeast and flour together, eager to rise above warm water.  He needs the sink to wash his hands. 
            The cup all but winks at him in triumph.  Here I am, your wife’s green spotted cup and you cannot get rid of me even if you want to. 
            If only I were like my husband, and drank my tea out of the sturdy cups he prefers, the ones shaped at the base much as they are shaped at the top.  We have several such cups that fit this description.  Then I might not need a favourite cup.  I could settle for one of many and form no strict attachment to any. 
            My cups once used can visit the dish washer.  They need not be left out to dry on the dish rack. They need not gloat over their preferred status and leave my husband in a sore and sorry state of mind, as if his wife were unfaithful.  And she need not worry that her husband might seek to destroy his rival, her beloved cup.


Penelope said...

Oh, those ugly cylindrical mugs that husbands use. Unbreakable what's more. Not so the perfect-for-tea bone china cups the shape of your green spotty (but isn't it blue, really?) The last fell apart in my hand yesterday. Cylinders and husbands smirk.

Andrew said...

I have two mugs the same, which mostly solves the dishwasher problem. I don't enjoy my coffee at home from any other mug.

River said...

I know exactly how you feel about your mug! I have an attachment to a mug myself. An attachment to several mugs, really. There are two for coffee, one is only for tea,a nd one is for hot chocolate or milo. There is a bigger, heavier mug for soup too. And they are all my favourites, and none of them is a utilitarian cylinder.

rhymeswithplague said...

I agree with Penelope above that your green spotted cup looks more like a blue spotted cup to me. I suppose, to be accurate, it must be a bit of a teal spotted cup.

You inspired me to go count the cups in our cupboard and I stopped at just over 40. 40! Ye gods and little fishes! But, like you, Mrs. RWP and I both have our favorite one that we use over and over again, rinsing and letting dry. Hers is dark blue with the words "Treasure Island Bed and Breakfast, Lake Logan Martin, Alabama" inscribed in a nice beige. Mine is white with the words "Mount Zion Baptist Church" emblazoned in blue.

Actually these are not our "favorites" -- our favorites are the huge brown ones, given us by our daughter's children, that say "Nana" and "Grandpa" but they are so large that we use them as soup tureens instead of for drinking tea.

Thank you for a pleasant diversion.

Anonymous said...

I too have favourite cups, one at home and one at work. I don't mind drinking out of different ones at home if 'the one' is in the d'washer, but I become most agitated if a newbie at work thinks they can use just ANY cup! But when I have to give them a slight frowning to make it clear mycup is NOT for common use, I feel terribly anal. Despite the fact that this particular cup was a gift from a colleague and friend, I have always thought it is a matter of hygiene to have a designated 'own' drinking vessel at work and am surprised that others don't.
Elisabeth, am I anal?
Btw, my favourite home cup is the same shape as yours. I think it is a very elegant, feminine shape.
Karen C

MedicatedMoo said...

I always had a favourite cup (an old Far Side one) but clearing out everything for a move to a different hemisphere changed that.

Now I use the bog-standard one of the IKEA set we bought last year. Because there's no need to rinse and re-use, they all make it into the dishwasher, so I'm probably healthier than I used to be!

Ms. Moon said...

We all have our favorite cups, don't we? And we ALL have our peeves. It's life, it's marriage, it's human relationships. Who knows what that cup really represents? I say this because my husband does this thing with his spoon after he stirs his sugar into his coffee. He just lays it down on a piece of newspaper or something, never a saucer. I ask him to put it on a saucer and he claims he's saving me the effort of washing the saucer. What does it take to wash a saucer? Nothing.
And this turns into all sorts of things in my head. Mainly- why does he ignore such a simple thing I ask of him? Which turns into...bigger things in my mind.
And it's all so silly.
But perhaps it is wiser for us to continue to allow the coffee cup, the spoon, to take the meaning of the larger and keep it small.

Jim Murdoch said...

When Carrie came over from America I had two new cups ready which I bought from Woolworths. They were not identical but similar. Both had cats on them. Mine was the one with the tall cat by the handle; that’s how we knew whose was whose. We used them for years and still have them but they weren’t the best quality and so when we were in the Gorbals I bought two new ones. This time mine had cats on it and hers had elephants; my wife collects elephants. They didn’t last quite so long and we drifted to different cups. Hers now is a solid mug with blue and white checks; mine is a smaller mug which I started using to cut down on my sugar with a drawing of a sheep on it and I can see us using those until we die unless one gets broken. My daughter has her own mug here—it has Tigger on it—and so does her husband; his has pebbles on his. When they became a couple we bought him the mug and then immediately took it back so that whenever he came over he had his mug; it was our way of making him feel part of the family. They’re all inexpensive ceramic mugs.

Carrie has a cup she uses just for tea; I have a glass mug for tea—one of those ones with a metal holder—and there’s a glass mug with a Garfield on it we use both use for Lemsip. I still have the cup I used at work—an expensive china mug with cats on—but it sits on top of the cupboards in the kitchen wrapped in plastic to stop it getting greasy; it had a nice thin and wide handle. I was always quite proprietary at work. I hated anyone using my cup or my plate. Plates and bowls in the house are all white and anonymous. I don’t actually like them. We have our own cutlery though. We went to House of Fraser and picked sets that felt right to us. Mine have heavier handles than Carrie’s. My daughter also got her own set when she was with us but she took hers with her when she got her own place.

When I was married to my first wife we started out using a pair of identical stoneware mugs but they were on the small size so we moved to standard coffee mugs; mine said ‘Opium’ and hers ‘Heroin’ as far as I can remember. I have no idea what cup I used as a kid. My dad had a classic mug with thick blue and white stripes but it broke and after that he drank out of whatever you handed him. My mum preferred a teacup.

My mug came from John Tams Pottery in Stoke. It went into receivership in 2006. Someone posted these rather sad photos. Here’s a photo of my mug.

Joanne Noragon said...

We all have a favorite. I'm old enough to be on a second or third, having broken the predecessors. Our mother had such a favorite, with her name on it. "Grandma." She travelled a circuit of the house to find where she left it. When we lost her we sent the mug to heaven with her.

WritingsForLife said...

I love coffee mugs and I love trying new ones and have my favorite ones all around the house. They look nothing like each other, and I think that's the beauty of it :)

Anthony Duce said...

My favorite cup has changed over the year. I am fickle, loyal to one, until one more interesting comes along. The fact you are so committed to a single cup, should, maybe be reassuring to your husband☺ You might question him on his lack of similar commitment and maybe imply the discomfort this implies.

Juliet said...

I've also had a special mug, but it broke. Now I have 3 that I like, depending on my mood. Your green spotted cup is full of character, and I can see why you like it.

Zuzana said...

Dear Elisabeth, what a very entertaining post!;) I I have several favorite cups, they all have a story to tell. I have different cups intended for different uses, every day cups, weekend cups, soup cups, coffee cups. But then when I recently moved, I could not take them all with me, which was a real dilemma. So I took a few and still I miss all the others which are in storage.;)
Luckily, I have this past year acquired a new favorite cup that the kids made for me.;) They also made one for my husband, so he does not complain over our new set - even if those cups are like yours, smaller at the bottom.;)
I hope you have a great weekend and get to enjoy tea from your favorite cup.;)

little hat said...

Your blog has made me leave my computer (what my wife would refer to as my other lover)and search for my special cup. FOUND IT! It's a one off oversized tea cup decorated on the outside with white clouds on a rich background of blue. On the inside its white with a line drawing in black of a dinky skinny man wearing swimming goggles, DTs and flippers. He swims just at the top of my tea when its first poured. My wife bought it for me to take to work years ago. A way of staying sane and having a special moment each day. Just bought some darjeerling tea this morning at the local market. Time to make a cuppa.

Elisabeth said...

The photo is a tad deceptive, Penelope. The cup is green but the spots are what you might call teal, a dark teal, a good colour as far as I'm concerned against the green.

The cup now sports a a small chip on the lip which my husband reckons makes the cup not only unstable but also non-hygienic.

In any case, the cup survives, unlike yours which has crumpled in your hands. So sorry to hear.

Thanks, Penelope.

Elisabeth said...

We are not unusual in our desire for the familiar it seems, Andrew. Many others here have admitted to the desire for the same cup/or two cups from which their tea or coffee tastes best.

And you're right: two favourites solve the dishwasher problem but then I'd have the trouble of setting a priority unless of course the cups were identical. Perish the thought.

Thanks, Andrew.

Elisabeth said...

Well, River, it seems you have the situation well worked out mug/cup wise.

I wonder what might happen if you inadvertently drank coffee from your soup mug and tea from your milo cup. What sort of taste confusion might then ensue?

Thanks, River.

Elisabeth said...

It was you who alerted me to the colour of the spots on my cup, RWP, teal, and for that I'm grateful.

Forty cups in your cupboard. I suspect we might have a similar number, but I'm not counting.

As for cup use, my favourites tend to be large. Not for me those itsy bitsy cups that look so beautiful and belong on the set of a BBC period drama. No, I like a sturdy mug, despite my husband's insistence that mine is unstable.

I'm glad you enjoyed the diversion.

Thanks, Rhymes with plague.

Elisabeth said...

I don't think you qualify as anal on the basis of preferring that no one share your cup at work, Karen. To me anality runs deeper. You'd need many more symptoms.

As for the business of people taking cups to work, I reckon a good dishwasher should solve the problem. The trouble is in many work places as far as I can see, no one takes responsibility for the dishwashing and therefore cups can be left unwashed for long periods of time to fester mould and stain and all manner of unmentionables. I suspect therefore you might be wise to prefer your own cup at work.

Thanks, Karen.

Elisabeth said...

A bog-standard Ikea cup, Kath, and one of many identical cups sounds uninspiring. Then again, you're surrounded by the unfamiliar and can be forgiven for leaving your favourite cup at home.

Cups like to stay in the one place in my view. They do not like too many moves. It alters their internal structure and things begin to taste different.

Thanks, Kath.

Elisabeth said...

As I respond to comments here, Ms Moon, this post seems becomes more and more ridiculous and so your comment here about the significance of the cup opens up new possibilities for a more serious take on the topic.

I can see what you're on about when you refer to your husband's habit of putting his spoon down just anywhere. I suspect I, too, might find such a gesture annoying.

Maybe the stuff of preferred tea cups is the stuff of relationships one that reflects on how our foibles can begin to irritate those near and dear to us, however benign they might seem on the surface.

Thanks, Ms Moon.

Elisabeth said...

Your mug has the same shape as mine, Jim, though there the resemblance ends. The sheep is stunning and evocative. I enjoy an animal on cups and mugs. We once had a couple of mugs with animals and their names written in French for cat, chat, and dog, chien, very adventurous thirty years ago when we first married.

Buried in some cupboard somewhere we also have a series of six hand-made pottery mugs that sport a frog on one side. i've tried to give them to my daughters but no one wants them, they are too seventies. One day my daughters will recognise for their value.

you could write a piece on this, Jim: the history of cups. No, a history of cups, a family history of cups.

I'm taken by the way in which you made your daughter's partner feel welcome into your home with Carrie. These things matter.

As for the past, I don't remember my parents having a preferred cup as such but my mother loved her cutlery and her apostle spoons, little silver spoons at the head of which each sported a silver replica of various saints/apostles. She still has them.

Cups can be evocative, Jim, perhaps because they are containers and containers are essential throughout life. I won't go on here at the risk of sounding too analytical.

Thanks for including your pictures in this comment and for the sad story in pictures of the John Tim's pottery in Stoke. The container filled with left over cups seems the most poignant of all.

These cups remind me of archeological digs where the remnants found are often cups or jugs or other earthen wear or metallic containers.

Thanks again, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

That's a lovely idea, Joanne, to send your grandmother's favourite cup with her after she died. we should do that with my mother's spectacles. She was forever losing the and forever circling the rooms of the house in search of them as I do now.

Thanks, Joanne.

Elisabeth said...

A variety of mugs is a new approach to cup wear, Raajii. There is certainly something in the shape and texture of a cup or mug that is pleasing to the eye and begs to be touched.

Thanks, Raajii.

Elisabeth said...

Now yours too is an interesting approach to this vexed problem, Anthony: to be loyal to your cup or fickle? To choose between two or to let a new one muscle in and take over your affections?

From this perspective, my husband, who uses many cups irrespective of all but their basic cylindrical shape, might seem the less loyal.

Thanks for this insight, Anthony.

Elisabeth said...

That's the problem, Juliet. Our favourite cups can break. To me it's rather like our loyalty and love towards pets, when they die - then we must face the prospect of finding another.

It's not so simple when it comes to our loved ones and it says something to me about the depth of our connection to cups, pets or otherwise. It's a potential training ground for affection and loyalty across the board.

Still it's easier with inanimate objects, than it is with those of flesh and blood, or even with plants.

Thanks, Juliet.

Christine said...

HA! ( for the last sentence).Loved this post!

My husband wants a green mug. Not light green but dark. So you think such a thing can be found *anywhere* in the world?

Elisabeth said...

So you're another one, Zuzana. You like to have a variety of cups to suit different purposes and like others here you too have needed to consolidate your choice and settled for less through a change of circumstance.

You latest favourite sounds ideal given the children introduced it and your husband shares one.

Thanks, Zuzana. This has been a fun post.

Elisabeth said...

Your cup sounds gorgeous, Little Hat. Images that grace the inside of cups, especially images such as the one you describe, a swimmer/diver coming up for air in goggles and flippers, are winners.

The imagery matches the representation, especially as your wife bought it for you to use at work, where I imagine there were many times when you might have needed to come up for air.

Your cup beats mine, any day. But don't say that too loudly or my cup might hear and get jealous.

Thanks, Little Hat

Elisabeth said...

This post sounds apt for you, Christine, in your search for the beloved and impossible-to-find cup - dark green of course.

I know I will never be able to replace my green cup when it goes the way of all cups, broken one day most likely on the kitchen floor, so perhaps you might warn your husband - should you find his desired cup - he should not attach himself too firmly. He might one day need to say goodbye.

In the mean time, best of luck in your search.

Thanks, Christine.

Rob-bear said...

I have a favourite mug, which is also green. It does;t cause any consternation, though.

But even at 4:00 a.m., it is too warm for a hot cup of tea.

Hope you have a grand weekend.

Kirk said...

My favorite cup is the classic Coca-Cola glass that I got free from McDonald's for some promotion they were doing a few years ago. The reason I like it has nothing to do with Coke itself. It just that it's the only transparent cup I own. When I have a cold drink, I like to SEE it from all angles for some reason. Not sure why.

Elisabeth said...

Four in the morning, Rob-bear, sounds grim. There's not much by way of comfort there even in a green cup and certainly not in a hot cup - of tea.

There's a titillating thread that tends to run through many of my responses to comments, an unspoken sexualising of said cup that I do not intend, but it seems to pop up whether I intend it or not.

Thanks, Rob-bear.

Elisabeth said...

The need to see your cold drink from all angles through the transparent glass of you coca cola cup is an interesting one, Kirk.

Are you worried about things floating in your drink perhaps?

I suppose anything from McDonald's has to be suspect.

Thanks, Kirk.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Let's face it,
folks, your mug's

yours and nobody else's.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Vassilis. I'm glad that's established then. My mug's mine and no on else's. Mugs, like faces and finger prints, are idiosyncratic.

Lisa said...

Hello Elisabeth, I apologise for not visiting a while, I had not left the room :) I do not have a favorite cup, I just reach for the one I could. My blog has a new address, not sure if I had mentioned this before but anyways, I am not blogging much. Looking for new energy to write :)

Elisabeth said...

I've just been over to your new blog, Fazlisa. It's inspiring. Thanks for visiting me again. Clearly not everyone has a favourite cup.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Ha I just went four blind. The one in the photo appears to have blue spots! Darn

Suze said...

'The cup all but winks at him in triumph. Here I am, your wife’s green spotted cup and you cannot get rid of me even if you want to.'

I think the cup did wink. I know all about the secret life of mugs.

Loved this post, Elisabeth. I collect mid-century and vintage mugs and I have to tell you your words were right up my alley.

Dave King said...

I'm afraid I'm with your husband. I've been having this discussion with my better half re certain mugs we have and their inherent instability.
I like your mug - as long as it is no more than half full, but personally I prefer things with generous bottoms!

Elisabeth said...

You're not going blind, Heidi. They look like blue spots in the photo, but they are in fact a teal colour.

It's good to see you here again Thanks, Heidi.

Elisabeth said...

I'm glad to know there's someone else who contemplates the 'secret lives of mugs', Suze. What a classic that would make.

It's lovely to see you here, and thanks for your kind words, Suze.

Elisabeth said...

Trust a man to side with my husband and prefer generous bottoms, in cups that is. Stability is next to logic in my mind and I often prefer the illogical, the unstable and unpredictable, even if it means the occasional accident and broken cup.

Thanks, Dave.