Image by jima via FlickrI was clearing out the crockery cupboard last week and found that the bottom plate in the pile of Limoges porcelain was cracked.
Goodness only knows...earthquake, perhaps?
I'll recycle it as a plant saucer, but it seems a shame...those plates have been keeping my food hot for a long time...plain white, a bit out of sync in places which is why they were seconds and put out as not worth decorating, but they suited me well.
Any thoughts of ignoring the cracks and using it for food were quelled at once by a vision of my maternal grandmother's expression at such a heresy.
She was very hot on cracked china...she would return from a local charity bun fight uttering the dire words...
'There was a cracked cup.....'
Since in her view the things that lurked in the cracks of chinaware were akin to the beings inhabiting the Dungeon Dimension, as a child I always expected to see outbreaks of black death, bubonic plague, ergotism or at the very least cholera being reported in the next issue of the local rag......
'Bowls club struck by botulism'........
'Malaria decimates 'Mothers Union'.....
But I was always disappointed.
Since nothing seemed to occur to those who drank from cracked cups I decided to ignore her views on loo seats too and duly sat on the things rather than hovering above them in the approved fashion like a slip fielder waiting for a catch....until I went to France.
Iconoclastic I may be....downright daft, not.
One look at the average French loo in my time made me wonder if I risked ending up like the patients in the Billy Connolly sketch about the VD clinic, sidling up to the entrance hidden behind newspapers with holes cut for the eyes to a chorus of
'Filthy beast! Serves ye right!' from the ladies living nearby.
Not that there was usually a seat, anyway. Wylye Girl has theories....
Still, emerging from the loo.....
I was catching up on A Broad with a View's post describing her journey down to her house in the Quercy , where she mentions passing through the Limousin on her way to her enchanted kingdom.
I had visited the Limousin when I had made up my mind to move to France....I had narrowed down the choices to four areas and was making a serious attempt to make a decision, staying in gites for a few weeks at a time, trying to get a feel for the area.
The attraction of the Limousin? It wasn't hot and it was cheap. Not the most romantic of reasons to choose it, but heat leaves me like a clubbed fish, while spending more money than I have to is like drawing teeth.
I had explored parts of it before while on holiday...around Ussel and Tulle where every side trip seemed to reveal more relics of the old railway system....but in the cold light of winter, those grey towns seemed depressing...the plateau de Millevaches more like a dreich day on the Moor of Rannoch....so I thought I'd try further up toward Limoges itself.
There was a lot for sale, but not what I wanted...either in a village which I knew I didn't want or so far out that every trek to go shopping would have involved a whole day....and property out in the sticks seemed to have far too much land attached to it while I wanted something manageable.
Beautiful countryside, but the housing just didn't do it.
Not even the best pork pie I have ever eaten and the local vin de paille could overcome the disadvantages, so I packed my traps and prepared to try another region.
Thus it was that I began to pass roadside stands and buildings offering Limoges porcelain for sale.
It occurred to me that I was likely to be passing that way but once, so I stopped and went to see what was on offer.
Clearly, what was on offer was seconds, rejected before decorating, I supposed, or just simply rejected, but there was a wide range of stuff, from soup tureens to ramekin dishes.
No mention of price, of course.....this was France.
I went for plates, and asked the woman in charge for a dozen.
She wrapped them up and I paid.
The price was certainly not seconds...well, not by the standards of buying seconds in the Potteries....but I wanted them.
I was just putting them away when the notion of passing that way but once returned to me....I'd better check them before leaving.
I unwrapped them one by one....every second one was cracked.
P.G. Wodehouse has remarked that one has no difficulty in distinguishing between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance...and I was certainly not resembling a ray of sunshine as I returned to the stand.
I would like these replaced, please.
Oh, no, Madame...you have to take them as they come.
Well they didn't come from the pile I looked at....and how can you possibly sell cracked plates at full price?
Full price! What Madame does not understand is that the price she would be paying for the finished article in a specialist shop would be far higher...
This is a specialist shop. It says it sells Limoges porcelain. It doesn't say it is a shop specialising in cracked Limoges porcelain.
But Madame, you don't understand. You have paid and left with the merchandise. There is nothing I can do about it.
Yes, I have the bill. For plates. Not broken crockery. I would like plates.
Impossible Madame...the transaction has finished.
Not at all. Here are the cracked plates....I shall now take six that are not. No...don't worry..I'll wrap them myself...
I suppose I was lucky that she was on her own and that this was long before the age of the mobile 'phone, or I'd have been banged up in the gendarmerie station instead of bowling happily away from the Limousin, plates safely stowed in the boot.
But it was a precursor of what was to come over the years of living in France.
Transactions that one would think of as normal would turn into surreal episodes...in all of which the common factor was that Madame did not understand....
Madame did not understand that the repairman who undertook work on her fridge while it was under guarantee would take it upon himself to scrap it without so much as a by your leave...
Madame did not understand that a builder who had been told to lay a damp course dry lined the kitchen instead while she was away thus mucking up the kitchen layout irretrievably...
Madame did not understand that a roofer who installed a leaky roof light assumed he would be paid again for replacing it with the velux originally ordered and paid for.....
And Madame will never understand why, when cancelling an insurance policy three months before expiry by registered letter as required by the insurance crooks, she receives a saucy reply informing her that she has to cancel the policy three months before the expiry date by registered letter......the said saucy reply dated one day after the three month limit.