When I was a little girl I used to spend hours opening and closing the doors on my grandmother, Betty’s, beautiful mahogany cocktail cabinet. I would stare, fascinated, at all the fine china and tinkly, cut-crystal glasses she kept inside for when guests came for afternoon tea or popped in for a sherry after bowls.
Each compartment was lined with a mirror and redolent with the intoxicating smell of wood polish. If I am totally honest, I wasn’t so much admiring the crockery and stem ware as searching for the boxes of chocolates that were always stashed in one or other of the darker recesses.
They were always the same kind; wrapped in shiny twist of cellophane with a layer of coloured foil that, once torn off, revealed the invariably mottled chocolate beneath.
There was nothing nicer than biting through the slightly heat-damaged chocolate to discover a layer of crystallised sugar followed by the sweet rush of mock-cherry liqueur flooding onto my tongue. You know, now I think about it, there is every chance there was nothing mock about that liqueur.
When my beloved Grandmother Betty (for whom twirling betty is named – you can read more of that story on my “about” page) passed away a year ago, she left me, among some other treasures, some of her beautiful tea cups that used to live in that cupboard.
I was always compelled by their colours – each a different muted, pastel shade glazed to a satisfying high shine and decorated with a bit of gold on the rim, base and handle.
What I love most about them is that they are slightly scratched and faded and yet still exquisitely delicate and beautiful. They have the very air of Betty herself in her old age: adamantly elegant and refined even in the face of time’s relentless passage.
The paint on the handles and rims is worn where countless fingers (with pinkies cocked?) have held them and where countless lip-sticked lips have taken small sips in between nibbles on home-made biscuits, dainty sandwiches and gentle gossip.
Betty left me many small treasures. True treasures. Not in the sense that they are worth lots of money, but in the much more important sense that they are her legacy; a tangible and immeasurably precious link to my beloved Grandmother. I may no longer have Betty herself, but a quiet moment to think about her along with a strong cup of tea in one of her cups helps ease the pain of her absence just a little.