A Jubilee story by
I met Carl at a party and was immediately smitten - and I’m sure he was, too, because we had one of those eyes-across-a-crowded-room moments before we were drawn together faster than a pair of magnetic ladybirds.
When I discovered he was an antique ceramic dealer specialising in Royal memorabilia, I was positive that Fate had brought us together.
“That’s such a coincidence, because my Granny collects royal souvenir mugs, especially Jubilee ones,” I told him. “In fact, I find them so fascinating, that I was thinking of starting a collection myself.”
Of course, I hadn’t been thinking of it till right that second, but you have to agree that it was a pretty inspired thing to say on the spur of the moment. His face lit up and his brown eyes went all sparkly.
“Granny’s favourite is a mug celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, with a portrait on the side,” I added, for good measure.
“Oh yes – there are a few different types and I’ve got several in stock, quite reasonably priced,” he said. “Some of my rarer items date back to Charles the First and of course they can cost thousands, but you don’t have to pay a fortune to start collecting commemorative china. You should come and see my shop and I’ll show you what I’ve got.”
That was an offer I couldn’t refuse – in fact, I’d been hoping he’d say something like that!
“I’d love to,” I said enthusiastically. “And actually, I need to buy a present for Granny. She’s about to go into hospital for a cataract operation – they’ll keep her in for a day or two because she has a weak heart. She’s ordered herself one of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee mugs to go with the Silver and Gold ones in her collection, so it would be great to get her something old that she hasn’t already got.”
“Make a list of which she has, then come round to my shop and I’ll see what I can do at a price that won’t break the budget,” he promised.
“I’ll do that” I agreed.
He smiled down at me again, making my knees go all jellified, then dug out his card with the shop address and scribbled his mobile number on the back, since friends had brought him to the party and they were about to leave.
Mind you, they had to practically prise us apart first…
We chatted on the phone next day and it was just as if we’d known each other forever, so I was really looking forward to visiting Carl’s shop. But when I did, I arrived in a state of panic and clutching a box containing Granny’s favourite Queen Victoria mug – though I still managed to register the way his face lit up at the sight of me, and that my heart had begun thudding away at twice its normal rate.
“I was writing a list of which china mugs Granny had and I dropped this one,” I explained breathlessly, opening the box and taking it out. “See, it’s cracked! Just a hairline, but she’s bound to notice.”
Carl tapped the edge of the rim with his finger. “Yes, you can tell by the sound – it sort of pings if it’s whole and this one doesn’t, it makes a flat note.”
“She’s coming out of hospital tomorrow, so I hoped you might just possibly have a perfect one I could replace it with, so she’ll never know?” I asked hopefully.
“Luckily I do have its exact match,” he said, and then gave me that wonderful smile. “So now you can stop looking so panic-stricken, Annie, and come into the back room for a cup of coffee. Then I’ll show you the pieces of commemorative china I can’t bear to sell!”
He flipped the door sign over to ‘Closed’, though I was pretty sure he wouldn’t normally shut for lunch at eleven in the morning…
“It’s lovely to be home, Annie,” Granny said with a sigh of satisfaction, putting down her cup and saucer on the side table next to her chair and looking round the room at all her treasures. “Still, it was worth it - everything seems much clearer and brighter already.”
Then she asked me to pass her the Queen Victoria mug and my heart sank into my shoes: would she notice the exchange?
“This is the one I dropped and cracked, which is why I finally made up my mind to have the cataract operation,” Granny said, examining it closely.
“You…cracked it?” I echoed faintly.
“Of course I couldn’t see it clearly, but I could hear that it was broken,” she explained, then pinged the edge of the mug’s rim, just like Carl had. It rang out clear as a bell.
“That’s odd,” she said, frowning in puzzlement. “I really could have sworn I’d cracked it!” Then she smiled and handed it back to me to replace on the mantelpiece. “I think I’d better have my ears checked next!”
Carl laughed later when I told him, though when I take him to Granny’s for tea next week he’s sworn to secrecy about our exchange.
They have so much in common, I’m sure she’ll love him just as much as I already do – and, since I’d definitely been taken for a mug, I decided to make Granny’s cracked one the basis of my very own Royal memorabilia collection!