Thursday, 14 January 2016


Plates? Really? A blog post about plates?

Let me try and make some sense out of the jumble of thoughts and emotions that are compelling me to sit down and contemplate plates. Contem-plate. Oh dear!

Back in 1985 when I started to make a home with my first husband, my mother-in-law presented us with a whole lot of "bottom drawer" stuff that she had been collecting for her son. Included in this was a set of crockery. Please don't get me wrong - I was very grateful for everything, especially considering we had very little money at that time -  but I did feel that I had been deprived of the pleasure of choosing the things I wanted in my life. Things that I would be using every day.

The dinner set she provided wasn't even that hideous. This was many years ago but I remember them being a sort of magnolia colour edged with a double border of pale blue and pink and with a mass produced 'hand-made' rustic feel (forgive the contradiction but it is the best way I can describe them).   They were OK. They were fine. We ate many meals from them. Did they make my heart sing with joy every time I set the table or washed up? Absolutely not.

I had dreams... modest dreams in the scheme of things... dreams of a simple but elegant lifestyle of everyday luxury... a lifestyle that for me was embodied by the epitome of classic design that was the Imperial Blue Denby dinner service! I would look longingly at displays of it in shop windows and department stores.

I did eventually become the proud owner of a starter set and was given a few pieces to add to the collection but no amount of crockery could fix an unhappy marriage. I lost interest in more than just the blue Denby. Over the years there were breakages but I held onto what was left and never completely fell out of love with them or what they had stood for.

The whirlwind of my second marriage has not allowed a great deal of time to dwell on the subject of plates, blue Denby or otherwise (disregarding a few notable exceptions: Inca PlatesA Tale of Two PlatesDinner Party)

In 2008, I cooked Christmas dinner for a large contingent of my extended family. I went to IKEA and bought enough plates and bowls so that every place setting matched. It was a lot of plates and bowls.

I have been using the same plates and bowls ever since and no matter how many of the inevitable breakages we had, there were always enough (more than enough!) for our needs. Until now.

One of my daughters has recently set up home with her fiancé. She did not have enough plates. I happily donated a set to her from my endless supply. I actually found myself in a state of shock when I realised that the endless supply had in fact ended. With only four plates left, it was time to do something.

I still had four of my original Imperial Blue Denby dinner plates tucked away at the back of a cupboard so I pulled them out as a stopgap until I could find a new matching set of replacement plates. The emotional response to the Denby was still very much in evidence.

I think that for the most part, I have achieved the simple, elegant lifestyle I always craved and with my second husband it is (again, for the most part) joy filled and wonderful. My Imperial Blue Denby plates no longer represented an aspiration but were more like old friends... old friends I was very happy to have at the table performing the everyday task that comes with being a plate.

I had to take my car to the garage for a service today. Whilst I was in town I had a long overdue (simple and elegant I hope) haircut and a mooch around the charity shops. It felt like fate, or a rare alignment of old dreams and new reality, when I spotted in a charity shop across the road from the garage, a stack of twelve Imperial Blue Denby plates in three different sizes, in perfect condition with a modest price tag.

The blue Denby had always had the power to make my heart sing but never so much as in that moment. Added to the surviving pieces of my original collection, it made more than enough for a complete dinner set

Here they are, purchased, washed and draining on my draining board along with another of today's charity shop finds - two crystal sherry glasses to replace my glass of choice for port which met with a shattering demise over Christmas.

The restoration of my Imperial Blue Denby dream will most certainly warrant a toast with a glass of port tonight.

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