I hate waste. This could be attributable to my parents’ having carefully raised their children
to appreciate the few material possessions we had near the poverty line. In our house if you broke it or lost it, tough shit there wasn’t money for a replacement water pistol or another forty hours in my mother’s life to sew a new costume. We counted ourselves lucky for the shining moment of having possessed the thing in the first place.
Now I’m older and wealthier, it has more to do with wanting to respect possessions and do my part to help the natural environment not to drown under a sea of pointless human consumption. Every time the bin-lid clangs another penguin chokes to death. For a good long while Christmas made me melancholy because of the conspicuous waste.
I’m constantly amazed by how much stuff others have. I’m not big on stuff. A good proportion of my waste is either carbon from long-haul travel, or unnecessary calories. But I could certainly do better. As we’re about to find out.
Just occasionally, I’ll fall in love with a tangible thing. I fell in love with my Mac and five years later we’re still together with no sign of an argument. I adore my books, and my new camera is so coveted it has its own special bag.
One of my favourite places is the local junk emporium. So, there I was, perusing a darkened corner and trying not to get crushed to death by a pile of teetering treasure. I spied this:
Now, it may not look like much to you. And that’s after a spit and a polish. But something about its shape spoke to me. It is made of metal, so you would think it’s virtually impossible for me to break it. Always a bonus.
Things got even better when I lifted off the lid:
OH MY GOD inbuilt ceramic tea-strainer. Hey. I know, right? Sold, right then and there to the girl with the big grin, for the ten remaining pounds she has to her name after paying for her commute to work.
I got the thing home and checked the internet for wisdom. The internet said it’s very likely a 1930s item, making it very old and probably quite loved by someone. If not then it could be grateful for rapidly rising in my affections. I pictured our long and happy union; me with tea, the teapot gently keeping things warm.
The base of the teapot is heavy. Properly heavy. So heavy and flat-bottomed that it looked like it was intended to be placed on the stove, with the tea in the strainer while water boiled all about it. After I polished it up, I decided to give it a whirl.
I filled it with water and tealeaves, and placed it on the gas-burner. I turned away to tidy something up and there was a huge bang. Metal had expanded. Violently.
Still I was not shopping at the emporium named ‘CLUE’. I let the situation continue, looking forward to my cuppa and virtuous feeling.
When molten beads of metal started to leak from the inside of the base of the teapot and some odd fumes appeared, I clicked. It was just a normal teapot, and my attempt to imbue it with absent qualities of ancient wonder had cost its life.
The teapot is, to the untrained eye, fine. But look closer and the painful truth is that it now wobbles on its base, and is irreparably tarnished brown near the bottom. Heating it (even from the inside with boiling water) results in fumes that are clearly not water vapour.
After approximately 85 years on this earth, this thing had the misfortune to cross my path, and I have ruined it.
The guilt. The guilt. I feel like I killed a living thing. I tell you, I have spent the last three weeks trying to console myself with the thought that it was unusable anyway because it’s probably made of toxic metal and that I (and all other future owners) narrowly escaped death by poisoning.
I’m still feeling bad about it, and the teapot has yet to hear the clang of a bin-lid from the inside. I can’t bring myself to throw it away.
I should probably get a grip. After all, I’m sure this is how hoarders take their first few steps toward being buried under their own mental illness.