Friday, 2 January 2009

The tale of the damaged vinegar pot

This image is the latest in my series of random domestic scenes. For this sketch I used a Chinese brush and the same black Quink ink you might use in a fountain pen. While I was working on it I was recalling how it arrived in our house.

I am married to an academic and from time to time we have visitors to stay who hail from different parts of the world and are passing through London for some reason: they might be going to a conference for example. Very occasionally we've had the odd visitor who has arrived at our house and clearly can't remember how to leave. This can make me feel as though we have for a short time adopted them and this can either lead to rational negotiations with said visitor to work out a plan for leaving as in: "When is your flight home?" or "Wouldn't you prefer more privacy in a cheap hotel?" or I simply end up losing my temper and feel terrible for the rest of the day. We also enjoy having graduate students around because they are generally a lot of fun. They usually live in London and are only too happy to leave at the end of an evening so don't need to be elbowed out of the door by us.

The vinegar pot arrived by the usual academic route. It was carried to our house by my husband's colleague who lived nearby and asked, since he and his wife were off to far flung places to take up new work, if we would look after it. The vinegar is made from a culture of bacteria swarming around the bottom of the pot and every so often you fling red or white wine into it and it magically turns into wine vinegar over the succeeding days or weeks. We understand that this particular culture has been passed down the colleague's French wife's family and goes back as far as the French Revolution which would make it more than 200 years old. And we have ended up as its custodians. Mon dieu!

I do hope that the terracotta pot is not a treasured family heirloom because since we have had it we have broken the lid, mended it and broken it again. (You can see the remains of the lid in the bottom right hand corner.) We have improvised a new lid with a small ceramic dish. When we took possession of the pot it sported a tap that was held in place with a cork bung. In time the cork perished so parcel tape was wrapped around the pot many times to cover up the hole where the tap had been. This has resulted in a permanently leaking pot so it stands in a dish that we used to use for salad and it's likely to remain like this until we get round to buying a replacement tap with a plastic bung.

Since we have been looking after the pot for several years now it is always possible that this visitor will be a permanent fixture in our kitchen and who knows we may yet leave it in the care of our younger relatives and perhaps it will survive for another 200 years. What a fine vintage vinegar it will be then.


MartaSzabo said...

This piece and its drawing are impossible not to love! JUST GREAT! Happy New Year, Heather! love, Marta from Woodstock where it is gently snowing unpredicted by the weatherpeople.

Heather said...

Dear Marta,thank you so much for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. It's funny what wanders around my head when I am drawing!

And Happy New Year to you and Fred. I spent today at the arts and crafts market and it was below freezing when I left the house and the temperature had managed to rise the tropical heights of 2 degrees celcius by the time I got home. No snow though.