The Broken Teapot – by Rachel Hogg

‘It’s the way you pour it,’ June exasperated. What a mess. The teacup was swimming in a pool of milk, the saucer full to the brim, and the surrounding tablecloth soaked. Fred could be such an embarrassment at times. He was getting worse in his old age, June was sure. They were in a teashop in York, all hushed voices and tinkling teaspoons, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

‘Though how we’ve ever made it this far, I’ll never know’, June had half joked to Angela, oblivious to the wry smile Fred and Angela had shared.

‘We could go up to the Castle Museum after this, if you like?’ Fred said, the pool of milk apparently forgotten.

The Castle Museum was a strange place. A mishmash of objects from centuries ago, and yet there was June’s vacuum cleaner! It had been a wedding present from her parents, so it wasn’t that old. Not old enough to be a museum artefact in any case! What a strange place to bring her on their wedding anniversary.

June loved Fred, of course she did, but he had got so… frustrating recently. There wasn’t a mug or a plate in the house that didn’t have a chip in it from his over-enthusiastic washing up. And her favourite vase was now cracked. The vase wasn’t entirely Fred’s fault, but if he had put the rug straight after he’d Hoovered, she wouldn’t have tripped and knocked the vase off the table. Had he always been this clumsy? She couldn’t remember.

She was getting ready for work when it happened. There was a thud and a smash. The spout and handle of her favourite Spode teapot – the one she had inherited from Auntie Gladys – lay in opposite corners of the kitchen.

‘Oh Fred! Not the teapot!’
‘Never mind the teapot. I think we might need a doctor.’

Five hours later and they were home again, with one broken wrist in plaster. They seemed to spend more and more time at the hospital these days. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could cope. The accidents were getting more and more frequent.

He swept up the spout and handle from the floor and dropped them into the bin, along with the other shards of cheap pottery. It wasn’t Auntie Gladys’ Spode; it was a very similar teapot he’d managed to pick up on ebay after June had broken the original one a couple of months ago. He’d have another look online tomorrow.

‘Have you got that tea, Fred?’

He picked up the mug of tea from the side and took it through to the living room where June sat nursing her broken wrist.

She smiled. ‘Thank you, love.’

Yes, tomorrow he would have a look for another ‘Spode’. Funny how she remembered things like an old teapot that some ancient aunt had left her, and yet she couldn’t remember what happened yesterday. He’d bought her a snow globe in the Castle museum gift shop that she’d obsessed over. It sat on the mantelpiece, forgotten now, in amongst the family photographs. Baby photos, school photos, June and Fred on their wedding day. Fred. His long-since-dead father. Still, she seemed happy in her memories, even if he wasn’t one of them.

‘Right, I’ll drink this tea and then I’ll have to get myself to work.’
‘Yes, you do that, Mum.’

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