That pot or vase I think.
I heard these words, given as the answer to a question, but I did not hear the question due to the tremendous racket of a German improvising oompah marching band which appeared from around the corner just as the question was posed. At least, I assume a question was put and drowned out by the din. Otherwise “that pot or vase I think” makes little or no sense.
In any case, I looked wildly around to see what pot or vase was being spoken of. Granted, it was none of my business, I had merely eavesdropped upon somebody else’s conversation, but my interest is always piqued by pottery. Well, not always. Sometimes I yawn in the presence of ceramics, a yawn so wide and prolonged that I begin to drool. Fortunately I always carry an embroidered napkin with which to mop any unseemly dribbling from my chin.
The embroidery on my napkins – that’s right, napkins plural, for I have quite a collection – was stitched by a crone in a godawful hamlet hidden somewhere in the Blue Forgotten Hills. I cannot recall the circumstances in which I stumbled upon her noisome hut, other than that I was on an organised walking tour at the time. The tour was arranged by an agency specialising in walking tours of hilly areas, places with lots of humps and bumps to be negotiated.
This agency had its head office situated, inappropriately, on a very flat and level high street in a market town. Immediately in front of its doorway, no more than two or three paces as accomplished by average human adult leg-length, was a cement horse trough. When I visited the agency, a horse was gobbling water from the trough. It was a startlingly elegant horse. I patted its fetlocks, or what I supposed were its fetlocks, though I ought to confess that my knowledge of equine anatomy is skimpy. I paid little attention when we were taught this topic by Dr Gabbitas in the village schoolroom all those years ago.
Dr Gabbitas claimed to be an expert on the subject of horses, as well as astronomy, Latin, pig Latin, pudding recipes, the higher mathematics, polar geography, the flight patterns of uncommon birds, shove-ha’penny, dust, and many another topic. He was a curiously bloated figure, who looked as if he had been dragged from the sea after drowning several months ago. But the village where I grew up was nowhere near the sea. I did not see it until I was the age of Christ at his crucifixon.
I was stunned. There I stood, on my thirty-third birthday, upon the beach at Imber, gazing at that vast wet sloshing expanse. It would be no exaggeration to say that the sight of it befuddled my brain, so much so that I quickly retreated to the dilapidated seaside boarding-house where I had taken a room, and I shut myself in that room, and remained there for weeks.
There was, on the windowsill of that room, a pot or vase I think, holding a splurge of lupins, freshly cut when I arrived, and slowly shrivelling and dying, as the days passed, as all of us do, as the years pass.