Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A moment of silence

Long ago an astrologer told me some things (I had a singing crisis with the Whoop, and wanted to know whether I should just throw in the towel). He said that I would reach - somehow - a world-wide audience. This was meant as a sort of comfort. At the time he thought it might be through singing and cd's, but he said it could be via anything creative, somehow disseminated widely. He mentioned photography.

I did not know what a blog was, then.

He also said that it was OK for me to like Things. Things, he said, give you  (me) a great deal of comfort.

My Woodstock glasses give and gave me a lot of comfort. I am quite happy just contemplating them. They hold roses, or a single terrace flower, or a drink. Each is unique because when they were made they were in fact not made very expertly: they were the first commercially-produced glass in South Africa. Flat champagne glasses, sherry glasses, custard cups, tumblers, big and small. Tiny bubbles trapped in the glass hold Cape Town air, vintage late 1800's.

They are hard to find now, and the rarest of all are the smallest tumblers, the ones I love most.

So it was with some alarm that I noticed a gap on the drinks tray when we returned from our long southern summer sojourn. No little tumblers. A big one missing too.

I had wrapped and packed away the 6 beautiful crystal champagne glasses that Bevan had given me years ago, Just In Case. At the time I had looked at the Woodstock, which we use every day, and, I needn't be paranoid. They're strong.

Big mistake.

Be paranoid. If you can't bear to lose a thing, protect the thing. After I inquired of our cat sitter, in an email, what might have become of them, he said they had been broken in the dishwasher. All of them. An odd tale since I have washed them there so many times myself. For all their age they are sturdy little workaday things. They have survived years of our travels and many cat sitters and visitors, and are now gone.

None of this mentioned at the outset at all, when we arrived after flying half way around the world to find him just having woken up, bed upside down, apartment stinking of the cloves he'd burned to cover the cigarette smoke; only upon inquiry, along with a host of other things broken, damaged, stained: Pots, pictures, chopping board, linen, filthy bathroom...the horror.

His answer to these charges, incidentally, was: I am too young to be acquainted with the nuances of home ownership. That's a direct quote. He is twenty-two. He was living with parents at the time, who presumably did not require him to clean the toilet, make the bed, wash his sheets. Etcetera. In retrospect,  I should have sued him. It would have been worth a day wasted in small claims court.

The cat, it is important to note, is neither broken, nor damaged, nor stained. And this bears consideration.

(But: We only learned later that The Tick played his amped bass guitar in the wee hours, so that the neighbours wondered what was going on. This explains why our poor kitty was hiding in the cupboard when we came home. It incenses me.)

I found myself lying in bed last night, with my open book unread and un-escaped-to on my chest, just thinking about the glasses. I loved them. They were clear, beautiful in the light, and special, and gave me joy each time I touched or looked at them.

I will miss them.

If you see them, drop me a line.


  1. ohboy. Filthy apartment and missing glasses. I think I see steam coming out your ears!

  2. Oh, how I sympathise. As a chipper and breaker, I have few treasures left intact. Careless sitter! But I also know how easy it is to open a dishwasher just a bit too briskly, and clatter the glasses - and if they're still hot, disaster ensues. Maybe someone back home will hunt for more; antique or not, you never know.

    As Art Buchwald said, and it seems apt here: "The best things in life aren't things". Hug that cat.....

  3. Bad luck Marie, I really do sympathise.

    BUT at least Estorbo is OK!

  4. I could understand a glass or two getting broken through carelessness or an attack of clumsy, but all? No coincidence, I fear. I'm so sorry about the unpleasant discoveries upon your return, Marie. Yes, hug the cat ...


  5. A cat. A cat unbroken. Undamaged. Not stained. A cat. Hug the cat and email photos and suggestions of where such treasure might be hidden and I'll keep eyes open.

  6. i so love the cosmos shot. sorry for loss of the glasses. i have a few Things of the same variety, broken. at least mine are destined for a mosaic project--someday.

  7. No.

    I'm normally not too attached to Things (or so I'd like to believe), but Old Things are different. Because there is a story, a life, sometimes more attached to it. And even if we don't know the history, it still imbues the Old Things with a weight. My own awareness of these Special Things probably started with my father trying to explain the fuss about his Woodstock, which makes your loss seem all the greater to me. (Furniture played a role too and then Cape silver.)

    My deepest condolences.

  8. So sorry about your glasses, especially since they held a touch of home for you. Obviously your cat sitter was not good for much else.

  9. I am so sorry. I am relieved that Estorbo is fine. Even though we tell ourselves that they are just things, they are beautiful and precious to us. My sympathy.

  10. They are not things, but your life story.

    I've had 5 years of summer sublettors. Only one year was the place spotless as we left it. One year, many broken glasses, coffee press- but nothing precious.
    Then there was that funky, tassled panty behind the mattress...ewe.


  11. The frustration of realizing that losing them could have been avoided, coupled with their age - we understand your angst. Did not know about Woodstock glass tumblers - will look out for them now.

    Some years ago before my Dad died, he confessed than one day he had thrown away almost all his older slides - the entire history of our family, trips, etc. His old mind must have been playing tricks on him. I felt utterly sick, but there was no way to go back. It was final. Luckily some boxes were found after he died, and we are so happy to have them, but all of our youth, bar 4 photos, is gone.

    Simba's Mom

  12. Purloined for his own enjoyment? Pilfered to sell on the street?
    Either way, it's an intrusion and does, indeed, leave a bitter taste.
    But you still have the Great Black One, even if his purr is switched off.

    Oh! Welcome home. Of course.My mind was on cyclones!

  13. this is a sad many memories for you. i'm so sorry. i have many ways i could wax poetic here but i'll just leave it alone.
    i once lost a pin that belonged to my grandmother. i still think about it and mourn it's loss. now i just think of the memory of it and somehow my grandmother teaching me a lesson in which i become, as you say, more paranoid.

    bad bad grad student...

  14. Ms Hound - whistling with steam.

    Rachel - yes, a single sweep of the dishwasher could have done it, I suppose. Oh Voice of Reason :-)
    The cat has been purring.

    We only found about about the acoustic bass playing today. 'Splains why the cat was in hiding for much of the time, according to the sitter. Neighbours said 'twas tres noisy. Gr.

    Lyn - yes. Love the kitty.

    Keli'i - bit odd, yes. the cat wants to know he's getting so many hugs, and is getting tetchy.

    Jane - still to be posted: Jay and Guy gave us 4 beautiful champagne glasses when we arrived in Cape Town...They are clever.

    Donna - I used to keep bits of china that had broken, for the same project - an outdoor shower, I decided...Then I chucked them.

    Ag, jvdh - thanks for understanding :-)I liked thinking about the people who had used them before they got got me...

    webb - yes it is the history in them that I liked, too!

    Donatella - cat says if only I'd left him with ear plugs, too.

    Frank - argh, yes, the mattresses often don't bear thinking about :-)

    Simba - the photos! Yes...the same happened when my grandmother died, and as a child I squirreled away a few photographs. Then again - my dad has a cupboardful of slides he swears he will get to one day.

    Dinahmow - batten down those hatches! The purr has been switched back on ^^

  15. Oh dear! This is so sad. We once had a cat sitter and the worst we found on returning was that the dishwasher was full of moldy dishes and the cat would come running when we used the electric can opener. (We kept a hand one for opening cat food.)

  16. I'm truly sorry for the loss of your lovely glasses. It's weird isn't it which of your possessions creep into your heart and which are forever disregarded? One item I loved was a humble mug from South Africa, hand painted with guinea fowl. It was very simple and bought, as I recall, solely to spend a few remaining rand in the airport but over the years I came to love it.

    And then I smashed it. So it's gone and I'm a little bit sad. your glasses sound as if they are of a much more venerable and valuable vintage and class so I will mourn them with you too.

    Chin up chuck!

    Lesley x

  17. The most important thing is that Estorbo is o.k....but the carelessness and slovenliness of your cat sitter is very disappointing...and the mysterious disappearance of your beloved glasses is really rotten. Glad you packed up some other treasures or else those might be missing by now, too!

  18. Next time you go home, get a scanner and start scanning your Dad's slides into digital format, especially the people-pictures - having those copies will be a treasure and safer. I am going to start doing our own and spread the copies around to family members just in case.

    You might keep track of Hofmeyer/Mills in Cape Town's auction listing re the glasses.

    So glad Estorbo's porr is back. That guitar must have been scarey for him. Maybe next time you go away you can look into "Cat Sitter in the City"'s blog - perhaps she could look after Estorbo. Might be expensive, though.

    Simba's Mom

  19. Woodstock glasses should NEVER put in a dishwasher anyway. There's an antique fair etc at the Alphen Commom on Sunday. I shall be there and maybe, who knows ?

  20. Got angry by proxy just reading this post. Funny how we can all relate very emotionally to what happened to you. Paramount for me to have a trusted person holding the "fort" (aka my Bklyn apt) and taking care of the cats while I am overseas. Your sad story reinforced my belief even more.

  21. Why not give your cat sitter a surprise visit. Why not see if his cupboards hold your beautiful, Woodstock glasses. I find it hard to believe the complete set broke. Help yourself to a glass of water at the sitter's house, be a little may find a lost friend sitting on the shelves, or countertop.


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