day of week

Life on a Plate

25 November 2010

A few weekends ago, I was at the river with my family. We were having a picnic, taking a walk and enjoying the sunny weather.

Scrambling up a bushy sand bank, I noticed these two pieces of a broken, old plate stuck deep in the ground.


They were dirty and crusted over with mud, so I gave them a quick wipe on my jeans. As I rubbed my fingers over the cracked glaze I was overcome with a strange sense of enchantment. Like I was in some kind of time warp.

Maybe, many years ago, before this place was a beautiful park, it was used as a rubbish tip for the very old houses nearby. But I looked around, but I couldn’t find any other bits of plate.

It was a dinner plate, with hand-painted, gold detail. The pattern seemed to be of Eastern origin. The glaze was cracked by age. How old was it?


I held it in my hand and wondered how much this broken plate could tell me, if it could talk.

Who made it, and what were they thinking while they did the laborious work of painting the gold detail? What did they dream of?

Did children grow up eating from this plate? Did the family argue, or talk about school, or moving house, or worry about brothers and sons away at some war?

And when the plate was broken in anger or haste, did someone get in trouble?

I imagined it as a full plate. Sitting on a beautiful tablecloth. Next to plates which looked identical to it. Holding slices of bread and fruit. I imagined laughter, happiness and the sounds of clinking glasses.

I stuck it into my bag. And it now sits next to my monitor, in a dish full of treasured objects.

It reminds me of another lifetime, and of new life.