There in the bathroom cabinet, plain as it had been since arriving from London, was a short white plastic tumbler affixed with the bright lights and frivolity of Tivoli, Copenhagen’s oldest theme park.
Tivoli’s modest cup had once served hot Gluhwein, complete with cloves and star anise on a 2 degree day.
Next door in the bedroom sat an earthy, solid mug, splashed with violet and aquamarine. Picked up from a street vendor in Barcelona, it appeared hand-sculpted and couldn’t be more dissimilar to Tivoli’s.
For the past six months, that Tivoli tumbler had been humbly holding toothbrush and paste behind a mirrored door.
Today, however, it caught my eye.
I’d never intended to be one of those people who feel obliged to collect cheap and meaningless souvenirs from my travels, but as I recalled the small gathering of mugs scattered throughout the house, I wondered if I’d fallen into this behaviour more naturally.
What is it about a mug that lures my heart, mind and wallet in?
Staring blankly into the bathroom cabinet I travelled back to a very special winter in Europe. 2015 was my first Christmas spent away from family and Tivoli had been top of my list. Visiting with my then boyfriend made it that much more magical. Overflowing with child-like joy and wonder, we spontaneously returned a second time within three days – an experience I knew I would want to remember forever.
The 2015 Christmas Cup of the Tivoli theme park is the first mug I collected from my travels and embodies the love and warmth shared. The fact this Tivoli tumbler is a pair is a joyous reminder of who I shared that time with, despite the fact they now occupy different rooms in the house.
Well there you go, these mugs are clearly some poignant personification of a happy time. Mystery solved.
Except that Barcelona mug sitting solemn in the corner didn’t agree.
Barcelona mug was first seen on a leisurely stroll up La Rambla one Spring afternoon. Passed by on first look, I made a split decision to sprint back to pick it up before we needed to leave.
Barcelona mug is plagued with colourful dreams, but still strong – a noble vessel for a comforting cuppa.
About a year later I was visiting the London Borough of Lambeth’s Oval Market, located in the Kennington Church grounds just across the intersection from my new flat.
Perched on a trestle table, a plethora of puzzling pottery entered my view.
“What would you use these adorable wee cups for sir?” To which the potter replied, “well you can see I’m selling them as either sake or green tea cups, but you could really use them for any trinkets or other things you desired”. Without a clue what I’d use them for, I said “well I’ll take these two”.
That morning two cups of a kind, yet not a set, came home with me. They were small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and exuded a certain je ne sais quoi, with intrinsic beauty. A couple of times I did drink tea with them in the window sill, then they propped up my make-up and now mostly hold a variety of precious jewellery. They have no specific purpose but many.
But it wasn’t until one Flight Coffee mug knocked me out that I started to gain some clarity.
It was a peculiar process for procurement I was participating in. I hadn’t realised it until now, but something full of intent yet aloof was leading me to these purchases.
Every one of these mugs represents a turning point in my journey.
They don’t just illustrate joy, but mark accomplishments and independence too. They even seem to know where I’m headed before I get there.
So I am certainly not ashamed of my mug collection. In fact I’m rather proud, and always enjoy consuming a cosy beverage with memories of these places I’ve been.
The latest addition to the collection – a simple yet sophisticated white coffee mug from my recent weekend in Wellington. With Flight Coffee emblazoned in lightning bolts across the front, I guess I’m ready to fly.
Let’s see where the clever north wind takes me this time. Hopefully to a mug embodying Johnny Depp.