I mix and match crockery because I like the English faded glory look at the table. They call it shabby chic, but of course it is neither shabby nor chic. Eccentric, maybe. What I don't like is a table that is so pristine, ordered and up-to-the-minute that it looks like you're trying to impress someone instead of being hospitable to them. Plus I don't live in Templestowe.
If you come to dinner or lunch or afternoon tea, you might drink and dine from one or more of the following:
Richard Ginori Manifattura di Laveno ironstone dinner plates and soup bowls, purchased from David Jones in 2001. Each plate and bowl has a different herb design in green on plain white: parsley, marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme, basil. Very pretty. Did I say ironstone? It chips when you look at it. It wasn't cheap. Typically Italian. Glad I didn't buy the whole set.
Hutschenreuther Schumann, Bavaria. Dinner and side plates in white china with a floral and lattice embossed rim and a fluted edge with a fine gold line, now wearing away. Understated design, extremely durable. Typically German. Came from a Myer or David Jones sale, late 'eighties.
Figgjo Norway coffee set. Serial number 3557x78, which I think denotes the year of manufacture. Plain white. Unchipped despite heavy use since 1979, when it was purchased from Georges. The old Georges.
Denby of England oatmeal bowls and coffee mugs. Supposed to be ironstone, but they chip under moderate use. One shattered when I dropped it on lino. It shouldn't have, but then I shouldn't have dropped it.
And now, the mainstay of the fleet: Bristile Super Vitrified Hotel China. Sundry dinnerplates, cups and saucers and soup bowls in white with a fine, elegant blue edging design. Set these babies up on your table and you could be a commercial traveller taking breakfast in a city hotel in 1961 or a honeymooning couple on Hayman Island, flying Ansett. Each item is dated: mine are from 1952 to 1977. The brand logo is an elegant flowing script until sometime in 1975, when it becomes an ugly stretched block letter affair, like everything else designed in 1975. You cannot kill this stuff. It seems to be unbreakable, which says something about either hotel customers or hotel kitchen hands.
Sundries. Wedgwood unicorn logo plate with a gold-edged green rim. Aynsley saucer, white with a buttercup yellow rim adorned with sprays of roses, pansies, daffodils and clematis. Keeling and Co of England plate, blue with a three-stage painted floral and lattice edge.
My only complete set: Royal Albert Lady Carlyle. It doesn't come out often because it is so English you can only imagine using it to serve stilton soup, roast pheasant with bread sauce and royal potatoes and steamed treacle pudding. And we don't have those all that often.
An oddity: I have the very last item, a side plate, from a complete Conway Fenton dinner set given as a wedding present to my grandparents in 1928. My mother ate her bread and butter off this plate as a child growing up through the depression and the war.
What are you eating off tonight?