We don't go around smashing plates, but occasionally one gets lost in action, especially the set that came from Italy via David Jones under the label of Richard Ginori Ironstone. Ironstone? You only had to look at them and they'd chip. The Alfa Romeo of plates: you needed two in case one packed it in halfway through dinner. The Denby ones (English) weren't much better. I have one left.
So I get to go crockery shopping. Crockery shopping is fun. I don't buy new any more; I prefer the look of a table spread with a mixed array of plates. As long as they're all of good quality, your table gains the air of a fading dynasty. Dining al fresco gets a particular lift when using stately old crockery. Apart from that, I don't like many of the modern patterns or designs, especially plates that are square. Children try to push their vegetables into the corner. On a round plate there's nowhere to hide.
So off to the Restorer's Barn again. They have a separate room in which their crockery is displayed like works of art. No stacks to rattle - every piece is mounted separately in a bracket. There are hundreds, and they are cheap because they are from incomplete sets.
First, a dinner plate by J & G Meakin of England. 'Moon Dreams’ features cactus-like vegetation in purple, pink, blue and beige in a cross-hatched illustrative style against a stark lunar backdrop and finished with a gold rim. Eat from these and you’ll remember the 1960s again, even if you weren’t there, to twist the aphorism. The Meakin designers were channelling something sunny and cheerful that day. Talk about stoneware.
Next, a 1970s Wedgwood ‘Sahara’ dinner plate, deep orange etched with a burnt umber rim; a Maddock Royal Vitreous rim-patterned design of gold and grey geometrics interlinked like Mercator’s projection; and two oval diner-style plates with rims coloured for clubs and the like. These were distributed by John Dynon & Sons and are marked with the year of production. My father might well have sold them. As a child I used to travel with him occasionally around the hotel trade. I was possibly the only person to have visited every restaurant in Melbourne without eating in it.
Now for some glassware. I picked up a Cristal d’Arque goblet complete with gold sticker. These somewhat ostentatiously chunky items were huge in the 1970s, being a kind of default wedding gift in boxes of six, and were often stored sticker-side out behind glass in the Parker wall unit. Then they went out of fashion like everything else 1970s and were packed off to op shops along with the Parker wall unit. Now they have a kind of retro charm if you like that kind of thing. The sticker reads Cristal d’Arque of France 24% lead crystal. Remind me not to drink out of it.
That was it, aside from three highly polished ex-Australian Military Forces silver dessertspoons complete with stamped crown and sunrise insignia. I wonder if they saw action.