The bulldog clip hangs on the right side of the tall cupboard in my mother's 1950s kitchen.
It's a big bulldog clip, and it has to be. It has hung on grimly for many years, quietly performing the job it was designed and built to do. It is an engineering marvel. Two pieces of chromed metal and a spring that would hold up the front corner of a truck.
That's the problem with things that are well built. People take them for granted. Think they will never fail.
I did warn her. Many times. But did she listen? No. She never does. Headstrong.
It took many years and the bulldog clip yawned wider and wider but she never noticed, like you don't notice someone growing when you see them all the time.
But I noticed. I didn't see it every day like she did.
It's her 'desktop' recipe file. The one where you store recipes you've ripped out of the paper, intending to later file them away properly in the appropriate folder or drawer.
But she never did. How could she? She doesn't have any appropriate folders. My mother just has shelves and shelves of cookbooks; and drawers of them that you have to wrestle open because they are jammed in so tightly the cover of the top book is locked onto the inside of the chest.
The file must have been three inches thick the last time I saw it. Three inches of yellowing papers of every possible size. Whole newspaper pages, single columns, tiny cut-out sections, L-shaped sections, entire lift-outs, cardboard recipes from the sides of flour packs, plastic recipes from the front of pasta packs, label recipes she'd floated off sauce jars, even recipes cut from old books that had disintegrated. All in the grip of the bravest bulldog clip that ever existed.
Today it exploded.
When I arrived, the bulldog clip was still on its peg but its jaws were snapped shut. Its spring had returned to its resting position for the first time in, I don't know, twenty, thirty, forty years? Beneath the now-mute clip, and not beneath it but farther away, on all parts of the perfectly-preserved 1950s design linoleum floor, were a thousand, perhaps ten thousand, pieces of paper.
'You like cooking,' she said, brightly. 'Want to help me sort them out?'