Róisín Ingle on . . . a vintage weekend
Half way to Ballybunion we break the journey at the home of my friend’s parents. A coffee maker, the kind that gurgles and splutters for an age, is plugged in. The table is set with beautiful crockery. There is homemade bread and homemade vegetable soup and cloth napkins and crystal water glasses. “Would you like to wash your hands in the cloakroom before lunch?” my friend’s lovely mother says.
As I wash my hands I am reminded how much I always appreciate these civilised-to-the-max scenarios, even if I consider myself slightly uncivilised. Soup bowls on plates and a proper knife for the butter and tiny elegant coffee cups and all those other little touches that add up to a touch of class.
They are over 50 years married. They laugh more with each other than some newlyweds. A history buff, he has a small library lined floor-to-ceiling with books. An expert seamstress, she has a small room for sewing. She’s had her cataracts done and he administers the medication five times a day. She calls him “Dr Drops”. I have it on good authority that most evenings a bottle of wine is produced for another home-cooked gourmet dinner a deux . Not for the first time when I’ve visited other people’s homes I thought to myself, this is a good way to live. And later I always think: If only I could live that way.
In my house growing up, the dishes were washed, there was no delph to speak of because we didn’t know there was a word such as delph, never mind what some refer to as “the good delph”. We didn’t have presses, we had cupboards. It’s all words really but while my friends had hot presses we had an airing cupboard, perhaps (but I’m not sure) because my mother is English. There was no cloakroom or good china or special crockery or, for that matter, a dresser on which to display that kind of thing. No grandparents had passed on patterned plates kept pristine for special occasions. The home-cooked food was five-star but we didn’t do table cloths or napkins. Still, I grew up with a vague hankering for this kind of thing. There’s a Good Delph Appreciation Society inside me somewhere.
This is all by way of saying I’ve been after something called a vegetable tureen for about 15 years. I went to a friend’s house for dinner once and he kept the vegetables warm in this china yoke with a lid. I’d never seen one before. He said it was passed on from his grandmother. I’ve had a yen for a tureen ever since. And every time the broccoli goes instantly cold in the bowl at dinner I think about the tureen and I wonder if they still make them.
The journey broken, we head on to Ballybunion for the inaugural Women In Media weekend where the sun shines for two whole days. There are inspiring words in Kilcooly’s hotel from impressive women including Mary Kenny, Miriam O’Callaghan, Katie Hannon, Alison O’Connor and Mary Lou McDonald. Local woman and former Irish Times journalist Mary Cummins is honoured, as is Maeve Binchy, whose parents met here quite by chance one summer. The weekend is a roaring success.
One night a woman tells me about a newly opened vintage shop she thinks I’ll like. Newly opened down the town. I stroll down to East 73rd which, if your’re passing, is beside the Supervalu or can be found at east7rd.ie if you’re not. In the window I see two vintage china tureens along with a load of matching plates, bowls and a handsome jug. I am going to buy them I think. They need to be mine. When I go back an hour later the woman in the shop tells me someone else has put a deposit down on my tureens. I am raging. I try not to let it show. I think it shows though because the owner rings up the person who has put the deposit down and has a conversation I can’t hear. A moment later, thanks to generosity of the person on the other end of the phone, I am the proud owner of a big box of 1950s crockery.
My friend is stopping in her parents’ again on the way home. She tells me that by mad coincidence in the attic in their home is a coffee pot that exactly matches my Good Delph. Her parents say it’s mine if I want it. And, oh, I do. I leave Ballybunion with fond memories and a new life goal that makes me feel quite ancient: I want to own a dresser.