Ian McMillan: Did ugly mugs cost me my best coffee mate?

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I’m standing beside the sink drying a mug; I’m wearing my pinny and my tea towel is one I got given at a school somewhere down south that depicts a class full of kids as gargoyles; I remember them telling me it was an art project and I thought it was a great idea. It always makes me smile at the thought of some sensitive adolescent being embarrassed to a state beyond the borders of embarrassment when their parents bring out the tea towel to show a new boyfriend perched at the edge of the settee with a cup of tea. “And this is Louise as a gargoyle when she was in the first year…” and Louise’s face twists, unintentionally of course, into almost the same face she pulled on the tea towel all those years ago.

Maybe I was thinking about gargoyles; maybe I was thinking of last week’s episode of Casualty; maybe I was thinking of the fortunes of the mighty Barnsley FC. Whatever (as the kids say), my mind was distracted and suddenly the mug slipped from my grasp. It wasn’t just any old mug, either: it was a precious mug, a lovely mug, a favourite mug. And in that split second it was hanging in the air like a raindrop.

Whenever I hear people say, at a time of disaster or excitement, “everything went into slow motion” I don’t believe them. Well, I didn’t believe them: until now. Readers of the Yorkshire Post, let me tell you: everything went into slow motion.

The mug turned in the air at a snail’s pace; my hands flapped like an unenthusiastic tic-tac man’s. My mouth opened and I shouted ‘No!’ but because the event was happening in slow motion I shouted “Noooooo” and my face looked like that of a tea-towel gargoyle. I jumped across the kitchen trying to catch the mug and it was as though I was at Headingley and a Lancashire batsman had just hit a stunning shot that was flying towards the boundary unless I caught it.

In those kinds of situations my brain goes into a funny mode that I can only describe as panicky reminiscence. In other words, I recall similar occasions when I’ve dropped things, presumably to fill in the empty moment between the mug leaving my soft bardic hand and greeting the hard kitchen floor.

There was the time many years ago when I dropped a tin of gold modelling paint and liquid gold sprayed all over the wall; there was the time I dropped a Cornish pasty, which my dad had queued up for ages for, into the waters of Bridlington Harbour; there was the time I dropped the only a pound coin I had and it rolled and rolled for ages until, like a pound coin in a piece of fiction, it rolled down a grate.

I shook my head to clear it and made one final despairing lunge to catch the mug. My fingers stretched out like a concert pianist’s. There was almost a mug/finger interface.

Almost, but not quite. The mug hit the floor and shattered into smithereens. It was like looking at a very difficult mug-jigsaw. Sections of the mug were reduced to mug dust. The handle was a question mark. It was a lovely mug, and all.

I blame the gargoyles.