Family silver ...
Remember when ... generations above you invited people for afternoon tea? Tea which they served from a large silver teapot? Tea at which the visiting ladies (for I am sure they were ladies) kept on their little hats, tucking the fashionable veils up when they drank, reputedly - according to my father at least - as an indication that they didn't expect to outstay their welcome by becoming too relaxed.
I can remember this.
A generation beyond that, the butler would serve the afternoon tea and hand round the dainty sandwiches, to be nibbled daintily, held daintily. The tea, of course, would arrive in a silver teapot. The butler or his minion would also clean the said silver teapot, along with the silver teaspoons and all the other shiny stuff so casually in everyday use.
I do not remember this.
But mine, I think, is the first generation to have broken free from these conventions, to have substituted mugs - frequently thick pottery in the early days of my marriage - for the china cups and to have done away with the prepared afternoon tea: "come for a cup of tea" often meant just that, with a biscuit if you were lucky. Now the question might be "What kind of tea do you like?", with the answer anything from "builder's" to "something red, if you have it".
This is my maternal grandmother's teapot. Her married name was Stewart - hence the S engraved on the pot. She and my grandfather were both primary school teachers, who married in the first decade of last century. My grandmother's father was an estate worker at Balmoral. None of the family can have been particularly well off, and I cannot think this was an especially expensive teapot. It is silver plated, not solid. It makes the tea I like - green, or weak Indian - taste of metal, though that may be because I barely use it. It holds enough for ten cups of tea, but when it is full I can no longer pour steadily from it. The handle wobbles anyway, let alone my own.
But it has a certain Downtonesque charm, and I had it out this morning in the middle of a discussion with a friend about the things we picked up from our families. When she left, I polished it.
I could have done with the butler ...