A mug’s game
Whether they’re bone china, personalised or worn and chipped, everyone has their own particular favourite. Alec Marsh asks why mugs matter so much
WHEN I last had the privilege of visiting Tony Benn, I experienced one of the great treats of recent British political history—a mug of Benn tea. Served strong—a teabag for each mug—it was just like his politics. ‘House of Commons or Scottish Parliament?’ Benn asked, as he raised two mugs aloft for me to choose from. What else would you expect from such an indefatigable champion of democracy and one who reckoned he had drunk enough tea to float the RMS Queen Mary?
And who better to help champion the imperative fact that mugs matter—often because they’re selected individually, typically on holiday, on a whim or given as gifts? A ‘favourite’ mug doesn’t just carry volumes, it speaks volumes, too, about whoever prizes it. It seems we have become a nation of mug favouriters, creatures of habit, who are irked when others drink from our treasured, chosen receptacle.
‘When my coffin is lowered into the ground, they can throw my mugs in after me’
For Emma Bridgewater, Britain’s most high-profile mug impresario, this most humble of vessels is an integral part of our day, when we take stock, either alone or with friends, over a cup (so to speak) of tea or coffee. ‘What you’re doing is stepping out of the mundane reality and having a little desertisland moment,’ suggests Miss Bridgewater, who set up her pottery in 1985.
As a result, the right mug matters— a great deal. ‘Having a mug that means something to you personally is obviously a part of that feeling of “this is my little