It’s been a funny couple of weeks, that have had their ups and down, but that I’m not sad to see the back of. I felt like going on a ramble, and the streets of Dublin were calling. Dublin is quite a beautiful city in a shabby way, and easily traversable on foot – perhaps the best way to enjoy it, absorbing the sights, sounds and smells. Living in the back-end of beyond, a trip to town is quite the change and a cause for no little excitement – usually because all I do is walk all day, stopping to eat in a greasy-spoon at some point. Walking clears the mind, and refreshes the spirits.
Well, I planned on spending the entire day mooching about, as it was fine and bright, with a fresh breeze to blow the fumes of countless engines away. I envisioned trips to Christchurch Cathedral, the National Gallery, The Chester Beatty Library, maybe Collins Barracks, a few book shops and of course the charity shops. I walked, and wandered, and perused, stood and listened, took in the scenes, took tangents and diversions, followed routes new to me, found little streets, and lives unseen. On one such leg I found myself in the Liberties, somewhere I haven’t been in many, many years – a humming, buzzing, bustling, enclave of life unaffected by the doings of the rest of the city. Who needs Paris, Madrid, or Rome? All life is here, and larger than life – and, smiling as its goes about its business.
I eased my pace and lingered over stalls, looked in windows eyeing the wares, glanced into the hairdressers and saw characters from all walks of life – the staff intent on their business, the customers laughing as they chatted and kept a careful eye on progress – maybe a special evening was ahead, or, maybe, it was just one of those things one does to make life seem less grey.
I walked on and came to the famous antique shops, full of all kinds of quality wares, remnants of lives long gone, and lives well lived, but no more – waiting to be loved and to live again. I walked into one on a whim – definitely a whim, as I do not have pockets large enough to seriously consider the treasures, nor a house of sufficient dimensions to house any trophies I would wish to buy. A cheery salute from the owner, a nod, a smile, and an invitation to browse, with no expectations from or against either party. It was a lazy day.
As I walked past a battered old cupboard I noticed a pipe. A dirty, abandoned, bulldog – it looked weathered, with funny colouring, and a dirty band – the stem spoke softly to me, informing me that I was looking at a Peterson. I shivered. Literally. I dream of finding pipes in antique shops, and have only twice before – one a Peterson, the other a Dunhill Shell Briar. I looked again, and tried to calm my excitement, telling myself that I could not afford it – this was an expensive shop, as I saw from all the labels around me.
I asked to see the pipe anyway, just to satisfy curiosity. Michael took the pipe out (for, as I found out later as we chatted and ultimately shook hands, that was his name), and looked at it, turned it over in his hands and looked at the label on the stem – the obviously ill-fitting stem – said out loud, to himself, “30 Euros…..hmmmm…..I can do it for 25.” He then looked at me and repeated the price, as if for the first time.
I near fainted. Seriously, I was almost trembling. I wanted to hold it, touch it, look at it and turn it over in my hands. He handed it to me. I looked, nearly dropped it………a patent…….a meerschaum……hall marked……I nearly screamed, “Yes! I’ll take it. Super. Thank you, I appreciate the price.” Told him I was a collector, and that he had just made my day. He smiled broadly and seemed to straighten as he stood there. I asked if he had a loupe and could read the date stamp on the dirty band. He looked, I waited, breath held, and he said, “1911.”
The universe was smiling at me this day. I paid. We chatted. We laughed. We righted the woes of the world. I departed having made a new friend though I doubt our paths will cross again. I went about my day as intended, but with a lighter step, and a small distraction in my pocket. I wandered, and per used, stopped to eat, and then, late in the day, made my way home.
I cleaned the pipe, and the silver band, and looked again at the date stamp. 1909!!!! An “O”, not a “Q”. I looked at the stem – the wrong stem, but doubtless old, definitely of the period, but not original to this pipe. No problem, I know a manufacturer not far from here that can create the exact stem required. And they will – I will invest. I phone them on Monday to arrange the deed.
This pipe was loved, and smoked, then smoked some more, and again,and again. It is the darkest colouring I have ever seen on a Meer’. It is beautiful – not because of its evenness, because it is not even, but because of it age and the way it wears its speckled colours – it has character and scars – it was a lover to someone, before being left, maybe unexpectedly.
Now it’s at my house, and it is refreshed, cleaned, warmed and secure. It sits and waits for a trip to Sallynoggin. Then, when it is given a new stem, it will live again, and feel the warmth of a gently glowing ember within its bowl, and impart it’s relaxing smoke to an appreciative recipient.
Now, I must make a chair to recover the cost of my jaunt to the city. And, when I have finished it I will sit in it and wreath myself in fragrant smoke from a pipe that has seen more of the world and life than I.