Betty Johnson was moving. Since her husband Albert had died ﬁve years
previously, she had rattled around in the big house that had been their family home for over ﬁfty years, in effect only using two or three rooms. Her two children, Simon and Kate, had been badgering her recently to consider one of the lovely purpose-built
small bungalows that had been built two streets away, but she had always adamantly
refused, because Albert had loved their garden so much. The fact that it had got very
overgrown and straggly without his daily ministrations, and was now unrecognisable,
seemed to escape her.
Then, six months ago, Betty had had a nasty fall, which had left her quite frail
and nervous. The once strong-willed and stubborn woman surprised Simon when she
suggested he look into the possibility of her perhaps taking a look at the bungalows, if
any were still available. He rang Kate with the news.
“I‘ve spoken to the agent” he said “ and there are a couple available, which
were the last ones built, as an add-on when someone sold them part of their garden.
I’ve arranged to take mum round to see them at the weekend. Fingers crossed she’ll
like them, it will make life so much easier for all of us, especially her.”
So, on Saturday afternoon, they had a family visit to the bungalows, and Betty
decided without hesitation that she would take one. Her decision was assisted by her
seeing an old acquaintance watering the window boxes of her bungalow just a few
steps away. The next day, they put her old house up for sale, and by the following
weekend, they had accepted a good offer, and the wheels were set in motion to get her
Simon and Kate and their families started on the daunting task of clearing the
old house of the clutter and junk that had accumulated over the years. The thingsBetty wanted to keep but would have no room for were boxed up to go to their homes
for safe keeping until she decided what to do with them at a later date, and several
trips were made to the local tip as well as the charity shops, all with Betty’s
agreement, as she realised she couldn‘t cram everything into the small bungalow.
One thing she insisted was going to go with her and take pride of place on her
sideboard was her antique Japanese cloisonne vase, that Albert had bought her for
their ﬁrst anniversary. It was dark purple and brown, with the distinctive gold wire
decoration, and Simon thought it was hideous, but he knew his mum was very
attached to it, so he kept quiet.
Moving day came, and went off very smoothly. They settled her in, and just
before they left, she insisted on placing the cloisonne vase on the sideboard.
“Doesn’t it look nice? she said “your dad would be pleased to see it there. We
saw a similar one on that Bargain Hunt programme once, and it went for about £200.
They said that if there had been a pair it would have been at least a thousand but we
never saw another one, although we looked in all the antique shops we came across
over the years.”
A few days later, Simon had to go to Scotland on business, and was away for
three weeks. On his return he stopped off at the ﬂorists in the High Street to buy some
ﬂowers for his wife, and noticed that an auction was being held in the hotel next door.
He wandered in out of curiosity and was absolutely stunned to see the exact replica of
his mum’s vase on display. It had a reserve of £60 on it, so, thinking how thrilled she
would be to have the pair, he registered quickly and sat down to await its sale. They
were quite speedy getting through the assortment of lots, so he didn‘t have long to
“Lovely genuine antique Japanese cloisonne vase here, a very unusual design. Who’ll
start me at £100? ” said the auctioneer. There was no response.
“£50 then”he said.
Simon raised his hand. “£50 at the back” said the auctioneer “Anyone going to offer
£55?” A lady at the front raised her hand. “Damn” thought Simon, I hope this isn’t
going to cost me a fortune.” He raised his hand, to be followed by the lady bidding
£60. This went on until the price was £110, and Simon decided this had to be his
limit, but the lady declined to increase her bid, so the vase was his. It cost him nearly
£140 once the commission had been added, but he decided it would be worth it to see
his mum’s delighted face.
That evening he went to see her, with his precious vase wrapped in his coat..
She was pleased to see him after his three weeks away, and she gave him a big slice
of his favourite ginger cake with his cup of tea. As he raised the cake to his mouth for
the ﬁrst bite, he glanced across at the sideboard. “Mum” he said “Where’s your vase?”
“Oh” she replied “I decided it didn’t really ﬁt in this lovely sunny room, so I
asked Kate to take it to the auction today. She’s not long ago rung me to say it made
nearly £100, brilliant isn’t it, Actually I never really liked the colours, but I’d never
admit it to your dad. I think I’ll buy a piece of modern Poole pottery instead, they are
always lovely bright colours.”