On decutlering

David Bullard writes on the complications of getting rid of expensive stuff you no longer need


I’ve been having a bit of a clear-out lately. As one gets older one realises that, over the past fifty or so years, one has accumulated an enormous amount of ‘stuff’. This is very often stuff that seemed like a great idea at the time but now rarely sees the light of day. Take the twelve-piece setting Mappin and Webb cutlery for example.

This comes complete with fish knives and forks (much mocked by John Betjeman) and a variety of soup ladles of various size, a carving knife and fork complete with a sharpening steel, teaspoons and smaller spoons to go with the espresso cups, cake slicers, a cheese knife, two small butter knives and at least three spoons for the sugar bowl plus a couple of pickle forks. They all sit tidily in a draw along with the solid silver napkin rings.

I married the Mappin and Webb cutlery thirty-eight years ago this week, but I brought with me to the marriage a six setting Christofle cutlery set housed in an impressive wooden canteen. The problem is, what on earth to do with them. I almost got rid of the Christofle cutlery a few weeks ago but the potential buyer decided that he needed to pay school fees and his wife probably wouldn’t approve of a few grand being spent on knives, forks and spoons.

I wasn’t asking a fortune but since a quick check on Google revealed the cost of a knife at around R700 I thought asking a mere R70 wouldn’t be too cheeky. But that would have put the cost of the whole lot at around R25 000 so the deal fell through. If I took it all along to someone like Cash Crusaders I would probably be lucky to get R10 000 so I’ve decided to hang on to it just in case we ever have eighteen guests to dinner in which case we can merge the Mappin and Webb and the Christofle. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The problem is that we no longer have big dinner parties and I suspect the same applies to most people, hence the lack of interest in what is rather grandly known as ‘flatware’. Back in the days when we did seat twelve guests around our long refectory table we would spend two days shopping for ingredients, an entire day preparing the meal, laying the table and then facing the washing up at around 11pm at night.

In the morning I would come into the kitchen to be met by at least forty-eight Rosenthal crystal glasses which would have to be hand washed and dried. That’s all very well when you’re young and energetic and keen to show your friends that you are at least the equal of Hector Blumenthal when it comes to knocking up some posh nosh but when you pass seventy it’s all far too much effort. It’s so much easier and probably cheaper to book a decent restaurant and avoid all the hassle of preparing a meal and then clearing up.

We do still use the Mappin and Webb but only two at a time and very occasionally four if we have house guests but the rest of the stuff just stays in the drawer. The same goes for all the wine glasses (three types for red, white and dessert wine), brandy glasses, whisky tumblers, martini glasses, grappa glasses and heaven knows what else. Then there are the linen napkins which came to a grand total of 40 at the last count. We use linen napkins every day but only two at a time so that leaves 38 with nothing to do except wait their turn.

Then there’s the electrical stuff like CD players and DVD players as well as my fine collection of both CD’s and DVD’s. A friend wanted to buy a new CD player recently and it’s virtually impossible. It wasn’t that long ago that shopping malls were full of specialist shops eager to sell you upmarket sound systems. These days you can’t even find a bog standard CD player in Game.

I offered to donate part of my excellent CD collection to a young thirtysomething whipper-snapper a few months ago. I’m talking high quality, digitally enhanced, collectible stuff here unsullied by rap or country and western music. He looked at me pityingly and told me that he doesn’t play CD’s and hasn’t done so for years. He now downloads everything from something called Spotify. What a soulless existence the poor chap must have.

DVD’s have suffered the same fate and the only way you’ll get rid of your boxed editions of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ or the massively non PC ‘Til Death us do Part’ is to dump them on the local charity shop. I subscribed to Netflix long ago but every so often I feel the need to watch ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Dr Strangelove’ and they aren’t on Netflix so thank heavens for the DVD player. I can’t even leave this eclectic collection to a family member in my will because they will be cursing me forever as they search eBay for a used CD or DVD player.

I have a fabulous Nikon camera with all sorts of lenses and extras in a sturdy travelling case. The camera is in perfect working order and has taken some great pictures over the years but I can’t even give it away. Well, I probably could but I’d rather not. A quick check of my local photographic dealer’s website reveals that they have more than enough secondhand equipment that they’re trying to sell already and have no need of mine.

Cameras have been replaced by smartphones and who wants to lug tons of equipment around when something that slips into your pocket does the job just as well? Part of the joy of photography was all the paraphernalia you needed to carry to be taken seriously, particularly those long lenses. What self-respecting girl is going to agree to model for someone carrying a bloody smartphone?

So my attempts to simplify my life by shedding material goods has been an utter disaster thus far although I did manage to get rid of a few pairs of shoes recently and we’ve reduced our coffee mug count to just ten now.

I have found all sorts of things I never knew I had at the back of a wardrobe, such as a stunt kite which I must have bought ten years ago and has never flown. That shouldn’t be too hard to give away though. The one thing I haven’t found at the back of the wardrobe though is a Palestinian flag or, indeed, a flag of any description.

I mention this because I was watching some news footage of last weekend’s pro-Palestinian march in London which the Met Police estimated at 100 000 people. That’s more people than can fit in Wembley Stadium and almost 30 000 more than attended the Live Aid concert back in 1985. The majority of those clogging the streets of central London and chanting anti-Semitic slogans were carrying a

Palestinian flag or a large piece of card with the Palestinian flag and messages of support for the former residents of Gaza.

There are only two possibilities. The first is that a large number of London residents always keep a Palestinian flag handy in the cupboard under the stairs on the off chance that they might be called upon to march in support of Palestinian freedom. The other, and far more likely possibility, is that the Palestinian flags were handed out to those attending by a well organised group of London based terrorist sympathisers who seem determined to destroy what they regard as the West’s hegemony. Bed bugs are the least of the problems facing Paris and London right now.


The Dutch Royal family paid a state visit to South Africa last week although you would hardly have known it judging by the almost complete lack of media coverage. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima arrived with a huge entourage of political and business people apparently to discuss bilateral trade and to establish whether we are treating our LBGTQIA+ ‘community’ with just the right amount of respect.

One of the tourist treats arranged for them while they were in Cape Town was a visit to the Iziko Slave Lodge museum; not perhaps the wisest choice bearing in mind the Dutch involvement in the slave trade in these parts. After some members of the First Nations community dressed in animal skins jostled them and started shouting slogans suggesting that land had been stolen they were spirited away by security personnel before the touchy subject of reparations could be raised.

Earlier this year the Dutch voted a biological male as ‘Miss Netherlands’ and it would be interesting to know if the Royal couple gave Pres Frogboiler any tips on how to elect a female head of state without actually having to pay too much attention to biological reality. Maybe we must prepare ourselves for a shock in 2024.