Rose and The Silver Cup

The object that I've brought is a little silver mug that was made for me by my father, something over sixty years ago. My father came to England as a refugee, in 1938, he was very lucky to have escaped Germany, and as a jew, he lost a lot of his family in the Holocaust. When he came to England, he had quite a struggle. He refused to go back into education, he found the first job that he could get, his thinking was he wanted to pay something back to the country that had saved him.

So, it was quite a long time before my father was in a position to be thinking about anything for himself because what he was thinking about was his young wife and then his young family, trying to buy a house and so on. But he's always had this interest in silverwork and silver.

There's seven years between my sister and I, so when I was less than a year old, there's a story that we used to chuckle about. My father came home on payday with a very reduced amount to give to my mother and two beautiful silver charms that he'd bought for my sister and for myself and he said to my mother, 'I want them to appreciate beautiful things, whilst they're young'. And I think my mother, who was usually quite restrained, was actually very angry with him and told him what a very stupid thing it was to do. Anyway, my sister had a little kitten playing with a ball of wool and I had a silver teddy bear. I have no memory of the silver teddy bear because apparently I lost it very very quickly. There was even a suggestion I might have swallowed it. It disappeared.

After a little while, he joined an evening class in Birmingham and he made some rather lovely objects. I have no knowledge of anything that he sold but when I was growing up there were things that he had made that were in use in our home. In particular, he made this little mug when I was very very tiny and by that time he had his own hallmark. So, it's very specially hallmarked to my father, who was then Benjamin Klajman, later Benjamin Clayton. I was quite a wilful little girl and it didn't occur to me until much much later the significance of this object and the significance that he'd probably attached to it. And I can remember him trying to persuade me to have a drink from it, say a cup of milky tea, and being a bit of a whinger, I used to say that it was too hot. Because silver's such a good conductor of heat, I remember it used to feel too warm to my lips. So, I would complain and say no, I didn't really want to drink from it, and I preferred to have a normal mug. But there it was, always sitting in the living room. And I remember I quite liked to look at it.

As the years went on and I matured perhaps a little bit, not perhaps that much, I began to understand really how much he'd put into to it. Not least because money was always very short in our house. So, I would say the older I've got, the more significance this little mug had to me. And when it was suggested that I might talk about an object that was special, I really had no hesitation in thinking of this because it is probably one of the most special things that I own.

Rose Palmer works as a development manager: gypsies and travellers.