Lottie was my grandmother’s friend.

As a child her name confused me. To my ear, Lottie was the sort of name you would give your favourite doll. A chirpy, foolish sort of name. Giggly and frivolous.

So when I first met her, I was shocked to discover that Lottie was in fact an old woman.

She lived in a stale, dusty apartment in a towering block of weathered concrete, and I remember wondering at the time if she had ever imagined it would come to this.

Back in the day when she was young, and Lottie suited her, would she have envisaged then, this dismal apartment, so high that even the view was empty?

When I accompanied my grandmother on her visits, I would be seated in an over soft armchair that seemed to swallow me whole when I sank into it. From there I would sit and watch them talk. All nodding heads and sips of tea. They talked about things that didn’t interest me. People, places, events from the past. Things that had no meaning for me, because I’d never known them happen.

Now and then, they’d remember I was there and would try to engage me in the conversation or, failing that, send me scurrying to the kitchen to fetch more milk or sugar for the tea.

Lottie’s kitchen fascinated me. It was filled with objects that were all varying shades of the same pale green. Linoleum green, insipid like an old hospital. Cupboards, jars, jugs, cups, saucers. All of it came in this drained, faded green.

It gave the place a cold, dreary feel and I always imagined that the room smelled of rain, even on a hot summer’s day.

Fitted into a corner above the kitchen table however there was a small display cabinet, which contained a collection of ornamental spoons. Little silver souvenirs from far off lands, each embellished with a tiny enamel picture.

London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Copenhagen, New York, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, San Francisco.

I would stare at these little spoons and whisper the place names to myself. Quietly wondering how it was that Lottie came to possess such exotic objects. Places so far away I could barely believe they existed.

Every time I entered the kitchen, I would quietly take one of the spoons from its case and slip it into my mouth, hoping to savour a small taste of the place it had travelled so far from.

But all there ever was, was the cold thud of the metal on my tongue and the hard, bitter taste of countless years of silver polish.

Disappointed, I would think of Lottie as a young girl, slipping the spoons into her mouth, tasting the places they had come from. Licking them clean, one by one, of all their exoticness and excitement.

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