Today a Bracelet, Tomorrow a Wrist?

We were chatting with dinner guests the other night about our plans to go to England next summer. Both the guys are avid golfers and the other couple goes to The Open (known in the U.S. as “The British Open”) every summer. Gary has never been and we’ve agreed that next year is the time.

We mentioned that we would be visiting my family in the north of England, from which Gary could take a train to Muirfield to see a day or so of the tournament. My relatives live in the Middlesbrough area, and I told our friends about nearby Whitby, on the coast. Among its claims to fame, other than my grandmother’s birthplace, is the ruin of an abbey from about the seventh century, which sits on a high bluff overlooking the North Sea, reached on foot by climbing 199 steps (it can also be accessed by car.) A culinary favorite available at many cafes is pork pie with mushy peas. Really. (I think you have to be English, and having left England at eight I’m evidently not English enough to consider this a delicacy.)

In Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” Whitby is where Dracula made landfall (in the form of a dog) from the ghost ship, and some of the book’s action takes place in the churchyard on the bluff. Whitby was also the home of Captain Cook.*

Whitby and the surrounding area of Yorkshire are also known for jet mining. The little village where my Aunt Thora lived has a pub called the Jet Miners Inn. Jet is hard polished coal that was used for jewelry, buttons and the like during the Victorian era before plastic and other synthetics were available. It’s where the term “jet black” comes from. Whitby has a jet heritage center and shops where you can buy carved pieces of jewelry and knickknacks.

Many years ago my mother gave me a beautiful Art Deco bracelet with a fake rhinestone in it. I brought it out to show our guests.


After dinner, while cleaning up, I dropped the bracelet on the ceramic tile kitchen floor, breaking a big chunk and a couple of shards off one of the pieces—it is, after all, coal, and brittle. I was heartsick—my mother had considered trying to donate her jet pieces to the Smithsonian!

A rather clumsy repair, with a couple of tiny shards left over, has made it at least wearable again (although I probably won’t), but it’ll never be worthy of the Smithsonian or even “Antiques Road Show.”

The repair seam is on the piece second from the left, just below the reflection.


But what also upsets me was the lack of mindfulness. It was late, there was cleaning up to do, I’d had some wine, I was wearing rubber gloves, for heaven’s sake, and in a flash it slipped out of my grasp.

We live in a two-story townhouse. Every time I go down the stairs I try to remember to slow down, think about each step so I don’t fly down and break a bone—or worse. My mother had severe osteoporosis. I don’t—all my bone scans come back better than 100 per cent of normal, and I take good care of my body. But I do worry about those fraction-of-a-second slips of mind that can lead to broken bones, car accidents or concussions. So now I hope the broken bracelet will serve as a lesson in mindfulness—better the bracelet than a wrist.


*I have been fortunate to have taken similar photos of Cook’s statues in Whitby, where he was born, and on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where he was killed by natives. Now that I’ve seen where he began and ended his life I think it might be fun to track his travels around the world some day. Now that would be some blog!

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