Three days after my wife and I moved into our first house together, the previous owner arrived unannounced at the front door. He was a confident young barrister with a wife who was heavily pregnant: an aspirational couple, which no doubt influenced our decision to buy the house at the top of an overheated market.
I was upstairs when my wife opened the door, but I had no difficulty in hearing him, as he declared his business in his best courtroom voice. He went through a few loose ends arising from the house purchase before producing with a flourish an object for us from his bag.
“AND THIS…IS THE GRILL PAN HANDLE”
Of course. It must, we thought, be often the fate of the humble grill pan handle to be separated from its parent grill pan: the grill pan stays in the oven and is going nowhere, while the handle is sent on its travels with the other contents of the utensils drawer. You’d think removals people would get used to that one. Anyway, we gratefully accepted it and saw it happily reunited with its parent. But the manner of its return stayed with us, and for some years our kitchen would resound to dialogue like:
“Please could you pass the GRILL PAN HANDLE” and
“Have you seen the GRILL PAN HANDLE?” and
“I put it to the court, M’lud, that this is the GRILL PAN HANDLE.”
Ours was a terraced house, and the lady the other side of the shared wall worked as a journalist on the Evening Standard. I couldn’t comment on the quality of her research, but one day we did notice an article headed The ten biggest causes of marital rows. Grill Pan Handles was right there at number three after money and sex, just before housework.
A few years later, the anticipation and excitement felt on the approach of the year 2000 was qualified by fear of what the millennium bug might wreak on us: missile defence systems would be accidentally triggered and cause nuclear war, supermarkets would run out of yoghurt, etc. In the event, thankfully, the bug turned out rather a damp squib, although it was reported that in two states of Australia bus ticket validation machines failed to operate.
But this rare turning of the year didn’t pass without an epic moment. Just hours before the new millennium dawned, my brother phoned. His family had moved house a few days earlier, and he had called me to report that the previous owner had just called round…to drop off the GRILL PAN HANDLE. Or perhaps just the grill pan handle. I don’t recall which, it was eighteen years ago.