There’s something so more-ish about the little porcelain discs from antique taps and bathroom fittings. There’s a plethora of stray, unloved inserts that have either been removed, dropped off – or were never used in the first place. Coin-like, fragile and decorated with utilitarian fonts, I find them strangely appealing.
They’re usually labelled with the name of the bathroom manufacturer or the plumber, the town they were based in and a single word such as: ‘HOT’, ‘COLD’, ‘PRESS’, ‘SPRAY’, ‘SHUT’, ‘PUSH’, or ‘SHOWER’. They’re only around £1 each at a fair but can fetch up to £15 per pair on eBay, so it’s better to buy them in person. Thanks to their tiny size, they’re very easy to smuggle past The Husband, too – always a bonus.
Some are flat, others concave. Some have the names of hotels and dates (‘GROSVENOR, 1924’) and they look beautiful displayed in a group. I super-glue little magnets to their backs and collect them in a cluster on the fridge to hold photos and notes.
Of course, like so many things in life, they’re sexier if they’re French. I spend hours sifting through dusty boxes and bags to seek out ‘FROID’ and ‘CHAUD’ discs – preferably with the word ‘PARIS’, too – c’est fou, mais je les aime. Welsh ones are rarer but just as tempting; Once you know that ‘POETH’ means hot and ‘OER’ means cold, you’re in business.
While we’re in the lavatory, so to speak, I’m also on the hunt for a ceramic Victorian toilet cistern pull and chain at the moment to use as a light pull in the bathroom, much to The Husband’s chagrin. But that’s another story…