It was the central heating technician who started it, right after breakfast.
After ensuring the central heating was OK, he checked the gas oven and replaced the interior light bulb that had gone, and I had to face the fact that my standard of oven cleaning left a lot to be desired. A bright light shining on the burnt-on goo galvanised me into action, with scouring powder, scotchbrite and metal brush.
Mom pointed out that the glass panel in the door unscrewed, making it easier to scrub, so by the time I’d finished, the oven was gleaming. You can actually see clearly through the glass door again for the first time in at least a year.
One thing leads to another, and I ended up with a sparkling kitchen: cleaning the oven led to cleaning the hob with all its fiddly bits in the gas rings, then to the wall tiles, sink and everything else, including spraying WD40 on things like squeaky hinges and the runners of some drawers that have been sticking for months.
WD40 is one of those miracle products, like vinegar, lemons, cucumber and bicarbonate of soda, with a hundred different uses. I used them all in my attack on the kitchen. The bicarbonate of soda had come in useful for the oven and hob, and now my eyes fell on another victim.
This was a fancy holder for sweeteners, that we have always thought of as a black swan. I picked it up and a small container in its back fell out revealing a bright shiny reverse, and I realised that the swan might not be black metal after all. So into a pan of boiling water it went with bicarbonate of soda, salt and a piece of aluminium foil, and half a minute later there it was – zazoom! Silver!
I cast around for any more pieces of silver in need of brightening, found an egg cup and some spoons, a brooch … soon a dazzling array of small silver articles was blinking at me.
My appetite was whetted: the real challenge was a small silver basket bought for me when I was six weeks old, standing forgotten at the back of a cupboard and utterly black. This needed more than just a dip, and it took a long hot bath.
I don’t think it is valuable: it doesn’t have a hallmark, and looks to me like something someone clever made out of silver wire and leftover strips. It was bought in Sheffield, where there used to be lots of amateur silversmiths. But it still has quite a lot of patina – my mother was concerned about that, just in case it turns out to be valuable: antique silver should keep its patina.
I’m feeling pleased with my efforts on the whole. There’s just one thing I have learnt the hard way: if you are using this silver dip in an aluminium saucepan, and the silver is very heavily tarnished, you should make sure that the aluminium foil completely lines the pan. Otherwise, the pan goes very black. Now, what do I use on that – lemon? vinegar? cucumber? rhubarb? WD40? I’ll experiment tomorrow.