Viscountess Boudica & The Tricity Contessa
“its been a moving exsperance for me”
As you can see, Viscountess Boudica of Bethnal Green is in heaven. She has found the Tricity Contessa 643 electric cooker that she has been searching for since 1978. For Marcel Proust it was madeleines, for Charles Foster Kane it was Rosebud, but for Viscountess Boudica it was the Tricity Contessa. She has been yearning for it for the last forty years – as the key to unlock her past – and, now that her quest is fulfilled, the temps perdu have been regained in Bethnal Green.
Viscountess Boudica wrote to me to convey the happy news and revealed in her own words how the Tricity 643 first entered her life - “the orridginall tricity 643 was brought from a shop in the village back in 1961 and my mother said she’d only had it a couple of days when on the 6th of November – a Monday I think – it was at one o five in the morning, she went into labour on the kitchen table in the cottage and I was born and slid off the table and hit my head on the tricity cooker then I was rushed to hospital. talk about taking a bunn out of the oven.”
Naturally, I was curious to learn more of the mystical allure of this seemingly mundane domestic appliance, so I paid the Viscountess a visit and she confided to me the childhood psychological drama surrounding the Tricity Contessa 643.
“What happened was that, when I was five years old, me and my mother went to live in one of two properties in Lynam belonging to my Aunt Mabel who lived nearby in Shipton. It was an old dilapidated bungalow. On this particular day, Mabel was supposed to take me to school because my mother had to leave early that morning. And Mabel brought Susie with her, the daughter of her son, who was a spoilt brat of five years old. Mabel doted on Susie.
I can remember that day as if it was yesterday. It was about a quarter to eight and I’d had no breakfast, so my aunt said, ‘You can have a fried egg.’ She put the pan on the cooker with some lard in it but then Susie started playing up and Mabel had to leave. She said to me, ‘When it’s done, turn it over. You’ll know when it’s done when it starts to burn.’ So she left with Susie.
Then the egg started to spit and it caught me in the eye. I felt this pain in my eye. As a child, the kitchen seemed large to me, and I had to stand on a chair to do the washing up or even to put the light on. So I stood on a chair to reach the cooker. I managed to turn off ring number three but my hand slipped and I fell off the chair onto the cardinal red floor.
All I remember is waking up next to the frying pan with the egg all over the place congealed on the floor and I had a terrible headache. When I saw my aunt Mabel a few days later, I told her what had happened. ‘You stupid boy, you should have been more careful,’ she said, ‘but at least you’ve learnt to cook now which will stand you in good stead on the farm.’ And I thought, ‘You old bag!’ She told me it would be stupid to tell my mum and I managed to get the floor cleaned. For a few years, I had a mark in my eye, and it left me with a fear of frying pans and frying.
As the years went by, we moved around to different places and eventually we moved into prison quarters in Chelmsford and the Tricity 643 was put in storage. My new stepfather, David, was a prison warder who used to play cards with the Krays. Eventually, the Tricity Contessa was given away because only gas cookers were permitted on prison property.
So, in 1978, I decided I needed to find the Tricity 643 again. I went round to all the secondhand dealers and put an advert in the Essex Chronicle. I wanted to get back to that day in 1963 to relive the events and change the outcome. It was terrible that my mother went off and left me, and my aunt shouldn’t have left me either. It was a kind of pain that I hadn’t experienced before, and I was afraid that the place would catch fire and I’d be trapped in it.
When I went to all the secondhand dealers, looking for a Tricity 643, they said, ‘We’ll get you one next week, why not take a look at this other one now?’ Although I got distracted, I was determined never to give up even though I met some unscrupulous characters and if I hadn’t met them my life would have been different. As time went on, I broadened my search and people brought old cookers to me from as far as Bradford until I had three sheds full. They were all different models and half of them were no good.
Then, three weeks ago, I was looking online as I always do and I thought, ‘Can I be bothered to scroll through the thousands of cookers?’ - and then I saw it, and it came from Guildford! It was nine days until the sale, so I emailed the seller to make an offer but he said, ‘No,’ and I had to bid in the auction. It was going quickly and other people were bidding on it, but I won with a bid of thirty-six pounds. It cost me fifty pounds to get it delivered. I’ve cleaned it but I haven’t plugged it in yet.
It has been a long and arduous journey, and a lot of deception and lies from those devious secondhand dealers. But I have relived the events of that day and laid my feelings to rest, and I am peaceful now. I shall always keep the Tricity Contessa 643. I’m going to use it and fry eggs. They say, ‘Everything comes to she who waits.’“
Yet this is not quite the end of collecting domestic appliances for Viscountess Boudica because, this week, she also took delivery of a Moffatt electric cooker from 1900 that now sits proudly in her living room. Thus, like all true quests the seeker found not just the object of the quest but also acquired something else of value along the way – since Viscountess Boudica has gathered London’s best private collection of vintage domestic appliances, all of which she has restored herself. It was the necessity of seeking the Tricity Contessa 643 that led Boudica to them, discovering unexpected joys and enriching her life with a passion for these wonderful old contraptions that no-one else loves.
Viscountess Boudica as a child
The fabled Tricity Contessa 643 of 1961
Viscountesss Boudica’s drawing of the Tricity 643 from memory
Viscountess Boudica faces up to her fear of frying
Boudica’s new Tricity Contessa came with its original instruction manual
Vicountess Boudica’s other new acquisition
The Moffatt Electric Cooker of 1900 - “It’s survived two world wars!”
You may also like to read about
Read my original profile of Mark Petty, Trendsetter
and take a look at Mark Petty’s Multicoloured Coats