|An Ode to Tea|
National pride passed Pixelsmith by. But there's one thing that will make him stand up and salute - a nice cup of tea.
I’VE just made a cup of tea. It's not ready to drink yet so I have to make do with staring longingly at the mug and imagining how nice it's going to be when it cools down a bit. I'm also writing about it, which is making me look forward to it even more. Too much, actually. I'm going to have to have some.
And that, dear reader, demonstrates the perils of writing exactly what's going through your head when you're having a cup of tea. Anyone with access to this column's archives may disagree, but I'm fairly sure that's the most boring thing I've ever written. I think it's actually duller than the shopping list I took to the hardware store last month, which just read: ‘plunger’. At least that had brevity on its side."'Mmmm.... tea...' I've never felt so British. I was practically saluting by the end"
Tea is one of my favourite things in the entire world. It fills a gap that you didn't even realise was there – you're just bumbling along doing whatever it is you do, then somebody offers to put the kettle on and your mind practically climbs out of your mouth and shakes them by the hand. I suspect science would identify this sensation as caffeine addiction, but that takes away all the magic. I prefer to think of it as the power of tea.
I know I'm not alone in this. There was a TV show the other year about Britain's favourite comfort foods, a top 10 list based on survey results featuring celebrity chefs and assorted talking heads waxing lyrical about various dishes. The countdown from numbers 10 to three generally involved a bit of balance - Michael Portillo adored rice pudding, Gordon Ramsay said it was like eating sludge; Ainsley Harriot wobbled his head excitedly about sausage and mash, Helen Mirren said it made her sick - but it was a different story when the programme got to number two. Number two was tea, and the resulting montage involved every single person quoted so far exclaiming how much they loved tea. No criticism, no balance, just a five minute sequence of famous people unanimously and emphatically going: "Mmmm.... tea..." I've never felt so British. I was practically saluting by the end.
Chocolate was number one, by the way. Can't really argue with that.
It's not just people on the telly who like tea. There has been a feverish love of the stuff everywhere I have ever worked, particularly in a hospital department (where teabags were free but staff bought the milk) and where I currently work, in a newspaper office (where milk is free but we buy the teabags).
Office tea politics are deep and complex, with the various departments segregated into clearly defined territories. Each is marked by an invisible boundary beyond which no hot drinks shall be prepared and none shall be requested, while the supply of teabags which lies at the centre of each territory is protected by the social equivalent of a barbed wire fence. Back at the hospital, black pens defined the battle lines, and woe betide any member of Chemical Pathology who fueled their cuppa with the milk marked "Steroids". Steroids being the name of a department, not the contents of the bottle.
Here there's usually a person sat next to the box, a gatekeeper to be cautiously navigated whenever your own supply runs out and bribed with false promises of a plentiful future in which your desk contains infinite teabags for all to enjoy. This buys you a good day-and-a-half of sheepish scrounging before the lies start wearing thin.
The cardinal sin, and this must hold true in most civilised offices, is making a cup for yourself and ignoring the others on your round. That just isn't done. It's tantamount to treason, like robbing the Bank of England or swearing at the Queen. The second that happens, we'll know for sure that the country has fallen apart. It'll be havoc – riots in the streets, cats and dogs living together, everyone drinking coffee and Bovril. I pray that day never comes.
Right, it's 6.30pm. I'm sticking the kettle on.
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