Still raining here, still grey, cold and drizzly, and unable to head out for a photo shoot for my knitting, I sat at my desk to work. At about three, as is my custom, I put on the kettle.
Tea time. Most of my friends do it I think… I know that as I put on the kettle at my house, That RachelH and Denny were both setting theirs on the stove at the about the same time, getting ready for that most restorative cuppa, the thing that sorts the afternoon, hits the reset button and fortifies you for the rest of your day. Especially if the weather is foul, a cuppa tea at about three or three-thirty is a comforting and nearly necessary thing.. isn’t it?
I remember being a little girl, coming home from school in the snow, ice or rain, and the pot being poured as I came in. I got a cup of hot tea (mostly milk) and toast. (If my mum was feeling generous, this toast would have cinnamon and sugar melting into the butter.) When my girls were little, I did the same, and even now they all drink oceans of tea, especially in the face of disaster.
A cup of tea is still the only thing I can figure out to do if things are bad, if something upsetting has happened or if there’s been a shock of some kind. I can’t imagine pouring someone already rickety or sad a cup of coffee – unless of course they were sad that they had no coffee, which has been the case many a morning of mine. If someone turned up at my door upset and excited, I can’t imagine saying "Hold on while I make the coffee. What you need is to turn this energy up to ELEVEN." Tea is what you drink if you’ve been dumped, if someone’s died or if the plumber says that the dripping noise you’ve been hearing all week is going to be really, really expensive.
Coffee is gas for the engine, a sort of hi-octane jittery energy that scrapes you up and jump starts a day, and don’t get me wrong, I absolutely don’t want to live in a world without it, but a plain good cup of tea, poured at just about three in the afternoon is nothing short of liquid optimism, and I feel always after I have it that things are a little better, and I can’t imagine that a cup of tea has ever made anything worse.
Travelling recently, I noticed that aside from Tina (who may or may not have had the habit before I ran into her) almost nobody set about finding a cup of tea in the afternoon. I wondered if it was an American/Canadian difference, or if it’s simply a matter of difference in who I usually hang out with – perhaps tea-drinkers self-select in peer groups? (I think there’s got to be an element of culture to it. I have never, ever, been anywhere in Canada where a request for tea brought anything other than a pot or cup of strong, black, hot, good tea and a little jug of milk, and it’s available day or night everywhere you go, but all over the US the request for the same seems to be a variable. Ask for "tea" and you might get a cup of hot tea, you might get iced tea, it might be sweet, it might not…in one memorable stop in the south, the best efforts of a charming server couldn’t even produce a tea bag at all.)
I explained to Stephen (the fine young hire we’ve got on now for Knot Hysteria) that Ilove my afternoon tea, and that working from home has a terrible lack of structure, and since I have no boss, no timeclock and almost nobody to be responsible to but myself, I’ve come to cling to little structures and traditions that straighten out my day, remind me when it’s time to work and time to play – and that the afternoon tea is an important part of that. At three I get up and stretch, put the kettle on, knit for a few minutes as the water comes to boil and then I have a my tea. (Sometimes I have cookies too, but I try to keep it meagre. I harbour a suspicion that having cookies every day would make them less special, and I really love cookies. Wouldn’t want to spoil it.)
After my tea, I know it’s time to go back to work…time to reapply myself to the desk. It’s almost as though without that cup of tea I fear I wouldn’t go back to work- or that if I didn’t stop to have it, I wouldn’t know when to quit.
Stephen seemed a little charmed by this. I thought perhaps it was because he’s newly working from home and trying to firm up how that works, and maybe that’s the reason why I’ve just found out that suddenly, and out of the blue, Stephen has a tea time. He puts on the kettle, warms the pot, and makes himself a little cup of fortification.
It makes perfect sense to me, and I bet it serves him as it does me. For today, my cup of tea is finished, and it’s back to work.
Tea time. Do you have it?