Not Really My Cup of Tea
Narrow mindedness is a massive hazard that can be directly aligned to the simple process of ageing. Just as you have to fight harder to avoid the naturally occurring physical deterioration that takes place after we’ve peaked at around the age of thirty, so you have to fight harder to try to prevent views and opinions from settling and taking root so firmly that they can’t be dug up.
All the same, I hear you say, surely we should keep and indeed nurture certain opinions and views, encouraging their growth into morals and ethics and standards with mantras and practices attached. And I would adhere to this view, as long as, every so often, you check on those opinions that you’ve planted, to make sure that they could be dug up if necessary. This means examining them thoroughly from the most recent growth at the top down to the very tap root.
As a children’s author, I go into schools in the UK and abroad a great deal (well, I used to before Covid). I am always made to feel very welcome from the moment I walk on the premises and with that opening welcome comes the offer, “Can I get you a tea or a coffee, Ann?”
There’s usually a pause before I answer. You see I am so awkwardly idiosyncratically specific about how I take my tea and coffee. Let’s stick with tea for now. They will ask me if I take milk and sugar of course, but oh dear, there is so much more to convey about how I like my tea. It’s not enough to say, “Tea would be lovely but no milk or sugar thank you.” No, for someone to emulate the tea I have every day at home I would have to give instructions, that if not followed precisely, will not only detract from my enjoyment, but will most likely render the tea impossible for me to drink because 1)tannin makes me feel sick and 2)when I’m on an author visit, I don’t have the time to wait for boiling water to cool to a gulp-it-down temperature.
“Could I possibly have boiling water just to half way please, then one quick dip of the tea bag then fill to the top with cold water.” That doesn’t sound too fussy in its detail, does it? But the trouble is, on the few occasions I decided to voice these instructions, (obviously following huge apologies for being a weird person), the tea has come back black in colour and far too hot to drink immediately which means that at least 3 longish dips of the tea bag have taken place and the request for the mug to be only half filled with boiling water has also been compromised.
My solution, after a few episodes of discreet “It’s ok, I’ll wash it up” which is code for “Don’t watch, I’m tipping it down the sink”, I considered asking for fruit tea but quickly dismissed that idea in case I caused embarrassment by asking for something beyond the staff room budget.
So then, following huge apologies for a complete foolhardy lack of conformity on my part, I would meekly ask if it would be ok for me to just have hot water. “In fact just half the mug from the kettle, the rest from the cold tap.” I would add, grimacing at my own ridiculous foibles and hoping it came over as an authorly eccentricity. And still it came back back boiling hot because the person making
the tea cannot quite accept that anyone would want their tea so – to put it bluntly – pissy. They cannot let go of their preconceived ideas of how tea should be made, beyond embracing the inclusion or exclusion of sugar and milk.
Now here’s the thing. On the two occasions that a student, rather than a teacher has been tasked to make the tea, I’ve given my instructions, including the tea bag bit, with total confidence that the tea will come back exactly as ordered because the young person’s mind is open. They are 100% concerned with making sure they don’t waver from the instruction. They certainly don’t consider this a time when they should be exercising creativity. It works every time. Like a dream.
By now you might be thinking, Hang on a sec, if she’s on a rant about the narrow mindedness and preconceived ideas of older people, then she should try taking her tea half way normal, yeah? Perhaps you’re right. Tomorrow I shall drink breakfast tea with milk and sugar and I am already making judgements about just how horrible that will be.
But now I’m recalling a time when I was in India training teachers to deliver the pre-school music programme I’d devised. At the end of a thirst inducing morning’s work, during which we had to keep turning the air con off because it’s relentless clattering whir was getting in the way of our ability to listen properly to the music, someone brought me a drink in a little bowl, left it beside me and scurried off. It was the colour of weak drinking chocolate. I tasted it cautiously and thought how gorgeously hot, sweet and thick and yet thirst quenching it was. I drank it all and later she asked me if I’d enjoyed my tea.
Tea? What! That was tea? Yes I had. I had enjoyed the tea because I didn’t know I was drinking tea. My mind was open, or maybe a teensy bit closed on the idea of hot chocolate. Whatever, my unwavering open-mindedness had brought me such spontaneous enjoyment.
I’d genuinely forgotten that incident when I started writing this bloggy thing. But now I’ve remembered it, I’ve realised that the taste is not the only thing in the equation. It turns out I can drink tea your way. But the question is, can you drink it my way?
WHEN SOMEONE DIES
When someone dies
Particularly the closest person in your life
You analyse and analyse.
You intimately know each day
It's all you have to guide the way.
That, and the look in people's eyes.
And everything becomes a symbol
This means that and this means this
And you tap into a vein of pain
Just to quit the vein and feel the bliss.
So when this branch fell from my tree
And clung tightly to the wire below
I figured that was me.
A new me. A me I didn't know.
And so she hangs - a stick woman -
Just hangs there every day.
I look for her each morning.
She never goes away.
She dances in the sunshine
She sways in every breeze
She flails in restless winds and rain
The wire is her trapeze.
And sometime not too far away
She'll fall or float down from the skies
And I will cry or laugh or both
And further analyse.
And then I guess I'll understand
The moving on when someone dies.
Here's a poem or perhaps a rap!
THE COVID CONSPIRACY?
Re-planning things, unpacking things
Unbooking things, pre-checking things
And ticking things and making lists
And tracking things and only ever being kissed
In messages with crosses and emojis.
And never talking anything unless it's Covid this or Covid that
Impacting things, infecting things and spreading things
So everybody's dreading things
And no one's really said the thing that some of us are surely thinking
Is this the quiet voice of earth informing us that all of this
Is not infecting but ejecting us and quitting us
And telling us to go and hurt another planet
Or just go...
And here's the bottom line...
We don't know.