When I was a kid we always had a glass of water with our meals, it was either that or a cup of tea, which I didn’t like. As I grew into an adult I realised it wasn’t the tea I didn’t care for but the way it was made in our home. It was terribly strong and had lots of milk added. The milk was very creamy and the whole effect was really distasteful to my palette.
Tea was always made in a teapot, no tea bags in those days of course but the tea caddy with a picture of King George and his good lady was always kept on the shelf. We also had a special spoon inside the tin, it was larger than a usual tea spoon and also had a commemorative picture of the Coronation of King George.
In most British homes there was an assortment of Royalty memorabilia, almost everyone had a similar tea caddy or sugar spoon with a crowned head of state. As a child I received a china mug of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding and, a few years later, a similar cup depicting her Coronation.
For any royal event there was a street party, these were great events and everyone joined in. Tables made up from sawhorses and boards would be arranged down the centre of the street and these would be covered with bed sheets. Brightly coloured flags and bunting would be criss crossed overhead, balloons would be blown up and everything was festively decorated.
Mothers would each provide huge plates of sandwiches or fairy cakes (cup cakes) and brightly coloured jellies and cream. It was a really festive occasion and never seemed to rain. There was always huge pots of tea on the go but, as the evening progressed, some of the men would get a bit merry as jugs of beer were brought from the local pub. Inhibitions would go out the window and singing would begin, as more alcohol was consumed someone would drag out an old gramophone and dancing would go on till well after dark.
Children would reluctantly be taken indoors and put to bed but the revelry continued into the night. The next day all that would be left were a few pieces of crepe paper streamers and everyone would be back to their normal subdued selves. However, for one evening it was really nice to see moms and dads relax and let their hair down a bit. Not all our neighbours were royalists but that didn’t stop them joining in the celebration.
I must have been well into my teens before I realized that not every family stood to attention, in their own homes, when the National Anthem was played on the radio or television. At the movie theatre or “the pictures”, as they were known back then, nobody left the theatre while the anthem was played at the end of the show. Many people tried to hurry out to catch a bus but, once the first chord was hit, there wasn’t a muscle moved until it ended.
It was the same at any event, even football matches where things sometimes got rowdy, everyone stood like statues and waited till the last note died away, before moving. It was as bit of a shock to my system when I discovered that some people just sat or got on with their activities when the anthem was playing in their home, there was no excuse worthy enough to allow anything else but standing at attention, in my family home.
Another thing I realised, as I ventured more into the outside world, was that tea could be a wonderfully refreshing drink, it didn’t have to be so strong that it would strip paint and it also didn’t need to have milk added. However, the way you make your tea is an individual choice but the belief in its supposedly curative effects are a certainty.
British people seem to think that a cup of tea will help anything from a bad fall to the shock of losing a dear friend or relative. Bad news from abroad, let’s have a nice cup of tea. Your partner has left you, taking all your money, well let’s put the kettle on. Having heart attack? somebody call the ambulance while I make the tea.
Maybe the act of gathering together over tea gets everyone calm and thinking clearly enough to end the chaos, which is a good thing, but is there actually any curative value to tea? Probably not but, even though I have lived in Canada for more than half of my life, I still think a good cup of tea makes the world go round.