It's tea for me!
A cup of tea leapt into prominence through a headline in The Times: "No dunking! It's the new performance drink." Old hat to me. St Paul had his vision on the road to Damascus. Mine came along an alley of a city street where some of the businesses seemed to be tumbling or stumbling, but where, too, the mystery Tea House stood proud and defiant down the slope on the left: two levels, 42 sitting places, and not a customer in it when I arrived.
St Paul's problem was his conscience, his soul. Mine was This England. England's heart and soul. Tea, cricket, a way of life, the common womb of all we are and were.
In this monument to tea there was a plantation-like calm. One smiling, youngish attendant of uncertain origin, but surely too polite to be English, stood, surrounded by the biggest collection of tea I had seen since a bad TV documentary in 1976. All kinds. What to have - that was the dilemma. The premium Jasmine, a green tea? The Rose Desire - black tea with rose buds? The Jasmine Butterfly, rare? There were 41 black teas.
He chose for us in the end. My wife had a little salmon-coloured teapot. Mine was squat white. Both had inbuilt diffusers. After one cup we swopped tea and teapots. The taste after a million identical teabags down the years was like being re-born, a happy-slappy hallelujah moment.
Without our realising it, without our consent, without any advance warning, without a by-your-leave or a congressional statement, the American way of life through coffee has invaded, engulfed, drowned our lives and become the faddist drink. All because Americans don't know how to make tea; all because they understand nuclear fusion better than they do tea diffusion. They are space travel, mom's apple pie, how to wear a big hat, and the ability to properly brew with boiling water is not within their compass. Our city centres, meanwhile, sprout American coffee outlets like Spring flowers, tables overflowing to pavements awash with the stuff. Our former colony has gone sadly astray and we should claim it back immediately.
I am English. The thought welled up in me at the tea house. I would lead the advance to a new awakening. I would be a char-wallah, and if hysteria was involved, so be it. I would be hysterical on behalf of tea, te, chah, the most universal drink on earth after water. Yunnan Province in China is said to be home to a 3,200-year-old tea tree. Beat that, coffee.
Cricket is essentially English, and it halts for tea - "They are taking tea at 365 for two."; it is large in our national psyche, and in a way it represents our society as St Paul represented his. Many bushes in Assam today are more than 100 years old and more than a third date from British rule.
Some strange foreign influence has turned cricket into a carnival of big-hitting in one-day blood-baths. That is not England, or tea, or stands the clock at ten to three and is there honey. Our history is at stake. Our national soul.
Within a decade of the first London sale of Assam tea in 1839, the riverboats on Assam’s Brahmaputra river had filled up with young Britons. With them, they brought the planters’ lifestyle of clubs, golf courses and pedigree dogs.
So you please yourselves: my conversion to tea is complete, thanks to memory, a feel for history.
Lapsang souchong for me if you please.
Ronald Carter, blacksmith
Violet Carson (Ena Sharples)
"The magic of Shakespeare swept me off my feet. Then I'm back to 'Ee, by gum' in the Street. It trapped me. It made me, if you like: it has gone all over the world. But it has destroyed me, because nobody sees me or anything about me."
Dame Gracie Fields & me
(Railway Children)L S Lowry (above)
"You're not getting your ball back," she used to shout. "You'll kill somebody, you lot."
The crucible (climbing)
copyright: Geoffrey Mather 2017
(collected in one spot) On growing old So there they were - Hollywood dominating the world with its Clark Gables, Jean Harlows, Spencer Tracys, Garbos and Bogarts, tears in its eyes, inventive, vulnerable, blessed by climate, limos and money but tormented, insecure and edgy as fledglings in nests. Bennett's art is to take the apparently trivial - his mother's views of "her betters" and so on - and make them meaningful in much larger ways. Miss Shepherd tested all his beliefs and inhibitions one by one. The two of them existed together, but in worlds apart, like aliens. And yet, I suspect, it was the sameness that reached furthest into the writer's psyche. His long essay on Miss Shepherd is superb. Even on the second reading, I was laughing out loud, to the disgust of the dog,, and in the next sentence feeling for Bennett's own agony. So you have this magic formula, where the relationship between two people over 20 years can match the life experiences of us all.
"I am all for the unusual on Page One. I do not read stories of the type headed ' Bandits gag, tie up woman' very much nowadays because people are always gagging and tying up women. Such incidents are as common as gas-oven suicides."
became editor of the Daily Express in October, 1933, a position he held for 24 years until 1957. During his editorship sales peaked at two million in 1935, over three million in 1944 and four million in 1949. Each day he wrote a bulletin. It was compulsory reading for members of editorial staff. Here are many of those bulletins.
+ Molloy of the Mirror + Clive James + Churchill + Big-ego words + Vanishing language + Noam Chomsky's words + Great words of great events
In spite of his own eccentricities, he wanted the world to behave as he expected it to. Big companies, shops, waiters and hotel managers were his normal fodder. He terrorised them. When he snagged a coat on something protruding in Woolworth's, he said to the manager, "This is an expensive coat." "I can see it is," said the manager. "I noticed it when you came in." "Right," said Brian Duff, "I expect you to pay for it. And I don't want it invisibly mended because you can see it."
Sir James Scott Douglas (gossip columnist)
When an editor complained of his booking into an expensive London hotel - the Dorchester as I recall - at the firm's expense, James merely said, "Where else can one entertain one's proprietor?" and the matter was hurriedly concluded, since no-one was prepared to phone (the late) Sir Max Aitken, who bossed the place at the time.
I asked Jim (I always called him Jim, to be perverse, though it was obvious that he was entitled to James) to find out something one day - on the phone, I emphasised - and he said, "Oh yes, I shall ring" - go on, guess - "...Uncle Essex." It made me wish I had an Uncle Oswaldtwistle
James had a habit of living extravagantly and encountering hard times, which is how he came to be a journalist. Both conditions were once almost fundamental to the job.
Pub Talk with Peter Thomas
Dudley Doolittle (comic),