Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tea for Two

Earlier this year, my son gave me a very different birthday present – tea for two at a posh hotel in London.  Tea is possibly my favourite drink.  Recently, when out with some family, a cousin asked me if I wanted tea or coffee.
            ‘I’ll opt for some teabagging,’ I replied.
            This produced quite a bit of sniggering until another cousin brought me up to date with some changes to the English language.  Apparently suggesting I love a brew with references to being a teabag means something else completely different.  So as my son and I emerged from Marble Arch tube into bright Spring sunshine, I reminded myself that at no point should I tell any of the waiters that I was up for a spot of teabagging.
            A short walk away, down a side-road off Oxford Street, was the boutique hotel with wrought iron railings decorated in smart flowerboxes.  We went up the stone steps and into a tea room that seemed to be from a forgotten era.
            ‘This is nice,’ said Robbie.
            ‘Indeed,’ I replied.
            As we sat down, I was captivated by the wall opposite me.  It was smothered in framed portraits, prints, paintings and something that particularly caught my eye – an intricate tapestry.  Now anybody who can painstakingly produce the tiniest of cross-stitches into a work of art needs, in my opinion, a medal.  The only time I ever attempted such a thing was when I first discovered I was pregnant with my daughter.  I immediately purchased a personalised tapestry kit of a rocking horse complete with two cute teddy bears cuddling each other in the saddle.  This, you understand, was a gift for my unborn child to one day exclaim over and say, ‘Good heavens, Mum, you did this amazing tapestry for me?  It’s incredible!’
            In fact, it’s incredible I finished the wretched thing.  I spent the next nine months going cross-eyed as I counted tiny holes for different coloured threads, muttering oaths when I realised the saddle was four squares out and the stirrup didn’t quite line up, and decided that cross-stitch was thus named as it did indeed make you very cross.  Years later, instead of exclaiming over this work of art, my daughter looked at the tapestry and said, ‘You’d better come clean, Mum.  Your sewing just about covers putting a button on a shirt, so who really did this tapestry?’  Which is why, when I looked at this particular tapestry hanging on this hotel’s wall, it was all the more amazing because it was signed and dated – in cross-stitch – in 1806 by a little girl aged ten.  Ten!  It was beautiful, elaborate and instantly conjured up a by-gone era where little girls did indeed once sit quietly and use their fingers to intricately sew rather than stab an iPhone or a computer keyboard.
            But I digress.  Our afternoon tea was delightful and, for a couple of hours, we ate tiny triangular crustless sandwiches and tiddly cakes off fancy china and sipped a perfect brew from thin porcelain cups while putting the world to rights.
            Which reminds me.  How does a teapot address its lover?  Oh, darjeeling…


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