Honest, I was going to blog this morning about religion and hypocrisy, just as I was going to do for the past few mornings, but I'm going to put that one off one more day.
This morning's subject? Tea.
I've never been there, but I have it from pretty reliable folks that England is, in fact, a real place, and that these people who call themselves "Brittons" or "the British" enjoy a cup of hot tea. A lot.
I'm told that for most people in "Brittain" the very act of making tea, what they call "brewing up" has an immensely calming effect.
"Lost the entire farm, luv? Put on the tea."
"Wot, the Mongols are burning and pillaging the streets of Lancaster atop Shetland Ponies? Brew up."
"'Ows that then, Timmy fell down a well? Down at Old Farmer Maggot's field? Lassie! There's a good girl--Put the kettle on."
"Admiral, we're sinking fast and you're leg's been shot off!"
"Is the tea on?"
I can see the attraction of ritual in tea making. Heck, Stevie Wonder could see that. One of my favourite things in the house is a 6 cup Brown Betty teapot, which I picked up years ago while I was not in England. For years now, and granted less often than I used to, but for years now I have carefully filled the kettle with cool water, brought it to boiling, warmed the pot, carefully sifted in loose tea leaves or used the *gasp choke* far less cool tea bags, and poured hot water on. Waited a few minutes, and had heaven in a cuppa.
The thing that makes it ritual is this--it's always the same process. Rather like smoking a pipe, my other favourite pasttime, you always do the same steps in the same order, and it always rewards you. Any deviation and you've shot the entire thing to hell. Simplicity, continuity, reward. Heating water in the kettle, filling the pot with hot water to help it keep the boiling water hotter longer, sifting in the tea ("one for me, one for thee, and one for the pot,") waiting at least three but no more than 5 minutes while it steeps, it's all simple steps to a reward.
I have watched my wife make tea in the mornings; bleary-eyed and slow, she's not a morning person, but she always brews with that particular brand of careful attention and consideration that marks important ritual.
I have watched my mother-in-law make my favourite Chai tea for me, seen her moving around with the casual indifference that marks someone at home in their kitchen, but still she is performing each step with care and love.
I have even watched my syster make tea in a house filled with screaming children, barking dogs, football commentators yelling in the background, husband playing computer games at full volume in the next room, and somehow there seems to be a quiet area around her, the Tea Maker, a place where the water is less turbulent, where the noise is suppressed, and the simple steps of making a pot of tea, steps as old as civilisation's, carry us quietly onwards.
Thank your lucky stars for it, and brew up today. Think of me while you do.