Archive for the 'tea' Category

Finish your collapse and stay for breakfast

I suppose it’s been an eventful week, a confusing, often bewildering one. Just when you think you’ve got things sorted…

Da got sick again, collapsing in a shopping centre (and not at the checkout at the size of the bill either as he keeps saying to people) and subsequently had a rigor without obvious source. And so it was back to hospitals and needles and blood tests and scans and antibiotics and all the usual that we’ve come to be so scared of. And so it’s been a rough few days in a way, having to realise that maybe we’ll not “get away with it” the way we thought.

It was odd cause there were all these thoughts of sickness and pain and there he was as fit as he’d been the day before. All our hospital memories were in the Mater when he was proper sick, and struggled to do a lap round the ward. Funny how quickly me and Liz fit back into hospital visiting and little routines. The really odd bit is Dad being in the same hospital as where I work, so I can call in to see him every hour or so, and bring him a coffee and the paper, only heading back when I get paged.

I suppose I’d stopped thinking of the idea of the cancer returning, of all that that might entail. I’d filed that in the compartment at the back of my head of things I can avoid and don’t want to think about it. But this week I had no choice. There’s not the slightest thing we can do to stop it coming back (if it ever does), we are at the mercies of the gods. But when he’s so well, when he’s canoeing, and cutting grass and doing everything he ever used to do then it’s easier to avoid thinking about the possibility.

And then in the midst of this I find a house. I mean I find a house to rent, somewhere to live, the wait being the biggest bug bear in my so called life over the past few months, and of course I find it the very week I could care less for it.

But I have the keys to an end terrace house, that smells of month old cigarettes and has piles of mobile phone bills addressed to various Eastern European names in the hallway. With a slightly disconcerting dent in the bathroom door, looking distinctly like it’s been punched in. Maybe they were just impatient for the toilet in the mornings.

I move in next week all being well, to spend a week scrubbing sinks and vacuuming – if not a neat freak then I could easily be a clean freak. It’s stocked with wonderful charity shop furniture and even a fantastic 80’s TV with one of those crazy convex screens and individual buttons down the right side for each station. I love the place. I am excited.

And just back this evening from my first (well the other one I mostly missed) barbecue of the year at Rab’s, sitting squat on the ground in front of a charcoal fire, making African tea as the daylight disappears, pretending we’re all back in Africa and life is much more straightforward. My hands and clothes stink of smoke, my throat like after a cigar, my eyes tired and sore from the carbon, my heart warmed from the bant and the graceful conversation.

Tea in the Sahara

One of the cool things about being back in the country is my re-acquaintance with African tea. It’s not so much the tea (which I’ll come to) but the whole experience that I’ve missed.


I was introduced to the concept by my good friend Rab who grew up as a missionary kid on a group of islands off the coast of Guinea Bissau. I’ll pause while you consult an atlas.

Tea is a good 4-6 hour experience if it’s done right. All you need is a tiny charcoal stove, a tiny ceramic pot, some water, some tea leaves, a whole lot of sugar and time to appreciate the whole thing. The tea arrives in rounds taking maybe 15 minutes each to boil. From the tiny tea pot you’re served a shot-sized glass of black liquid, occasionally with grass, sand or leaf in it depending where placed the stove.

Round one is hard work. Even to a fan of the beverage it’s hard work. It tastes like the tea you find in the ginormous tea pots in church several weeks after a funeral. only re-heated and with sugar added. But don’t let me put you off. At it’s finest (the fourth round) it tastes like a mixture of coke, tea and cigarettes all mixed together with sugar added. I mean that in a good way though I suspect it’ll not come across that way.
Basically we just sit outside Rab’s garage in the driveway watching the tea boil and chatting. This sounds perhaps a tad simple. But you see it cuts away a lot of the nonsense that we seem to have filled our lives with. We are cursed with TVs in every room, and though I hate to admit it, we are scared of silence, of being together without music. That the very noise of our existence together might frighten each other away if it’s not drowned out with Top 40 hits and inane DJ chatter.

When we meet together, it’s often to watch a DVD, or go to the cinema, experiences where for the most part we sit in silence. Depending on whether or not you’ve got friends that talk all the way through the film or not. Everything we do has so much to distract us from each other that we lose each other in between.

Now I know this is not always a bad thing, we need time to be alone together, to be distracted together. I just miss the variety. So I think all that the tea does is take people away from what has become the normal social context and sit them down and simply bore them into enjoying each others company.

Before you know it you’ve passed three hours talking to someone, maybe taking the piss out of them, maybe just slagging, but occasionally you’ll rediscover the long lost art of conversation. Instead of the 21st century equivalent which is mostly conversation reacting and stemming from whatever’s on TV.

Mankind (an interesting word when you split it up, kind of ridiculous when you think about it. Man? Kind? You must be joking…) has been doing this for years, sitting round camp fires telling stories, eating missionaries, invading Poland. The tea was just an excuse to get people together. This is what we’ve been doing for donkeys ages. We just forgot how when we got to Ireland and realised it did nothing but piss all the time and we had to move indoors and invent Strictly Come Dancing.


July 2022