Friday, July 28, 2006

Oh, how I love tea!

Especially Barry's Gold Blend in the red box.

When I get up in the morning and go to the kitchen (no, I do not stumble to the kitchen; we have too many stairs for that to be practical. Besides, it's clichéd. And anyway, I'm a true morning person, so no need of that. Nevertheless, I really do enjoy the morning cuppa.), I open the cupboard that has both the coffee and tea paraphernalia, and while the electric kettle brings the water to a boil (was there ever a more civilized invention?) I try to decide whether to make tea or coffee. (I have been known to make both and carry two commuter mugs.) The tea smells so sweet; I'm always happy when it wins out. I've heard things about antioxidants, too, but I never think about that.

That first mouthful of hot tea (with milk, please) is like a jolt to the soul. I feel something rising within me (maybe it's core body temperature?), and get the instant impression of being more awake and alive.

I have a lot of memories associated with tea, too. I learned to drink it in Scotland, where it stood in for central heating in the family I was visiting. They taught me to pour the milk in the mug first, and I find I don't need a spoon if I do that. I still knit the same tea cosy that Edith had on her stainless steel teapot.

Of course, I had to get a steel teapot, too. I left one in France when I came home. A few years ago in Ireland, I picked one up in a hardware store in Ennis, delaying our departure from town to M's great annoyance. Or maybe M. was annoyed about the set of little tea spoons (smaller than the kind that come in the flatware set) at the hardware store in Donegal Town...

There were the cups of tea at Nick's flat on Saturdays when we got together to play music, in his horrible bachelor-dirty mugs.

There was the stop in a Bewley's cafe in Dublin, that first time we flew to Ireland. We hadn't slept enough (you never do) and we also hadn't planned where we'd stay the first night. That's when we learned that jetlag and on-the-spot vacation planning are not a happy combination. We wandered around Dublin in a fog, and eventually stopped in at Bewley's for a new lease on life. We did eventually find a B&B in Sandymount where we checked in and slept like logs, waking up only just in time for a late pub dinner. Where we met a charming couple who invited us over the next night, and I decided that Irish hospitality was not a myth.

And of course, there's an Irish tune, The Cup of Tea.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Random musings

Which kind of animal do you resemble most?
a) carp
b) snipe
c) grouse

You hear about war-torn countries; if the trouble is less serious, is it a conflict-wrinkled country?

Monday, July 03, 2006


If someone does you a favor, it's good to return the favor someday. Trouble is, you can't always repay the same person who helped you. I decided at some point that I could even things out by doing something good for someone else, inspired by or in honor of what that original person did for me. (This was well before the movie Pay It Forward, which I saw in an airplane once and thought was a dreadful, maudlin waste of time.)

When I lived in France, many people were very kind to me in ways both large and small. Inviting me for a meal, a visit, or an outing, they let me see into their lives and gave me a feeling of worth that was precious when I was far from home.

We recently hosted a young woman from France in our home for a couple weeks. We got along well and did a few excursions together: Greek Fest, Polish Fest (don't we have an American Fest, she may well be wondering?), an Irish music session, a baseball game, a visit to a relative in an assisted living facility (I guess that goes in the "slice of life" category). In a way, this was an even exchange, since we stayed with her family on our last visit to France. They were super hosts, and their kindness and openness would dispel anyone's stereotype of the French as unfriendly.

Well, we saw her off at the airport yesterday morning and figured that was the last we'd hear from her till after she got home. But that evening, as we were driving into the city for dinner, she called us from Washington Dulles airport. Her flight had been delayed arriving there, and so she'd missed the plane to France. Her new flight out would be the following evening at 6 p.m.! She planned to sleep in the airport, since she couldn't afford the hotel (darned airlines should've put her up, we think). We took the number of the payphone. We called her parents in France and gave them that number so they could call her. Then I started phoning around to my friends in the D.C. area. Soon I had J. on the line, and although he sounded tired (as might any father of two bright, energetic and strong-willed young children), he immediately agreed to put her up for the night and see to it that she got to the airport the next day. He is a real mensch! I thanked J. and then called her back at the airport, told her about J.'s offer, explained how to take the taxi (a new adventure), and spelled the unfamiliar street names, which are a lesson in American geography. I suspect she got there all right, since I haven't had any panicky phone calls to indicate otherwise.

So I'm not sure how incurrng a favor to repay a favor fits into the whole accounting, but then it's not the accounting that counts, eh? Great thanks to J. and L., who are also gracious and generous hosts.