Tea For Two

Mexicans I met in my old life generally knew three things about the English. Or British. Whichever. We are a pirate race, always on time, and love our tea. I would often be greeted by the in-laws as ‘the pirate’.  Students would tell me what time I could expect to see them by adding ‘Mexican time’ or ‘English time’ to the specified hour. And I would often be questioned about the tea drinking habits of my compatriots. Do we really stop whatever we’re doing at 4pm for a cuppa? Tsk. Sterotypes.

The first two charges are outdated. The days of Drake and co are long over, and a stroll around any mercado in Mexico, with the thousands of counterfeit CDs and DVDs on display, show that Mexicans are very much showing us the way in 21st century piracy. As for time keeping – I believe the English reputation for turning up on time stems from our railway timetables. Which is ironic.

It’s been many, many decades since our trains were anything other than a laughing stock as far as time keeping goes. Trains have been so late, so often, that the operators have pretty much run out of excuses. Two of the most famous ‘explanations’  in recent years were ‘leaves on the track’ and ‘the wrong type of snow’. I imagine they were hoping that passengers would be unaware that there had been autumns previous to that one, and that there are a whole range of different snows. There’s wet snow, dry snow, white snow…

But tea. Maybe there’s some truth in that stereotype. Mrs P had some preparation in Mexico when we had visitors from England. Who brought boxes of the stuff with them. Can you get Tetley teabags in Mexico? Take no risks. Take your own. She has been asked by her dad if we take tea every afternoon. She sighs. And explains that it’s drunk as a substitute for water.

If she needed any further confirmation, she got it this week. She was privy to a conversation about a lady who had died. She apparently passed away on a sofa with a book across her chest and a cup of tea in her hand. Upon hearing about the sad ending, there was a sad sigh from one of the participants, followed by ‘and she didn’t even get to finish her tea…’. The death was sad. That the tea had gone undrunk was tragic. Nuff said.

Little known fact. After declaring war on Germany in 1939, the British government took a look at our meagre defences. We had massive shortages of planes, tanks, guns and trained soldiers. So the government did the only sensible thing. It ordered, so the story goes, the entire global production of tea for the following five years. We would fight them on the beaches we would fight on the landing grounds, we would fight in the fields and in the streets, we would fight in the hills; we would never surrender….providing we had a cup of tea to hand. Else…sod it.

I have no photos of tea, either boxed or bagged. But every post needs a photo. So I leave you with a photo of Paola from our recent trip to London. This is from Part III of the series Paola’s London. For her friends and family back home. You can see the full set on Flickr or Google.



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