Sometimes, the serenity of your tea ritual can transport you from the here and now to the there and then.
Take this morning, for instance. I was sitting at the table, gazing out to sea, enjoying my habitual mid-morning break with a small pot of green gunpowder. Somewhere near the horizon, the dull tones of the water blurred and merged with the grey smudge of the sky and the mist. My mind emptied, and I fell into the place between things. Quite suddenly, I found myself thinking about another, quite different, tea event, one that took place almost 30 years earlier.
It was a hot day in mid-August 1986. The air was full of the smells and sounds of summer – the buzz of a thousand lawn-mowers, the jingle jangle chimes of the ice-cream vans doing their rounds, and the sweet aromas of freshly cut grass.
The air felt like treacle, warm and thick. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, as though the entire world was having trouble pushing through this superheated, viscous ether. I needed to get out of town, and quickly decided to head towards the coast, gain some altitude, find a sea breeze.
Throwing some essentials into my pack, I jumped on my motorbike. Ten minutes later I had picked up the road to the coast, and was heading in a North-easterly direction.
I was heading for the area around Fylingdales Moor, a vast tract of upland heather moor a few miles inland from the North Sea coast, famous for the early warning radar station that promised to give us our four minutes warning prior to Armageddon.
After about an hour of following long lines of day trippers, melting away inside overheating saloons, I swung off the main road, and began to follow the minor road network. I had the cool sea air, now all I wanted was a quiet place to park up, and get a brew on.
I soon spotted the perfect spot. I killed the engine, and flipped out the kick-stand. I sat on a small moss covered rock and opened up my pack.
First out was my camping stove, soon followed by a small aluminium Trangia kettle, the perfect size for tea for 1. With the water on, I prepared my tea mug. I dropped a tea bag into my battered and heavily chipped enamelled mug, veteran of dozens of camping trips. The water soon boiled, and I filled up my mug.
Two minutes can seem like an awfully long time if you’re just sat still waiting for something to happen, but not there. It seemed as though there was only myself and a few birds left alive on the entire planet, an oasis of solitude on our crowded island.
I fished the teabag out of the mug, and dropped it steaming onto the sandy gravel. I added less than a teaspoon of dried milk powder, just enough to counter the slightly bitter taste of the teabag brew, and give it a splash of milky colour.
Normally such a cup of tea would have been considered decidedly third rate, at best, but there, prepared and drunk under a faultless blue sky, with the scent of heather and a hint of sea salt in the air, it was as exotic as a rare champagne.
I reached into my pack again, and pulled out my 110 cartridge film camera. I took a photo of my motorbike with the moorland in the background, as a memento. Satisfied that my tea making kit had cooled down sufficiently, I packed up and prepared to leave.
Normally, I would have gone the few extra miles and enjoyed the coastal delights of Whitby, but after such a pleasant moment of splendid loneliness, I simply wasn’t in the mood for crowds.
I pointed my front wheel towards the South-West, and headed for home.