“Oh, there you are!”, I breathlessly exclaimed, much in the style of Alice encountering a person sized, cognisant chess piece hiding under a giant mushroom.
What I had finally found, after a good deal of searching, was my Trangia spirit burner kit.
I’d forgotten that it had been carefully stashed away behind my toolbox under our kitchen workbench. For the past week or so I’d been rooting around in the kitchen closet, even the woodshed, for Pete’s sake. Silly me, etc.
When we’re at our place by the sea I really love taking this spirit burner and all other required stuff out onto the cliff first thing on a morning, heating water over it, and brewing up. At the very start of the day it can be utterly mesmerising out there, when the air is still cool, with the forest at your back and the sea before you, and it’s so quiet that it feels as though you could hear a pine needle fall a half mile away.
I hadn’t done so yet this year, mainly because a re-jigging of our sleeping arrangements meant that the kitchen can now be used without disturbing anyone’s slumber, and also because the damned stove had gone AWOL until this precise moment.
There are solid, practical reasons for having this kind of a morning session, too – bear in mind that alcohol is somewhat cheaper than propane, as well as being a renewable resource, so by making tea this way you’re not only helping the environment, you’re saving a few pennies too. Win-win, says I to that.
There’s also the fact that heating water up outdoors over a little stove has such a feelgood factor to it, rekindling memories of insane camping trips undertaken in years past.
I assemble the windshield-cum-burner holder-cum-pot stand, fill up the burner with fuel, drop it into place, and fire it up. A few seconds later it blooms with that old familiar “pop!“, and I place the half litre aluminium kettle on top.
Indoors the extra time taken for the water to heat up on a stove like this might seem like a burden, resulting in incessant phone fidgeting or worse, but out here there’s always something going on to hold your interest. Cormorants squabble, gulls climb then dive-bomb into the sea, bees buzz, ships glide gracefully past, and my trouser leg almost catches fire.
Bloody hell, that was close. I’d forgotten how even a slight change of breeze intensity and direction can send plumes of flame leaping sideways from this contraption. I move myself and all my gear back a respectful couple of feet.
After an enjoyable nature watching interlude, the kettle starts making the type of noises that tell me that the water inside it is getting near to where I want it to be. I’m making gunpowder this morning, a good choice insofar as if I miss the temperature I’m aiming for, about 80 degrees C or so, then the leaves will be quite forgiving.
I lift the lid on the kettle, and see small bubbles starting to form on the base. Near enough. I remove the kettle from the stove, and extinguish the flame with a skillful toss of a fully shut simmer ring.
My Ikea 400 ml French press is warmed and rinsed by just enough hot water, and then I drop the leaves in their filter bag in, and top up with the remainder of the water in the kettle. Not a drop wasted.
Two of your earth-minutes later the tea is ready. I move further down the cliff to drink it, close enough to get the full-on smell of a clean, millpond like Baltic. The slightly smoky grassiness of the tea is magnificent. This wonderful morning, this simple outdoors procedure, has worked its magic and transformed the mundane into the near divine.
Time passes, and I feel my left leg getting warmer. This time, however, I am not in any immediate danger of going up in flames, as our good friend the sun is responsible. Sol’s arc across the sky has taken it from behind me to just off to the left, and where I was earlier in the shade of the forest, I’m now fully exposed to his powerful gaze. Amongst other things, this means it’s probably getting very close to breakfast time.
This is then confirmed to me by my womenfolk tapping on the veranda window behind me to get my attention, and then performing the universally recognised mime for “we are hungry, feed us!“. Message received and understood.
Checking that the burner has cooled down sufficiently to be left unattended, I head back into the house. Those eggs ain’t going to boil themselves, after all…