7:45 am. Early November.
The day was flat and motionless, in that peculiar late Autumn way. You could just sense that the season was running out of energy, like a child’s spinning top when it starts to wobble crazily before toppling over.
There was a feeling that the weather was daring itself to batter us with icy rain and violent North winds, but simply couldn’t summon the energy.
It seemed like some great celestial pause button had been pressed, and all options on the “World Today – Configuration” menu had been greyed out.
I stood at the living room window, staring out to sea, wondering what to do with myself. Utterly uninspired, I asked the Universe for suggestions.
There was only one thing for it, came the reply. Tea. Sheng. Finish that tuo off.
Good call, Cosmos.
There was a 9 grams sized nugget left, plus a few stray teaspoons worth of dust and broken leaf that went to feed the beast.
It looked like a shard of pottery recently unearthed by an archaeologist, a forgotten fragment from a lost civilisation.
In the hard, flinty light it reminded me of the pictures of comet 67p – dark and oddly angular, disturbing, otherworldly. This artefact had no right being on my tea table. It belonged in a museum, or a laboratory.
Comet 67p expels gases as it falls towards the sun, but this tea chunk would soon start to release a variety of wonderful compounds under the influence of hot water.
The tea felt as hard as a pebble as I dropped it into the 300ml pot. It landed on the bottom with a stony clunk.
Once my water had boiled, I gave the lump of leaf 2 rinses, and then let it steam for a good five minutes in the closed pot. After a 40 second first infusion I was in business.
The soup hit the sweet spot, and concerns about what to do with the day melted away like butter atop a stack of hot pancakes.
Radio Sheng came on the air, and dropped “The Universal” by Brit-poppers Blur onto the playlist. Not, I must stress, a band that usually gets any sort of earhole action hereabouts – they’re just too, well, London for a Northern chap, to be honest. That aside, this tune had a vibe that reverberated with the harmonic of this particular session, a kind of laid back but weird at the fringes sort of a deal. Towards the back end of the session the focus shifted towards punk originals Swell Maps, and the semi-fathomable tales told by their seven eighths in tune songs.
That long first steeping turned the tea rock into a sponge, and after some nifty and crafty pick work the compression was totally undone. Pedal to the metal time.
I spent the next couple of hours posting stupid updates to Facebook that no-one else got, but had me helpless with fits of giggles. The more I confused people, the funnier it got for me, and the more left field the resulting posts became. It was a sheng fuelled feedback loop, that ended with an ancient British king being saved from a rampaging bear by a Roman superhero, and a 1970s German soccer midfielder named Hans George Wart who only ever existed on a heavily doctored Panini football sticker.
It was some time in the early afternoon that the angry beeping of the dishwasher yanked me back to the world of chores and grown up stuff. Bah, etc.
I had a bad old case of the sheng munchies, but a dollop of potato salad and some fruit sorted that out.
It’s funny how often truly memorable first and last sessions tend to bookend your time with a tuo or a beeng.
This was most definitely one of those teatimes.
What a day, what a day…