I Sit and Sip

By Hilary Jocelyn

I remember being told, when the ‘Wandering Wakefield’ blog was in its infancy, that the inspiration behind the creative offerings and unfolding stories was to bring something to the people of Wakefield- (In, around and beyond..) that they could read on a Sunday morning as they were sipping their morning coffee.

I probably frowned disapprovingly when I heard this, and maybe raised my fair eyebrow a tad, because I belong to the slice of the human population pie that certainly doesn’t need to inhale a cup of coffee in the morning, in order to think straight as I tumble out of bed.

No, I am instead, a dedicated and unapologetic Tea drinker.

When I did the maths recently, I calculated that over my lifetime so far, a cup of the smooth silky liquid has probably slipped down my throat about fifty-six thousand, seven hundred and eighty-three times. To be more precise, at least three times a day, give or take the odd period of enforced abstinence due to dire circumstances, I drink Tea.

My Nana first introduced me to a half pint of this delicious, dark, mouth-watering infusion at the age of five.

She lived in the south of England. So far south that if you went any further in that direction you would get your feet wet in the English Channel. She could even sometimes, on a clear day, see the coast of France hovering on the horizon as she looked out from her little home with its garden full of wildflowers. My mother, her eldest daughter, had dared to marry someone she did not approve of, and even worse, had moved North in various stages and was now living in far away Scotland.

However, my Nana had an indomitable spirit and a burning desire to see her grandchildren, so every year she would catch a train that would trundle its fourteen-hour way up the country, for an extended family visit.

Her visits always included giving my mother a hearty dose of advice on the What, Whys and Hows of raising children. My mother had three of us by then, and we were all girls. Two years apart.

I was the middle one and I was a perfectly healthy and lively child, but was as skinny as a rake, or as a bean plant growing up a pole. My Nana weighed in on the subject, after seeing me in the bathtub with my sisters one night and declared that my body size was akin to images she had seen of children from the war zone she had lived though, a couple of decades earlier.

She told my mother, in no uncertain terms, that she had to fatten me up and the best way to do that now that post war rationing was over, was to feed me sugar, and the best way to give a child sugar, was to put three heaping teaspoons of it in a generous mug of Hot Tea.

My mother, uncharacteristically, followed her advice and began to offer me hot sweet Tea at breakfast, after school, and before bed, in the hopes it would alter my anatomy somehow and transform me from bony to dimpled, from angular to round, at least in places. It probably did little to change my body shape but it brought me something much much more important.

It was the beginning of my relationship with Tea .

What a journey it has been, and will continue to be, for as long as I can breathe and swallow. Tea has been there for me all through my life, and has shared some of my most intimate moments, thoughts and feelings. It has been ever present at times of celebration, on great adventures, and during loneliness and struggle. It has been a trusted life partner, standing beside me fearlessly as a true and faithful companion and a silent witness to my stories. It brings me strength in my times of need, and enriches the ordinary everydays. It brings me the gift of coziness, wellness and contentment, no matter what is going on around me. To use the Old Norse word, it brings me Hygge.

And there is more….

I grew up in Scotland where Tea is a big part of the history and cultural fabric of the country. Brewing up Tea is what Scottish people do and have done, for centuries. Imagine impoverished families from the seventeenth century trying to eek out a living on a small piece of unfertile land, huddling over a peat fire with a pot of water hanging over it so they could make Tea. And then, at the other end of the social and economic spectrum, I would be willing to bet that Mary Queen of Scots had a cup of Tea just before she got her head chopped off way back in 1632 .

Tea unites us all. People sit together and drink it – workmen on a building site, families on picnics, people in homeless shelters, famous people in palaces and fancy country houses, rich, less rich, and poor. Tiny kids who can hardly walk, hold a mug in their miniature hands. Elderly people who can hardly walk, shake the cup up to their lips. Tea manages to transcend the boundaries of class, age, gender, race and culture, and all the other things that separate us from each other. It is one thing we almost all do.

Alone and together- we all drink Tea.

In Scotland, the word for a friend in one of the local dialects, is ‘my china’. It literally means ‘the person you drink Tea out of a china cup with’. The one you trust. The one you have a good laugh with, and maybe, sometimes, a good cry. The one you tell your stuff to.

It is also used in the plural – ‘my chinas’, which means ‘the community of people you drink Tea with’. These days, any kind of liquid will do, slurped out of any kind of receptacle. It’s the people you do it with that matters. They are your ‘chinas’. The ones who listen to your stories, and the ones who tell you theirs.

So, let’s put the kettle on and tell each other our stories.

Here at Wandering Wakefield, we would love to hear stories about your ideal hygge moments. Drop us a line or two or an image at wanderingwakefield@gmail.com and we will collectively post and share them in one of our upcoming blogs. Sharing our stories of comfort in these trying times is a very hygge thing to do..