Doubt, Tea and Christmas Eve

In homage to an old Glasgow haunt of ours, we’re drinking today’s tea in what they would call ‘Russian style.’ That is, loose leaved and less the tea infuser. Also, whatever the technical term si for drinking a cup of tea while a cat waltzes around one’s space, not just lap, but back, shoulders, desk, keyboard…there’s a technical term for that, yeah?

Anyway, the tea itself is called Fireside Mocha, and we really hoped we’d misread Firside Matcha. No such luck. Question; if your fruit based infusion lacks tea leaves but does have coffee grounds, in what way is it not flavoured coffee?

This year’s attempt to convert us to the taste of coffee went about as well as anyone whose old hat at this tea-and-a-poem blog of ours would expect after three odd years of it.  There’s grimacing, noises of distress and quoting of Nancy Mitford. Specifically that old saw, ‘Aren’t I grown up Fanny? I drink tea and almost like coffee.’ It’s one of Don’t Tell Alfred‘s truly funny moments, with the caveat that we still don’t like coffee. Not even almost. And we absolutely, unconditionally, definitely do not want the stuff in our tea. Got it, universe? If we want coffee – which event is doubtful – we’ll have coffee. If we want tea, we’ll make tea. And if we want a fruit concoction steeped in hot water, we’ll have a fruit flavoured tisane and thank you to leave coffee grounds well out of the mix.

Anyone still unclear on the Gospel of Tea as preached by us, raise your hand, post a note, or otherwise reach out to us. We solemnly promise not to victimise any lovers of coffee.

To go with a tea of dubious merit, here’s a Christmas poem with doubt at it’s thematic centre. We don’t know enough Betjeman, and obviously neither does the internet, since it’s convinced we’ve misspelled his name. What we have read though, we’ve always found interesting. He shares Hardy’s trick for elevating the mundane and weaving it in to a sacred space.

There’s probably something interesting to be said about the fact that two of the best Christmas poems going are rooted in the wavering faith of these two poets. Something about the frailty of humanity and our impermanence, or something. But it’s late, much too late for theology. So here’s the poem instead, and if you happen to have any more brainwaves about doubt, Advent, mundanity and the poetic, you know where to reach us. Or you could just get in touch about tea. We’re really good with both.

Either way, a happy Christms from Canada, from us, the Dawlish Dachshunds, and Miss Marschallin.

Christmas 

John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

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Advent IV: Music and Favourite Things

In addition to the tea Advent Calendar, we keep going about four old-fashioned calendars with doors. At this point we must know what’s behind each individual door, but we still enjoy opening them. Today’s tea was a bit like that. It’s a black tea with candy cane pieces called Santa’s Secret. We knew it featured somewhere in the calendar, but not where and when.

It’s a good black tea. We’ve used it before now as a breakfast tea stand in. And after a day running between musical functions, we needed it. There was church in the morning, and then a singing lesson, The Messiah afterwards, where we were good and resisted the muscle-memory impulse to sing the choruses. We were less good at tonight’s Nine Lessons and Carols, where we defected to the descant at Hark the Herald. On the other hand, the alto next to us was having no qualms about singing the harmony line to every verse ever, so it wasn’t just us.

For a tea that’s familiar and predictable, here’s a poem to match. It wouldn’t be Advent if we didn’t give The Darkling Thrush an airing. And besides, there’s still no one who writes winter in England like Hardy. Unless we’re missing someone, in which case, please send material our way.

The Darkling Thrush

Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

In keeping with the Hardy, here’s a bit of Holst to go with it that ought to be better known than it is. It’s Hardy-adjacent, but on the other hand, we’re tolerably sure that of all Egon Heath’s many moods, winter was one of them.

And because it’s still Advent, specifically Rorate Sunday, we’ll leave you with the Advent Prose. We would sing them on a loop through the season, if we could, but apparently that’s considered odd. So here’s a choir to do that instead.

Red Tea and Autumn Leaves

‘Don’t make it too red’ is one of those phrases you’ll sometimes heard passed between tea-drinkers when you’re making up milked tea. We’re guilty of doing exactly that, having more of a tendency to wave a milk jug in the vicinity of a teacup than to pour out from it. But tonight’s tea is red and it’s not remotely our fault.

Tulsi Tranquility features a number of red ingredients from rosehip to red currants, raspberries and strawberries. All it really tastes of are the currants, and it smells of cloves, though the ingredients assure us none feature. Personally, we have doubts. Anyway, it’s a tangy, tart tea that runs deceptively deep red very early on.

We drank it by hunting down a poem, which was mostly achieved tonight by putting rather particular combinations of words into the search engine in an effort to coax out something specific. So while tonight’s poem is thematically unlikely, we’re that pleased that we found it that you’re getting it anyway. Besides, it features the deep red of Canadian autumn. Consider it a tribute to the tea. Well, to the red tea and the fact that nowhere on earth does autumn like Canada.

Falling Leaves and Early Snow 

Kenneth Rexroth

In the years to come they will say,
“They fell like the leaves
In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine.”
November has come to the forest,
To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
The year fades with the white frost
On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
Ice forms in the shadows;
Disheveled maples hang over the water;
Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
The olive, velvety alder leaves,
The scarlet dogwood leaves,
Most poignant of all.
In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
Move over the mountains;
The storm clouds follow them;
Fine rain falls without wind.
The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
When the rain pauses the clouds
Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
In the evening the wind changes;
Snow falls in the sunset.
We stand in the snowy twilight
And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
Glimmering with floating snow.
An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
The moon has a sheen like a glacier.

Why are You Screaming?

The Christmas cards finally got sent off today. They’ll be late of course – our fault for somehow losing track of where we were in the season, notwithstanding the short days. Also on the docket; the re-taping of the furniture. Why? Because Miss Marschallin has a taste for masticating the sofas, chairs, footstools and anything else masquerading as a scratching post. We don’t care, but apparently other people do. So double-sided tape it is.

‘It will be easy,’ said the woman at the till. ‘Very self explanatory,’ said the woman at the till. We are forced to conclude that the woman at the till has never had the pleasure of battling for upwards of half an hour with the application of double-sided tape to her furniture.

The instructions claimed that you apply it and press it down, and then peel off the protective coating once it’s all nicely flat. Well, we tried. Peeled the tape off the step. Got it beautifully flat. Peeled off the protective coating, and lifted off the tape with it. Reapplied the tape, tried again. Gave up on that strand of tape and chose a fresh one. This nonsense went round and round in a fashion strongly evocative of a closed causal loop. This isn’t unreasonable, since 15 minutes in we were ready to conclude that double-sided tape was at least as science-fiction worthy and ill-advised as time travel.

At some point we peeled off half-a-dozen protective strips successfully and lull ourselves into thinking we’d triumphed. All the while the cat paraded around the room, searching out weaknesses, assessing the chair corners we missed for maximum scratching potential. Honestly, why would any sane cat owner bother?

Needless to say, when we afterwards got around to tea, it was earned. Today it was Buddha’s Blend, which has cropped up in the Advent Calendar before. We said then that it doesn’t taste the way it smells, and we stand by that. It smells light and floral. It tastes of a tanin-heavy green tea. A bit bitter, but we’d left it to steep overlong because we were still recovering from The Battle of The Double-Sided Tape (victory to us but by a narrow margin). It’s a lovely, flavoured green tea, and if you can catch it before it turns sharp, there’s a sweetness to it that is pleasant.

There are probably lots of meditative poems out there. We think Robert Frost even has one on Christmas Cards. But we’re still traumatised by the tape. Really. It was a bloody battle. The Dachshunds – traitors – fought on the side of the tape. They wanted to eat the tape.  So here’s a gem from the anthology I could Pee on This, and other Poems Written By Cats. Miss Marschallin isn’t much for dead animals, but swap them out for a malevolence of tape (that’s definitely the collective noun, by the by) and this writer, too, has had had their share of tape-induced trauma. We have every confidence.

Why are You Screaming? 

Francesco Marciulano

Why are you screaming?
What did I do wrong?
Why are you crying?
How can I make it right?
Would you like it in a different color? Would you like it in a different size? Would you like it in a different room? I just wanted to show my love
I just wanted to express my thanks I just wanted to put a dead mouse
on your sheets
But now you are screaming
And I don’t know how to make you stop

St Andrews Bay

Talking of teas that take after traybakes, today’s is called Caramel Shortbread. This comes on the heels of yesterday’s Mulled Wine, and achieves a slightly better result. The tea is herbal, and the overwhelming taste is of caramel. For those keeping track at home, nuts, raisins, and sultanas don’t diffuse well in tea. One thing this does do, though is establish very well the biscuity taste that a good caramel shortbread has.

The best caramel shortbread, by the by, doesn’t have a shortbread base. It’s much better with a biscuit base; it crumbles less and balances the sweetness better. The tea tastes of this sort of biscuit. It’s not rich and buttery like a shortbread. We’re experts on this, you understand, since Millionaire’s Shortbread, which was the posh name for this traybake over in Britain, was our traybake of choice. We used to order it from the cafe we frequented in the years before peppermint squares. About this time of year we’d go in and order a slice, and a pot of tea. The tea would arrive in a teapot that defied the laws of physics and distributed the tea anywhere but in the cup, and was accompanied by a pot of hot water. That one had a workable spout.

In light of all that, here’s Andrew Lang on St. Andrews Bay. It’s not the obvious poem of his, or even one we know terribly well. But for an accurate description of a wintry sea, look no further.

St Andrews Bay 

Andrew Lang

NIGHT

Ah, listen through the music, from the shore,
The ‘melancholy long-withdrawing roar’;
Beneath the Minster, and the windy caves,
The wide North Ocean, marshalling his waves
Even so forlorn–in worlds beyond our ken –
May sigh the seas that are not heard of men;
Even so forlorn, prophetic of man’s fate,
Sounded the cold sea-wave disconsolate,
When none but God might hear the boding tone,
As God shall hear the long lament alone,
When all is done, when all the tale is told,
And the gray sea-wave echoes as of old!

MORNING.

This was the burden of the Night,
The saying of the sea,
But lo! the hours have brought the light,
The laughter of the waves, the flight
Of dipping sea-birds, foamy white,
That are so glad to be!
‘Forget!’ the happy creatures cry,
‘Forget Night’s monotone,
With us be glad in sea and sky,
The days are thine, the days that fly,
The days God gives to know him by,
And not the Night alone!’

Mulled Wine and Minced Pies; their Oddities and Risks

Yesterday’s tea confused us. Today’s…well, today’s is odd. It’s called Mulled Wine Oolong, and incontrovertibly it tastes of mulled wine. Specifically of mulled wine if you took out the alcohol content. The bizarre thing here is that it tastes not at all of oolong. This is strange less because it’s a tea (though there’s that too) but because oolong is such a pungent sort of tea. You ferment the leaves to make an oolong, so it always has something of a smoky taste. Smoky isn’t quite the right word, but it’s late and the right word for that particular flavour eludes us. The point is, it should be ideally suited for something calling itself Mulled Wine Tea. You’d expect the underlying notes here to be the musk of the oolong. Instead the spices and candied fruit overwhelm it, which says a lot about the strength of the flavouring, because a normal fruit blend won’t undercut an oolong. We drink them all the time; orange oolong, oolong with raspberry, with lemon and citrus.

That’s not to say Mulled Wine Oolong is a bad tea. As we say, it’s an eerily effective rendition of mulled wine. Drink it with a mince pie and enjoy yourself. Just don’t expect it to taste like tea.

We’re thinking of mince pies as a companion piece here not a little because we miss them over in Canada. We can’t buy them for love or money this side of the water, whereas we used to be spoiled for selection. We never actually went out of our way to buy them, but they always seemed to be on hand at Christmas receptions or as sweets after supper – maybe a friend passed them round over afternoon tea. We keep meaning to make them, but since we can’t find the mince over here either, and making it up from scratch is an alarming amount of effort, that has so far come to nothing.

We did look, but found no literature on the mince pie. Personally, we blame Oliver Cromwell, who famously declared them – and Christmas – illegal back when he was running England. The country then, like good, absent-minded Englishers, forgot to reinstate both as legal thereafter. So it’s really very daring, the buying and selling of mince pies. This may explain the total lack of them in Canada, what with our track record of historically declining to offend Britain.

Instead, here’s a poem on something called Christmas Plum Cake. We make this a plum pudding, but if anyone has different ideas, do write in. You can get hold of plum pudding in Canada, incidentally. It was a staple of Christmases in Guelph, growing up, where only our grandfather ate it. Here’s hoping you have more appetite for the poem.

To Mrs K____, on Sending Me an English Plum Cake

Helen Maria WIlliams

What crowding thoughts around me wake,
What marvels in a Christmas-cake!
Ah say, what strange enchantment dwells
Enclosed within its odorous cells?
Is there no small magician bound
Encrusted in its snowy round?
For magic surely lurks in this,
A cake that tells of vanished bliss;
A cake that conjures up to view
The early scenes, when life was new;
When memory knew no sorrows past,
And hope believed in joys that last! —
Mysterious cake, whose folds contain
Life’s calendar of bliss and pain;
That speaks of friends for ever fled,
And wakes the tears I love to shed.
Oft shall I breathe her cherished name
From whose fair hand the offering came:
For she recalls the artless smile
Of nymphs that deck my native isle;
Of beauty that we love to trace,
Allied with tender, modest grace;
Of those who, while abroad they roam,
Retain each charm that gladdens home,
And whose dear friendships can impart
A Christmas banquet for the heart!

Tea, Poetry and Little Perplexities

Mother’s Little Helper, today’s tea election for day 18, has us confused on several levels. It manages to taste both of nothing and everything at once, to start with. In fact, it tasted so thoroughly of nothing that we went hunting for the ingredients. It’s supposed to feature camomile, hibiscus, valerian, lemongrass and several other soporifics, but the hibiscus is dominating. And it’s mostly dominating the colour of the tea, which is beetroot pink. It doesn’t say, but we suspect cornflowers of featuring too; the little blue flowers are particularly distinctive.

Atypically, not even the camomile comes through with its dusty, dry-hay taste. We brewed it in a mug, which is also atypical for us, so it may be that we misjudged the brewing time on this one.  The other point of confusion stems from the kosher declaration on the tea. We understand what makes kosher salt distinctive – but tea? We thought we knew our Levitical law, but we’ve obviously forgotten the pertinent verse. If anyone wants to write in with an explanation, please do.

Tea aside though, we’ve always loved the light-play of winter, if not the cold that comes with it. Scotland used to give us what we called ‘three o’clock light’ – a particular shade as the sun was setting early. But there are other variations too; the waning of it across stained glass as it grows ever more opaque, the gold of it coming up late in the morning and blossoming across the sky. Here’s a poem on a similar theme. And to add to our ever-growing list that things we don’t understand, you’ll find an accented ‘all trade’ at the end of the first stanza. Normally we can talk metrical stresses with the best of them, but this one has us baffled. How do you lengthen the vowel on a short word? Or even on an already long A? We welcome insights.

Pied Beauty 

Gerrard Manly Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Scent of Almonds

Today has involved, among other things, the internet’s insistence that it couldn’t establish a secure connection to the blog, a singing lesson, and the augmenting of the Christmas Cake. We’re fairly sure the last one went wrong, somewhere between skewering the cake and soaking it in orange juice as per the instructions. Turn upside-down, they read. Add Orange Juice, they said .So we did these things, and righted the cake, because it said to do that too. And then we thought about it, and wondered how, gravity being what it is, a perforated cake was going to absorb orange juice sitting right-side-up and wrapped in clingfilm and tinfoil. The marzipan was on by then too – also as per the instructions – and we’re pretty sure that none of the above sequence is good for marzipan. We’re certain, after a sample of the stuff, that we prefer making it from scratch. It’s nothing against store-bought, but it always tastes sweeter than the home-made stuff. And not quite like almond. On the other hand, we were all saved eyeing marzipan out of obscure kitchen corners into the next millennia, so that was good.

Almonds resurfaced in the tea. It smelled of sweet almonds, which is good, because anything else would send a sane literary critic running the other direction and worrying about cyanide. Just us? It may be entirely possible we’ve read one murder mystery too many. Anyway, it’s a green tea that tastes of roasted almonds a combination that works well. It’s long in the mouth and stands being steeped for long periods of time.

Things being what they are, we ought to have a poem on hand about almonds or Christmas cakes, or something for consistency. In fairness, we did look. The absolute dearth of literate has us convinced that all anyone ever took away from marzipan was a blizzard of icing-sugar. Blizzard being, naturally, the collective noun for amassed icing sugar. Probably any poet whose baked the stuff is still coaxing it out of the crevices of counters and finding residual powder behind the toaster. Good to know we’re in good company on that one.

Instead, here’s a poem about the new year. Precipitate, possibly, but then, Advent is our liturgical new year, so it’s not entirely without relevance.

Year’s End

Richard Wilbur

Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.
I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.
There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii
The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.
These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.

Advent III: the Jocundity of Dachshunds

As if in proof to yesterday’s declaration that it’s not spices in tea, really, we swear on a bible, that we take objection to, today’s selection was called Gingerbread. Straight and to the point. It’s a robins packed chock full of ginger, and it smells and tastes like gingerbread in a cup. So much so that we investigated the ingredients for traces of molasses. We found none. Low on caffeine and richly flavoured, it’s a perfect evening tea. This is how you do spiced teas properly.

In other news, it’s Advent III, the Sunday when the rose vestments come out and we relax whatever Advent discipline we have going. We always think that if ever there was a day we could let the blog slip, it’s this one. But we enjoy the blog, and Gaudete Sunday happens to be our favourite. Even if we still haven’t sung Hills of the North Rejoice this season.

In perpetual embodiment of jubilation though, are the Dachshunds of Dawlish. We owe them a poem, not least because Miss Marschallin has had two this season to their none. But also, no one does unbridled joy like a Dachshund leaping around your knees. We don’t even have to do anything for it. If we look vaguely in the direction of the kitchen from three o’clock onwards, they leap in jocund fashion at the prospect of food. If you go into the kitchen any time after half three, they run in giddy circles. Open the gate to the family room and they race to see who can crush the sofa cushions fastest. It’s like being perpetually bombarded with optimism, and it’s contagious. So here’s a poem to the Dachshunds, with love and affection. We really are sorry we insisted on bathing them earlier today.

img_3077

Lost and Found

Ron Padgett

Man has lost his gods.
If he loses his dignity,
it’s all over.

I said that.

What did I mean?
First, that the belief
in divinity has almost
disappeared.

By dignity
I meant mutual
self-respect, the sense
that we have some right
to be here and that
there is value in it.
(Values are where
the gods went
when they died.)

My dog Susie doesn’t seem
to have any values, but she does
have Pat and me, gods
she gets to play with and bark at.

The Dachshunds have many values, if you’re curious. Fabulous Orange Ball is high on the list. It’s narrowly outranked by Food. Sun is crucial, and warm. We’re sort of in disgrace until the warm weather comes. But they bark anyway, because apparently part of being perpetually optimistic about the universe involves making a joyful noise unto the Lord at every possible occasion.

On which note, we’ll end with Hills of the North, just so someone sings it this year. The important thing to note here is that there are two sets of lyrics, and ours are right. Well, we think so. The people who sing the other ones probably disagree. Both are quite good in their own way though.

Currying Feline Favour: How it Isn’t Done

There’s nothing quite like waking up to a cat being pointedly ill on the bedspread. This after we had deported her the previous evening from the master bedroom, where she was improving upon someone’s good, grey coat.

It was like this. We were sitting down to tea, when a summons came up the stairs with the terrifying words, ‘You must see what the cat is doing. She isn’t moving.’  It’s not as if, come Advent and Christmas we harbour a perpetual fear that the Marschallin-Cat will asphyxiate, choke, strangle or otherwise do away with herself by means of tinsel, poinsettia, or Christmas bauble, so these were well chosen words. Allowing for the fact that we do, in fact, anticipate all and any of these things at a given holiday moment. Left to our own devices there would be no ornaments within striking distance of the Magnificent Paws, and no lights. We’ve won a victory against the poinsettias, and tinsel is, happily, not a Canadian fixture.

Anyway, off we went, only to find Miss Marschallin was very much moving. Flip-flopping, in fact, side-to-side. Stretching luxuriantly across the grey wool coat, exposing her underbelly to anyone who happened to be passing. Miss Marschallin never exposes her underbelly to passers-by. We only get to stroke it on extra-special occasions when she’s half-asleep with unbridled contentment. Anyway, the owner of the grey coat got within a foot of that particularly vulnerable spot, put a hand out, and thought better of it. They further declined to go to bed via the other side of the bed, which was vacant, because really, why adjust one’s life to a cat.

What can we say? They haven’t lived with cats long. Miss Marschallin’s predecessor was only with us eleven years and loved a good tummy rub. Chalk and cheese, these two felines. All the while, there was the Marschallin-cat beautifying that grey coat with her lovely ginger fur. There is nothing not improved by ginger fur. Also, this way the coat’s owner could now do a credible impression of some fur-clad ’40s movie star. Heddy Lamar, Garbo, maybe. We don’t know.

img_0015-1  img_0022-1

img_2917
A Chronology of Cats

Neither of them was budging, so in the end there was nothing for it but to swoop Miss Marschallin up into her very particular hold and transport her elsewhere. You could practically hear the indignation radiating from her. And really, we don’t blame her. To be taken away from a comfy place to sleep for no better reason than the fact of one’s being portable and the sleeping place of choice being someone else’s property…well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Which, we’re tolerably sure, is how we came to be the loving recipient of this morning’s pointed gift. It’s not as if there were wooden floors going spare, or anything. Here’s a poem for you by way of apology to Her Nibs, Filed-Marschallin, Empress and Queen of Dawlish.  We first found it in the Opies’ Oxford Book of Children’s Verse. Perusing it as an adult, it’s one of the rarities that isn’t supremely dogmatic and moralistic. But also, whoever wrote it, unlike that coat owner, spoke Cat.

The Mysterious Cat 

Vachal Lindsay

I saw a proud, mysterious cat,
I saw a proud, mysterious cat
Too proud to catch a mouse or rat—
Mew, mew, mew.

But catnip she would eat, and purr,
But catnip she would eat, and purr.
And goldfish she did much prefer—
Mew, mew, mew.

I saw a cat—’twas but a dream,
I saw a cat—’twas but a dream
Who scorned the slave that brought her cream—
Mew, mew, mew.

Unless the slave were dressed in style,
Unless the slave were dressed in style
And knelt before her all the while—
Mew, mew, mew.

Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Mew . . . mew . . . mew.

Supposedly it’s a chant for a pantomime. If it is, it makes an abnormal amount of sense for panto material. But not unlike the cat, we wound up disdaining our tea this evening. It’s not that we require anyone to be kneeling beside us while we drink it, stylish or otherwise. It’s that tonight’s tea was undrinkable. It goes by the prosaic name of Ginger Turmeric Tonic, and while undoubtably it’s supposed to be wholesome, it tastes appalling.

Someone – we’re unclear who – had the clever idea to pair the ginger and turmeric with green tea, which goes about as well as you’d expect. The green tea, left to steep, goes bitter. The ginger, meanwhile, has it’s usual sharpness. And But none of this matters because all one can taste over the lot of it is the numeric. And all that while the tea smells shockingly of anise. We stuck it out about a half-a-dozen mouthfuls before calling it a bad job, so can’t really comment on steeping grade, or anything like that. And we’ll freely own that our using numeric six ways from Sunday to make a curry probably doesn’t help.

We don’t think that’s the root problem though, because we’ve quite happily partaken of teas flavoured with cloves, cardamom, and any number of spices that swisher between sweet and savoury in our cooking. We’ve even known them to translate well to tea. This is not one of them. No doubt it’s a rigorously wholesome thing. Good for colds. But for our money, we’re much happier sticking to hot lemon and honey. Maybe a lemsip. Possibly even the odd dose of ginger. The calendar can keep the turmeric.