Nor All That Glisters Gold

Another old favourite today. We ended up brewing it several times. Glitter and Gold is a black tea that supposedly sparkles when you pour it out. We’ve never made that happen.

It’s something to do with the sugar crystals in it, or something. Anyway, the composition has clearly changed a bit, because it used to include little gold balls of what we presume was a variation on hundreds and thousands.

That wasn’t in the tin, so apparently whatever causes the crystalline effect has changed. It hasn’t affected the taste. It’s still a light, sparkling (meraphorically) black tea with a hint of spice.

We associate it with Cambridge, because that’s where a friend introduced us to it. We drank nothing else for the whole of the visit. This was back when David’s Tea still shipped to Britain. After that we stocked up in Toronto and brought a whacking great load of tea across the border. That was when Toronto still had stores you could walk into.

As it happens, we have the perfect poem to go with Glitter and Gold with its sparkling gold confectionary balls. It was a Poetry and Cake staple.

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Bowl of Goldfishes
Thomas Grey

Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ’midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch’d, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A Favourite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

Apologies cat lovers! We know a few of you read along. It’s not Miss Marschallin’s favourite poem, either, nor ours. But we saw the name on the tea tin and the first thing we thought of was that final line by Gray. It’s was too perfect to leave lying there.

About Cats

Tonight’s tea is Mother’s Little Helper.

We always get a kick out of this one because the whole concoction revolves around valerian root. In humans, that makes you sleepy. We never get to have much of it because we open the tin, Miss Maschallin comes nosing, and next thing we know, we are up to our eyes in stoned cat.

The thing about valerian root is that however it works on humans, feline brain chemistry is completely different. It revs them up like nothing on earth. And it stinks to high heaven.

But it’s a really lovely, therapeutic tea if you have, say, spent an evening trying to keep an overactive Dachshund Puppy – let’s call him Rocky – away from the woodpile. And the Christmas tree. And the cat. And…

Tell you what, we’re going to sit down and enjoy our valerian tea, and you can enjoy this lovely poem about cats. Deal?

Pangur Bán
Translation by Seamus Heaney

Pangur Bán and I at work,
Adepts, equals, cat and clerk:
His whole instinct is to hunt,
Mine to free the meaning pent.

More than loud acclaim, I love
Books, silence, thought, my alcove.
Happy for me, Pangur Bán
Child-plays round some mouse’s den.

Truth to tell, just being here,
Housed alone, housed together,
Adds up to its own reward:
Concentration, stealthy art.

Next thing an unwary mouse
Bares his flank: Pangur pounces.
Next thing lines that held and held
Meaning back begin to yield.

All the while, his round bright eye
Fixes on the wall, while I
Focus my less piercing gaze
On the challenge of the page.

With his unsheathed, perfect nails
Pangur springs, exults and kills.
When the longed-for, difficult
Answers come, I too exult.

So it goes. To each his own.
No vying. No vexation.
Taking pleasure, taking pains,
Kindred spirits, veterans.

Day and night, soft purr, soft pad,
Pangur Bán has learned his trade.
Day and night, my own hard work
Solves the cruxes, makes a mark.

So, we can’t translate Old Irish unassisted. But we definitely translated quite a lot of Old English while the Marschallin Cat looked on. We learned soprano descants with her sitting in, too. Very musically snobbish that one, we can tell you.  

Feline Serenade

To say we spent most of the day reading for Monday’s book club, it’s been a busy sort of day. Though we did spend most of it reading for Monday’s book club. And actually, we were going to try and pull a poem relevant to the book, since a handful of poets get a mention. Remind us Monday.

We broke up the reading a bit with tea from Germany. Today it was coconut green tea, which smelled powerfully of coconut but didn’t really taste of it. Maybe we cheated on the steeping a bit. Coconut is a rare flavour we’re not wild about. But it works really well with this tea. It’s a Sencha, which can brew quite strong quickly and the coconut is the perfect compliment. It keeps it sweet but doesn’t taste of sunblock. (Cue our horror-filled memories of the imposter Coconut Custard Creme.) It was a pleasant surprise and one we’ll definitely be going back to.

So anyway, we went out to stream an opera and promptly forgot what poems were in the book. We were too busy trying to play Spot That Aria as we watched Something Rich and Strange. Which was an experience; we’d missed opera and it was an interesting reimagining of what opera might look like as artists wove together all this different music. We’ve missed opera, and singing, and generally all things musical.

Well, so, no book club adjacent poetry. By this point it was late and we were drinking DavidsTea’s Peach Parfait – another green tea – while watching Waking the Dead (addled family touchingly misname it The Walking Dead no matter how often we explain why this is a very different show) as part of the Dachshund Cuddle.

We’ve been pretty good this year about using up a full sample every day. We have finally found the perfectly sized infuser for this. But that wasn’t the case today. Peach Parfait is one of the returning teas and it’s easily our favourite ever turned out by this calendar. (This will probably shock those keeping score at home of our preference for black tea, any black tea, any time of day.) But green tea pairs beautifully with fruit. The peach makes it sweet, and fruity and almost like an oolong in flavour. It’s a bit tropical, a bit golden, and it tastes gloriously of summer. So when it cropped up today you can bet we rationed it. And maybe we’ll stock up on a full tin in the New Year the way we always mean to.

It was at this point the cat joined the TV Cuddle and brought to our attention that today is, in popular culture Caturday, and not only that, but somehow we’re halfway (halfway!) through Advent without ever dedicating a poem to Miss Marschallin. It won’t do, we tell you. Well, she tells us.

And as it happens, Opera Atelier has given us the perfect opportunity. If it hasn’t already been mentioned, Miss Marschallin takes her name from the popular Strauss opera Der Rosenkavalier. She’s Field-Marschallin Marie-Therese in full. Resi for everyday, Miss Marschallin on the blog. Not only that, but we were singing when we met her.

You could do that pre-Covid, you see. We often did. We wandered to the grocery store singing hymns from choir rehearsal. We walked home singing Rusalka’s Moon Song. We walked to singing lessons practicing the piece of the hour and home ditto. We used to sing A Saint-Malo Beau Port de Mer and La Volette. There were others. We were singing Vilja-Leid when we met Miss Marschallin. Whereas previous cats used to run screaming from our soprano, she bunted our hands in response. Indeed, when we had family staying it wasn’t until she sat down at the piano and began singing that Miss Marschallin deigned to warm up to her.

To honour Miss Marschallin then, and to observe Caturday, here’s a poem about another singing cat. Turns out there’s a long history of them.


The Singing Cat
Stevie Smith

It was a little captive cat
Upon a crowded train
His mistress takes him from his box
To ease his fretful pain.

She holds him tight upon her knee
The graceful animal
And all the people look at him
He is so beautiful.

But oh he pricks and oh he prods
And turns upon her knee
Then lifteth up his innocent voice
In plaintive melody.

He lifteth up his innocent voice
He lifteth up, he singeth
And to each human countenance
A smile of grace he bringeth.

He lifteth up his innocent paw
Upon her breast he clingeth
And everybody cries, Behold
The cat, the cat that singeth.

He lifteth up his innocent voice
He lifteth up, he singeth
And all the people warm themselves
In the love his beauty bringeth.

Note though; when we travel with Miss Marschallin be it by train, plane or bus, everyone, bar everyone comments on how beautifully mannered and quiet she is. It’s only when we haul her to the dread V-E-T or stay too long in bed that we get serenaded with the saddest, most plaintive meow in the world.

Ode to the Dachshund

It was all things Dachshund today thanks to a surprise parcel from a friend across the water. Specifically, she billed it the Delightful Dachshund Parcel.


Miss Marschallin Cat is guarding it now, lest Dachshunds get any ideas about their place in the hierarchy. (They are minions.) Still, we thought we’d try and find a poem for them, if we could.

But just before that, a bit about the tea. It’s white and called Pomograteful, because some ill-advised person let the marketing people, or the naming people, or whatever people get to name these things, have it away with the puns. Calendar, you are a lovely Advent Calendar but leave the terrible puns to our unsuspecting relatives, will you?

Anyway, if you hadn’t put it together, it’s a pomegranate and white tea  blend that makes for a low-affine, sweet desert tea. The sort we’d save up for Lent when we’ve sworn off sweet things but still want a bit more after supper. The pomegranate gives the tea a spectacular colour and also zest – and it smells divine. What’s not to love?

We’re being purred at and waltzed on and gently bunted, which is typically our cue to go do the Boring Lying Down Thing from Miss Marchallin. You know the one; you burrow under lots of lovely blankies and lie perfectly still while the cat sits on you. It also means we’ve nattered too long about something other than Herself. But we live dangerously here at Chorister at Home, so before we go, have a poem about Dachshunds. And you thought we’d never find one didn’t you? Well, we did  – but we wouldn’t want Her Nibs to find out. So this is between us, the blog and some metaphorical bedpost, yeah?

The Dachshund Speaks 
Morgan Dennis, 1947

Because I waddle when I walk,
Should this give rise to silly talk
That I’m ungainly?  What’s ungainly?
I’m really rather graceful – mainly.
The experts have been known to state
That there’s a twinkle in our gait.
One said “They have a clumsy grace,”
Which after all is no disgrace.

My funny features may abound;
Short legs, long body, low-to-ground,
But I’m about the perfect pal,
For man or woman, boy or gal.
I’m gentle, very playful, kind,
I housebreak fast, ’cause I’m refined.
I’m smart but never sly or foxy –
No, do not underrate the dachsie!


Ungainly? Never! We give you the very model of dachshunds major generals…who may just have missed that memo about housebreaking fast. But who’s keeping track? Anyway, they are very definitely, absolutely, completely and utterly refined.



See? Seriously refined. Okay, look, maybe the jury’s out on that too. Maybe. But there is no contesting the loveability of a Dachshund. Trust us – we’d know.

Nicholas v Arius…and also Cats. Again

St Nicholas Day used to find us baking Bishop’s Bread as recommended by one Judy Plum of Silver Bush. Today found us instead editing a treatise on visions and the nature of the soul for a client. It was a long essay and suddenly we looked up and it was late afternoon, so we forwent baking and had tea instead. We’d earned it.

Today’s tea was Silken Dragon Pearls, which is surely posh enough to send the price of this calendar skyrocketing. It brews a beautiful floral green tea though. It’s made from jasmine, is long in the mouth and has a wonderful smooth texture to it; the silk in the name is fairly won. Like any good jasmine, though, it makes for a pot you do have to watch if you don’t want it to turn bitter. We pulled the infuser out about five minutes in, but mileage may vary on that one. Understand, we grew up on breakfast blends, so never did get the taste for really strong green teas. We like ours somewhere in the middle, and if you get the measure of this one right, its a lovely, indulgent cup of tea.

As we’ve previously lamented, it’s nigh impossible to find good poetry about St Nicholas, because it’s all twee and weirdly saccharine, unless you really, really want The Night Before Christmas. But we tend to think the fun of that one is the illustrations you get with it in various compilations.

Instead, we’ll wrap up the accidental feline three-beat we’ve got going with a poem we alluded to at the start of the month. Miss Marschallin disapproves, because the title strongly hints that the cat comes to a sticky end, but it’s still good poetry.

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfish
Thomas Gray

Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ’midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch’d, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A Favourite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

Here’s a nonsensical titbit for you; the poem was a favourite of a university contemporary who swore up and down Shakespeare nicked that last line from Gray. Looking at his dates, we have to disagree, but the man was unpersuadable. And for those wondering, Miss Marschallin would never drown in a bowl of goldfish. Not only do we not have them, she has minions for that kind of work. And the minions aren’t drowning either, because the Dachshunds have a healthy fear of the water.

Finally, because it’s St Nicholas Day, we’re leaving you with a bit of Britten. Here’s one of our favourites from his St Nicholas Mass. If you missed your chance to give it a listen today, there’s always tomorrow. It’s lots of fun and not overly long.


Didn’t I tell you it was fun? How can you resist a bishop that boxes Arius’s ears? Okay, that might just be us. Specifically it might be that essay on the nature of the soul getting to us. Still. The harmonies are excellent!

Cats in Profound Meditation

After all that talk about green tea, we finally got one today. It’s called Let It Snow, and gun to our heads we’d have sworn we’d had it before except that the tin (okay, the packet) is billing it as ‘spiced eggnog’ in the little descriptor and that’s…not how we remember it. And in fairness to the packet, there’s a chance we’re conflating it with previous years’ tea, Snow Day. These wintery tea names do bleed a bit together after a while. Mea maxima culpa and all that.

This particular tea is a lovely winter-day tea, though. Green, and well-spiced, full of apple and cinnamon flavour. It’s such a close cousin to the beloved apple crumble tea that we’ll be stockpiling it and gifting it to various friends this holiday. Well done calendar, well done. But then, you were never going to go wrong with a green tea with hefty helpings of apple and cinnamon.

(NB. We took out the infuser after the first cup to prevent over-steeping, but that may not be necessary. Suffice to say in our experience of Let It Snow it steeps quickly and to a good strength. Experiment at your leisure.)

This evening we’re out at a production of Cats. In the spirit of which, and in light of our great soft spot for Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, here’s a poem from the source. Eliot lost no love over his feline devotions, but ah well, it kept Faber&Faber in print, and it gave us Gus the Theatre Cat. In token of all that, here’s a how-to on naming one’s cat. (Spoilers: The Marschallin Cat hails from the school of fancier names if you think they sound sweeter. But with a name like Field Marschallin Marie-Therese, you knew that, didn’t you?)

The Naming of Cats
T.S. Eliot
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey–
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter–
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name


Profound meditation?


Deep contemplation?


Deep irritation with Human Pillow?

Ah well, whatever Miss Marschallin feels about us and the poem, it’s delightful. We shall leave you now to your tea and some deep contemplation of your deeply inscrutable, singular name.


Advent I: Tis the Season

It’s that time of year again; another Advent season brings another month of tea and poetry. This year Advent is sponsored by Freezing Rain R Us, which has got the market cornered on making Canada look an awful lot like Christmas, and feeling like it, too.

It even got into this morning’s liturgy, as the assistant priest’s particularly Canadian cadence translated ‘deliver us from sudden death’ to ‘deliver us from sodden death.’ It’s not what he meant, and it’s probably just about the one thing not listed in the prayer for everything ever that is the Great Litany, but we appreciate the sentiment. Freezing rain, snow and subzero weather; deliver us from sodden death indeed.

It’s also the perfect weather for tea. Cue the calendar.


This year it’s even larger than previous lives have rendered it, and the boxes include not only supersized portions of tea but also gift cards. Today’s was $5 off any robois we happened to purchase between now and Christmas. Since this calendar has got us well stocked on tea into next Advent, the likelihood of me capitalising on this bit of generosity seems unlikely. But it’s a nice thought, calendar.

On to the tea, though Today’s selection is whimsically called Gingerbread Blondie, which makes it sound like some kind of traybake. And if you too made the mental leap to the sort of tea one Harmony Kendal, vampiric nuisance of Buffy  and lately the spin-off Angel the Series, might drink, you’re in good company. If not, no bother.

It’s a herbal infusion, and the ingredients promise apple, pineapple, mango, candied ginger and vanilla in some cocktail or other. Our first cup was nothing but ginger, and scent of vanilla. The second cup was nothing but pineapple, with lingering notes of ginger. It’s a problem we often have with these tisanes; they’re weak to start and then they’re overly sweet on the second cup. Pineapple probably shouldn’t be hot (we don’t care for it on gammon or pizza, either), and it definitely shouldn’t be floating around without the body of a caffeinated tea under it. Green, ideally, but an oolong or even a white might work here. It just needs something to get all the flavours in alignment instead of fighting for dominance like so many cats.

And speaking of, here’s a wee gem of a Christmas poem to start off the month. We’re skipping ahead a little bit with this one – it’s not technically Christmas yet, much less New Year’s – but it’s just such fun. Have a read and see if you, too, don’t come away singing this reworked carol for cats.

We Wish for the Family Goldfish
From Christmas Carols for Cats by John and Julie Hope, 2010

We wish for the family goldfish
Why in bowl and not in our dish?
We wish for the family goldfish
To bring us good cheer!

Of longing we sing, for food to appear;
We wish for the family goldfish to bring us good cheer!

We long for the hamster squeaking
Along to his house we’re sneaking
We long for the hamster squeaking
A snack we revere.

In wonder we sing, why live food is here!
We wish for the hamster squeaking, a snack we revere.

We’re sick of the budgie chirping
Let’s eat him and all be burping,
We’re sick of the budgie chirping
Each day of the year.

The food that can talk we do not hold dear
We’re sick of the budgie chirping each day of the year!

Expecting something longer and grander?


Not all that glisters is gold, and we have a whole 23 days of poetry to get through. We’ll get there. Until tomorrow, a holy Advent from us, the Dawlish Dachshunds and Miss Marschallin cat. Who does not, by the way, wish for the family goldfish. Though we suspect she dreams of evicting the dachshunds. Shame it doesn’t scan as well.

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

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.

Hymn to the Marschallin-Cat

In the ongoing saga that is our battle against the parcels of Advent tea, we experimented with a different tea infuser tonight. Whereas our usual is large and bell-shaped, this one is small, squat and house-shaped, what the giver dubbed our ‘tea grotto.’ This makes no difference, if you were wondering, to the elaborate procedure of tea leaf extraction from vacuum-packed plastic bags. We have, however, extracted a considerable number of tea leaves from the rug. Packaging 4: Us nil.

It was another apple tea tonight, appropriately dubbed Apple Cider. It’s supposed to taste like the drink – the wintery, non-alcoholic one. It does too, alternately sweet and tart by turns, depending on the length of steeping. It’s also a herbal tea though, and to our mind is fractionally too sweet. We blame the combination of apple and blackcurrant for a base. Overtop a green tea it would be perfect; as it is, the cinnamon and vanilla don’t quite balance out the fruit.

It also sports that most disturbing of things, cream essence. That’s not really a point against it; we’ve seen cream essence in enough teas by now to accept it as mundane. But we would someday like an explanation as to what it is. Is it manufactured? Powdered? Does one wave the prepackaged tea in front of a creamer? The tea proper doesn’t taste creamy and it also doesn’t smell of it, evidenced by the Marschallin-cat’s utter disdain for it.  Miss Marschallin, to the uninitiated, has a sixth sense for all things milky.

Miss Marschallin does her best impression of Miss Jean Brodie, also of Edinburgh.

We were going to segue from tea to the virtues of the Marschallin-cat, but it’s late, and she’s quite well-documented here. Less well-documented though is her origin as an Edinburgh cat. She came to us from Lothian Cat Rescue, where the felines are undaunted by quarter hours,  flatten others’ scorn under the chariot wheels of their superiority, and, are, of course, in their prime. Certainly the Marschallin-cat is. Accordingly, here’s a hymn to Miss Marschallin. Well, to an Edinburgh cat, name unspecified. But don’t let on, will you?

An Edinburgh Cat 

M.L. Dalgleish

There are cats in the Canongate and cats in the Cowgate
Up ad down Lawnmarket and right round St Giles;
Urban cats in Trinity and rural cats at Howgate,
Toms and tabbies purr and prowl for miles and miles and miles.
But not a single cat of them, claims where I wait
High in Ramsay Garden, clinging to the tiles.

From there I peer at Edinburgh with eager eyed felinity.
Traffic and humanity, at work and sleep and play,
From West end to Waverly, from Sun. to Saturday;
All the chase and chatter of the city’s femininity
On bargain hunt at Jenners and Binns, and C.&A.

Storm clouds over Fife, in the Firth the white spray curling;
Loud with the north easter, I shriek a merry mew;
Summer time in Princes Street; kilted dancers whirling
Where the flowery gardens hear my purring all night thro’,
Bagpipers on the Esplanade, and high above their skirling
I sing in shrill cacophony my joy at the Tattoo.

Grey friars Bobby sits smug beside his Candlemakers
A burgess and a movie star grown pompous by renown;
The unicorn of Mercat Cross mounts guard on holy acres,
Law-abiding citizens who view me with a frown;
Yet if I ever fall victim to town planners and house-breakers,
My loss would be catastrophe for Edinburgh-town.

*We can’t go without observing that while we lived many years in Scotland, we never once met a cat that joyed in the Edinburgh tattoo. Come to that we’re not sure we met non-tourists who joyed in it. But if you have, do get in touch!

The Theology of Dogs

. We’re drinking spiced green tea tonight, a worthy successor to the Crumble Tea sacramentalized by the Anglican Inquisition. If that sounds like dubious theology, it probably is. You must understand that the Anglican Inquisition is comprised of one Anglican, two Presbyterians and an atheist, among others. Ecumenical Inquisition is just a mouthful though -even if not even the tea shops expect them. Besides, we’re not the only ones with suspect doctrine.

Pictured above are the Dachshunds of Dawlish. We don’t mention them as often as we do the Marschallin-cat, which is a grievous disservice considering their adoration of the the Human Pillow. Though as you will gather from the pictures, the theology of Dachshunds is fairly fluid. Buffy (she sits right) is also a sun-worshipper and a coveter of warm floor tiles and heat vents. Augie (pictured left) is braw, blue, and frequently pays fealty to the Fabulous Orange Ball. No one, not even his fellow Dachshund, understands why. Of course, he’s not averse to a spot of sun-worship either.


Or to crossword solving:


Or, as it turns out, to baking, though we failed to document evidence of this, being too taken up the other evening with the shortbread. Here they are petitioning for food though. All that hopeful watching is hungry work when shortbread is at stake.

Anyway, in loving and long-overdue tribute to the Dancing Dachshunds of Dawlish (who are also by turns delightful, devious, and decidedly stubborn) here’s a poem about their canine contemporaries and the things they put their trust in.

Pete’s Theology

Donald Marquis

god made seas to play beside
and rugs to cover dogs
god made cars for holidays
and beetles under logs
god made kitchens so thered be
dinners to eat and scraps
god made beds so pups could crawl
under them for naps
god made license numbers so theyd find
lost pups and bring them home
god made garbage buckets too
to pry in when you roam
god made tennis shoes to chew
and here and there a hat
but i cant see why god should make
mehitabel the cat

pete the pup



The Marschallin-cat, by the way, has no doubt about why God made Dachshunds. They exist to have their noses hit. Dachshunds, are, after all, at optimum nose-hitting level. What you see in the picture is the rare and amicable convening of the Dachshund Embassy with her Imperiousness. Augie, alas, has yet to make any headway. Only girls allowed in this particular club. But he lives in hope. And in the meantime there’s spiced green tea, illicit sandwiches, shortbread crumbs, rugs and cars and beetles under logs. Dachshunds really do have an idyllic existence.