An August Midnight

Among the scents we actively recoil from in drinks, coconut is one of them, or so it emerged this morning when we opened the tin with this day’s tea. We’ve never liked  coconut but we can sometimes bear it in things if it isn’t the main ingredient. This isn’t true of tea, possibly because no drink on earth should smell of suncream. In this particular instance, we’re immensely grateful that the tea doesn’t taste as it smells, but that might be because we were afraid of leaving it to steep. We’ve never really been curious to find out what suncream tastes like, you understand.

All told though, and if you can get past -or indeed have no issue with -the smell of coconut, it’s a nice tea, smooth, creamy and reminiscent of those flavoured custard creams sold briefly by Lidl (the coconut variety, naturally). We used to buy them in the summer and eat them out in the garden. With that in mind, here’s a poem we’ve long associated with summer writings and the act of creation -though we now suspect that for years we misunderstood the title. No matter, the day’s almost run out here in Scotland, and goodness knows Miss Marschallin-cat would be grievously offended if we didn’t consider her august company.


An August Midnight

Thomas Hardy


A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter–winged, horned, and spined –
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While ‘mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . .


Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
– My guests parade my new-penned ink,
Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink.
“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

Snow Day

We opened the Advent Calendar this morning to a tea called Snow Day. It professes to be full of peppermint leaves, white chocolate, cocoa and something called cream flavouring. (No, we don’t know what that is. We’re sort of afraid to ask.) At a glance then it is trying to taste of mint hot chocolate. At the risk of sounding snobbish, while we love tea, and we love hot chocolate, we don’t necessarily like them together. Luckily for us, Snow Day actually tastes of peppermint creams, which is a curious choice for a tea since there are only so many peppermint creams a person can eat in a sitting, and it turns out that that threshold is reached before the end of a second cup of tea. It’s not a bad green tea though, provided you like mint lots. This happens to be true of us.

Here’s a poem for today by Thomas Hardy, whose poetry is too often forgotten in favour of his novels. It gets the feel of a British winter to the bone, and just to be novel, in a year of things that have sometimes seemed overwhelming and bleak, it’s hopeful.

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.