The challenge to the Beasts of Brewdom to write a story was a bit of a hit. But it left a few people out. Specifically, those possessed of an extra X chromosome.
Yes, I’m talking about women.
Now, as y’all know, Beasts of Brewdom is the very bastion of equality, and we can hardly leave half the population out.
In fact, one particular woman, @jackie of Tea Trade herself, even tried to pass herself as man called “Jack” in order to take part, which brings up unpleasant memories of the movie ‘Yentl’, which suffers from the same insufferable problem that every Barbara Streisand film does (i.e. Barbara Streisand).
So, smug overacting aside, it’s time to redress the balance.
With the same challenge…almost.
I needed to find a “masculine” alternative to the Mills and Boon romance novel title list, and my first thought were Commando Comics.
I read them as a teenager, all full of death and glory. I looked them up on Wikipedia and found this line:
The stories contain certain characteristic motifs; to mention a few – courage, cowardice, patriotism, dying for the sake of one’s country, noble actions, and making a cup of refreshing tea while in the face of danger,
That settles it!
So, I’m going to issue this challenge to all female tea bloggers: the first title you are assigned from the list of Collection of Commando Comics listed in Wikpedia here is your title. Within a week, if you accept the challenge.
As soon as I post this, I’m going to assign one.
Well, we did it. A challenge was issued and four blogs were posted.
The four greatest male tea bloggers in the world* all took part in the challenge to create a non-fiction post using a title that some random person on the internet assigned to them, and the titles could only be drawn from the titles of Mills and Boon romance novels.
Here’s how it went down.
- Robert Godden (Lord Devotea) kicked off with Sugar Island, here on BoB.
- Geoffrey Norman (The Lazy Literatus) bent the rules with When the Smoke Clears: Rita, the Rebel Bride of the Recovery Room
- Ken Mcbeth Knowles (Lahikmajoe) blogged over on his own space with “My Beautiful Heathen“.
- And Gary D Robson of Tea With Gary fame added The Dream and The Dancer.
And thus ends another challenge.
*The four greatest male tea bloggers in the world, according to our sample survey of four male tea bloggers
So, Robert “The Devotea” Godden issued a challenge – specifically to his fellow Beasts of Brewdom, and to the male communi-tea in general. He asked others to challenge us to write a blog post with a title chosen from the Mills and Boon romance novel catalog. Naturally, I took up the challenge.
Heck, I even challenged myself. The perfect title I selected was When the Smoke Clears. That would be easy. I could do something on Lapsang Souchong without much difficulty. Then Robert wondered – slightly perplexed – why I was challenging myself. He had a point. That seemed a little, uh, masturbatory. It was more fun if someone else issued the challenge.
And someone did.
Tea Trade’s Jackie challenged me to the title Rita of the Recovery Room, and additionally suggested that I date a nurse for research purposes. My mother always said I should date a nurse, but that was asking too much of li’l old me. All said, I agreed to use the title.
Around the same time, Rachel “I Heart Teas” Carter reissued the challenge to use the When the Smoke Clears title. Huh . . . well . . . now I had two to contend with. I mean, I could’ve just chosen one and been done with it, but I suck at making decisions. I chose to meld the two: When the Smoke Clears: Rita of the Recovery Room.
Over the course of a work shift, I thought of the perfect fictional short story for just such a title. Synopsis:
When Rita Farnsworth became a nurse, she never thought she would be sent to another solar system. Earth was near death, and the only habitable discovered world was a lush super-earth dubbed Falme-351. Unfortunately, a sentient race already existed there – a bipedal, worm/humanoid hybrid species.
Technologically un-advanced, though they were, the Falmites had one advantage. They reproduced through mitosis. If one of them died, two more would take its place, thus replenishing their numbers. Human colonists were losing the inevitable war that followed.
Until . . .
A wounded Falmite was captured and brought to the makeshift hospital where Rita worked. Since she was the only one with any xenobiological experience, she was put in charge of the native’s care. And to prep him for interrogation.
Over the course of weeks, she and the Falmite formed a wordless bond. She also learned that they smoked the leaves of a native plant, and decocted them in hot water for rejuvenation. The native shared some with her. It reminded her of Lapsang Souchong she used to have in her youth in England.
The day came when the Falmite was removed from her care. She tried to inform her superiors of her findings. They told her that, “This must not get out. We cannot humanize our enemy.”
She never saw the Falmite again.
Months later, she was called away to administer care to soldiers on the front line. A Falmite settlement had been burned to the ground. Amidst the burning debris, she caught a familiar smell. Leaves from a nearby bush were smoldering; leaves from the same plant for Falmite “tea”.
When no one was looking, she began to pick.
I informed Robert that I had such a story in mind.
He reminded me, “Did you miss the words “non-fiction” in the rules of the challenge?”
“Fuck,” I replied.
“Indeed,” he returned.
Shortly after that, Niraj “Happy Earth Tea” Lama challenged me with another title: The Rebel Bride. Over the course of the day, I thought of how that would alter the “Rita” story I had already devised. If I had thrown a romance in there, wow . . . weird. A woman falling in love with a worm. It wouldn’t have been the worst pairing out there. Heck, I read a story about a man falling in love with a primate. There was a whole genre of “literature” about women being seduced by dinosaurs.
But I couldn’t . . .
After all, the original challenge was for a nonfiction blog, and that’s what I was going to do. I just had no idea how I would find such an approach for a title like When the Smoke Clears: Rita, the Rebal Bride of the Recovery Room. Then it occurred to me.
Writing a fictional story was against the rules of the challenge, but writing about writing about a fictional story was not. I primed the kettle, broke out some of my stores of Lochan Tea Castleton Moonlight (my favorite Darjeeling oolong), and plugged away.
And that, dear folks, is what you just read.
Challenge concluded. (With a dash of cheating.)
THIS IS PART OF THE BoB CHALLENGE, WHERE BEASTS ARE ASSIGNED ‘MILLS AND BOON’ BOOK TITLES AND FORCED AGAINST THEIR WILL TO WRITE A NON-FICTION POST WITH THAT TITLE.
As soon as I got given that title, I thought. “Yep, I know what I’ll write about: The Sugar Islands.
After all, there’s no actual place called Sugar Island.
OK, so I looked it up a while later, and there is, but it’s in Michigan. Probably one of the most boring states of the US. They might as well have let Canada have that one, no one would care.
And anyway, nothing important involving tea ever happened in the USA.
Well, there was this one thing, but it’s a long time ago and they’ve probably forgotten about it.
So, where was I? The Sugar Islands.
OK, lots of islands probably grow sugar. Even Australia grows sugar, and we are the biggest island there is.
But to me, Sugar Islands means the West Indies.
Growing up in Australia in the 1970s, I learnt very quickly that this is where a bunch of men came from who were elegant, dignified, had old fashioned names like “Garfield” and “Lancelot” and the most amazingly rich and beautiful speaking voices, had great sportsmanship, were very, very tall and were absolutely committed to killing people with a cricket ball by launching it at fearsome speeds from a great height.
Some people don’t think the West Indies is an accurate description of a real place. They point out that places like Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and the like are actual countries, and that the West Indies is just a cricket team. Well, screw them. This is my post, and if I choose to use a phrase that is redolent of historical colonialism, I shall, Don’t like it? Go read some other blog about how some single mother in Michigan can’t decide between two brands of infant formula.
So, did I mention The Fable of The Bees yet?
In 1705, the book “The Fable of The Bees: or, Private Vices, Public Benefits” was published by Bernard Mandeville. It’s basically one poem “The Grumbling Hive: or, Knaves turn’d Honest” and a few notes. Bernard considered himself an economist, and given that so far he’s got four friggin’ titles for essentially one short poem, he’s clearly not too far wrong.
Bernie was a riot.
Anyway the book was ignored for a few decades, and then became suddenly popular around 1730.
Here’s a bit of it for your, er, enjoyment:
For many Thousand Bees were lost.
Hard’ned with Toils, and Exercise
They counted Ease it self a Vice;
Which so improved their Temperance;
That, to avoid Extravagance,
They flew into a hollow Tree,
Blest with Content and Honesty.
Basically, the point for Bernie M was never mind Psalm 137:1* and all that pleasing Jesus stuff, Christianity is bad for society. Consuming as many luxuries as you can is the new mantra. Eating humble pie might get you into heaven, but you eating partridge pie is far better for the local pie shop owner.
Like many others, he was championing consumption – not the Tuberculosis kind, although that was popular at the time as well. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we can afford new shoes.
And so, someone came up with the idea of putting sugar in tea.
Neat, hey? You thought I’d forgotten the sugar. Well, I hadn’t.
So,. why would a bunch of economists want people drinking tea with sugar?
Well, here’s a clue from Portcities website:
Some 2,108 slaving voyages set out from Bristol between 1698 and 1807. The number of voyages varied, from over 50 each year in the 1730s, to less than 8 a year in the 1800s
Ok, so the height of the slave trade is the 1730s, and these economists are exhorting the consumption of luxuries, including sugar, in the 1730s. Co-incidence? No!
Basically, slave ships from the UK left port, sailed for West Africa, collected up to 600 slaves, took them to the sugar plantations in the West Indies, sold the survivors, loaded up on sugar, and sailed back to Merry Olde England.
So, if not for tea and cakes – the two main uses of sugar at the time – there would have been a damn sight less than 2,108 slaving voyages from Bristol. Not to mention the dozen or so other ports involved.
It’s basically a circular argument. without the need for sugar, there’s no need for slaves, and therefore no need for slave ships.
It’s a trend we see to this day: Create the demand and create the wealth.
Now, the obvious question is this: If we know that slavery consists of robbing people of their liberty and transporting them thousands of miles away, treating them like animals and possessions simply to make money, didn’t people in the 1700s and thereabouts feel a bit guilty every time they tucked into some sweetened tea and a bit of cake?
I know it makes me a little uncomfortable. And by “a little uncomfortable”, I mean the “Why the hell aren’t we marching in the streets and burning down buildings?” kind of discomfort.
So, who was speaking up for the slaves? I guess they might have been relying on the clergy. Here’s what one of those guys said:
“The question at issue then is, whether or not six millions of British White people, to whom rum and sugar have become a sort of necessary luxury, should, contrary to the Law of Luxury, sacrifice the use of rum and sugar to the liberty of few thousand Black people from the wilds of Africa” – From “An Apology for Slavery; Or, Six Cogent Arguments Against the Immediate Abolition of the Slave-trade, by The Reverend Alexander Geddes, 1792
With all due respect to the Rev Geddes, he was a git. He’s a prime example of why people cast doubt on the self-serving smug pricks who think a friggin’ cassock or dog collar makes them virtuous. “Law of Luxury”, indeed. I’m surprised he didn’t add some “Commandments of Comfort”.
Sure, there were other members of the clergy who were against the slave trade, but the convenient narrative promulgated now is that the shopkeepers were the supporters of the slave-derived goods and the clergy were against, and it’s not so.
And indeed, here we come to a shopkeeper:
“…..Being Impressed with a sense of the unparalleled suffering of our fellow creatures, the African slaves in the West India Islands…..with an apprehension, that while I am dealer in that article, which appears to be principal support of the slave trade, I am encouraging slavery, I take this method of informing my customer that I mean to discontinue selling the article of sugar when I have disposed of the stock I have on hand, till I can procure it through channels less contaminated, more unconnected with slavery, less polluted with human blood……” James Wright, A merchant of Haverhill, Suffolk, in an advertisement the General Evening Post, March 6th 1792
Good on you, James. I raise my teacup to you. Note that I don’t take sugar.
The West Indies may now be a region without slavery, and with vibrancy and art and love and food and family and politics and cricket – all the things that make life bearable – but it was born in blood and misery.
So, whenever you’re asked if you take sugar, spare a moment to remember what was taken in the name of sugar.
*Psalm 137:1 is “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” Yes, you’ve been part of possibly the best obscure joke in a blog ever.
I created Beasts of Brewdom five years ago.
The idea was that it was to be a place for out-there tea blogging, specifically by male tea bloggers. Yes, it’s a Gentleman’s Club.
Not in the sense of hugely expensive meals and saucy goings-on, but as a counter to the overt feminisation of tea and tea-drinkers. A place to write silly and have fun at our own expense. Oh, and at the expense of everyone else.
At many an afternoon tea, I find myself the only male, or if there are others there, they look apologetic. It’s a female domain, it seems. And the Internet is much the same.
SIDEBAR: Are you a young man looking for female company and capable of maths? If so, why aren’t you attending as many afternoon teas as you can? 99% female and often sadly focused on champagne rather than tea. Stop reading now, Sonny, you have a social diary to plan.
So, I created this space for three bloggers: Geoff, Ken and myself to be louder, more obnoxious, more testosterone fuelled than usual. I mean more than is usual for us, because we’re not exactly Charles Atlas types. more ‘read an atlas’ types.
I look back over 2014 and there’s a few sarcastic poems by me, one article by Geoff, none by Ken and a few by latecomer Johnny Teacup. That’s a bit rubbish, isn’t it?
So, should we let it quietly die? I SAY “NAY” in a strident, yet not equine, way.
I’ve just updated the background to a sort of gentlemanly wood panelled affair, after the Tea Trade crash that caused many of the photos to disappear.
And I’m issuing a challenge. AND BECAUSE WE ARE RUGGED, TOUGH MEN*, it’s a CHALLENGE of CHALLENGES.
I call on Geoffrey Norman, Ken Macbeth Knowles, Johnny Teacup and myself to take on this challenge. Further more, if other men are named in the challenge, I call on them to man up, not slink away like a gelded ferret.
So, Dear Readers, CHALLENGE US: Here’s how it works!
- Be the first to name one of the Beasts.
- Challenge that beast to write a post on Beast of Brewdom
- Select a title from this 92-page list of Mills and Boon Romance titles and assign it to them.
- Hassle them every day until they wrote a non-fiction BoB post with that title..
Men who are not authorised to post here can contact me on Facebook/Twitter and I’ll make it happen.
Add your challenge to the comments. I’ll be adding one straight away.
Buckle on your sword belt, Beasts, and let’s take this challenge down.
*More or less
A cup needs an infuser, half full of leaf tea,
To make a reasonable brew, satisfactorily.
A teapot needs loose leaves all roaming free,
And a strainer, to perform spectacularly.
But what of those times, when the two ideas meet?
You enter a tea shop, fresh from the street,
And respond to the person whose task is to greet,
“A two-pot of Assam”, so malty and sweet.
And so it arrives, steam wafting up,
You grab the pot’s handle and manoeuvre the cup,
And the liquid’s not tan, but pale buttercup,
You whip off the lid for an infusory checkup
And there in the teapot’s cavernous inside,
You follow the chain that is tied to the side,
And see that the Assam that they did provide,
Is trapped in a tiny ball they’ve supplied.
“This won’t do! It’s unconscion-able”
You scream as you climb on top of the table,
“You’ve imprisoned my tea, it should be flable,*
But to twist, turn and brew, it’s completely unable”.
“I won’t stand for this! I’ll start a brawl!,
I’d get better tea in a boarding school hall,
This tiny contraption is no good at all,
The fine leaves are trapped in the tiniest ball!”
You must hope this behaviour is a lesson they learn,
What to do for tea-suppers whose pennies they earn,
Those customers whose goodwill they don’t wish to burn,
Who expect good results when they turn to the urn.
For all of the teapots that are served in these malls,
And corner cafés and family dining halls,
Issue dark liquor cascades, like Niagara Falls
When they encapsulate the joy of big balls.
*flable is an actual word meaning “Liable to be blown about”. I’m using it metaphorically. And with an air of desperation.
There’s a fat guy, he’s jolly, he hangs about with deer,
And he’s awfully lazy, works just once a year,
He dispenses judgement, and often good cheer,
But fail to meet his standards and you’ll get nothing, I fear.
He’s always running late as he covers the world,
Each rooftop has sleigh-marks of stripes and swirls,
Each stocking he’s filled for each boy and girl,
With books or toys, chocolate or pearls.
And for special children, those good as can be,
He leaves small packages of the finest tea,
Single estate or blends, rated highly,
From straightforward blacks to those spiced Christmassy.
But he never looks back at the where he has been,
Thus never spots the follower unseen,
The shadowy character, tinged with green
With a minor tremor, post caffeine.
Emily is sleeping; Giddephar in her sack,
Lucy’s contains a Doke tea- the black,
There’s 1001 Nights for the twins, Rick and Jack,
And Travis has Jungpana, a nice little pack.
Young Thomas has a kilo of finest Risheehat,
He really impressed Santa when he rescued a cat,
And that straight-A student, smug little Matt,
Gets Aussie Ginger Chai for his milk (non-fat).
And in each of these cases, into the room,
This fellow creeps by the light of the moon,
Easing the sack open in his moment opportune,
He removes the tea, and off he zooms.
Emily and Lucy have now got a stick,
Jack just two marbles; Travis a brick,
It’s chocolate for Jack and Travis and Rick,
But the cheap greasy kind that makes one quite sick.
While Matt dreams of winning a Nobel Prize,
There’s movement in front of his sleeping eyes,
The top of the tin is lifted and prised,
Buttons replace the finest of chais.
From house to house, this odd figure goes,
He takes all the tea, away with it he stows,
The sack on his shoulder just grows and grows,
Those slumbering children? Not one of them knows.
And then a house that Santa’s just left,
He lifts the stocking with a mighty heft,
But he’s shocked, he’s stunned, he’s quite bereft,
He pauses and thinks: he ponders, mid-theft.
This child must have been awfully bad,
Her Christmas in tatters, her visage will be sad,
In the morning when she opens the stocking (it’s plaid)
And she might well feel that she’s been had.
What could make our anti-hero pause and reflect,
And his righteous anger rise, unchecked?,
And to mutter “That Santa, he oughtta be decked”,
“For providing such misery, abject”
This is no sleeping angel, here in this bed,
Her parents and teachers are all seeing red,
She’s been skipping school to watch movies instead,
And her poor little puppy was last Sunday unfed.
She broke all her pencils in a big fit of spite,
She and her brother indulged in a fight,
She crayoned the walls last Thursday night,
And she cut all the strings on her sister’s new kite.
She said naughty words when an aunt came to stay,
She pushed over a toddler at the park during play,
She ran out of the dentist screaming “No way!”,
And packed Daddy’s shoes with modelling clay.
But all of that pales at this Christmas time,
For Santa has committed the ultimate crime,
And the fellow that follows is working overtime,
To come to grips with this cruelty (in a manner that rhymes)
For the slumbering child has been treated most foul,
Quite shocking our figure who’s out on the prowl,
“I’ll get you Santa”, he (quietly) howls,
And he departs with his face all over a-scowl.
“Oy! You there! Santa” he yells from the rear,
“Look at me now! Don’t pretend you can’t hear”,
“I oughtta pummel your face, and stew your reindeer”,
“I’ll slap you silly, from ear to beardy ear”.
“What is it now?, ask Santa, quite gruffly,
“Why do you threaten me, all roughly?”,
“I have no idea why you are looming so toughly”*
“And frankly, I’ve had quite enoughly”**
“You swine! You beast! I know what you did!”,
“Santa, I’ve just come from a sleeping kid”,
“I just eased open a yellow tin lid”,
“And found: TEAB*GS. Foul. Horrid”.
Santa just shrugged “Don’t blame me”
“That kid was naughty as can be”,
“Besides I take no responsibility”,
“I’m covered by lawyers, contractually”.
“No child is THAT naughty, you red-enrobed*** swine”,
“You’ve overdone it, this Christmas time”,
“You’ve subjected a child to a bagged teatime”,
“So put up your fists. Your fat ass is mine”.
And passers-by were astonished to see,
Up on the roof, just by the chimney,
In a manner most unChristmassy,
Santa slugging it out, as hard as can be.
On and on, they fought through the night,
They didn’t let up until it was light,
Many gifts undelivered – well, that just ain’t right,
But this was, as they say, one helluva fight.
And meanwhile the children were all awaking,
And looking in sacks with hands that were shaking,
Sneaky looks, while quietly shaking,
And one particular young heart: well it was breaking.
“Teab*gs”, she sobbed, with tears a-streaming,
While others were still awaking from dreaming,
To open their stockings with faces beaming,
Hoping for things all shiny and gleaming.
A left hook caught Santa as he muttered a curse,
Regretting the teab*gs he cruelly disbursed,
And since this is the third-to-last verse,
This fight had to end, both parties were terse.
There is no gift more reviled and detested
Than teab*gs at Christmas, it’s evil unbested,
And for our outraged anti-hero, his courage was tested,
When both he and Santa were quite rightly arrested.
At the station, with its limp Christmas lights,
Combatants explained the whys of the fight,
And one was released, for his cause was right,
Whereas Santa was jailed for 300 nights.
*** Sneaky geeky tea reference
Here’s a bit of a tease…
After a bit of a lull, expect more. Or expect less. But expect something in the next few days
A post about chrysanthemum pu’er, in which Johnny encounters the supremely manly musk of this testosterone-laden tea.
I am sick and tired of people decrying flowers as froo-froo, prettified, sissy-bait, or the like. When correctly viewed and ingested, flowery teas like this Chrysanthemum Pu’er brick can contain all of the necessary ingredients for the Exercise of True and Powerful Masculinity.
1) Like all great shou pu’er, this tea smells of the earth, worked by the hands of the swarthy and well-hung since time immemorial.
2) The flower used in this tea is Snow Chrysanthemum, which has been shown to contain masculianine, the botanical equivalent of human male pheremones. While drinking the tea, the vapors will send the signal of Man to all man-loving people nearby; when drunk regularly, it increases the power of the drinker’s pheremonal attraction by a whopping 790%, making Johnny (at least) the most desirable side of beef in this two-bit town.
3) The smooth, musky aroma of the brewed leaf, the gaiwan lid after brewing, and of the liquor itself is heady and intoxicating, like a memory (though certainly not the actual scent) of over-applied Old Spice on your favorite high-school quarterback.
Smelling and drinking this tea, infusion after infusion, I fall in love with myself…
and there is nothing manlier than that.
Today, in his own inimitable way, Johnny Teacup wrestles with the conventional “wisdom” of sheng pu’er goodness. He lays a copy of a local free paper on the floor, improvises a gongfu set with a couple of swag teacups, and makes the tea sing like Mohammed Ali and Maria Callas rolled into one.
Read this post and behold a work of genius. You owe it to yourself.