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AuthorRobert Godden

Memories Of A Childhood

I remember a scene from my childhood as though it were yesterday. I must have been 8 years old, and it was time to catch the train back to school for the term. With my straw boater at a rakish angle and my maroon school tie already dangling off centre, I was sitting in the back seat of a War Office Wolseley.

My oldest brother, Thomas, or Viscount Slim as most knew him, was batman to Air Commodore Sir Spencer Davis-Group, and as Sir Spencer’s chauffeur had taken ill, Thomas stepped in to drive. Sir Spencer had just been ensconced on a plane to Paris, so Thomas had liberated the limousine and so I got a first class trip to the station.

I waved goodbye to Thomas and prepared to board the train to school, where, due to another of my brothers, Oliver, having moved up to Senior School, I would be now called Godden, Major and my younger brother Tristan would be Godden, Minor, whereas prior to Oliver’s Ascension I had been Minor and Tristan had been Diminished 7th*.

Thomas had recently returned from India, where he had been seconded to keep order in a tea plantation called Bara Ringtong. He had formed quite an attachment to the manager’s daughter, one Margaret Cruikshank, whom he hoped was on her way to England  via steamer. He pressed into my hands a flask of tea, made from that very plantation.

On the train, I thought about my eccentric Aunt Gwendolyn, who had recently had the frightfully bad manners to be murdered without leaving a will, leaving several family members quite beside themselves. They’d all decided to get together at Waldorf Stadtler Manor and sort it out but, being a child, I was not invited.

I sipped the warm, sweetened tea as the train rattled toward school and my chums.

As the Norman bell tower of St Mundungus hove into view, I felt, as always, that…

Hang on, that’s not my childhood.

I’m 54. I’m Australian, I didn’t grow up in England in the 1930s. Why am I remembering it so incorrectly?

Ah, I realise that the problem here is that I have recently decided to re-re-re-read some Agatha Christie novels.

In this time of doubt and uncertainty, books allow us to slip out of our virus-afeared lives and visit another time, perhaps one that never really existed. These books are old, cheaply printed and, some would say, outdated, but they are the best form of time travel we have.

Those acquainted with the facts will realised that mythical me was drinking a Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling in the story; and, as I’ve just made a pot of that very tea, I think I’ll slip back into The Mystery of The Blue Train.

See you all later, possibly at dinner. Unless you get murdered, of course.


*boom tish

Staple Diet

I was in the office the other day of an organisation that works in the organic food sector.

In their kitchen is a huge bowl in which the staff can throw organic waste for composting.

I noticed a teab*g in the bowl.

Now, a reasonable reaction is turn over the bowl and a few chairs and scream loudly : “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE???”.

However, my enquiring mind got in first and thought “what about the staple?”.

There it was, bold as brass (although not actually brass), a staple holding the unnecessary piece of dirty string to the filthy paper-pillow of undrinkable (though organic-certified) tea.

I wondered if it was acceptable for metal to be part of organic composting.

Turns out that metal is invisible in the organic process. It’s not seen as organic, or not organic. It just is. It’s like steel is suddenly Buddha.

Does that seem right?

I can’t see any ethical justification for teab*gs: if you care about the planet, why would you use one. But the staple, I think, takes it to whole new level.

Why are we providing worms with steel, the result of thousands of years of human cleverness? On the day when armoured worms rise up, pointing their fannings-soaked steel-tipped mini-lances at our ankles and attempting to subvert our rightful place at the top of the food chain, we’ll all be sorry.

Review: (Tea at) “The Force Awakens”

Last night, we took the time to go and see “The Force Awakens”, which is a new Star Wars film. I mention that in case you missed the scant coverage it has got in the media, on Facebook etc.

So, how to do it? Well, obviously it takes planning to attend such a film.

A few years ago, there was an incident where a cinema in the chain we were visiting banned a patron from taking a Big Mac in, on the basis that ‘hot food is a hazard”.

Clearly, it’s hard to get a Big Mac that is actually hot, and ‘food’ is stretching it a bit as well, but nevertheless, they might well object to a litre of scalding hot tea in a vacuum flask, so we handled this by hiding it in Lady Devotea’s handbag.

We also packed two takeaway cups of the cardboard ripple kind, some sugar sachets for Lady D and a spoon for the stirrage thereof.

But what tea? The Star Wars franchise is at the lower end of sci-fi. It’s  spaghetti western set in space, no thinking required. It needs a bold tea. We settled on Nilgiri Craigmore.

We suffer from the milk dilemma. When it come to milk, I am entirely given over to the dark side. No milk for me. And yet Lady Devotea insists on it. She walks in the light.

I made a split second decision to compromise in the time-honoured way that husbands do, and just do it her way.

It did help that the milk in question is a new one that, if in Australia, you should try. It’s name in Paul’s Farmhouse gold, it’s unhomogenised as real milk should be (or shouldn’t be , if you get my meaning and avoid the double negative) and it’s labelled: EXTRA CREAM: CREAM ON TOP which gives the thing the air of Monty Python’s Mr Creosote.

So, thermos flask full of Nilgiri Craigmore, topped up with creamy milk. Off we go.

Due to a mishap in reading the times, we arrived for a 3D showing and had to pay extra. However, this was offset by the fact that we had our own refreshments, and so saved the standard cinema cost of a choc ice, popcorn  and a drink, which I think they had at a Tuesday special price of $1,342,564 plus your first child.

Anyway, it’s best to wait until the lights go down to start dishing out the tea. I’m not sure if cinema ushers even exist any more, but the last think you need is some spotty faced junior Stasi officer shining a light in your eyes and demanding to know what that suspicious looking ziplock bag in your hand is.

The film started with some nastiness on a desert planet, and as the softer tones of the Craigmore were being obscured by the fact the tea was blisteringly hot, the whole thing fitted together well.

If you get your timing right, you reach the end of the first cup just as one of the characters is finishing a meal, and so you can share the longing wish that there was more in the cup.

So, do the maths. 250ml cups, two people: there’s one cup left each. Working on bladder control theory, and the fact that the film is 135 minutes long, that means the last cup should be served around the 105 minute mark.

My tip is, as soon as two characters are having a confrontation on a narrow bridge, pour. The same holds true for so many movies.

The triumphant feeling near the end of every such movie and the last sip of rich, dark tea go together well: the dark tea and the light milk in perfect balance.

So, I give the tea 5 stars. The film was quite good as well.

AT A GLANCE:

FILM: Star Warsy, has ‘droids, light sabres, good guys and bad guys and explosions.

THE TEA: Lochan’s Nilgiri Craigmore, available from The Devotea in the USA and Australia, and plenty of other places.

THE CINEMA COMPANION: Adorable

THE CUP HOLDERS: Slightly too big for a takeaway cup, so be careful

THE EXPERIENCE IN ONE LINE: A welcome respite from Christmas.

 

 

Over To You, Ladies!

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.

 

Post Challenge Review

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.

And thus ends another challenge.


 

*The four greatest male tea bloggers in the world, according to our sample survey of four male tea bloggers

Sugar Island

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.

 

Sugar Island?

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.

Release the Beasts

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!

  1. Be the first to name one of the Beasts.
  2. Challenge that beast to write a post on Beast of Brewdom
  3. Select a title from this 92-page list of Mills and Boon Romance titles and assign it to them.
  4. 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

The Joy of Big Balls

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.

 

Inspired by our latest tea purchase, a massive infuser ball.

Inspired by our latest tea purchase, a massive infuser ball.

 


 

*flable is an actual word meaning “Liable to be blown about”. I’m using it metaphorically. And with an air of desperation.

A Beastly Christmas

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.

 


 

*Sorry

**Really sorry

*** Sneaky geeky tea reference

Where are the Beasts?

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

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