Virginia Barton

10 February 2017: Milk and sugar?


10 February 2017


george-orwell-1024x765If you read it, my Commonplace last week ended with the name of George Orwell (left). He crops up again this week because I stumbled across an essay he wrote for the Evening Standard in 1946 called “A nice cup of tea”.  He, like Johnson and Dickens, extols its delights, and describes the best way to spin out the ration that was imposed at that time. Everyone over the age of five was allowed just 2ozs of tea per week

There are not many crises that can’t be improved by a cup of tea. Neighbours arrive with trays of it at scenes of fires and accidents. As soon as the baby is safely delivered, Mum is offered one. Post-op patients come round with the prospect of a cuppa and a brew-up is an essential for campers, night staff, and workers on strike.

165 million cups of the stuff are drunk in the UK every single day, mostly by the over 55’s. You reach for it when you are sad, or lonely, or not feeling too good. It’s the ultimate comfort drink. (Incidentally, tea drinking, originally an upper-crust habit, was plugged among the working classes by the Temperance Society as an alternative to alcohol. It would seem that it caught on.)


BH always made the tea in our house and I would say to him that, for a foreigner, he made a lovely cup. He would put on a special Jacques – think A Tale of Two Cities – tea-making hat; red woollen, droopy down one side. He looked very fetching in that hat.

I make the tea nowadays and swear it’s not as good as his. Perhaps because I’ve mislaid the hat?





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