My friend and I planned to have afternoon tea at an historic estate during colder weather. It’s known for its grand mansion, beautiful gardens and tearoom.
The day before, she sent me an email. “The tearoom is open but the online reviews were kind of nasty, which is sad.”
But we had fond memories of tea in the conservatory attached to the mansion.
“How can they mess up tea?” I argued. “Let’s go anyway.”
The estate’s enormous black wrought-iron gates were wide open. A sign pointed the way to the tearoom – not in the conservatory, but a small 2-story house on the grounds.
We pushed the heavy wood front door, but it did not budge.
Hmmm. The sign clearly indicated the tearoom was open.
We knocked. Then knocked again.
Through a glass section of the door, we saw a woman’s face, grimacing with the effort to unlock the door. We almost cheered when she succeeded but settled for thanking her, warmly.
It was colder inside than out.
“But the tea will warm us up,” I said.
“The place is empty.” My friend raised her eyebrows.
“But we have our choice of table!” I said.
We chose one beside the window overlooking the grounds. We kept our coats on.
We admired the view, then the table-setting: crisp white tablecloth, pretty vintage teacups and saucers.
“Would you like some tea?” Our server asked, shivering, despite her thick sweater.
“I’ll have coffee — if you have it, please,” my friend replied. She was taking nothing for granted.
“I’ll have Earl Grey tea, please,” I said. Tearooms always have Earl Grey.
“I don’t think we have Earl Grey”, our server replied. “We only have Tetley.”
Shorthand for orange pekoe, we guessed. But tearoom staff should know that Tetley makes many teas. This was not a good sign.
Our cups were frozen.
“Could you please warm the cups?” my friend asked. “Just some hot water should do it.”
The server removed our cups and disappeared into the kitchen.
Minutes later, she returned with coffee, tea and a teapot. She also brought scones.
“I warmed them up for you,” she said, eager to please. “And I warmed the butter too.”
The scones were indeed warm; the butter was frozen solid.
But by now we knew: we liked her. She was an older lady, maybe close to 80; a volunteer, likely filling in for someone else. Here alone, freezing in this icebox, she clearly didn’t know tea. But she was friendly, polite and trying her best. So would we.
Coffee and tea served, my friend and I were just about to begin sipping, glad for some warmth, when we noticed — coffee was seeping out of her cup. Rapidly.
We grabbed our napkins, sopped and dabbed and wiped. It was no use. My friend rushed to the kitchen.
“She’s knitting,” she whispered when she returned.
“I’ve never seen that before,” the server arrived and said, staring as if the leaking cup was an alien creature.
“No worries,” we said, consoling her.
She returned with the coffee in a different cup, and waited, shivering.
“It’s cold in here,” I commiserated.
“The furnace broke down”, she replied.
Two women and a girl arrived and sat at the next table. The server greeted them warmly and left to fill their orders.
A few minutes later, a loud clatter and men’s voices; the furnace-fixers appeared in the hallway.
Nearly an hour passed before the room warmed. We spent the time sipping, chatting and giggling.
“I wouldn’t trade this for the world,” I told my friend.
“Imagine if we’d gone somewhere else. How could it possibly be more interesting?”
We giggled some more.
A frightened shout came from the next table. One of the women jumped up, shook herself and stared in horror at something on the floor. A long brown bug.
Their unwelcome guest dispatched, the women settled down again. The server brought their order and their chit-chat turned to knitting. The server showed them her blanket; the women oohed and aahed. It was a lovely thick wool, in shades of blue.
Two new customers arrived. The server placed her blanket on a nearby table and hurried off to greet them. It slowly slipped off the table and onto the floor. My friend jumped up to rescue it.
“I seem to remember telling you this place got some bad reviews,” my friend said as we drove away.
“And I said: ‘How can anyone mess up tea?’ I replied. “I think we just found out.”
But what an adventure.
61 thoughts on “Afternoon Tee-hee”
Love it, a real adventure 🙂
Well, from a guy who writes amazing adventures, that’s one helluva compliment.
The best adventures have a core of the real at their heart. Seriously I can just imagine taking this tale and letting Tallis Steelyard lose on it 🙂
You haven’t had to, you’ve stuck with the story and drawn the fun and the chuckles out of what was there. Not only that but it’s come across so well I’m almost tempted to go and have afternoon tea there myself 🙂
I’m laughing out loud, Jim, you bad boy, you! Hahaha. I cannot promise you’ll have the same excellent adventures — that’s the only problem. But Tallis could have better, I’m sure. Tallis can do anything! https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/about/
He’s a poet, how can mere reality stand against him? 🙂
You made a memory. 🙂
Indeed, dear Judy.
You have a way of seeing the bright side, Cynthia:0)). That was fun to read!
Thanks, Beth. Life kicked me in the teeth so badly, I finally learned to laugh, even when things are grim. Kudos to the therapists at Toronto Rehabilitation hospital. I have a note to myself that says: Smile. Sometimes I want to kick that note in the teeth, but….
What fun! And so nice that you made such a positive from the whole adventure.
My friend and I both laugh at stupid things, so she was the perfect person to go there with!
Phew! What an experience. And you two are dream customers that any server would wish to have.
Haha. Once we settled down for the ride. Good to hear from you, Laurie. Welcome back! How’s the third Maya novel going?
More than halfway done! So far, on target. Thanks for asking.
Wow, Laurie. On target sounds excellent to me!
You bet! I knew that as a writer you would appreciate this accomplishment. 😉
Who knew getting tea could be such a challenging adventure? Thanks for the giggles. You are a master of making lemonade from lemons Cynthia.
I guess that’s true, Brad. I have had to learn!
You seem to have learned well. 🙂
😂😂😂😂 So fun! Sent from my iPhone
Well, you should know, Nory!
hahahaha – we do have fun my friend
I was just sitting down for tea on my porch when I opened your post. I think the misadventures make the best stories.
Thanks. As long as you can laugh about them!
I love the title! And your glass half full replies.
I love the positive spin you kept putting on everything that went wrong 🙂 But you’re right, an ordinary visit to a tea shop wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting – by the way, if I got a cup of Tetley it would be a traditional cup of British tea – I don’t know if orange pekoe is similar to that but it sounds very exotic compared to what I’d be expecting!!
Yup, that’s what she meant — a regular traditional cup of tea. I guess I wanted something ‘fancy’, in requesting Earl Grey!
A terrible yet lovely tale. I thought she was going to be Mrs Overall or the Two Soups woman.
I like your comment! Made me grin. Thanks for visiting.
It was gracious of you and your friend to maintain a good attitude when so many things were going wrong. What type of Tetly tea were you served?
The only one they had — orange pekoe, otherwise known by us plebes as Regular, Everyday Tea.
That memory will bring you smiles for years to come. Well worth it. Ordinary isn’t as memorable.
I like that: ordinary isn’t memorable. Blessings to you, dear Karen
Laughing with you on this wonderful adventure. I think Mies Van Der Rohe said it first – God is in the details. Thanks for a wonderful post. I think a picnic may be called for next time.
Wonderful story. Our son Matthew and his family recently spent a week in an hotel so dire that Mat said he loved it – for similar reasons
Hilarious – what a wonderful story!
And it really happened!
You simply HAVE to go back so that we can read chapter two……!
Haha. I would, but not sure about my friend!
You made lemonade out of lemons with your story, Cynthia!
Or should I say, you made Earl Grey out of Tetley!?
Bad experiences are always much more fun to read about than good ones, and your post cracked me up! How could a tea room only serve one type of tea?!
I found this very entertaining. I don’t think I would have taken well to the cold.
It was cold indeed! At least we had winter coats.
Lovrly. Good yo see the positive 😊
What a giggle, Cynthia! This story has the makings of an old-fashioned farce! I am so pleased that the serving-lady’s day got better and better.
I love your tea adventure, Cynthia! I am glad you stayed to the end to see how it would play out. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you! I hope it made you grin, Lavinia!
It did! 🙂
I’m with you, Cynthia. Sometimes the unexpected just happens … and continues to happen … but this lovely lady had lemons and was making lemonade (pardon the slightly-off-tea metaphor), you all joined her, and it was still quite nice in its own way. ☕️
Now you got me thinking about lemon with tea! Thanks for your lovely reply.
Sometimes those crazy adventures are just what you need to keep things lively ha ha
Haha. Hope you are all well.
You couldn’t make this story up! What a delightful tale of tea! I am so glad you ladies did not get nasty but kept your cool,,,cold. You keep looking on the positive side! Maybe you should write a review, Cynthia.
Dear Cynthia, this is hilarious. I love your make-the-best-of-it attitude. And your title is perfect; tee-hee. 🙂
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
That’s hilarious. I’m with you. No matter how badly the tea is messed up the venue sounds far too gloriously eccentric to pass up.
You said it well. I still grin at the memory.