A Good Home, Afternoon Tea, Humour

Afternoon Tee-hee

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.”

blog photo - afternoon teapot

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.

blog photo - afternoon tea cup and saucer 2

“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.

“You wouldn’t?”

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Home, Canadian life, Humour - Kinda

Stiletto Heels

As we stepped out into the rain

I looked down at the ground again

And saw her thin stiletto heels

And thoughts went round my mind like wheels

*

“Spring rain!” I smiled, instead of what

My mind thought, which was:Id-i-ot!

As she walked dainty by my side

And went on out to catch a ride

*

Image via shopflyjane.com
Image via shopflyjane.com

*

She grumped and sighed and made a pout

At weather we’d been warned about

She looked down at her thin wee dress

About to turn a soggy mess

*

She looked down at her silly heels

That would have paid for many meals

And turned to me and fussed again

And said a rude thing ‘bout the rain

Thanks to: publicdomainpictures.net
Thanks to: publicdomainpictures.net

 

Perhaps my thoughts would have been kind

If she’d been humbler in her mind

About the wind and rain we faced

Instead of acting so disgraced

*

If she’d admitted her sheer folly

For dressing up like some vain dolly

This day when all the forecasts said

Take care outside or stay in bed

*

But as I stopped and hit “rewind”

The thought that came into my mind

Was that I should have been more bold

And said: “It’s spring! Expect the cold

*

“Expect the wind and rain and fog

And dress for it; you’re just a cog

In Nature’s wheel, so take a pill

And dress yourself to meet the chill!”

*

Image via: dailyregiment.blogspot.ca
Image thanks to: dailyregiment.blogspot.ca

 

But then I had an awful thought:

Were there times when I too had bought

Such crazy stuff to wear outside

And then blamed weather, not my pride?

*

Back when I had more cash than brain

Did I throw money down the drain

On things that mattered not a whit

Back then – was I, too, such a twit?

*

Back when I was a TV ‘star’

And thought that I had come so far

And had to look and dress the part

So this would set me well apart?

*

I felt a twinge of something then

At how judgmental I had been

How quick I’d been to so opine!

And took some water with my wine.

**

A Good Home

Cynthia Reyes — the Crazy One

My husband drives me to the Toronto airport for my interview. Pass it, and I’ll be granted a NEXUS card, which speeds up passage through the Canada-US border.

Never mind the fact that I haven’t travelled anywhere in many years. I have hopes; many beloved family members live in the US. 

The two officers — one Canadian, one American — want to make sure I’m really the Cynthia Reyes I claim to be.

I start to giggle.  Then stop, feeling alarmed.

Cynthia Reyes is a disreputable name.

~~

I’m remembering the time I discovered my namesakes on the internet. 

There was the woman who had a flat tire and asked a passing cop for help, forgetting she had a huge bag of marijuana in the car trunk. 

“Even you wouldn’t be that crazy”, my family said.  Leaving me wondering: do you mean that I wouldn’t flag down the cop, or that I wouldn’t have a bag of marijuana with me?

But I digress.

​Here’s another:  “Cynthia Reyes, 41, of New York was arrested and charged with third and sixth degree larceny on Jan. 27.  Reyes’s bond was set at $5,000 and is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 9.”

Oh dear. 

~~

I now understand how people feel when they have to prove they’re not drunk. Or insane. 

“Well,” I tell the NEXUS officers, “there IS a Cynthia Reyes who is an author too, you know; she lives in the US.  And another one is a paediatrician.” 

I puff my chest out, warmed by the halo effect of being able to cite reputable namesakes.

The whole interview somehow goes downhill from there. They have moved on with their questions, but I am still stuck with wanting to defend the name Cynthia Reyes. So I mis-answer their queries, supplying replies they didn’t seek or ones they requested two questions ago.

The woman officer regards me in disbelief, the man in bewildered amusement. As in: “Yes, we have a live one here, Mildred.”

My poor husband, watching from a short distance, doesn’t know if he should step in and help or let me try to swim to the surface on my own.

~~

As I valiantly continue to screw up the interview, the officers still staring, I start to laugh.

They start to laugh. We are all laughing now.

I wipe my eyes.

It’s fingerprint-time. I must stand a distance from the counter, positioning both sets of fingers on their hightech thingamijiggy. But without my cane, I start to fall over.  The quick-thinking officer stops me, does something with the equipment, and I prop myself up against the counter. It works.

~~

Despite my obvious insanity, the officer now seems to be telling me I’ll be granted a NEXUS card.  

Huh?

He reads a list of things I must do when I travel.

“Slow down, slow down,” I say, still not believing. “I must make notes.” 

If he’s rolling his eyes, he hides it well.

~~

“She is special,” my family would have told the officers. It’s how they explain my strange answers to often simple questions — the way the words come out, or simply the way I see the world.

Point is: You never want to interview me. About anything. 

 

A Good Home, Family Moments

Pride or The Lack Thereof

My good man doesn’t understand why I like my sister’s old clothes. She shows up with a bagful of clothing and I rummage through them like a kid with a treasure box.

The look on his face says: “At your age, you really should not be wearing your sister’s hand-me-downs.” 

I could tell him they’re not just any old cast-offs: they’re my sister’s cast-offs! But he didn’t have older brothers; he doesn’t understand.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coat - bag of clothes

I could say that wearing each other’s clothes goes back decades, to stories like this one: for her first big job interview, my sister wore the light-blue suit that I had just bought with all my savings. She got the job and I shared in her pride. We never forgot that moment or that suit.

I could remind him that my sister did me a favour by accepting my collection of shoes.

Many had been bought on sale in Italy when I worked there.  But some were bought closer to home, after the car accident.  They were a commitment: I would heal, would wear “nice shoes” again.

It never happened, of course, and a few years ago, I finally surrendered. But I knew those shoes had to go to a special person. Someone who wore the same size and would understand.

My sister understood. My sisters always understand more than I tell them.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coat full

They’d also understand why I bought this strange-looking coat, another thing my good man can’t fathom.

“Why are the sleeves different?” he said when I first wore it some years ago.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coatsleeve 1

Blog Photo - Cynthia coatsleeve 2

“And those buttons!”

I said each purchase contributes to funds for families in the Himalayas. That didn’t change his mind.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coat closeup

It’s been over-worn. When the zipper got stuck last week and I had to step into the coat, cane and all, in the middle of a restaurant, he wasn’t there. And a good thing, that: he’d have turned white with astonishment — a difficult thing for a black man to do.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coat zipper

“You did what?” he asked, when I mentioned it. 

“It was a struggle! And when I looked up, giggling, other patrons burst into laughter,” I blithely continued.

“And that didn’t bother you?”

“Of course not!”

You should have seen the look on his face. 

The issue, you see, is personal pride and dignity.  It seems I’ve lost all of mine.

~~

Dedicated to my sisters, and to my husband, who love me, no matter what.