Now this is not a post about how to make a cup of tea but since you ask; I put the milk in last, one sugar and the water must be boiling. I am the sort of person who will reboil the kettle even if it stopped boiling mere seconds ago.
My Mums attitude was that a cup of tea was THE cure for everything:
Have a cup of tea.
Have a cup of tea.
Bad day at work?
Have a cup of tea.
Have a cup of tea.
You get the idea. I think it is the process of making and consuming that makes it such a wonderful beverage. Boiling the water, warming the pot, adding the correct amount of loose tea to the pot and adding boiling water. Putting the tea cosy over the pot. Allowing it to brew properly. Pouring into the cup or mug through a tea strainer. Adding milk. Drinking. It gives you a moment to ponder and to allow everything to slow down and concentrate on making your perfect cup of tea and momentarily forgetting whatever ails you. The World is a far better place when you have a freshly brewed cup of tea in your hand.
Tea, and the desire to be able to drink it whenever you want and wherever you are has become such an integral part of the British psyche that since 1945 and the end of WW II item one on all specifications for armoured vehicles for the British Army is a kettle so the blokes can have a brew. It’s not called a kettle, (because civil servants) it’s called a ‘boiling vessel’. It boils water for hot drinks, cooking ration packs and for washing. Just like a kettle!
Now what isn’t generally known is that after every battle, a study would be carried out to establish how the battle was won or lost, what weapons caused the casualties, what equipment worked well and what didn’t. The idea being that improvements would be made thereby reducing casualties and equipment failures. One of the things that was discovered during the liberation of Western Europe was that tank crews suffered more casualties when they were outside their tanks than while they were in them. The Brits concluded that this was due to the tank crews habit of pulling over and getting out to have a cup of tea whereupon the Erics and Jurgens, seeing this, would open up with all available weapons. Now I don’t know about you but being shot or blown up while enjoying a nice cup of tea just isn’t cricket!
So, knowing full well it would be impossible to stop the habit of having a brew every now and then whilst in mid battle (and why shouldn’t they – it’s a Brits right to have a brew at the most inconvenient time) and therefore the ‘boiling vessel’ installed inside the tank was born.
The Americans took a different view on this information. They, of course, never stopped for something as mundane (in their eyes) as a brew even of coffee. They concluded that US tank crew casualties were happening when they got out to confer with their supporting infantry. Taking a pragmatic view on this, they fitted a phone to the back of the tank so the crew didn’t have to get out and the infantry could shelter behind the tank. They still do this.
Now look at the next two photos and tell me who looks happier. The Brits with their cuppa or the US soldiers with their telephone (it’s in the little box on the back).
I know what I’d prefer.
Edit: I am reliably informed by a colleague of mine that British Army tanks now have a phone attached at the back so that the infantry chaps can have a nice conversation with the tank wallahs while having a cup of tea. Also, US Army armoured vehicles are now fitted with an internally mounted boiling vessel! I doubt however that our American friends brew tea with it. I suspect they don’t quite grasp the necessity of boiling water. Whenever I drink tea in the States I find myself reminded of Arthur Dent in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when he gets a beverage out of the Nutrimatic drink dispenser which he describes as “almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea”. Having said that, the tea we drank in Hawaii was surprisingly good. Apparently the General Manager of the resort we stayed at was (and probably still is) an Indian. That is, he was from India not a Native American. I digress. Again!
Now talking about phones takes us very nicely to my Dad.
There are two things you need to know about my Dad:
1. A bull in a china shop is based on my Dad. Everything he did was done at 1,000,000 MPH, it needed to be done NOW and he wouldn’t stop until either the task he had set himself was completed or he was in A & E with chest pains! I kid you not. On at least two and possibly three separate occasions he ended up spending a few days in the cardiac ward after raking his bloody lawn! At least while he was lying in a hospital bed wired up to assorted pieces of medical equipment, he had the satisfaction of knowing there wasn’t a scrap of moss or thatch in his lawn. It has been raked to within an inch of its life. A bit like my Dad! You’ve heard of a furrowed brow? Well my Mum and Dad had a furrowed lawn! Two in fact. One at the front and one out the back.
2. The only noun in my Dads vocabulary was ‘doings’. Everything was a doings to my Dad. This often meant that no one, except my Mum, knew what the fuck he was on about.
Dad: I’m popping down the doings to get some doings. I won’t be long.
Mum: Can you get a loaf of bread while you’re there please?
Dad: Of course. See you in a doings.
A short time later.
Dad: I’m back. I got the doings and the doings and while I was there I got a doings.
Mum: Lovely. Will you put it in the cupboard under the sink?
Dad: I’ll put it in the doings when I go out to trim the doings.
Mum: The shed will be the ideal place. I’ll make a cup of tea now before you start in the garden.
See what I mean? Nobody else would have a scooby to what he was on about but my Mum always seemed to know.
Anyway, back to phones and my Dad being a bull in a china shop.
Along one side of my Mum and Dads front garden was a privet hedge. It ran all the way from the very front of the garden back to the house. It was about 3 feet high. At least once a year my Dad would attack it with a pair of incredibly sharp garden shears. Hand operated! None of those fancy electrical gizmos for my Dad. Starting at the front he would make like a Viking Berserker and slaughter the hedge. It must be said it always ended up looking very neat and tidy with razor sharp edges and dead straight in both horizontal and vertical planes. Unfortunately, running up the wall of the house next to the hedge was the telephone line. Yep. You guessed it. The soppy sod cut the phone line!
Dad: Em! You won’t believe it but I just cut the bleeding’ doings with the ruddy doings. Stupid place to put a doings!
Mum: Oh dear. Never mind. Come inside and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea and then you can call the British Telecommunications people to come out and repair it.
So they would sit down with a cup of tea and have a chat.
Dad: Righto.I’ll go and get this bleeding’ doings sorted out.
5 minutes later.
Dad: Em! The phones dead! I can’t get a line out. Stupid bleeding’ doings.
Mum: Might it be because you cut the cable?
Now the thing is, the daft bugger didn’t just do it once, he did it for several consecutive years!
Eventually, British Telecom got fed up with coming out to repair the line that once again had been cut by some crazy bloke who couldn’t control himself and they put the cable inside a length of armoured steel conduit.
Which very nicely brings us back to tanks.
There are times when even the most devout tea drinker is unable to make himself a brew. For the Army, this would normally be in the middle of a battle. Other sources of pleasure must be sought so I leave you with a story that took place during a bit of a kerfuffle in North Africa in the early 1940s between the Erics, Jurgens and Luigis on one side and the Henrys, Ruperts, Guptas, Bruces and Joosts on the other side and is a snippet I found while looking for something entirely unrelated. It is a story told by Lt. Ken Giles about commanding a tank in battle:
“The 75mm main gun is firing. The 37mm secondary gun is firing, but it’s traversed round the wrong way. The Browning machine gun is jammed. I am saying, ‘Driver advance’ on the A set, but the driver – who can’t hear me – is reversing. And as I look over the top of the turret, and see twelve enemy tanks, just fifty yards away…. someone hands me a cheese sandwich.”
So, if it’s all going tits up and you could die at any moment and you absolutely, positively cannot make a cup of tea there is always a cheese sandwich to fall back on.
Have a wonderful day
More Dick soon.