106. A letter to Terry ✒️ #24
On mice, longevi-tea and the changing of clocks.
This is the latest letter in my regular, informal correspondence with Substacker and fellow Brit Terry Freedman, in which we take turns every other Wednesday to delve into the things that British people talk about the most. So that you can explore these unashamed clichés for yourself we’re inviting you to read our letters over our shoulders.
My next ‘Dear Reader, I’m lost’ post will of course be published on Saturday.
Thank you for your latest letter, so ingeniously subtitled ‘This has really messed up the numbering’. Well, what can I say, apart from to grovel deeply?
My letter about you, though, was a necessary side-step from our regular numbering conventions. I felt I needed to be addressing our shared readership rather than you specifically in order to soften the blow a little, because it is of course preferable to besmirch you in conversation with others rather than to address any such character assassinations to you directly.
There you are. It was in the spirit of kindness, Terry. You’re welcome.
Fair enough: I accept your detailed (and illustrated!) explanation for your not having offered us space to park our campervan outside your house on our trip to London to meet up with you and Elaine for the first time. But hang on a moment, it’s all very well to park your trap1 outside, but what about the pony – or actually, in your case, the trio of cats which you expect to pull you around the Big Smoke? Do they not have cosy quarters – I don’t know – indoors?
I was dismayed to learn that you’d once found a dead mouse while you were in the process of putting your shoes on. Please reassure me that the creature had been dead before the application of your foot?
Until I was nearly two, four generations of our family had lived in one house. Grandfather kept cats, and they were banned from our part of the house because of allergies (ours, not the cats’).
Mum tells a great story about our Swedish au-pair opening the cutlery drawer and a vast number of baby mice streaming out; the result, my parents concluded, of a pregnant mouse brought in by one of Grandfather’s cats having sought refuge in our kitchen. The au-pair panicked and shut the drawer, and I gather we moved out not long after the mice did. 🐁
To my begrudging surprise I at last find myself in agreement with one of the points you have made about tea.
Tea vs coffee
Your astonishment at the fact that I drink coffee out is misplaced. Virtually everywhere I go the tea is disgusting.
Leaving aside the fact that you clearly ought to frequent tea rooms rather than coffee shops – because the clue’s in the name, Terry – if you are hanging about in dodgy joints where the existence of the teapot, tea strainer and sugar tongs have passed the proprietors by, you have no-one to blame but yourself.
Mind you, perhaps the process of making a ‘proper cup of tea’ is exactly what had made 107-year-old Edna Walmsley from Lancashire such a fan of the stuff? As you can see from this article, Edna feels that drinking tea has contributed to her longevity.
My friend Mary B in Austin, Texas, drew my attention in this post last week to something which I am sure will interest you. She had discovered several pouches of this horror during a stock-take of her office tea supplies:
Let me introduce Quik-Tea – or, as I’d like to call it (and I’m sure Edna Walmsley from Lancashire would back me up here): the an-tea-thesis of longevi-tea.
A chum of my former boss used to keep a manilla envelope taped to his desk for the sole purpose of comparing its colour to the shade of tea in the bone china cup of tea delivered by his harried secretary three times a day. Despite the poor woman having an equivalent manilla envelope for reference in the office kitchen, plenty of cups would be sent back having ostensibly failed their colour comparison check.
The silly man clearly had both too much time on his hands and an overinflated ego.
Colour of tea is important, though, given that it corresponds so very closely with its strength. What do you feel about a teapot being topped up with hot water without a supplementary
teabag spoonful of tea leaves being added to mitigate over-dilution?
And dilution is not a problem restricted to tea, Terry. 🍷 Imagine my horror when I (mis)read the following headline on my news app last week:
On the strength (pardon the pun) of that alarming title I’d hastily added six cases of merlot and a further six of sauvignon blanc to my next online grocery order.
(I’m glad I’d then read the whole news story before checking out the shopping. Because wine itself, I gather, is to remain at full strength.)
Did you remember to put your clocks back on Saturday night? I’m writing you this letter at 1.43pm, and it already feels like halfway through the afternoon. Despite having been satisfied by two soft-boiled eggs at ‘new’ breakfast time this morning my stomach was already growling by 11.00, and abandoning any hope of survival if I left it any longer, I ended up having lunch at 11.20.
(I’ll be having a snack with my afternoon cuppa, that’s for sure.)
I expect your feline housemates at Freedman Towers are feeling rather jet-lagged in the dinner department, too. Are they clamouring for cat treats to keep them going until tin o’clock?
So, we’re back on GMT already, but our friends across the pond get to enjoy summer – summer in time terms, I mean – until next weekend. I’ve already done my research and worked out that I will need to tune into Julie B. Hughes’ Friday Write Along at 3pm, an hour earlier than usual. This time last year I’d missed the session entirely by trying to join the Zoom call at the usual time of 4pm (for Julie, who hosts the call, that’s 11am EST) and wondering why nobody was there... 🤣
I’ll need to keep my wits about me in spring, as well. Clocks go forward across the pond on March 10, whereas we don’t enter British Summer Time until March 31! I guess I’ll be tuning in at 5pm for three weeks.
Terry, what can I say? Time flies!
Write back soon, won’t you? I do enjoy our letters!
All the very best,
If you’ve enjoyed reading this letter to Terry, please let me know by clicking the heart. Thank you! My next ‘Dear Reader, I’m lost’ post will be published on Saturday.
You’ll find the rest of my letters in this series by clicking the ‘Letters to Terry’ tab on the top bar of my home page. Terry and I take it in turns to write to each other on alternate Wednesdays, and I really enjoy our light-hearted correspondence! You can access both Terry’s letters and mine using the index below:
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A trap, pony trap (sometimes pony and trap) or horse trap is a light, often sporty, two-wheeled or sometimes four-wheeled horse- or pony-drawn carriage, usually accommodating two to four persons in various seating arrangements, such as face-to-face or back-to-back.
"Pony and trap" is also used as Cockney rhyming slang for "cr*p" meaning nonsense or rubbish, or 💩.
Taken from Wikipedia. Substitution of an asterisk for the letter ‘a’, and insertion of emoji, by Rebecca.