52. A letter to Terry ✒️ #8
Following the lines, observing (future) politicians and engaging with a decent-sized cuppa.
Thank you for your latest letter. My first impressions of the photograph right at the top, which you’d captioned ‘Inside the machine’, transported me right into the inner workings of a place of hard industry, but when I looked closer into its darkly-lit depths I realised that it depicted escalators in somewhere like a Tube station.
Which is a machine, right? Those black tunnels and overlit tiled walkways are just some of the countless moving parts of the contemporary working world.
Although I’ve (obviously) been (very, very) lost on the Tube’s extensive network, I’ve always been fond of the map. I love that each line is a different colour and therefore should be pretty straightforwardfor a disorient like me to follow.
But of course, some places have a colour-trail navigation system in real life too, of course. One of our local hospitals, whose buildings in part date back to the 1930s, has a system of coloured lines on the floor to help patients navigate between departments. And how many of us would never have made it out of IKEA
alive without their sequence of huge arrows on the floor to guide us safely through the lifestyle temptations of the showroom, into the bedlam of the marketplace, on to the heavy lifting of the DO-WE-REALLY-NEED-THIS? self-service warehouse and finally out to the desperate relief of the checkouts and the open door to the car park? I forget whether any floor arrows lead the starving, helpless customer on to the hot dog stand and the temptations of the ’Sweden shop’ once they’ve passed the tills, but by the time I get to that stage I’m begging for mercy, not vacuum-packed gravadlax.
Lines and signs are the modern-day Ariadne’s thread of waymarking, just using colours or shapes rather than a ball of 6th century BCE Cretan string. Mind you, that thread did work for Theseus in his quest to vanquish the Minotaur and find his way out of the labyrinth, Terry, and I wonder whether I should adopt the idea to overcome my own directional challenges? I’m pretty sure that carrying a ball of thread on my rural walks and unravelling it as I go would help me to find my way home, but my two left size nines are sufficient trip hazards going over stiles without adding the inevitable knitting of navigational string to the mix. I’m not sure that the word ‘ravelled’ even exists without its negative prefix, but I’ve sadly only ever been on the un- side of it…
Well, hark at me going all off-piste! Had I not simply looked at your photograph and its clever caption and instead dived sooner into the text of your letter, I would have realised immediately that it does depict a Tube station!
💡 Note to self: read the words, Rebecca.
And it’s not just any old Tube station, either, but Westminster: location of the UK parliament! Well, if there ever were an ideal location to depict the unravelling of ‘the machine’, Westminster is certainly it!
When I rented my sleazybedsit in London SW1 in the late 1990s I wondered whether I would ever pass a politician I recognised on the street or on public transport.
Once I did, in fact: the chap who’d been president of my university’s student union in my graduation year! He was on the ‘up’ escalator at Pimlico Tube station when I was on the ‘down’. I wondered what had brought him there, and later research (I’m not a stalker, in case you were wondering) revealed that he was employed at Millbank. For him it was clearly out of the frying pan of student politics and into the fire of the full-on national variety! I haven’t dared Google his name to find out where he is now, but I was interested to note from a newspaper report a couple of years ago that the lady who had been SU President at the time I started university was – and still is, I gather – a member of parliament.
I was sorry to read about your depleted supplies of tea. I can’t imagine running out of the stuff here: I virtually stockpile the stuff. I’d venture to say that I feel you’re letting the side down as a Brit in not doing so. Buck up, Freedman!
I’m interested to learn what you consider ‘decent tea’ to be? Your photographs show two very different-looking substances: the stuff on the left-hand teaspoon (which you have captioned ‘indecent tea’) looks as if the dregs of any cuppa made with it would contain that unique kind of soggy shrapnel that requires straining through one’s teeth, and the rather more substantial-looking stuff on the right (‘decent tea’) reminds me – and not in a good way – of the woodland bark my folks use to mulch their garden.
And I don’t fancy brewing up that stuff.
Terry, I’m sorry if this blows your existing impression of me as a decent sort out of the water, but I use tea bags. I don’t even use a teapot: no, I’ll fling a sachet of Tetley or PG Tips into the largest mug available, fill it almost to the brim with boiling water and immediately go in with a spoon to mash it around a bit. A bit? No, a lot.
Because I don’t let it
stew brew. I force-brew my tea with impetuous agitation, then add a tiny splash of milk. I don’t really like taking milk in my tea, but after my dentist had reopened his practice to the likes of me for routine appointments after the Covid lockdowns and saw the state of my teeth, he made me promise to make his job easier by not taking my tea so strong and black. Fair enough, I now slosh some milk in to recategorise it as ‘white’ tea, although I’m too stubborn to compromise on the strength. I have my standards.
You might recall this post of mine on the topic of my favourite drink:
That ‘largest mug’ I mentioned earlier? It’s a pint. Here’s proof:
This snap was captured by Julie B Hughes of ‘Run to Write’ during one of her ‘Write Together Fridays’ session on Zoom. I try to make it to these sessions as often as I can: I really appreciate some targeted writing time, and I’m always surprised how much clarity I can get in just a half-hour window! Tea, obviously, is a pivotal part of the process. I’ve popped a link in below - do check out Julie’s beautiful poems, and her link to what I call her ‘fabulous Fridays’!
I must say, Terry, the advert for Woodpecker Cider that you’d included in your letter was a refreshing shift in your attitude towards ‘Puddlegate’! I’ve been worried that one day soon you’d be marching on parliament in a last ditch effort to prevent those drainage problems overwhelming your neighbourhood, so I’m relieved that instead you’re taking a humorous stance on the issue.
(As am I, if that awful pun of mine is anything to go by. 😉)
We’re in March, now, which means we are now in what the Met Office claims to be ‘meteorological spring’. Their website tells me: ‘By the meteorological calendar, spring will always start on 1 March; ending on 31 May.’
Eh? Well, meteorological spring needs to speak to its friend ‘astronomical spring’, which apparently runs this year from 20th March until 21st June. I’d always thought 21st June was ‘midsummer’s day’… but if spring ends then, well, summer doesn’t start until the 22nd. Oh golly, help me out here, Terry.
Shall I just put the kettle on, ignore the calendar and just wait for the world to warm up? I think I need a pint!
Write again soon,
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Only sometimes. No, seldom.
It was already in a sleazy area before I arrived on the scene, trust me. In fact, I like to think that my moving to the neighbourhood had lifted it an entire category of sleaze, raising it from ‘downright sleazy’ to ‘only mildly sleazy’ at the very least.
Millbank is an area of central London in the City of Westminster. Millbank is located by the River Thames, east of Pimlico and south of Westminster. Millbank is known as the location of major government offices, Burberry headquarters, the Millbank Tower and prominent art institutions such as Tate Britain and the Chelsea College of Art and Design.
(Taken from Wikipedia.)
Thoroughly enjoyed this, Rebecca! Brightened a great (unspringlike) morning, thank you. Many moons ago I was Company Secretary for a higher education quango and Wes Streeting was on the board as NUS president. I remember sitting with him at an away day dinner as we were a fair bit younger than everyone else there. And now every time he pops up in the news I have to resist the urge to squeal ‘I know him!’ a la Will Ferrell’s Elf re Santa! 😂🤦🏼♀️
Ok, so meteorological spring is the bookish one, up early each morning to crack on with work after a rousing pilates session and a green smoothie. Astronomical spring: the slightly dappy mate, dancing naked in a meadow at midnight after too many whiskey shots.