I am particular about my tea. Most particular.
Last year I had to create a colour chart to ensure I was no longer presented with grey watery offerings in the wrong mug. The wrong mug is any sort that is thick-rimmed. The right sort is bone china, of a certain size. I do not want a thimble; I do not want a bucket. Those little battles were won, in due course, and my tea when kindly brought in the morning is a robust warm brown colour… but I have not yet won the war. Sadly, what is known unaffectionately as ‘half-a-cup’ still arrives from time to time – an abomination.
I sound awful and it is true I will lie in my bed like roadkill in order to be brought tea in the morning by one of the girls (usually the youngest), but once I am up and about I am happy to make tea for you too, in exactly the right shade, volume and presented in the right china.
I have two cups of tea a day. One is the get me going one first thing, the next is the 4 o’clock cup that I make for myself. I’ve been in my routine so long that I was not aware what the consquences of messing with it were…
Yesterday, I skipped the 1600 brew. Instead, I set off up the M5 to drive back to Essex from Devon. I played Russian Roulette – weighing up the benefits of an empty bladder against the late afternoon caffeine fillip that I have come to take for granted. Big, big mistake.
I was so tired as I went head-to-head up the M5 I almost had to give up and pull into the Gordano services near Bristol. If you don’t use the M5 then you won’t know this, but with it’s one burger rating and £100 parking ‘fines’ for exceeding the 2 hour limit, you don’t go to Gordano unless you are somewhere beyond desperate. I therefore struggled round the bend onto the M4 as far as Leigh Delamere, which is better than Gordano, but not as good as *Membury, or **Reading which are the best. (Best is a relative term here – you’ll be ripped off and depressed in any of these land that time forgot dumps.) Anyway, the obvious move at Leigh Delamere after I had finished collapsing in the bad boy massage chairs (I didn’t pay) was to get a cup of tea on board as quickly as possible and see if the driver in me could be revived. By now I was 2.5 hours late on the tea timetable and things were pretty touch and go – if there had been a tannin IV set up nearby I would have been first in line.
I was reminded of the first time I went to India and travelled round the desert state of Rajasthan. No matter how long and arduous the journey, a cup of chai at the roadside always perked me up every afternoon. Chai may not be my first choice, and it’s less than half-a-cup served in a small glass, but it’s better than nothing at all. Tea has magic properties, no doubt. That is, apart from the tea at Leigh Delamere. The tea there yesterday, that was meant to be my lifesaver, was worse than dish water.
The bag purported to be from Tetley, the water masqueraded as boiling, and I asked for fresh milk in a jug but the whole confection was rank. Consequently, as I tried to sip the imposter beverage I nearly had a breakdown.
I only made it back to Essex at all thanks to strong root ginger beer, wasabi peas and more mini Easter eggs than I actually ate at Easter. And that my friends is messed up.
Lesson learned. No more skipping the late afternoon brew; it could have been fatal. As it is I am quite altered. Perhaps irrevocably.
*Sub-standard toilets apparently, but I don’t notice
**Beware scammers here saying that they have run out of petrol and asking for £40
PS The 5 burger rated services along the M4 is Chievely, near Newbury, but you have to come off the motorway and get involved in traffic lights on roundabouts and I never can quite face the additional faff.