When I am at work I often fancy a cup of tea, nectar of the gods, to ease my day. I like tea. If I had not had the fortune to be born British this may have been more problematic, but here tea drinkers are looked on with affection and understanding.
Sometimes. In offices across the land there is a terrible blight and I need to tell you about it. I will not shield you. Prepare to be shocked.
In many offices kettles have been replaced with…hot water taps!
The tap is supposed to dispense boiling water. My dears, the tap lies. The water is not boiling; it is warm but it is not boiling. It cannot brew tea, not even the mass-produced, bagged variety.
Office workers are betrayed, and in their agony they turn to instant coffee or immerse tea bags in the tap’s effluvium to produce a drink inaccurately referred to as tea, but in fact, not tea. No one is clear why the taps are there. ‘Elf and Safety is blamed, but I am not sure. I believe it is a conspiracy to weaken our moral fibre in preparation for the Great Invasion.
Meanwhile, colleagues offer to provide me with the elixir of life.
“Tea?” they ask brightly as they take the round. Some have already turned to the Dark Side and request the granulated coffee option. I can sympathise. We have all been tempted and not always resisted. We are only human after all and these taps are inhuman.
I continue to fight the good fight, today at least. “Yes, please,” I say, heart sinking.
“How do you take it?”
“Like my men, strong, dark and handsome,” I tell them. They remember that better than “Strong please, not too much milk.”
One colleague in particular is excellent at managing to wring flavour from a limp tea bag suspended in warm water. I applaud his ingenuity and am pathetically grateful that he turns his talents to providing me with a drink that is more palatable than the usual alternative. He understands and shares my pain. In fact, he makes it his mission to produce a drink that is recognisably of the tea family. Each time he succeeds it is a little victory against the Dark Forces.
There is a storm coming, possibly in a teacup.
A couple of weeks ago the tap refused to provide water at any temperature. It runs out now and then, as if dribbling luke warm liquid is so exhausting that it cannot be expected to meet our insatiable demands any longer. Drama Queen!
I needed tea. I don’t mean I just fancied a cup. I needed it. Like a junkie. The Want drove me. I knew there was a kettle, hidden away for emergencies. I asked around, wheedling. I found it and got it out and boiled water. God, that tea was good. Oh so good. I left the kettle out for other people to use until the tap was restored. I became a pusher.
It’s still there. It turns out that I am not alone, that many of us prefer to boil the kettle. We smile and look a bit embarrassed and admit that we prefer to drink tea made that way, as if we should be ashamed of it. This is the evil of the tap, that we do not claim our God-given right to drink tea as free-born English folk. The coffee drinkers use the tap, because instant coffee is fine with less-than-boiling water. To be honest, nothing is going make that stuff OK to drink.
I think it may be too late to put the kettle away again. We know it’s there. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. You can’t pretend the kettle does not exist, any more than you can claim the earth is the unmoving centre of the universe. “And yet it boils,” you might say, so long as the Inquisition were not around.
If I am remembered for anything, let it be this. I found the kettle and brought it to the oppressed. And if that kettle ever disappears, then I will seek it out again. I will not rest. I will brew.