Lines in the sand

I was watching one of those clichéd movie moments the other night instead of doing something productive. It was the moment when the hero says something similar to “That’s a line I will not cross!”. Usually there is dramatic body language attached, including miming drawing a line, presumably in mimed sand.


I recently discovered within myself a steely core of resistance in another area. In retrospect it was not really surprising but I was a little taken aback at the time.

It involved tea.

There is no doubt that clichés are popular because they resonate within us, and highlight something we all recognise. In this case, we all have limits to what we are prepared to do. Milgram’s infamous experiments purported to demonstrate that people can be pushed further if someone in a white coat and with an air of authority is doing the pushing. Whatever the validity of the findings it is true that authority figures can push us along, and potentially arguable that that is how organised religion gets away with so much. Let’s not go there today though.

The reason I am musing on this cliché is that I know I have my own limits. In some cases these are reflected in the charities I choose to support; for example, I prefer to donate to mental health charities rather than donkey sanctuaries, or overseas aid rather than diabetes. All of them are important but I have to prioritise. I will still put a few quid in any of those tins if shaken at me, or if someone is jumping from a helicopter, or whatever. I am just more likely to put additional time or effort into some of them, although sometimes it’s about what skills I have to offer or location and timing. I trust that other people prioritise differently and we all balance out.

I am a signed up professional so I adhere to a code of conduct. This means there are lines at work I will not cross either, and I have had occasion a couple of times in my career to have to stand firm. It has worked. People aren’t evil or stupid on the whole.

Back to the Tea Incident then.

I recently had surgery on both shoulders and as a result when I woke up from the anaesthetic I was severely restricted in movement. The nurses bustled about me and made me feel cocooned in a warm fuzzy glow. They brought me a glass of water with a straw because I couldn’t lift anything. I sucked it gratefully.

This was an English hospital, perhaps more importantly a Yorkshire hospital, so naturally the next question was not “how are you feeling?” but “would you like a cup of tea?”.

I indicated that I would. In fact I actually croaked out “Oh God! Yes!” and hoped it didn’t sound too desperate or needy.

Yorkshire tea

The tea lady checked how I took it (strong, dark and handsome, if you must know), and returned with a mug of the beautiful brew. A mug, I repeat, because this is the home of right and proper tea drinking. God bless Yorkshire and the NHS.

There was only one small blemish on the tea horizon. She had put a straw in it.

“You can’t lift that,” she said. “So I put the straw in.”

“I’m not having tea through a straw,” I thought. I said it out loud too.

I reached forward through gritted teeth to lift the mug of hot, steaming liquid.

The tea lady sucked in her breath audibly.

The other patients all froze, eyes glued to my bed, like a group of medicalised meerkats.

Somewhere the orchestra played tense music at the rate of a rapidly beating heart.

The nurse at the next bed went into one of those slow motion dives across the room, hand outstretched, crying out “Noooooooooooooooooo!” as my arm wobbled and I winced with the pain.

Well really.

Of course I didn’t spill it. It was tea. You don’t waste tea. It tasted wonderful.

As they say round here, even my dog wears boots.

What are the lines you won’t cross, great or small? What are the risks you will take?


116 thoughts on “Lines in the sand

  1. Well, I am a disgrace because I much prefer a coffee to a tea, but on those rare occasions I fancy a tea it has to be strong, with just a dash of milk. It makes me want crumpets. Or boiled egg and soldiers. Mmmmm…..
    My beverage-related line in the sand is a hot ‘malt extract’ product under any of its trade names. People should just eat a malted milk and be done with it! 🙂
    On a completely unrelated matter, as I am catching up from hibernation I’ve only just noticed your new picture up top – is that an Anglo Saxon reconstruction?

    • well no one is perfect! I even married a coffee drinker 🙂
      I am also partial to the occasional malty milky drink so long as it;s not too sweet – but the biscuit version is totally delicious in all forms.
      The picture is indeed an Iron Age roundhouse recon at the Ryedale Folk Museum on the North York Moors – enjoy

  2. Honestly. There is little better than a well made cup of tea. The exception: I must begin my day with a French press cup of coffee. Life — “a line I will not cross” is facing my world without it.

    Enjoyed your story and wish you a quick recovery.


    • Thank you very much! I agree a decent cup of coffee in the morning is a god-send, although I still have to have tea first 🙂

  3. Give me a P G Wodehouse work any day and a mildly hot cup of tea and I am virtually in heaven. I must have the daily restorative with just the right blend of black and green tea, with little bit of soya milk thrown in for good measure. Accompanied by a cookie or two, it makes life sunnier!

  4. I love your post. I would not drink tea through a straw either. Sticking by your principles, no matter how absurd, is important. It shows you are not willing to lower your standards, even on the small things.

  5. Love your post! As a fellow tea drinker I can relate completely – they don’t even ask if I want a cup at work anymore, the answer is always yes – but I could never drink it through a straw!

    • My colleagues too – they remember how I like it because I tell them “strong, dark and handsome” and they don’t need telling again 🙂

  6. Coffee for me every time, tea is my line in the sand, i would wear an England Rugby top at a Wales game in front of my family and friends before i drank tea 🙂

    • Ouch! I have done that but of course on that occasion we won 🙂
      In my defence I can sing the Welsh national anthem if and when required. I had slightly unusual schooling for an English child.

  7. I LOVE tea, we had puzzle parties at Grandma’s house and we always had tea and cookies while we visited her and each other on a Sunday after church. Besides Grandma there were mom and her sisters and some of their children (Me being one of them). Grandma had a milk intolerance and were forced to have Red Rose Tea with Coffee Mate made into a liquid by adding water. I didn’t really enjoy the tea with Coffee mate in it but we all drank it that way. After Grandma died back in 1995 at age 95, we all went our separate ways. All the grown kids drinking tea and doing puzzles at out parents houses. As I’ve aged I drank Continental Brand Darjeeling Tea, but when the Coffee Gal’s discontinued it I switched to Tetley British Blend which has extra tea in the round bags, Red Rose again. Now I’m drinking Bromley Estate Tea at morning and noon and Bromley Decaf Green Tea in the evening because they cost a mere $1.98 a box of 100 teabags at Walmart.. Sadly though I find the high test” Estate tea is making my heart beat rapidly and I’m going to have to switch to Decaf black tea.
    By the way I have had Yorkshire tea, and it’s VERY similar in strength the your Yorkshire tea. Since I love hot sweet tea with milk and sugar in it, you know a girl needs some strong tea, but I’m going to have to have a single cup of true strong tea with breakfast. Thanks for the post.

    • What a lovely story. Our family drinks such a mix of things, but we also enjoy drinking them while doing the Sunday crossword.

  8. There are thinks that I said I would not due and yet with time crossed the line. It depends on the day. But because I love my wife I never strayed. The drama in my own mind would not be worth it. We have now been married for forty four years. The best thing I ever did.

    • Congratulations! Sadly not so common. We made our 30th anniversary last year and still very happy. Some of us are lucky 🙂

  9. I wouldn’t drink tea through a straw either! Lines I wouldn’t cross? I think blatantly berate someone concerning their response to something I’ve created (art/writing). Or spew blatant hate towards my parents, as imperfect as they are. These are big lines. But I love how you illustrated the woman sucking her teeth and how everyone suddenly began paying attention, I was on edge too. LOL.

  10. Nice cup of tea. Now that’s a good idea. I’m certain there is an App I can download that will play situation music, so I will find that, programme ‘ cupper time’ into it and Bobs your uncle.B

  11. My partner is French and will not drink any tea but Yorkshire Tea! If there’s no Yorkshire Tea, there is no alterative…

  12. Reblogged this on Zebra's Child: Living With CVID and commented:
    This is wonderful writing that had me laughing out loud. Suffice it to say that after reading this, I am following her blog. This post will give me a marvelous image to conjure up the next time I am faced with the dreary sameness of hospital days. Which I fervently hope is not anytime soon. In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that while I drink and enjoy good coffee, I am primarily a tea drinker, having been raised on good English tea. I find it soothing, comforting, delicious… and it reminds me that my beloved grandmother always had the tea tray out and set, waiting for me when I got home from school.

  13. very well work done…keep going…i liked it…its nice…as am a new blogger in this world and i wrote just 1 blog (story) ( and unable to find my viewer as like you, can u please help me by reading my 1st blog what wrong with my writing…is really something wrong with my writing or am just expecting too early…your helpful comments will really inspire me… and please follow me…

  14. Ouch! With pained shoulders and Yorkie tea, what a brew…better than Earl Grey. And who spoils a good cuppa with soya milk? Once, atop a thin icy arret at 9am, my climbing partner and I dug out a niche and brewed some tea. Being the first up that week, we were surprised when two guys struggled towards us, which meant decamping and, naturally, re-starting the long process of making tea at altitude. Us Blinkin’ Brits….which is what those Swiss guys said….

  15. I’m a Yorkshire woman living and working in London, I only drink Yorkshire tea and working for a New York business allows me to introduce it to so many non-Brits! Such a joy.

  16. You absolutely will not believe this, I am reading this in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia (USA) and thought I do not get to look at FRESHLY PRESSED that often, i just set down with a teapot of freshly brewed “YORKSHIRE GOLD” tea, and scrolling down the screen, saw your post and had to read it! i will admit to being tea snob, I tried Yorkshire Gold, 30 years ago and have been hooked ever since. Thanks for your wonderful post!

    • wow! that’s a great coincidence!
      Appreciating good tea is a very sensible thing to do and not at all snobby, so long as you can accept that others have different tastes, by which I mean “are not enlightened”. But I never say that out loud. Don’t tell anyone 🙂

  17. Given a username that contained “baglady” I expected (and wanted) a lecture on the proper ways of drinking tea. But I got so much more than that. Thanks for the laughs!

    • Thank you too! I feel George Orwell provides a very useful guide although I cannot agree with him on the milk first/after debate 🙂

  18. Love this! You’re so right about Yorkshire hospitals, if only YDH could prescribe their tea. I don’t even like tea and it made me feel better. Something in the water? My guess would be magic!


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