It has been brought to my attention, by three separate people, that my family and I are forever eating scones and drinking tea. Actually, it’s true. A combination of two months of wet spring weekends, a mammoth festival of bank holidays thanks to Easter, the Royal Wedding, and May bank holidays, plus four damp days in Wales, have resulted in a string of occasions where we have found ourselves at a table, perhaps in a teashop or on a lawn somewhere, with a cup of tea and scone with jam and cream. In fact, I’m not complaining, because it is a lovely, very British way of spending an afternoon, whether it be sunny or drizzling. The teashops of these fair isles are a thing of wonder.
Spring started with a weekend full of picnics. The first was a bikeride to our local Heath, and saw the début of the heart-shaped picnic basket I’d received for Christmas from my Grandmother. The second picnic took us to Wales, the beautiful town of Conwy, for a small stony spot by the beach, surrounded by fishing boats and the wing of a dead seagull, which was only discovered after we’d eaten.
We celebrated two birthdays this Spring, both with Cake. For one we went for breakfast at the local teashop, and ordered Pizza in the evening, for the other we went walking in Derbyshire. Both were lovely. In our family we always make a special fuss of birthdays, and never let one pass without doing something special.
April 29th 2011 brought with it THE ROYAL WEDDING, and the country celebrated in true old-fashioned style. In fact, I didn’t even have to verify that date, I just know it. In our house we eschewed the children and beer ridden street party that our neighbours were holding, and instead had our own celebration, with cakes and tea, and dresses from Jack Wills and Cath Kidston. We spent the night before making bunting, and had a whole day devoted to shopping for outfits and porcelain memorabilia.
We watched the event, glued to the screen, from start to finish, relishing every moment, feeling part of something special. The only thing that momentarily robbed our attention, and only in the boring bits, was the food. Chocolate cake, pink fairy cakes, strawberries, trifle, garlic bread, pizza, tarts and quiches, homemade pies, and everything in between. It was a true feast.
We wanted to make it a special day, one we’ll always remember, like the wartime street parties and jubilee celebrations of our grandparents, and we certainly succeeded. I’ll always look back on it as a lovely day. Of-course, we had champagne and lots of tea.
The Easter weekend felt like much-needed holiday, and with the bank holidays, and royal weddings, and days off, it felt like a long break. We had a day walking in Derbyshire, with a picnic on the edge of a river, always entertaining with pensioners, walking along eating Easter eggs, and a sumptuous dinner in a beautiful hotel in Buxton. Now that we have a child in the family, my cousin who’s almost two, we had a legitimate excuse to have an Easter egg hunt, something we’ve been doing for years anyway.
We hunted for eggs in my grandparents’ garden, on an unusually warm and sunny morning, and then we sat down to tea and cake. My Mum had baked fairy cakes from scratch, and arrived with arms full of cake tins and Tupperware, and my Nanna made a typically eccentric chocolate cake with layers of cream and strawberries.
My Nanna comes from a family of master bakers, and was rightly proud, as was my Mum.
The past two weeks have been busy, with three beautiful but slightly damp days in Wales in a caravan, which gave us two opportunities every day to have tea and cake, an opportunity we took full advantage of.
For the record, I drink builder’s tea. Medium strength, but with lots of milk, and two and a half sugars. Any other way, and I can’t drink it. Made properly, I luxuriate in tea, feel comforted by it, am taken to a higher plane by it. I am so grateful whenever anybody makes me a drink and brings me an unexpected cup of tea, it’s a lovely surprise and kind gesture, but one thing I can’t stand is when someone makes you a drink the way they think it should be made, rather than how you like it. The worst culprit is my grandparents. They believe that tea should be the colour of mahogany, with a thimbleful of milk, and one sugar. After years and years, I’ve finally succeeded in making them accept that I take more than one sugar, and they’ve gone up to two very small ones, but will never reach the full two and half.
There’s nothing quite like sheltering from the rain on a cold day, or stopping off on the way home after a long journey in a cramped, packed-up car, for a nice cup of tea and some sandwiches and cake. Better yet, a lasagne.
I’m actually in love with tea and cake, I’ve just realised that.
These last few pictures were taken at The Davenport Tea Room, at Acton Bridge in Cheshire. http://www.davenportsflorists.co.uk/tearooms.html It’s down a tiny lane, signposted opposite Marco Marco and The Leigh Arms, and is well worth a visit. In a beautiful old farmhouse, with antique tables and exquisite china, they have a wonderful menu and the perfect atmosphere.
All this writing about tea, I’m gasping for a brew!