Friday, 7 March 2014

We have to talk...


I’m glad you’re here. We have to talk. You, and I, and the rest of the nation. We have to talk, about tea. You see, tea, is becoming a very serious business. And ultimately, a very problematic one.

Undoubtedly, whether you have a ‘cuppa’, a ‘char’, or a ‘brew’, you’re particular about how your tea is made. ‘Not too strong’, ‘not too weak’, ‘not too much milk’, ‘more milk’, ‘sugar please’… And it’s not just the liquid itself that concerns you – ‘No! Don’t stir it that way, stir it this way!’, ‘ you’re not using the right mug’…’too hot’, ‘too cool’, ‘fill it up a bit’… Yes, unless you’re one of those people on the edge of society – ‘no thanks, I don’t like tea’… - you surely have a recipe for your perfect cup. And largely, though you accept substandard versions politely (we are British after all), nothing but this honed and hallowed formula will really do.

I admit, I like to drink my tea, from a cup with a pale interior. No, not a cup, a mug…cups are too small. You can’t get your hands around them, and I like to ‘hug’ my tea. You see, if you’re going to have tea, I believe in HAVING TEA! Sipping a thimble full from a china cup, is far less satisfying than sloshing a brimming mug full against your wet lips and dribbling it on your chin. To me, mugs with dark colours inside, make tea look funny. You can’t get just the right tinge of orange to it, without a pale, preferably white, interior, to your cup. The tea bag then needs to be sufficiently squeezed, with just the right pressure, to obtain a brew of perfect strength. The dash of milk, not too much, just a dash, must be stirred in with a proper teaspoon. Somehow, a hasty Biro, produces far less satisfying a blend. The liquid must be stirred, gently, the cup being sufficiently full of tea that to stir vigorously, would spill it. No one likes half a cup of tea, do they?…or is that just me? This is my tea formula: (mug+pale interior) over (tea + splash of milk)+ (optimum volume) over (sufficient stirring) = perfect brew.

All of us know our tea formula so well, we could probably achieve it wearing a blindfold. And it is a good job, since it is the nature of tea, that much of it is made in haste. Tea is most often a quick and thoughtless process between the endless tasks of the day, a swift route to comfort, or warmth, or a five minute rest of a weary, working mind. The ability to apply due reverence to tea-making is an exception, rather than a norm. But even hurried tea is a very personal beast.

I have met people who, to my shock and disgust, leave the bag in, whilst they drink the tea. Imagine! I like my tea strong, but imagine its soggy paperiness brushing against your lips as you slurp?! No thank you! Not to mention what the prolonged presence of that bag does to a beautiful, white interior of a tea cup. And it is these differences of opinion, these variations in formulae, that lead to the problematic depths of tea that are the subject of this concern. You see, in their haste to make tea in their well-practiced way, every person is liable for the production of a personal ‘tea trail’… Like soggy Asaam snails and Earl Grey slugs, they slide over everything in sight, and forget, tea’s only fundamental flaw - it stains. And where tea unites us, tea-stains have the very real power to divide.

The workplace is probably a good example of an environment in which to observe the production of a ‘tea trail.’ What in the morning, was a shiny, silver, stainless steel sink, throughout the day becomes a golden brown, jangling mesh of deeply tea-scarred spoons. Lying alongside are spent mugs, unrinsed and festering in the malaise, stains darkening by the minute. The body of the sink itself, has had all those who refuse to drink ‘the dregs’, believing tea to have some foul tasting sediment, pour together a soup of cold and congealing brews in its unfortunate base. The slick is now a quarter inch thick with teabags blocking the drain. Tea bags have also accrued on the edges of worktops, the corners of the sink, on the drainer, around the bottoms of taps. A dropped teabag on its way to the bin, lies forlornly on the linoleum. It won’t be long before someone stands on it – spreading its guts like road-kill across the non-slip surface. Brown drips have dried, mid-run, down the front of the kitchen cupboards, rings of over vigorous stirring and sloshing have appeared on the surfaces, and there are sticky patches of sugar, not to mention, brown staining on the tea towels from poor attempts at rinsing the forgotten spoons, and, worst of all, from a double-dipped teaspoon, in the driven snow of the sugar itself.

These are the daily tea-trails of a hundred people, crossing and double crossing and laying down one on top of the other like a gastropod party in a lettuce patch. And these are great sources of anger and division.     

Just as we all have a tea formula, we all also have a tea taboo. It might be, not rinsing the teaspoons that stands up the hair on the back of your neck. Perhaps it is the wet slap of a spent teabag from a colleagues mug, hitting the bottom of the sink, that sends your blood boiling to the surface of your skin. Whatever it is, it’s in you, and it lurks, read to explode in muttering complaints as you make your next brew.

*Tut* Why can’t people rinse the teaspoons? *Sigh* There are never any cups left! Why doesn’t anyone wash a cup round here? *Huff* Disgusting! Disgusting!!! The bin is two feet away – people can’t put a tea bag in it?

Without speaking, people take sides in these little protests. All present soundlessly judge and condemn either the complainer or the culprit. Comments become sly, seditious, in-jokes among tea sects with common irks… *hmmff * ‘I see the teaspoon fairy called in sick today’… ‘Hm, ‘bout time people noticed that their mother doesn’t work here’… This undercurrent of tea-related resentment, exists in every workplace…and probably every home…in the nation.

No one talks about it. No discussion takes place, and so grows the impotent anger, the gripping bottled vexation, caused by incompatible tea formulae…and tea taboo.

Yes. I’m very glad you’re here, because we have to talk. You, and I, and the rest of the nation. We have to talk about tea; our silent divider. Muttering and suppression is not the answer, I can feel the tension building to a dangerous proportion. Somebody is going to snap, and there will be an incident  – please, we have to talk about tea, before someone gets hurt.

The Burlesque Onion


She turned a burlesque onion,
in the too-dim lights of a smoky bar,
peeled off all the layers in slow motion… one by one,
to the edge of too far.

They came off at her leisure, teasingly,
a tiny part of her revealed, coquettishly,
with each movement
but, revealed all the same. And it wasn’t deliberate,
no contrived game,
just the onion would never let her
slice right down
to its bones.
It trusted no one
and it set like stone, to blunt and fail
every knife that assailed it.
So all of her came to light
in the pieces that made it...
and was never quite the whole of a moon.

And so, she came to be, all too soon,
in their dreams,
only the strokes of her twisting dance,
that spoke through
caresses of her tender
hands, that kissed and whispered
when all it wanted
was to shout.

Turn, turn, it howled…here it is,
just there, a little to the left,
or right;
a flash of the onion-skin in the dark of
the night,
and gone again
in the blink of an eye.

An eye…
All mine,
this enchanting,
burlesque onion…

Sentences and words, were said,
without thinking,
as she gyrated,
as she spun and whirled.
And thoughts, thought
without ever really thinking
were surely believed
in the glare of her world and her
blinding spotlight: “It’ll be okay, 
and you’ll be alright.

Because you’re always alright.”

Never injured by a storm 
or a battering night... 

And so out of her mouth, came the default
sound-bite, time and time again,
without discerning;
 ‘Are you ok?’ ‘Yes.’
And the onion kept on turning,
whilst another layer fell off her
like satin or lace,

slid down her curves as silk lingerie, and she kicked it away
with a red-painted toe.
She kicked the filthy layer away,
and set eyes upon it where it
lay - there like a dead thing, there like dead skin,
because it wasn’t the truth. It wasn’t the truth.

Her layers were deeper
and dirtier than they knew.
There was new flesh beneath,
that was easily bruised, and tender with
the price of spent trust,
and for each silvery layer, so effortlessly lost,
the onion got smaller,
all the strength of it
pulled to the core.
And feeling with each word,
tinier than before –
I never said it, I never, she thought. 

Rivers of people and noise swam around her,
as the dizzy of words heard in heat,
fell across her. Of all that those throw-away words
had cost her  - and  I never said it,
unless it was true.

And in the morning
the onion
rolled into a new
day and a train carriage right behind her,
and someone had written upon it: get me out of here…
…too many imposters, just get me out.

She stuffed it in her backpack and went
without doubts, in search of moments she had forgotten
that she had once sought;
in search of wide open spaces, where no root-thoughts,
but all of the onions grew.

Big open spaces, the filthy parts of her knew,
were there only to hide amongst. There to conceal for however long
it took, to be somewhere you could be
somebody else;
a place to be smarter than the onion, still peeling,
on its shelf, in the larder of your thoughts ,
somewhere to be stronger
than the tears it brought and to know only words
from the truth:

“Ah but you’ll be alright…” she heard it whisper,
as it tried to take hold and root
at her ever-watchful back,
and she took the onion in anger,
and with a deafening thwack, she hurled it
across the spaces
at the closest of the trees –

“I will,” she told it, “in the arms of verity,
where I trust, I am safe
being me.” And she walked away,
with an embrace all around, and a thousand things to reveal
and be opened, and found,
in the aching
of passion’s beautiful hours
and the burlesque onion
lay shattered
in pieces, amongst the ground’s sweet flowers.  



Somewhere inside,
of the depths of my soul
flow the rivers of desires, that cannot
be told, lie hours once
spent, and expectant nights;
recline all that lives
in my filthy twilights and my dawnings, my
beckoning wants,
all of them bursting
at the edges to haunt
my touches
as slow-satin caress, to creep and to roll
as bound
tenderness. Hold tighter, push firmer,
sweet stars to ignite…scarlet dreamscape drawn
in the palest
moonlight through my window,
pressed to cold plaster,
skin on skin,
oh my lord and
master of the whispered, the inscribed,
the blind; palm in my neck
and fingers entwined to invoke and to writhe,
like ivy,
with a covering of lace,
not politely to ask, but only to take:
To take screaming moments
and whirl them around; possessed,
slammed hard against a wavering ground,
given no halt,
and no sweet releases,
until the choir of clouds swells and
increases over eyes
glossed with rapture,
every second 
something new
and different
to capture and chain and to viscously drain any traces
of a tired routine:
no words now: only feel,  
on your knees
bones to the wall,
called forth, and called forth, until I can’t
stand at all. Shaking and sheltered, cold
front, warm back,
and clear in all that I do not lack for a second
under cover of you;
all that I am inside, all I desire to do and to selfishly take,
hair pulled,
just enough, at my nape, by darling fingers, tenderly bitten:
and so the truth, is growled and written,
in my ear, from a hidden face,
born in our thunder and the golden grace of
our fires, and the beautiful dust;
born again: to know who I am,
is first to sift
the sands
of trust.    


You tell me you're tired, watchful
of my eyes, and that no one hurts while
angels cry; I say I'm more weary
of contradictions
and lies, of pulling and
pushing of hearts and
minds, of wanting and turning
the hands of time, over,
in my fingers like glass;
of words sweetly spoken and questions
asked; I'm exhausted in losing
and in winning the mask of tomorrow,
or the screen of today,
all can see,
that I,
am damned anyway;
whether or not
you show your true face, to me,
as you utter those sounds,
that only in certainty, should be
spoken out loud: said on the breath
of a sigh - and I turn my heavy head to hide,
and close my eyes:

don't lie...don't lie.