They drank tea incessantly. Every occasion imaginable called for tea. It started with breakfast tea, which was always accompanied by biscuits or toast with some variety of jelly or jam.
When the postman arrived, in he was invited for a “spot of tea,” which lasted for the better part of an hour. When Margaret turned up for a chat with Nora, “I’ll put on the kettle” was the greeting most often shared.
It was as if tea was the impetus for all things discussed, for nothing was off limits when tea was on the table. The ladies spoke of births and death, disappointments experienced throughout their lengthy marriages, and hurtfulness brought about by each other’s uncaring children. Was it the tea that opened their hearts to share such intimacies, or did the need for sharing private details call for a “cuppa?” Little did it matter.
The scalding water poured over the silver spoon holding the mashed leaves, its aroma permeating the air, the chipped porcelain cups without saucers, set the stage, quietly in the beginning, progressing into the heartfelt conversational crescendo of old friends.
No embarrassment ever ensued, no pity ever taken, only understanding and deep concern for each the other’s serenity in the wake of difficult and turbulent times.