Working class champagne

It wasn’t the fact the smoke alarm room started beeping a ‘what the fuck o’ clock’, this very early that irked me. Nor was it the fact that when my housemate met me in the queue for Sainsbury’s this morning, she tired to squeeze some black latex gloves onto my hands, causing me to remark “ Ah, my OJ moment” Don’t worry, neither did she. No, it was standing in front of the shelves containing PG Tips and me thinking ‘I hope I don’t run out of tea.’ or, as I heard someone once describe it with wonderful elegance ‘working class champagne’

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not joking when I write that life without ‘working class champagne’ wouldn’t be life at all. It’d be an existence, being reduced to being nothing more than a large pasty coloured cockroach. Mind you, thinking about it, that wouldn’t be so bad actually. They’re meant to able to survive anything…

And the Verve Cliqout of tea? By a wide margin that is undoubtedly PG Tips. No question. You may disagree, but you’d be wrong. Not as wrong as someone who prefers  the devils sperm – coffee, to everyone else – would be though. I tried coffee once, admittedly as a child, and granted it was instant, but still, it looked like it tasted. Liquid shit.

Anyway, back to happier thoughts. My fondest memory of tea was of course Ireland, at my Uncle Paki’s house.They do love a cuppa there.  The first time I entered his house, I can remember him saying’ You know where the kitchen is, make yourself at home.’ Which was just as well as all there were in his house were, it seemed to a child, far too small and therefore utterly pointless cups. So I did what any determined child would do and made two cups at the same time, reasoning – quite correctly – that by the time I’d finished one I’d want the other. Because I don’t sip tea, no, I down it in one, and if its really good, I mean if it really hits the spot, then its a ‘darling cup of tea.’

Then on my first foreign holiday when I was 19, me and friend went to Turkey, to a remote place – well it was then – called Patara, which we chose because of its endless pristine beaches, deserted due to them being a turtle breeding site. Or something. The main thing was that because of this there was no development allowed between the beach and the small town, so consequently, there was one tiny hotel. On my first morning there I asked the girl behind the bar for a large jug of boiling water, some milk and some sugar and a mug. Being English she knew exactly what I was going to make. ‘Could she buy some off me’ she asked. ‘No’ I said and just gave her a load. From then on excellent service ensued and I learnt a handy travel tip to boot. PG Tips is a holiday currency like no other.

I mean yes, I’ll go abroad and marvel at their architectural wonders, enjoy their cuisine, find their traditions quaint and customs out-dated, be impressed by their breathtaking natural beauty, but there’s no way I’ll drink what they imagine tea to be.

And judging by the gratitude of English people abroad, clearly I’m not alone in this. I’ve smuggled large boxes of PG Tips twice into America, which was just as well, given as how most Americans think tea is something Bostonians throw about. Americans, it seemed to me, met had not even the most rudimentary idea f how to make a decent brew. It’d be almost breath-taking, were it not for the fact that it wasn’t the breath they are taking.

Some words about sugar. I like tea with sugar in it, how much depends on the size of the mug, and it never ceases to amaze me how people would react to this. I’d be at someone’s house for the first time, all teeth and smiles to make a good impression, and then they’d make some tea. Then I’d see the size of the mug, and they’d ask ‘Do you want sugar?.  I’ve cut down, but three teaspoon full’s – heaped, not levelled –is normally a safe bet. Cue horror. Anyone would think I’d said the only thing James Dyson has invented is a way of persuading people with more money than sense that spending £300 in a hairdryer is a good idea. ‘Oh’ I would say ‘I didn’t know that rationing was still in force.’ Mind you, more often than not be the sort of people who would only have brown sugar handy, and would have to make a big song and dance about finding some white.

A couple of years ago I found out I had borderline high pressure and was informed that one way to lower it was to drastically reduce my intake of sugar. Sensible advice which anyone able to read without moving their lips would immediately resolve so to do. However the solution offered, less sugar in the tea was as much a non starter as trying to get three items of fresh meat past the checkout this morning. My idea was better and had – has had – a much greater likelihood of success. The same amount of sugar in the tea, only less tea to begin with.

Oh and tea is best in a mug not a cup, were not re-enacting a scene in a Jane Austen novel. The consternation I’m in when my partner and I are on holiday and I discover the mugs are plain wrong. I have big mugs at my house, one’s you can get a pint –Brexit! – into, so on holiday I make do with two. It has been known in emergencies, for me to repurpose another larger receptacle – a jug, normally – as a holiday mug. I really should buy a holiday mug, It happens that often….

So tea for me is an essential. I’d go bloody, well, bloody, if I didn’t have it. And don’t go thinking ‘If it matters that much to him, why doesn’t he just re-use them?”

Because I’m not a fucking….