Beth Miller

Writing and tea


Tea for two, and two for tea

Posted on May 18, 2021 at 10:00 AM

Pixie Haircut set two mugs on the counter. One was a straight-up-and-down piece of white china emblazoned with a Scrabble letter P. The other was a fancy thin thing, its twisted briar handle inspired by the pattern on the cup – a blossoming of unlikely purple roses
– rather than by comfort and ergonomics.

“I’d like that one please,” I said, pointing to the Scrabble mug.

“That’s mine,” she said gently. “See the P on it?”

“But the other one’s the WRONG SHAPE FOR TEA,” I said, accidentally raising my voice.

“I KNOW,” she replied, “that’s why I don’t want it.”

Impasse. We stared at each other and the kettle began to whistle. Odd really, as it was electric.

“Come on, Pix, you must have some others.”

She opened the cupboard and huffily began showing me mugs as if
introducing beauty contestants. I discounted three more thin ones – “presents,” she sighed – because tea does not taste nice in thin mugs. Don’t ask me why, I am merely the messenger.

Next I rejected a large pint mug; these don’t work because of temperature issues. I recoiled from a low wide striped cup with an oversized comedy saucer, and shook my head at a tapered mug with a black interior. No matter how clean they are, dark insides make tea look scummy and/or the wrong colour. There was a Golden Shred Golliwog mug which we’d all bought from a local shop to prevent them being purchased by racists; and another which was the wrong shape (squat), the wrong colour (mid-brown) and slightly chipped.

“That’s the builder’s mug,” Pixie H. said.

“What if you need more than one?” I asked, thinking of our window cleaners, who turn up mob-handed in twos and threes, and who each take four sugars except the gaffer who brings his own Coke Zero.

“I’m afraid they get this.” She revealed the Most Evil Cup Of All: a misshapen monstrosity in the form of a cat. China ears stuck out at the top, clearly designed to poke the casual drinker in the eye, and the handle had been forced to depict a furry tail.

“Godsakes, are those FEET?” I cried in alarm.

“Look!” she wailed, flinging it to the tiled floor where it bounced, unharmed. “It’s indestructible.”

I sympathised. We all have
gifts from in-laws we have failed to mercy-kill.

“You know Alan Bennett spoke at length on this matter,” Pixie said, generously giving me the Scrabble mug and taking a black wrong-colour-producing one herself. “He has a ‘friendly fork, a bad knife and a blue-and-white plate that is thicker than the others.’”

“Oh, don’t let’s get started on the rest of the crockery,” I said, starting nonetheless. “I have a horrid cream plate which is too small and not white.”

Pixie H. thoughtfully stirred her tea. “This is my favourite tea-spoon,” she said. “If it’s in the dishwasher I have to take it out and hand wash it, though I have twenty-four others.”

“Well that’s just daft,” I said.


Originally published in Viva Lewes magazine, May 2012

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