My husband is reading Erik Larson’s book, The Splendid and the Vile,about Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz. Often, when we’re reading something that engages or amuses us, we read passages to each other. Such was the case with Chapter 36, “Teatime.” Larson describes the British obsession with tea drinking.
…”The one universal balm for the trauma of war was tea. It was the thing that helped people cope. People made tea during air raids and after air raids, and on breaks between retrieving bodies from shattered buildings. Tea bolstered the network of thirty thousand observers who watched for German aircraft over England, operating from one thousand observation posts, all stocked with tea and kettles. Mobile canteens dispensed gallons of it, steaming, from spigots. . … Tea was comfort and history; above all, it was English. As long as there was tea, there was England. But now the war and strict rationing that came with it threatened to shake even the most prosaic of pillars.
Frederick Lindemann, one of Churchill’s advisors, advocated against rationing of the commodity, saying “the wisdom of a 2 ounce tea ration is open to serious doubt,” noting that for many tea provided their “principal luxury,” and undermined morale. Lindemann’s efforts were to no avail; the tea ration was raised to 3 ounces a week and remained in effect until 1952.
My local yoga studio offers tea, served in glass cups. The flavor, Celestial Seasoning’s Bengal Spice, is an herbal, caffeine- free blend that includes cinnamon, roasted chicory, roasted carob, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, cloves and nutmeg and other natural flavors. I bought a few boxes for myself and love how it soothes the senses in scent and taste.
Now yoga is online and I brew my own tea. My writing group is online; I miss the face-to-face meetings. We watched a pianist friend of ours, Misha Piatigorsky, perform a solo concert, live-streamed from the Saltbox Gallery, a venue in Brooklyn. It was lovely and relaxing, but not like being there. I’m trying to adjust. My dinner party with my siblings and their spouses, a sort of annual tradition I began a few years ago, has been postponed. Hopefully we’ll find another date in 2020. Broadway is closed; this week we have tickets with friends to see the new West Side Story. I’ll play the CD and sing along.
I can’t call my son to ask about the grandchildren without crying. I don’t know when life will return to normal. I’ve promised to never complain again. About anything.
But for now, I’ll sip my tea and try to stay calm.
Stay safe, my friends.