The humble cuppa: a philosopher's brew
The beauty of a good cup of tea was best described by a man I knew for only seconds: I was at a rugby competition somewhere deep in the mountains of Yorkshire. It was an awful day. The rain fell with an anger and kept trying to shift as much as turf as it could with every drop. I was dressed sensibly in my beige chinos, a blue club T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops (it was the last time that I ever trusted the local radio weather service that warned you should wear industrial strength sunblock). I looked awful thanks to a cheaply dyed T-shirt which was now close on white around the neck, deep blue at the mid-rift while my beige Chinos were now turned a good colour of midnight-blue. I actually wasn't that cold - or at least I had lost the feelings in my arms, fingers, legs and toes - but the blue dye gave me the look of a man who had just stepped out of the freezer. I needed something warm inside me so I found the only food outlet which was in the middle of the eight fields.
"A'right cock!" was the greeting issued by a stout young woman who had her hair so tightly pulled behind her head it gave her a permanent grin. I asked for something warm and wet. She was about to run through the extensive menu of a beef stock soup or tea when a man next me stepped up to the bar. "Give the boy a cup of the brown stuff. Let it be stewed for a bit. You just want a splash of milk to take away the sharpness of the bag. And no sugar... there is a something pure about the unsweetened leaf. And serve him a large cup that's full to a finger tip of the top. It will give you a feeling that you thought only a sporting success or a good night with a good woman would make you feel. It will make you look on life in a different way... and it will give you some colour to your toes. Make that two love."
I had never thought about the simple cuppa like that. After explaining to the woman behind the counter that we wanted tea with milk and not Bovril and milk, the mystery man handed me what looked like the equivalent of the Holy Grail of polystyrene mugs: a good brown cuppa. I was about to ask his name, after staring into the dark brown mystic liquid, but he was gone. I sipped the hot liquid and felt a wave of pleasure and warmth seep through my body. The power of tea left me feeling like I was in an oasis of warmth and comfort on the dark, damp and bloody cold fields of Yorkshire.
I spent the rest of the day next to the caravan of comfort. I managed to make myself a foot bath which was about five inches deep. Hilda, the woman behind the counter, poured hot water into my pond and kept me warm for hours. Tea had broken down barriers and saved my toes from frost-bite... it is truly a wonderful thing.