Being British, one would think I could understand the British predilection for a nice cup of tea. Tea is offered in any and all situations when in Britain; a family get-together, a celebration, a loss, a new baby, a gossip fest and not forgetting a heartbreak. Anytime one of these things happen the first the thing one must always do is offer a cup of tea.
I remember when I was 14 years old being on a trip with my school band for a tour of Europe. I was a saxophone player but not by any means an accomplished musician. Even if my parents prayed for it every night, it was never going to happen. You see I liked boys more than the saxophone.
I was so innocently in love with another saxophone player called Billy Howard, who was also the reason why I wanted to play the sax in the first place. Billy at the time seemed so much older and more mature than other boys, even though he was only 16. I thought he was amazing and I quite literally followed him around everywhere like a little puppy, much to his annoyance. To me he was the perfect boy with a smile that made my tummy do somersaults and eyes that twinkled like he was always up to mischief. Of course, he thought I was young, silly and stupid.
I made sure I knew what time he got up every day while we were travelling and I always happened to be around whenever he went anywhere. Early one morning as we were headed on a boat to Holland, I was waiting for a cup of tea when I caught a glimpse of the boy who had stolen my heart. I sat down with my cuppa and hoped he would come and sit at my table, or just near me or even facing in my direction. It was not to be. He sat at another table with his back to me. Each time this sort of thing happened I was a little more heartbroken.
I sat alone and sipped my tea and for a moment all my heartache slipped away. It was the absolute perfect cup of tea. It was milky and strong and just faultless in its simplicity. As the ship rocked with the waves and I continued to enjoy my brew, the world felt a better place and I was just happy to be in it for that sweet moment. I remember closing my eyes and not even seeing Billy Howard, only seeing the ocean and tasting that milky bitter goodness of the perfect hot drink. My heart changed that morning and I knew immediately what a cup of tea meant to the British.
Since that day I have tried to replicate that perfect cup of tea without success. I have had a few that came close but nothing that put me in the moment the way that cup of tea did. The tea was unforgettable and I can still distinctly remember its taste and comforting warmth on my hands, but I can’t even remember what Billy Howard looked like.
Now when a friend is in need for any reason the first thing I say is “WOULD you like a cup of tea?”
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