Listen very carefully, I shall say ‘zis only once.
It is so secretive that I won’t be saying it at all actually but when you’re done reading you might bear witness to a virus that encrypts communiqués despatched by heretics and those of ambiguous national persuasion. That’s me all over. And if you would have seen me on Sunday moseying around Soho’s back alleys with my dark shades and faux fur you would have raised the alarm. With whom? That’s a whole other kettle of fish. Keep fishing darlings. Let’s just say that my comrade Chantelle and I had a special engagement. It consisted of fluttering eyelashes, knowing smiles, and red lipstick. No, I’m not up to my usual tricks; we went to a secret tearoom. So secret, in fact, that even the staff weren’t entirely sure what they were doing. We met at what is outlandishly referred to in the literature as “London’s most famous pub”.
Chantelle arrived. We alerted the barman cum résistance agent to our covert operation (cue reservation) and a hushed telephone conversation ensued. We were then led behind the bar and up a dark and rickety staircase that had obviously been on the receiving end of some Luftwaffe attention, and finally into a bright room that bore a striking resemblance to Miss Marple’s abode. A lavish tribute to days gone by. Imagine an Art Deco fireplace and crackling records on the gramophone. Sleek, shapely wingback easy chairs and mismatched wooden stalls. Curtains and tapestries with large floral patterns and delicate lace sheers. On each table, freshly cut flowers and bone China tea sets. And lastly, tiers of the most sumptuous cakes, scones and other fancies.
After a round of musical chairs (Chantelle wanted to sit by a window but then I couldn’t take the glare, the flowery wallpaper was enough to blind me!) we relaxed into a peaceful enclave of tea, tennis and b—oops that’s another blog, bliss. We ordered the cream tea with extra helpings of cake. Yes I know that sounds excessive, but we weren’t hungry enough for the traditional afternoon tea (scones, cakes, cupcakes, sandwiches) and yet we fancied a little more than scones and tea. They had a sumptuous selection of cakes with which to tempt us: cheesecake, coffee and hazelnut, carrot, chocolate fudge and a host of other delectables that quite frankly went over my head. They had me at coffee and hazelnut. The cream tea came with two scones, clotted cream, raspberry preserve, and a pot of tea. I chose Earl Grey, naturally. We also ordered strawberry cheesecake and the coffee and hazelnut.
Now, they were going to have to work damn hard to impress me as I received the most incredible package on Saturday from my dear friend Victoria; her famous homemade biscotti (two different kinds!) sent across the Atlantic especially for my birthday. I was already drifting in a dreamstate of lemon icing and almond chocolate-chip, so I wasn’t expecting much. But then the tea arrived, just as Artie Shaw’s Begin the Beguine played on the gramophone.
I remember thinking, “life doesn’t get much better than this.”
When the edibles arrived my slice of cake was decorated with a single birthday candle. Quel surprise! It was beautiful and the perfect relish to a perfect sweet. The scones were so light and toothsome they could have winged an airship to heaven. I could criticise the preserve and moan about the tea strainer (and trust me, I did) but I shall leave you with the idyll and myself with the memory of a bygone afternoon of leisure.
I went home content. Content with my life and the gentle repose of nature. Which for once, are not conflicted. I am unsure whether our lives can be contrived and premeditated when there is constant evidence of our plans being diverted by minute emulation on one hand and laborious, existential grief on the other. But where there is tea, there is hope, and where there is friendship, there is solace. And where there is integrity of purpose and a creative vision, there is a life worth living. Don’t be afraid of failing. Know that you are never defeated by failure; the only true failure, I have learnt, is to surrender that which burns within and gives you purpose.
Time for tea, biscotti and Artie Shaw.