We Shall Fight On the Beaches

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.

2012_09_secrettea04-640x426

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 blogbliss. 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.”

Earl Grey tea, is there anything more revitalising?

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.

The cake, the candle, and Chantelle

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.

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20 comments

  1. LHW

    DARLING! I’m catching a plane over to yours if only so I can sit with you at said stunning tea-room!
    (and I most definitely will go for the coffee and hazelnut & Earl Grey !!!)
    This all sounds so heavenly 🙂
    Happy belated birthday my love }{

  2. Impeccably written, as expected from you. And how vividly you describe the pleasure of a quiet refuge amid the hustle and bustle of London! Nice way to celebrate your birthday! xxx

  3. Chantelle

    You managed to turn our splendid afternoon tea into a truly beautiful piece of prose. I think we all need a place that reflects our dreams of the faded image.

  4. And here I always pictured all of indoors wartime London to be a mix of a workhouse and Magwitch’s infirmary. I’m happy to see that these secret tea rooms exist though! You were quite lucky the air raid warden hadn’t caught the two of you.

    Also, *lifts glasses* It iz I, the Dutchling.

  5. Hmm, the tables turned now, Darling. Speechless. And delightfully gobsmacked. Your writing is so exquisite that I can almost hear Earl Grey quivering in the cup!
    Cannot think of a better Sunday afternoon…. nor would I.
    xoxox

    • D'arcy

      Thank you, dearest. I foresee a lot of tea and joy in our future! I have developed a new method of divination: reading biscotti crumbs. Mwah! xoxo

  6. Astor E Teller

    Wow, you almost had me convinced that I should move back to London… Almost, but not quite. The problem is, once you experience that one moment of tranquility, you have to step back into the real world sooner or later. However, I am pleased that you had such a wonderful tme at this not so secret location. Happy Birthday!!

    • D'arcy

      Stepping back into “the real world” is one of my least favourite things. I often ask myself where my world stops and the real world begins; the lines are so blurred… As a native Londoner I have a love/hate relationship with this city, but I’m glad you found the narrative compelling! Thanks x

      • Astor E Teller

        I know exactly what you mean. I decided to leave London in the mid 90’s when the IRA were very active and the police were armed on the streets. That and being involved in a train crash did it for me. But I do miss visiting MOMI and the NFT on the South Bank, they were my escape from the ‘real world’.

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