Nice cup of tea?

It’s hard to believe that a week ago I could neither move, drink nor eat and today I can manage all 3 before midday…fancy! That said I am still taking antibiotics and skin infection still hasn’t gone so who knows where this calm moment may segue.

Now I am in a lesser state of panic my thoughts turn to the important issues of the day which, given, my limited life at present, are of more limited scope. Through the rather dirty early winter light this morning I sat over a pot of tea. That may sound like the start of the day’s ponderings but in fact that is it…”a pot of tea”. Despite my northern roots I am not a morning tea person…never have been…thought I never would be….I certainly don’t remember in the many booklets, websites, advice I have been given seeing anything about cancer changing you from a coffee to a tea person. I can’t seem to find the right words to carry my rage about this…

You may have thought that I would know better than to be raging about something so unimportant whilst bobbing about on my little lifeboat. However, I think my strong feelings to associate myself with the smell of coffee rather than any possibility of the whiff of stale tea  transports me back to the 1970s and a former teacher of mine.

My nemesis still sits behind the same desk in the same room. She is a permanent fixture in forming my lifelong hatred of handicrafts. 2 o’clock on Thursdays she took control of the sewing room like a wizened despot. An orderly queue of girls destined for domesticity formed beside her. This left the disorderly rabble of which I was one, the ringleader if she is to be believed, playing with the sewing machines. Despite many yelled commands from the demon who exuded stale tea, I was “a complete failure” unable to master even the most basic skill of threading the machine. I spent week after week unpicking the birds’ nests that I had creatively made rather than accomplish any of the tasks that were set.

Sometimes she rose from her throne and stalked the room – the cigarette drenched cardigan giving a short warning of her approach. This alone, reduced me to a helpless mass of uncontrollable giggles and I was sent out of the class. I was sent out of the class most weeks.

Perhaps the final straw came when I called her class “a fate worse than death”. She swooped on me, her prey, with venom, yellowing teeth bared, breathing forth the last over-steeped cup of tea “YOU…you can’t possibly know what a fate worse than death is, do you?” There was no answer to that although it caused much speculation and I still spend idle moments wondering what raw nerve I hit that day. By half-term it was easiest to graciously accept that I was indeed “a complete failure” and at 2.00 on Thursday I just made my way to stand outside the headmistress’ office rather than face needlework ever again. I was proud of being a failure.

That said, I enjoyed my pot of Yorkshire tea this morning and may just have to leave the roasting coffee bean smell for another day…


10 thoughts on “Nice cup of tea?

  1. Hi Wendy,

    This made me laugh and left me wondering whether we have the same family gene as I also have a lifelong hatred of anything needlework related!… teacher insisted that I use my right hand for sewing (very unsuccessfully) even though I am left handed, and I have consequently not threaded a needle since those days!!!

    Lots of love

    Tricia xxx


  2. crumbs you never had geography with MRS XXXXXX, that smoke infused hackle still stays with me, but sadly not the geography. But of course I blame that on Gail, who would lure me to the back of the room to read 1950’s copies of National Geographic…. Mrs XXXX would be unable to see as was surrounded by a blue haze that followed her from the staff room. But thinking about it, I do find it hard to imagine you, of all people being sent out of the class…….Amanda


    1. Oh Wendy, it’s not jst me, then! I once spent an entire double sewing lesson sitting in front of the machine not daring to admit that I had forgotten YET AGAIN how to thread the bloody thing. Our task for year one – to make a blouse. By the end of the year mine had to be redesigned so it had no collar and no sleeves. Waste of some rather nice material…


  3. I was so sorry to hear about Tim. I remember him very generously and good-humouredly listening to our drunken “literary criticism” at Book Club. If the funeral is today, as I think it is, I hope this beautiful Autumn day is a tiny form of consolation midst the grief.


  4. I eventually learnt how to thread the machine and must have made something as I remember being in the school fashion show with my turquoise 2 piece! What I really hated were the exams when they gave you a small piece of cloth and a list of instructions to do certain types of seam and stitching etc. Mine always ended up as a misshapen little ball that looked very dirty and unappealing. To add insult to injury the marks from this affected my overall average for the year! Curiously now I love hand sewing. It is probably still untidy, but does not have to be given marks out of 10.
    Thank goodness I was not in your class at school or we would both have been standing outside the head’s door. I was often sent for talking at the wrong time. The head did not seem at all interested and just told me to sit for a while and then go back to class!


  5. Well your nemesis had an American twin, who had the same cigarette smoke infused cardigan and two bony stained fingers with a white streaked Cruella deVille mop of hair to boot. She always appeared to have a mug of tea in hand during sewing class (which by the 70s had been euphemistically renamed ‘Home Economics). The contents of the mug were the subject of some debate since most of the sixth graders thought her breath smelled a bit more of brandy than of tea! One day she unwisely left us alone in class. I had been posted at her desk as the official thread bobber, which did not help my nerdy smarty pants reputation. The class hooligan (who hated Home Ec. more than anyone) was dared to drink from her cup to see if the rumours were true. He was rather unfortunately caught mid sip, with her mug raised to his lips when she clickety clacked back to the room!
    So now, we’ll never know….


  6. Wonderful piece Wendy!! I don’t comment very often but I read religiously every step of your journey. Keep it up witty girl, we are right behind you even if we are the silent ones, sometimes. Sending you strength and love for the last lap of your chemo


  7. Brilliant description of the Mistress and our days in the ‘dungeon’ which was the sewing room. Although the old bag tried very hard to kill any creative instincts we had she did not succeed with me. Embroidery of every type is my passion and I rarely go a day without putting a stitch into one piece of work or another.


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