Thursday, August 21, 2014

Time for tea!

Avast there!

No paint table Saturday again last weekend.  Well, I had intended to sit down and get some painting done but all I managed was to finish the shoes and muskets on the Afghans, base some North Star pirates and then my friend Bill came around on one of his 13 bicycles.  He wanted to look at our shed because he needs a shed just for bikes.   Then after he had left, bemoaning the fact that you couldn't buy leaf tea in our local Sainsbury's, the next door neighbour came around and wanted us to feed Harry the Cat while they were away for a few days.  So I spent three hours making tea instead of painting.  This I was used to doing for Bill, as we seemed to spend a lot of time doing that when we visited each other's rooms at college.  But not so the neighbour (who has a very nice wife), as he explained the terrifying complexity of the operation of the cat flap. "If he's out he needs to be able to get in but if it's the evening he mustn't get out again so you must set it so it's one way in so he can't get out but if it's the morning he needs to get out then it must be set so he can go out but not in unless it's the afternoon when you have to set it so he can go in and out..."  I thought cat flaps were a sort of horizontally oriented version of a saloon door not some complicated airlock system worthy of Space Hulk.  I wish Charlotte was here, as that's usually her job.

When I was at college I drank a lot of tea (as I still do - coffee makes me go strange) and it was always leaf tea.  I couldn't resist those different coloured Jacksons of Piccadilly tea caddies, being a collector by nature, and had to acquire each one.  I got very excited when the new black Kenyan one came out.  You probably couldn't have a black caddy for Kenyan tea these days as it would be deemed racist.  Or maybe I just put my Kenyan tea in the black one.  Oh dear!

I also had a lot of Fortnum & Mason square green tins, as well as odd packets of other esoterica like the Georgian Black tea which you could get in The Russian Shop in London - a way for the Soviet Union to make some hard currency before the fall of the Iron Curtain.  I also bought a bottle of sweet red Crimean sparkling wine in there.  Once.  It was truly disgusting and I ended up pouring most of it over my girlfriend's torso (she enjoyed the fizzing).  These days I have got rid of all my Jackson's tea caddies (somewhat annoyingly when they are going on eBay for £9.00 each) and keep my Lifeboat teabags in a nice biscuit tin illustrated with Czech artist Alphonse Mucha's paintings of the Four Seasons.

A favourite for City affairs

Everyone at college used leaf tea then and I know I really should now but, as one of my former secretary's, L, used to say if I asked her to do anything too taxing (like filing), "I can't be arsed".  Still, she was a lovely girl with a penchant for skin tight denims when we introduced dress down Friday (something I never participated in in case I got called over to Mansion House, Westminster or had to go to a City wine bar where everyone would stare at you if you weren't in a suit and think you were some sort of IT person).  L and I got on very well (rather too well) and we used to go out for stress relieving drinking sessions in the darkly-lit subterranean Davy's wine bars in the City.  These were all divided up by wooden partitions and were great places to lurk, largely unseen.  Very popular with men taking their secretaries out illicitly. She left after eighteen months having announced she was pregnant.  I was immediately called in to the Chief Executive's office and asked if it was mine (it wasn't - it was her ex-husband.  "he only came round once," she wailed.  Once is enough, of course.).  And I thought we were being so discrete too!  Despite my innocence I was informed that any replacement secretary had to be more than fifty years old.  "No more dolly birds!" said the Chief Executive. tetchily.

Tea in the Shangri-La

Anyway, although I like leaf tea (the best I ever had was in the Imperial Hotel in Delhi, not surprisingly) unless someone else is doing the work I can't be bothered most of the time with all that teapot nonsense.  Generally, you can get good tea in Asia, of course, and one of my favourite places for that is the original Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.  Even tea bags need boiling water, though, something which seems to be lost on those living in the Americas.  That said, I had a very good pot of tea made with leaves in a restaurant called Boa, overlooking the sea on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica a few years ago but that was an exception.  Usually you get the dreaded yellow label attached to a Lipton's bag which makes tea which tastes like the water you get in a mug in the dishwasher if you have put it in the wrong way up (i.e the right way up).  Oddly, that was pretty close to the way I used to like my tea.  So pale that it was basically only a tint darker than the milk I put in it.

"How d'ja like yah tea?"asked my not yet pregnant secretary on her first day. She was from Romford.
 "Like my women" I replied, sounding alarmingly like Swiss Tony from The Fast Show (again you couldn't say anything like that these days).
"Hot and strong?" she ventured.
"Pale and weak," I answered, remembering a slew of ivory-skinned redheads.
"You'll drink it how I make it," she said.

Ami 6 - the first car in the world with oblong headlights

My sister and mother refused to let me make their tea as it was so weak and the builders looked at my effort with derision, recently, when I offered them a mug when the Old Bat was out and couldn't do her tea lady duties.  Or maybe that was because I had bought them custard creams and the Old Bat was giving them Bahlsen biscuits.  Our beetle-browed chief builder (and as a builder he was quite superb and actually came in under budget on the extension) affected a permanent  bemused frown which made him look just like one of the ugliest cars France has ever produced (and that's saying something) the Citroën Ami 6.  France was awash with these curious looking vehicles when we had our family holidays there in the sixties and early seventies.  My sister used to call it the "eyebrow car".  You never see them today as they have nearly all rusted to bits.  Even the addition of gamine yé-yé type girls in their sixties advertisements couldn't do anything to glamourise this uncomfortable mixture of old tin boxes and Easter Island Moai.

Tea for two.  Lunch for fourteen

Latterly, however, I have taken to drinking my tea much stronger (not as strong as the builders but they were all from Hampshire) for no reason I can fully explain.  Perhaps it is the same process that is making me appreciate ladies with a very well developed embonpoint these days; something that I had previously ignored as a positive feature in a young lady.

"Are you a legs man, a tits man or an arse man?" (I apologise for her language but she was from Essex, as I have mentioned) asked L, during one of our first cozy rendezvous in the City Pipe (sadly now ponced up and called The Foster Project instead).  When I informed her that I did really enjoy a pert posterior she informed me that that was the wrong answer as they were the worse type of man.  "Lowest form of life" I think were her exact words.  Whether my new-found regard for busts would have mollified her I doubt.

Now, as I have mentioned before, the Legatus' favourite tea is Lifeboat tea made for them by the excellent Williamson Tea company (they have splendid tea caddies which are painted to look like elephants) who have had their own plantations in Kenya since 1869.  This is, therefore, ideal Darkest Africa tea!  I was very excited to discover a new breakfast tea version of lifeboat tea when I was in the RNLI shop in Cowes the week before last.

Now it's not just Lifeboat tea at the moment because North Star are giving out a free tea bag with every order.  The fact that I have quite a few of these now is a bit of a give away.  They are even producing a range of miniatures of figures drinking tea which is delightfully eccentric of them!

I picked up the North-West frontier version in my last order of the new British and Sikhs, who are nearly all based now.  The tea drinking officer is at the centre in the picture above.  I am hoping to do these next after I finish the Afghans and also hoping that they won't take long.  I am going to try to paint them in one big batch.  Sadly, I don't think I will be able to finish the Afghans this month as I am off to Edinburgh for a couple of days and then down to Cowes for the powerboat racing the following weekend. To avoid nul points in August I might just try to finish one or two one-off figures clogging up the painting table.

Elsewhere, as regards the lead and plastic pile, I have succumbed to the new Victrix early Republican Roman figures, despite the fact that I already have a number of painted Crusader Miniatures ones. This is the biggest Roman force I have ever painted (Big Red Bat snorts in derision) but I think I will use the same simple colour scheme and plain shields.  LBMS have produced a set of shield transfers which are lovely although I think he has over-done the battle damage on them.  I'd rather have my shields pristine and then paint any damage if they ever see a fight in anger.

Sadly, I had to pass up a wargame at Eric the Shed's this week as I had to talk to Colombians in the evening (and they were in a right grump as it was a public holiday there).   Also in the back of my mind is, shockingly, a modern skirmish project but that is still in the planning stage.  


  1. I have never found the subject of tea so engrossing, though combining it with secretarial activities of a varied nature made for a gripping read! ;-)

    The Northstar Pirate Assassin arrived safe and sound. Thanks again good Sir! I owe you a service, at your discretion...

    1. Good news on the pirate. I look forward to seeing him painted in due course!

  2. Snort! ;-) They look very good.

    Although initially reluctant, I have really come to love the battle-damaged transfers, I think they look like they have been on a long campaign. I have a tendency to make minis look too neat, and they really help!

  3. Funnily enough, the only decent cup of tea have ever had in decades of perambulations around the western colonies was in a Dunckin' Doughnuts in Boston. I declined the doughnut. Part of the problem seems to be the inability of yanks to use boiling water but the tea is also definitely rank. I suspect they are still using stuff winched out of Boston Harbour.

  4. I too have used Davy's Wine Bars for much the same purpose, and also tended to stick to the suit and tie even on Fridays for much the same reason (my stamping ground at the time was Bishopsgate so there were actually several subterranean choices and the lovely Dirty Dick's (no sniggering at the back there) was a double entendre I seldom resisted.

    I'm surprised L left as soon as she got pregnant - these days it seems de rigeur to stay until you've had your full year's maternity leave and then announce you aren't coming back - at least at our company that is the way it is usually done. Obviously this only sounds like sour grapes because I'm unable to get pregnant and do the same!

  5. A very enlightening read thankyou. Nice to see you finally got some model soldiers into it :-), but sadly I guess I now know I really am the "lowest form of life"......sigh.

  6. Scott suggests to join your blog ...
    ok ! done !
    Very interesting with the various subjects and of course the minis !
    ... but so difficult to read for a lazy bad-speaking-english frenchie !

    Remember the AMI 6 : the one with the Z on the back ! I've not seen those awful cars since a long time... (and I love old cars, so I'm always very attentive when I see one !)

    I will add your blog on my blog roll and try to visit it from time to time ...

  7. There are many tea drinking Americans who know tea and commercialism don't mix the Boston tea part and all that. so no you will never get a decent cup of tea in an American establishment. Next we don't mollycoddle our tea with milk we have dark & strong sometimes with sugar. Like the tea drinking officer can't wait to see him painted.

  8. What a good read to make the tea

  9. Another splendid post and like you I seem to be amazing a collection of tea from Northstar, I just love there new characters and have picked up a couple myself, but when they see the light of day is anyone's guess!

  10. "Lowest form of life".Damn, got it wrong again!!! Though not a tea man, I like my coffee, this was a very enjoyable read!

  11. An interesting read. My grandparents always used to have leaf tea. I have to admit it was always very nice.

  12. What a cracking read! I am now gagging for a brew up. Off to swing the billy...

  13. LH, your posts are always just the ticket for a cold morning back at work. Keep it up!

    Best wishes