Precious readers, this will be a bit of a deviation from what I generally post on this blog. However, I tend not to compartmentalize my life, and so this blog—and not three or four blogs scattered about the Interwebs—must suffice for anything I choose to put on it. Besides, I attempt to glorify God in all I do, so I don’t believe that this post will be straying from the principle of the blog itself. Hannah, this piece is dedicated to you… And to a lady, a laydee, a lay-dee, a person who brings her five poodles everywhere with her on purple velvet leashes, and who herself wears purple. At least, that’s our stereotype of a laydee, and it seems that you met one a few weeks ago. Don’t you love it when real incidents merge with a touch of boredom and a hearty dose of imagination? So, I think I’ll write about her… Enjoy, Hannah, and anyone else who may happen upon this post.
Dear Lady Velma,
Yes, I see you. Standing behind the counter of a local coffee shop with Hannah, who served you last time, I see you and your purple outfits floating into our fine establishment. Ordinarily, I don’t work here, but Hannah thought I might be able to help you better than she did last time. I’m sure you recall the day a few weeks ago when you came into this café and requested high tea, but Hannah says that she had nothing to give you. Never fear—I’m here today.
First, some thoughts on semantics. Hannah might well have been able to serve you HIGH tea, for high tea is the evening meal that English farm hands enjoyed during the 1940s and 1950s. Hannah couldn’t have produced a Cornish pastie, but our café does serve sandwiches and crisps that might have sufficed. I believe that what you’re looking for, though, is afternoon. In that case, and for this hour only, you have come to the right place.
Sure enough, you approach the counter, yards and yards of fabric flowing. I wish I had that sort of freedom, Lady Velma—for I’m learning that this is your name. Velma, you say as you introduce yourself. Velma, the wife of a vivacious vicar—oh, how I love that alliteration! And you are a lady, with elegant speech and the most delightful way of again requesting high tea. It’s true that this quick-serve restaurant doesn’t usually serve high tea, but for you, for you, Lady Velma, we can make an exception.
Take a seat—yes, there in the corner where nothing will disturb this elegant moment in your life, this time that you so obviously and desperately need—why? To make sense of something? To enjoy the day? To remember a past time of sentiment? Only you understand the reasons for your request, and it is mine to start some water boiling, not to demand an explanation. You, Lady Velma, just relax and try to ignore the elevator music that is so clearly un-harplike and that therefore probably blends miserably with your concept of ambiance.
And while the water is boiling, I see that you are alone. Perhaps you would prefer to be left with your thoughts, but I cannot know that. So here are some illustrated coffee-table books about English gardens, and here is a delightful book I found on the joys and ideocyncracies of our lovely English language. Oh, and I included a book or two on God’s love and plans because, after all, you are a vicar’s wife and this might be of interest to you, and also because I see a joyful and tender heart beneath the unconventionality you espouse. Perhaps I see it, Lady Velma, because I, too, have my share of quirks and whimsical moments. Oh, one final touch—we couldn’t find a plant or put together a flower arrangement on such short notice, so I think I’ll just prop this picture of a tall, shady, protective-looking tree somewhere in the corner here. I found it in the bookstore section of this, our fine café, and I thought you might enjoy gazing upon it if the books don’t arouse your interest or if you’d prefer to be alone with your own thoughts.
And now for your tea. In a proper home or English tea shoppe, you don’t necessarily get asked what kind of tea you’d like, and you merely specified high tea. Accordingly, I’m bringing out Earl Grey and camomile, so that you might have at least some choice. Pardon the mismatched kiraffes; they are all we could find. But, since I tend to do some things a little unusually myself, I thought I would carry a few pairs of craft scissors with me in that huge purse you may have noticed peeking out from behind the counter. We don’t have any glass cups, so I hope the tiny, intricate, ridged flower shape into which I cut a regular paper coffee cup will suffice. A nice dainty cup for this experience. And I’m hoping that the taller, but likewise flower-cut cups that hold cream, milk, honey, and sugar, with little designs drawn on said cups for good measure, will perfedct the set, for now at least.
Ah, tea. Now for the first course. We don’t have finger sandwiches—no cheese and pickle or watercress or tuna salad or cream-cheese-and-cucumber on pumpernickel, but perhaps our tomato-and-mozarella panini, cut into smaller pieces and arranged ceremoniously on a glass plate, one of the few real dishes we have, will be sufficient. Yes, a panini and some grapes, taken from the fruit cups we keep in a back refrigerator.
And now for a scone. We have many, but you strike me as the type who would enjoy either blueberry or cinnamon. Blueberry—yes, I think that best fits this moment. I do hope you enjoy it, despite our sad and sudden lack of clotted cream. And would you like us to bring out some more tea while we are preparing dessert?
Now, let us see. A tiny square of lemon pound cake, with the slightest drizzle of frosting. And—what else?—some plain cheesecake, a dainty bite or two in keeping with this repast. A chocolate brownie, because every tea event needs a little of that. And a little bit of cinnamon crumb cake. Voila—four culinary delights, a little like the arrangement of petit fours. Please pardon our profiterole shortage—I’m rather fond of those myself and would certainly have served them if I had the faintest idea of how to make them here.
Well, Lady Velma, I hope you enjoyed afternoon tea as much as we enjoyed serving it. Oh, I like your wallet—wherever did you manage to find a plush one with an enormous cotton flower stitched onto it?—but you won’t need it. It was such a joy serving you and, besides, we didn’t have everything that you were necessarily trying to order. No, this one is on Hannah and I…
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And now, my beloved readers, don’t you wish that customer service was still that elaborate? Don’t you wish that somewhere, some Mom-and-Pop shop would cater to people that way? If only we could do it all for people, including those eccentric types, who darken our doors! Hannah, you did the right thing, but I felt I had to get this “afternoon-tea” service out of my system. And, if any barristas happen to be reading this, perhaps you’ll feel better about shrugging your shoulders and complying with the next person who orders a grande, decaf, non-fat salted-caramel mocha with two extra pumps of vanilla, a pump-and-a-half of peppermint, a sprinkling of nutmeg atop the inevitable whipped cream, and a drizzle of chocolate.