Around London in 80 days
In these uncertain times, I need a lifeline and a horizon so I have — somewhat arbitrarily I’ll admit — set a date. April 1st will be my horizon; my lifeline will be the 80 days separating me from it.
And as I cannot go around the world right now, I give you A Mad Belgian’s “Around London in 80 Days” : eighty impressions of London, eighty stories, places, thoughts from my experience of this wonderfully mad and maddening city.
Day 2 : Teapot
When I first moved to the UK, two English friends took charge: “You will need a teapot.” And off we went to Portobello Market. It was heaving; must have been a Saturday. We walked slowly, looking for the gem that would accompany my first steps in Blighty.
I’ve never been good at markets — too impatient. Not my friends: determined and precise, they were looking through the stalls with great care. And sure enough, they found it: the perfect teapot. A lovely shade of dark green, plump, it immediately reminded me of the talking teapots in Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast.
My friends bought it for me, then proceeded to explain the ins and outs of tea-making in the UK. Of course, each Brit has his own theory. Fancy tea or builders’ tea, with or without sugar, with or without milk. And then, the main issue, the real divide: milk first or tea first? We Belgians all seem to have a strong opinion on what makes “good fries”; similarly, the British feel strongly about how to make “proper tea”. In fact, comedian and rapper Doc Brown wrote a great rap about it:
I don't know what the f*ck I was thinking
I bring you to my house as a friend in my kitchen
You offer to make the tea
Naturally I say yes, you're my guest so I take the offer gratefully
But then what I see makes my heart burst
You've only gone and put the f*cking milk in first!
Nah you destroyed a thing that was sacred
Pour it down the sink
Let me show you how to make it
Doc Brown — My Proper Tea
I sometimes sing (a slightly softer version of) this rap to my clients as I lead them to their booked “Afternoon Tea”… and I often think of it when I make myself a cuppa, with my good old, well-travelled, fourteen-year-old green teapot.