I went into my first British person's house yesterday for tea. Talk about the quintessence of British culture.
My friend Ruth who I know from Bible Study invited me to accompany her to Barbara's house, an 8o-something year-old woman who she met one Sunday at church. I didn't realize the narrowness of British houses until I stepped into Barbara's home. Every floor only had space for a couple rooms; the first floor in Barbara'se house had a kitchen, a small dining room, and a music room that was dominated by her baby grand piano. British homes are almost as large as American homes because they are built upward. Barabara had a four-level house and she used every floor on a daily basis, which was shocking to me because she had separated her hip a couple days before.
Her house was everything I could have wanted out of an English home-it was colorful, cozy, and full of knick-knacks and paintings. The kitchen overlooked a garden, which like the house, was narrow but extended far back. Barbara had a tiny 50's style stove, no dishwasher, and mugs hung over glass cabinets. Oh and did I mention she had fresh flowers in the house? Basically, Barbara's house is everything I want my future home to be.
Barbara taught Ruth and I how to "arrange" tea. Here are the steps:
1. Before guests arrive have cups, saucers (already stacked), a bowl of sugar, and a small jug of milk set out on a tray.
2. When guests arrive, boil water, pour into a teapot, and place the teapot on the previously set-up tray(refer to step 1).
3. Carry the tray up to a cozy sitting room (Barbara's was on the 3rd floor) with comfortable floral print couches that allows plenty of sunlight to stream in through the windows.
4. Have an empty tray table ready to arrange the tea. Take everything off the tray that you just brought up and arrange them on the empty tray, making sure to place the teacups on saucers and to get biscuits from tins already in the room and arranging them on plates.
5. Pour tea, drink, and chat.
Barbara is a wonderful, hospitable woman who loves company and conversations. She is also a gifted pianist, even at her ripe old age. She was delighted to play for Ruth and me and we went down to the music room; Ruth and I sat on a couch facing her as she took her seat at the baby grand piano.
She played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata , which is one of my favorite pieces and when she played it took my breath away. I was lost in a trance, as I watched her slender fingers glide softly over the keys she knew so well. I lost all concept of time and would not have minded sitting on that couch for days lost in Barbara's playing and the happy memories that Beethoven's masterpiece evoked.
I cannot believe that I had a real English tea with a real English person.