Recently we got some stern advice that we should stock up on tea bags before we go to Beijing. Apparently it’s hard to find English tea there, and what you do find is not nice. It’s ironic since the Chinese are hardly strangers to tea, but it seems there are at least 1.3 billion people in this world who are yet to succumb to the charms of PG Tips.
This is some of the most important advice we’ve had so far. Without tea, DD and I won’t be able to start the day the way we like to, with a gentle argument.
Every morning DD’s alarm goes off two hours before mine. Not because his day starts that much earlier, but because he likes to check his emails, read the news, do his Mandarin homework, listen to the radio, think about having a shower, have a shower, forget to shave, remember to shave, debate whether to put his contacts in, put his contacts in, pack his bag, get sidetracked by an unopened letter, leave the house, then come back a minute later to pick up his work pass.
But before all that, before he even leaves the bed, he talks about tea.
“Shall I make tea? I want tea. Do you want tea? I’ll make tea,” I hear him say as he slowly sits up. I ignore him or make a sound depending on my state of sleep.
“Tea,” he mumbles, carefully making his way around the foot of the bed in our tiny bedroom. I roll away and throw an arm and a leg over his side of the bed. If he has properly woken me up, I say, “I don’t want any bloody tea.” To which he replies cheerfully, “But you gotta have tea.”
A few minutes later, as I’m nodding off again, I hear DD come back in and put my mug of tea on the bedside table. “Here’s your tea,” he says. “Hmm,” I say.
For the next two hours, whenever he hears me stirring he calls out softly, “I put your tea on the table,” or, “You know you’ve got your tea there.” When he hears my alarm go off he calls out, “Shall I warm up your tea for you?” I don’t mind cold tea, so I reply hoarsely, “No I’m all right.”
After a while I hear, “Are you drinking your tea?” I raise my voice and shout, “I’m drinking it!”
But actually, I can’t drink a whole mug of tea on a weekday morning. Sometimes as I’m about to run out the door I realise I’ve only had a sip or two. In these moments I hurriedly throw back a couple of large gulps, leaving what I consider to be a reasonable amount, about a quarter to a third of the mug.
If we’re being lazy with the washing up during the week, a cluster of half-finished mugs collects on the kitchen top, with the milk separating from the tea and floating in the middle. When I do get round to washing them, I have to scrub hard inside to get out the brown rings.
But when DD is away and I wake up on my own, I miss the tea. I never make it myself. So every morning, when my mood recovers from being woken up several times, I try to remember to thank him for the tea. And he always looks really happy.
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