Grand Tales #2 It's Tea, but not as YOU know it.
Updated: Sep 22, 2022
There have actually been some requests for another story about my granny. Which is good, cause I got nothin' on the short story front due to the brick wall I've hit and I could write about my gran almost constantly so this is actually quite good news. Here it is. Another instalment inspired by a walk I took the other day. Sorry for the grim picture, but these are the plants of the places we played and this is the inspiration for the tale.
It’s July. I’m tired and I’ve gone out for a walk. The air smells damp and warm, like it would in Spain and there is a summery feel to the air that I’ve not felt yet this summer. As I walk past a wall in the Church carpark I see this plant, smell this smell and I can’t help but smile.
When I was a child my granny and I would play in Kinning Park, a small park beside the underground station near where we lived. It had swings, benches and that’s about all I can remember of it. Except the games that we would play. Shops, the best one of all. We’d get branches, leaves, stones, bottle lids and whatever bits and bobs we could find and we’d pretend that they were things in the shops. We could do that for hours and I can’t remember the game ever being cut short. It is from this, I think, that I can spend time in a field, a park, a waste ground, even, and somehow find a way not to be bored. It’s definitely the reason why I have someone else’s discarded and headless Gibraltar Rock Ape magnet on my fridge, but that’s another story.
There’s a particular plant that grows at the turn of summer; I smile whenever I see one. The seeds grow on long stalks from the leaves you use to sooth a nettle sting and when they are old they go very brown and can easily be pulled off, leaving what looks like tea-leaves or perhaps coffee granules.
We’d tear them off the plant and they’d be tea, in the shop. My granny loved loose leaf tea before it was cool. She loved it when it was essential and had the most battered tea strainer you’ve ever seen, straight from the war. I don’t like to think of it in the bin, which is definitely where it is now, my dad being a man that throws everything away without a backward glance.
This plant brings back happy memories, but also a sharp one.
I remember being in Primary 1. We’re gathered in a circle and the teacher is asking us questions. We’ve had a lot of these recently. We had written a whole group story the week before and we needed a new flavour of ice-cream for the main character. I came up with tartan ice cream, an ice-cream of every flavour, it went down well. So, I’m feeling confident.
Therefore, on this day, when my teacher asks me “Do you know where tea comes from?”
I don’t say China, or India, WHY WOULD I? WHY WOULD I? No. I say KINNING PARK and even Sam Pollock knows that this is ridiculous.
This being 1988, while they were still busy trying to make left handers right handed. I am not allowed to explain the context and for the first time ever, I remember I want the ground to swallow me whole.
This shame happened twice in primary one. The day I brought my threadbare and most loved teddy to school I was scorned then too. I realised later in life that it was Primary One’s fault and not my granny’s but it was the first time I’d felt a bit let down.
It’s made me a better teacher and a better human, that’s for sure. When I see a much loved pal, he comes to the front, not the back! And today, I laugh. Now that I’ve got children of my own I’d agree, fully, tea comes from Kinning Park. There’s nothing you, or anyone else, can do to convince me otherwise.
I’ve realised that Isa didn’t lie, she just made the world a more interesting place and how could a person come up with tartan ice-cream without that wonder in their lives? I ask you!