Lately, I have been increasingly concerned about Australia becoming the 52nd state of the US, language-wise. I read an Australian bestseller where the entire book, including the title, used the ugly American spelling of ‘jail’ for ‘gaol’. Why? Did they authors think Australians are so dumb and dyslexic that we might think her husband was unexpectedly made goalkeeper for the Socceroos for two years against his will?
And when I was a wee lad (just after the Industrial revolution, it seems) , Father Christmas was Father Christmas, whereas these days the Santerisation is almost complete.
One thing we have proudly held onto here, though, is ‘holidays’. We have holidays, not ‘vacations’. It’s a small victory and one we must zealously guard.
I remember being about 8, and under the tutelage of an evil, ignorant bastard of a teacher – a guy who was later moved to another school where he was not allowed to coach any more sports teams of 10-year-old girls, as was the fashion for dealing with “problem” teachers then.* He hated me and everyone with a Y chromosome in the class.
Anyway, I was made to go up to the front of the class, and given the topic “5 things I did on my holidays”.
It may surprise you, dear readers, that back then I did not have the love of public speaking I have now. I did, however, still fundamentally never prepare properly for anything and prefer to wing it. (except for one thing I’ll explain later)
So, after two weeks’ holidays, I gave a speech something like this.
” The first thing I did was stayed in our shack on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The second thing was to stay there Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Then I stayed there for a weekend. Fourthly, I stayed there the second week and yesterday, my fifth thing was I came home.”
Detention AND a caning! One of my better efforts.
My family still owns the shack in question, on the glorious sun-drenched Eyre Peninsula, and last week Lady Devotea and I took both of our offspring and their partners to stay there.
And so, I present:
The Five Best Teas I Had On My Holiday, by Robert aged 51
Just prior to leaving, I took this shot to show off my new Boofle mug, which I love.
I used The Devotea’s Dreamer’s Balls for this. I put some leftovers into a vacuum flask, and this will become important later in my tale.
Two hours into our journey, we stopped by the roadside at a bakery, and taped to the wall I found this laminated sign:
Yes, a tea room!
However, despite all the promise inherent in the name, and the excellence of their baking, the tea was made with teab*gs and so I eschewed it in favour of drinking some tea from my flask. Therefore, The Devotea’s Dreamer’s Balls became the first of the five best teas of my holiday.
As no-one in my family of origin can boil water without burning it, we skipped the tea on the two family stops along the way and six hours later, found ourselves at the shack.
Time for a cuppa. We boiled some fresh spring water (from a carton, this is Australia, not some mountain paradise with tall trees and running streams). While Facebook told us that virtually our entire home town of Adelaide was once again blacked out, we had a most welcome cup of The Devotea’s Lord Petersham. This is the second of our five best.
The next morning dawned perfect and still, and a subset of us went fishing in inflatable boats, returning with squid. Yay! We had a huge holiday breakfast with all the usuals – eggs, bacon and all sorts of other bits and pieces and then sallied forth to the nearby small town. Did a little shopping in an antique store.
It was a nice day, but Lady Devotea and I were still suffering after a heavy unseasonable cold. Lady D had contracted it a week later than me, so she was suffering more. When we returned, to my delight I found the little pot and cup set I have pictured here. It was just sitting high on a dresser in a most unassuming manner.
And so, with thoughts of the vitamin C in oranges and the soothiness of lavender, I made Lady Devotea a cup of The Devotea’s Lady Devotea, which is not as confusing as it sounds. I used the tea strainer from my pocket**.
Even though I didn’t have any myself, it was definitely one of our five best teas.
One of the joys of shack life is that, other than scratchy analogue reception of two local stations if the wind is in the right direction, one really has a break from the electronic noise of modern life. Even mobile phones can’t be used in the shack due to a lack of reception, although they will ring and a twenty-metre dash gets one into range. I hate to use the term ‘digital detox’ but it seems all the rage.
The preceding sentence fails to mention two small facts – that one of our progeny’s partners had a mobile wifi router set up delivering perfect internet to all of us within two minutes of arrival, and that a small digital set top box meant we had about 25 digital TV channels, but nevertheless, the principle is that one watches less TV and enjoys such delights as board games of an evening.
After just such an evening of merriment, board games, huge quantities of cheese and a fair amount of beer, wine, Chivas Regal and cider (though I personally do not partake of anything on that list), I put the kettle on. After helpfully mentioning all of this via Facebook to many of our friends back in Adelaide who were sitting in the dark during the second night of their blackout, I made a small and soothing cup of The Devotea’s 1001 Nights for us all before we retired. It was another of the five best, and one of few teas you can brush your teeth twenty minutes after and not have Aftertaste Lag***.
On the last day, I went in to buy the newspaper and considered tea from the roadhouse. After all, they had this marvelous sign on the cake display.
But the tea options were the worst possible, I am not even going to say it, they were teab*gs of a brand that rhymes with “slipped on”.
So I returned to the shack, cooked up all the remaining breakfasty food and made a huge pot of The Devotea’s 1910. It was great with all the victuals and definitely the remaining tea in our quintet of excellence.
Having got this far, you might think this post is just one long cynical advertisement for our teas****. But I suggest it is far more.
Remember what I said about winging it and only ever being prepared for one thing. That thing is tea.
It is important to carry tea with you at all times. Had I not packed a teapot, six canisters of tea, a plastic baggy full of tea balls and a 10 litre carton of spring water, this five day holiday would have featured zero cups of quality tea.
I am so appalled by that thought, I may need another holiday to recover.
*as kids, our way of dealing with said teacher was to fill his car with shaving cream and jam a potato up his (car’s) tailpipe. This makes us morally superior to the Education Department.
** I carry a tea strainer in my suit jacket pocket always, However, I was not wearing a suit. Luckily, at the antique store half an hour previously, I had bought a “Souvenir of Swan Hill” strainer for $2 and it was in my cargo pants pocket.
*** Aftertaste lag is where you don’t wish to brush your teeth because you can still taste a tea you recently imbibed. This leads to staying up and drinking more tea. It is not a bad thing unless you like sleep.