Saturday, 29 December 2007

Tea n’ Tea.

"Why the Hell can't you leave me alone with a nice cuppa?" Chuck Heston.

“…tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand…” George Orwell. The Evening Standard for January 12, 1946.

AC/DC, the great Australian rock band, actually prefers and longs for, a nice cup of tea back stage. It’s true. They’re not boozers, but perhaps surprisingly typical Australians of Scottish immigrant background teetotallers.

“Hey, man I heard there was some really hot tea brewin’! Hey, there is? Aah, Ceylon Gold leaf”. A lost beatnik.

I once saw Angus Young patiently signing for fans outside the entrance of the Como Hotel in South Yarra. He’s not a very big guy, in fact he’s not much bigger than a Gibson SG, but he sure sounds larger than life. He was very unassuming and with that casual thing we sardonic and swingin’ Aussies have. It’s as Eric Bana explained, that trait of being generally unimpressed by things that are touted as such.

There’s a cultural analysis a mile wide in the history of AC/DC and the reactions of the fashionable inner urbanites to them. There was always the classic dismissal as a mere yob band, by those who are incapable of expressing anything straight forwardly fun, virile and memorable in any medium, especially using say a few simple chords, linked with killer riffs, authentic attitude and a furious intent.

Now Accadacca are more often used as a post ironic motif on groovy inner city labels, relentlessly mining the past for ideas that they could never pull out of their arse. And if you go to an AC/DC concert, every kind of person is there and it’s all such a genuine thrill.

Without a cup of tea I don’t think I could have gone on. It’s the very unflustered ritual and concentrated civilised focus of it all. And I really like the taste, though I don’t know what kind of taste it is really.

The British Empire, one of my favourite Empires, was founded on drinking cups of tea.

And everywhere the British went, they left the Rule of Law and Codes of Practice, complete trade, business and commerce infrastructures, transport, a professional civil service, rights and responsibilities, literature, culture, music and the arts, plus a nice crushing of local voodoo, like bride burning for instance and well, the list is endless, chums. Yep, human scale flaws, hypocrisy and snobbery too. Snobbery is sometimes like the fleas on a dog; it keeps things stimulated and jumping.

And as for the real world vice of the hypocrite, only people like Hitler and Islamists who state their hideous intent and then act upon them fully are usually lacking or without hypocrisy. But then, the current dominant fashion of reducto ad absurdum, is to give absolutely no credit to the awesome achievements of the British Empire at all. And to all that are so inclined, I’ll try not to yawn endlessly as they drivel and drone. One doesn’t like to be rude, especially to frauds, half wits and the afflicted. It just wouldn’t do, old boy.

And in the end, the English gave it all up in virtual historically unique peaceful transitions, whatever bog standard anti-colonial hyperbole one may be prone too.

Colonel Neville: “Hey, Aunty. What do you think of Red China?”
Aunty MacNeville: “Och, not with the blue table cloth!”

Now look at any place that kept their British forms and those that progressively junked them. The difference is between functioning economies with civil governments, and the kind of places that are merely variations on the standard gangster and Despot Madhouse of Despair Fiefdoms, and invariably funded with some kind of international aid.

As P.J O’Rourke has said, it is precisely these two fundamental things that is the difference between places that suck, and those that don’t.

But back to tea. Many a late night, with a cool breeze blowin’ in an open window, I have stood at the sink practicing scales on a strat, sat writing, laid in bed reading, listening to a radio magazine, or just in the bath just a thinkin’ you know, thangs… but a loyal cup of tea was always by my side.

Though the cold wind blows outside, there is only warmth here.
Though the day was harsh, here, there is only sweetness.
They say one can choose to be content;
Well, sometimes there is no other choice.
A cup of tea, books, paper and a pen, for me, this is the most perfect moment. Michael David Jay.

To be prepared I needed a note pad and pen, a stack of books, ten packets of guitar strings, and some cash, either in large bills or of the Johnny Cash kind. And get your hands away from my tea, creep.

“When I was just a baby, my Momma told me, Son,
always be a good boy, don't mess around with guns.
I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry”.

Yes, so I always keep a trench shovel handy too. You never know when you may have to dig a trench in a darkened room and after all, the desert is a lonely place. That’s why I always live several floors up. I don’t like surprises at 3: AM.

And I owe my survival, creativity and the strength of my own integrity and autonomy to tea. That drink of Kings and common men, guitar players and of my Father. The only and I do mean the only thing he ever drank, ever, was tea. He said he never drank water because there was no tea in it.

“Aye, a cuppa char, lad?”

The wife bein’ Japanese an’ all, she knows a thing or two about the ceremony of tea and so on. And the convoluted tea shenanigans of the Japanese are pretty integral to the wacky Japanese Imperialist story. The trouble is, nobody could really use a whole lotta Japanese culture and institutions that much but the Japanese. Not even Japanese enjoy it all; they just do it extremely well.

The Nippon idea of tea is too inflexibly utilitarian to formal, stylised and well, Japanese and therefore, either entirely functional or a tedious and humourless museum piece ritualised bore. And all that suicide pilot and salary men jumping outta high rise windows stuff turns anybody off.

Who does the interminable and joyless tea ceremony pastiche today? Only tourist spots, Diplomats, Grandmas, Geisha's and weirdo Western oriental obsessive’s. The Japanese don’t really like to talk during a meal or such and there’s a crucial difference, the English do.

“Ere Pete, I saw your Doris wearing a rubber dinghy on her head down the Main Street. I thought ‘ere, it’s not Wednesday is it?” Derek and Clive.

Yes, a cup of real tea late in the quiet of the night can concentrate the mind on the present, define the past and project the soul into the future. I wonder, wonder I do, if tea and what it means can still do it. Help give us the clarity, strength and rational thinking skills to deliver an epiphany of insight into a total victory over what we face now. Here's to a tea cup in a coming storm, sports.

Sources for Orwell quote and tea poem:

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Too funny! I borrowed that:

I have a little friend (she's now 9 1/2, but this was going on a couple of years ago, when she was about 7 yrs old), who absolutely LOVES that Johnny Cash song.

We used to stop everything to watch this sweet little blonde-headed angel sign along on her MP3 player with great gusto that she'd shot a man in Reno, just to watch him DIIIIEEEE! ha ha ha

You and the Mrs. have a Happy New Year!