Friday, December 05, 2008

Time for tea

click photo to enlarge
"Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors"
Alice Walker, U.S. writer (b.1944)

Alice Walker clearly knows something about the importance of tea to the English, but perhaps not quite as much as she imagines. What she was referring to is more correctly described as "afternoon tea", and that is only one of the ways in which the people of these islands imbibe this essential liquid.

When I think of afternoon tea I think of Betty's Tea Rooms in Harrogate, a place to take tea from a cup and saucer with bread or cakes as I once did in the late 1960s. Or I think back to being taken to an aunt's to drink tea and eat buns or pastries from a tiered cake stand whilst the gossip of the day was circulated between the adults. Today, when I am at home, and sometimes when out, I still observe the tradition of afternoon tea, but in deference to my waistline the drink is often unaccompanied!

As a child I took my tea with milk (as most English people still do) and sugar. Today the milk continues, but the sugar is long gone. And today I drink more of it -usually four, and sometimes five, cups (actually mugs) a day. In recent years I've felt myself slipping into the habits of older English folk and using the drink as a treat, a focus for a small social gathering, and as psychological as well as physical sustenance. I imagine that is what this traction engine enthusiast was doing when I photographed him one morning earlier this year at a gathering of these venerable machines. After hard work with a spanner, shovelling coal, getting up steam, and oiling that which needs lubricating, I imagine he felt the need for a little warm lubrication of his own in the form of some tea from a nearby stall; just the thing to stoke up your boiler for the rest of the morning!

I took this shot from the seat of my car as I drove past on an errand: not my usual photographic practice! The enthusiast obligingly directed his gaze my way and thought nothing of me firing off a few shots as he took his break. I left with his and and a couple of his friends' words in my ears - something about how lazy I was photographing from a car I think!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 58mm (116mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/50
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On