A musty smell tickled my nostrils as I awoke in my spartan student flat. It was so tempting to oversleep.
Staggering out of bed was a major obstacle compounded by the additional hurdle of a sniffle defiantly depleting me of all my energies.
As I couldn't afford the luxury of central heating
I resorted to the traditional medley of heating fuels.
Carefully constructing a black pyramid of briquettes clustered by rings of dusty, black coal, I gingerly inserted a kindling stick at an inclined angle followed by a cascade of crushed firelighters.
After several abortive attempts the fire lit.
When the demon frost was finally exorcised I was left with the numbing prospect of the day ahead.
But that first cup of tea, that ultimate nirvana in a cup had yet to be savoured.
I was about to commence a course in computer programming in my local college.
Three consecutive lectures awaited me this chilly morning.
Memory lapses are my won’t, voids that shun data as if they were terrifying ghosts.
Sometimes prone to mislaying valuables.
Consequently I had to be on the alert.
My accommodation was modest but I couldn’t grumble.
There was a hardwood table with this floral leaf tablecloth and four open back chairs supplied by the landlord.
The walls of the flat were decorated with pale cream paper.
A rustic fireplace and the most primitive cooking range completed what would be eerie lodgings.
On entering this dwelling there was an old-fashioned phone placed where hallway met dull colour scheme decor.
Who would be the first to call me?
I had an otherworldly sixth sense but I could only guess.
The gambler’s dice rolls in strange ways.
Friends attended modern universities but we kept in contact.
Known in my hometown as the Usher family
I hadn’t travelled that widely but often fantasised about the more intriguing aspects of flights from the family cluster zone.
My parents were adept tea makers taking it almost to science fiction zenith levels.
Daddy, Alan, was a Laboratory Chemist.
He always went into great detail about how things worked.
Even the making of Tea.
The hiss of the boiling kettle fascinated him and was like a forest of chirping red and blue robins he used to say.
Mother, Alma, being a teacher was more practical.
“Leave the science bit aside, Alan.
It's that honeysuckle sip in the morning cup that counts.”
This was Alma’s favourite mantra.
As parents they were mirror images.
They were now in their late forties, both stockily built.
My mother had more of the tell-tale signs of age but was somewhat less grey than daddy.
They had long pointed academic faces.
The quirky home I came from, that mystical approach towards tea will always be synonymous with enchantment.
To say nothing of those magic episodes that I strained to recall with my sieve-like attention span.
They swept through me like an Easter Sunday blossom cascade.
Waving goodbye at the local train station was difficult.
My Mother gave me the family kettle and boxes of tea.
I'm sure I had them tucked away in my suitcase. Somewhere!
I had never been away from home for long.
The first few days were hard.
However, I had self-confidence.
Alan, the scientist, preferred tea leaves, Alma tea bags.
The banter between them on this difference would be every hair-splitting egghead’s relish.
Vague memories came flooding back as I washed myself with torch bearer speed.
Perhaps to ward off the autumn temperature plummet.
And yes I approached the three-pin socket near the cooker for this sip away from home.
My father’s graphic description of the chemistry behind the hiss of a boiling kettle brought wry smirks.
Me, imagining, Alan with chalk and charcoal blackboard as templates.
I filled the Jug Kettle nervously as I thought of how loving they were as parents.
I shivered when I heard that hiss and subsequently savoured that beverage so beloved of the Usher household.
The clock struck nine as I realised I could be late for my first Lecture. I dashed down a long and winding stairway and headed straight for the hall door only to hear the phone resonate.
It was quite alarming.
“Will I ignore it?“
A deep-seated velvet wisp of an intuitive whisper prompts a response.
Hidden hand hint rule of thumb.
As I picked up the phone my mother spoke.
“Have you had your early tea yet, Alvin?"
As I replied my Father intervened.
“Ask him did he use Tea Leaves?”
They both chuckled mischievously.
“Yes, Mother, and it was wonderful.
It reminded me of home.” I replied.
“And the hiss - the science bit.”
“Yes, the hiss of the boiling kettle –the science bit.” I answered.
Suddenly it dawned on me.
“What have you been drinking?" I said to myself. “Just how wantonly derelict can I be.”
I had been drinking those mouldy
scrooge tea bags the Landlord provided.
Alma and Alan would have been disillusioned, gutted, disheartened.
I searched frantically for those pure gold going away tea boxes that they conjured up from their rabbit’s hat of bounty.
To this day they are equivalent to a “missing persons” file.
Pleasing one’s eccentric folk from a distance can be an algebraic math form whose scope is beyond human calculus.
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