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Ancient Feet: 36 - Self-Service Tea

Alan Nolan and his mates stop off for a cup of tea in Orton on their long trek from one side of England to the other.

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Signed copies of the book are available from Alan http://apn.thelea@yahoo.co.uk

It was well worth the diversion to Orton and, after trading stories, we relaxed for a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine and observe the villagers and visitors coming and going. It is unusual these days for sugar to be available in sugar pots and amazing how we accept change without really thinking about it, but the presence of proper sugar on the table brought this to mind. Changes pass some people by and can make them look foolish when placed in a different environment, and I recalled watching an old man faced for the first time with an alien method of serving tea. Or, rather, having to serve himself at a motorway service area (shouldn't they be called non-service areas or motorway self-service areas?). He was completely perplexed by the equipment in front of him, but was sensible enough to stand and watch other people until, suitably emboldened, he collected a mug, took the tie off a tea bag, hung the tea bag over the lip of the mug, placed it under the nozzle of the hot water machine, removed the tea bag when the colour of the tea suited him and went to the till. The cashier took his money, threw a couple of sachets of sugar on his tray and he went off to find a table. This was a new experience for him, but he now knew that tea is served in bags at these establishments, rather than as the more traditional loose tea leaves. He had cracked this new-fangled stuff.

Elated, he picked up one of the sachets of sugar and dropped that in his mug, wondering why there was no string attached to that to allow him to pull it out when his tea was sweet enough. Well, you can't fault his logic and, at least, he had not developed that annoying habit of shaking the sachet before opening it. Have you noticed that? Most of the world's population seem to think it necessary to harass the packet into submission before opening it. They pick up the sachet between forefinger and thumb and give it a good old shake, almost as though it is too hot to handle, and then shake it next to their ear as if to check that whatever s inside is dead. Some go even further and bash the sachet against the palm of their other hand, whilst some go further still and batter the innocent sachet against the edge of the table. Why do they do this? Who was the first person to do it, and how did he recruit his devotees? Do they think that it contains a sugar lump that must be pounded into granule form? Answers, please, to the Guinness Book of Weird Rituals.


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