Earl Grey and I

If you are looking for a passionate love affair, you have come to the right place. This is the story of a girl, who met her true love in a mansion, on the shore of the restless Atlantic Ocean. They had met before, they were, in fact, fairly well aquainted, but only the absence after ages of adversity made the girl realise, how she had missed him, how she had always loved him better than anyone in the world.

It was the year 2006 and the west coast of Ireland was having a miraculously warm and sunny June and July.

I was working in Renvyle House Hotel as a waitress, splitting shifts, drinking from the bar after hours, walking to Tully or Tullycross, the nearest… villages?.. in the evening for drinks with the other hotel staff. Every morning I woke to this view outside the door of the stables converted to staff quarters:

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For a person who doesn’t eat red meat the menu for the staff feedings was appalling.. But luckily after a few days of eating only the potatoes and (apparently) celery which had been boiled in grease so that even I could eat it, I made friends with one of the young chefs who started to feed me feta-pesto-vegetable filos and delicious vegetarian risottos. In secret of course.

But the tea didn’t get better. On my days off I hiked the 4 miles (three times a week) or 8 miles (twice a day) to the nearest bus stop and headed to Clifden or some such place. More often even, I walked a few hundred metres until I hit a bigger road and then hitch-hiked my way around the west coast. Sitting in cafes, going for a drink in pubs, listening to awesome sessions and so on.

But nothing could save me from the disgusting lamb-flavoured tea that I got for the most of the time at Renvyle. I mean, I love tea. I love the  making of it, and the feel of the clean china and the steam from the kettle and the slow steep of colour into the water and finally the delicious taste and feel as the hot liquid fills my mouth and warms me as I drink it. I love holding a tea cup. But the only thing is, the only enjoyment the tea could give me was that finger-warming sensation. After that it was pure shite, excuse my Irish expression.

Apparently I have some gift for making friends and lo, and behold, one of the lunch chefs, a Polish woman who knew almost no English at all (and I don’t speak Polish) fell in love with me and I fell in love with her. She was the kindest person, with a sad story, only too common, of a child and a husband she was keeping in bread in Poland. You know those people who you don’t need a common language with? She was one of those. She fed me strawberries and ice cream when the management got shitty. She brought me tea, when I had a flu. I will always remember her as one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

And one day, she gave me a small stash of the better quality, Twinnings Earl Grey teabags. It is hard to describe what it felt like, the kindness. I had done nothing for her. I had nothing to offer her but to be kind to her and appreciate that she was a person in her own right. And she made me the first cup of Earl Grey that tasted like heaven after the long hours running around the hotel, carrying trays on one hand (yes I can do that), polishing spoons and being the eye-sore of some of the management (I really don’t know why).

The smell of bergamot and tea will always bring her to my mind. I keep loving the people who love me even though we never see each other again. I keep loving Monica and thinking of her every time I make a cup of Earl Grey tea. It’s like coming home to a place where you are accepted for what you are.

And this ends this soppy love story, one of my very few.

Love,

Maiju

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