Little Victories

Today called for a celebration. For one of these:

This is my favourite mug, as it happens. Keeps tea hot for ages and ages and holds a lot of tea, too.

What am I celebrating today, you ask? What deserves this wonderful mug  of chai tea with whole milk (not semi) and a dash of honey?

Today I made it home before the seizure. Today I did not collapse on the pavement. Today I did not need help.

I made it home. I made it up the stairs. I made it to my living room and then I keeled over. Not before. Not while I was out. Not crossing the road. Not on the path outside. Not when I was struggling to unlock the door. Not even when passers by gave me odd looks because I couldn’t walk straight.

I made it home. I fought to keep my head straight and as far as I’m concerned? I won. I might have had a seizure anyway, but I didn’t drop until I was in a safe space. So, now that I’m upright again – with a fair old headache, and snuggled in my dressing gown because I have the shivers – I’m celebrating. Here’s to small victories. Here’s to something I wish I could take for granted. Here’s to walking all the way home.

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Concussions, and other fun things

There are few things in life which I value quite as much as the ability to think clearly. Food, family, and somewhere to live are all up there, of course, but aside from the basic necessities of living, what do you actually have if you can’t think?

I don’t mean thinking as in contemplating the deeper mysteries of life and all that (although I am the sort who enjoys that too, now and then), just… thinking. Being able to sit and know where you are, know how you’re feeling. Anticipate the finer things, such as how you’re going to get up, go into the kitchen, and put that kettle on for a cuppa. And then being able to get up, and not stop and think “Um, I’m in the kitchen. What was I about to do?”

A handy mug of tea

This, Jemma. It’s called tea, and it rules your life.

Last Friday, I had a pretty bad seizure and, although I don’t really remember doing so, hit my head kinda hard. I know this, because there’s a nice, handy bruise on the back of my head to remind me every time I lie down the wrong way. Now, this is a good opportunity for me to get sidetracked and point out that this wouldn’t have happened had the people around actually known what to do when someone has a seizure, and believe me, I will, another time. But today, the focus is the aftermath. The why, as it were.

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The Tea is Taking Over

I sometimes joke that I “live on tea”. It’s an obvious exaggeration, something I jest about as I make cup number six of the morning. Still, it has the ring of truth about it.

I know from past experience that if I don’t drink at least one cup of everyday tea in the morning, by the afternoon a bit of caffeine withdrawal has begun to kick in, and I’ll have a headache. I’m happy to stand up and admit my caffeine addiction – at present and for the foreseeable future it’s a relatively benign one.

For me though, tea goes beyond just a caffeine hit in the morning to wake me up, or to stretch out a long evening. I did a mini-stocktake earlier and discovered that in my cupboards I have twenty-one different varieties of tea, four of which I have in both teabag and loose-leaf form.

I even made a handy (and totally not-weird) list which I stuck to my kitchen wall. 

If you deciphered my handwriting, or if you don’t care, you can skip this next paragraph, because I’m going to list them all:

Everyday (+L); Rosehip; Breakfast (L); Cardamom; Earl Grey (+L); Rooibos, Green (+L); Morocco (Mint + Spice); Peppermint (+L); Cinnamon; Chamomile; Lemon; Lemon + Ginger; Jasmine (L); Apple + Cinnamon; Gunpowder (L); White tea with Elderflower; Green tea with mango and lychee; Blackberry blueberry + and acai; Cranberry Raspberry + Echinacea; Strawberry + Loganberry. The “L” stands for loose leaf.

I also keep a jar of instant coffee for visitors to drink, along with sugar and sweeteners. None of these three things are used by myself.

After totting it all up and writing it down, I got to thinking. Why do I keep so many varieties? Why do I drink so much tea, too? It’s not just the caffeine hit, because most of the listed blends don’t contain any particularly measurable quantity of the stuff.

When I was a girl, I can remember knowing that children had squash or water, and grown ups had tea. It was How Things Were. My family were not great consumers of alcohol, so I didn’t see them with a glass in hand. No, it was a mug. It was: “Oh, I’m gasping, put the kettle on!” When my mum (dash of milk, no sugar) visits, often first thing she does after the hello-and-hug is to ask for a cuppa.

To this day I consider it a matter of genuine embarrassment if I fail to remember how people take their tea (or if they prefer coffee), or worse, if I forget to offer to put the kettle on at all. It’s a social conditioning, a habit which I inherited, and which already the Boy and the Girl are mimicking, holding tea parties for their teddies.

It’s a comfort too; a ritual which precedes writing sessions. Do I make a pot, or use a bag in a cup? Do I need the caffeine in the evening, or do I want to relax with chamomile? I have two teapots, a selection of large mugs, and a set of Cath Kidson teacups which are a treasured present from my Dad (milk, one sugar).

If I really want to get into writing, and I have the time, I make a point of getting out my little teapot and making tea with leaves. I set out the pot and strainer at a safe distance from my laptop, and refill when necessary. It breaks up the writing, allowing me to collect my thoughts now and then. I’ve gotten to the point where I associate certain flavours of tea with certain times of day, or occasions.

Everyday tea is for general drinking. A cup (or preferably two) to wake up with in the morning, and then a steadyish stream throughout the day. Early Grey is for a change, or when I run out of milk. Lemon and Ginger is for when I have a cold, and my various flavoured teas are for the evenings mostly, when the children are in bed and I can sit back and drink without the danger of it going cold without my noticing.

As for why I have so many? Well, if the fact that I located another flavour while writing this (Lemongrass and Ginger, if you’re interested) is anything to go by, it could be that I enjoy a wide range of flavours to suit my moods. It could be that I keep a wide range out of habit, to account for visitors and their preference. Or, more simply, it could be that as much as I am addicted to tea, I am also very good at buying it and then losing track of where I’ve put the boxes afterwards.

As a writer though, I think I’m going to keep telling people it’s because I’m creative and eccentric. We all need our little oddities, don’t we?