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There is no tea in this boat

June 23, 2013

There are some things in life that just can’t happen. It can’t be a Bank Holiday and sunny. You can’t turn on a television on a Saturday night without seeing Ant or Dec. And it can’t be possible to run out of tea bags. What else can you buy, 240 at a time, and still run out? It’s never happened with wine.

How can this be – not a single tea bag to be found in the boat, and believe me we’ve looked. It’s a Sunday night, the shops are shut, and if truth be told we’re a little too tipsy to drive to them anyway. And we’re GASPING. Sometimes only tea will do – and when tea can’t be found, what is there to improvise with? Dried mixed herbs don’t cut it; hot water and milk like tastes like dish water. Coffee is a no-no – irrespective of the fact I’d be up bouncing off the walls, when you want tea and you get coffee, it just isn’t right.

How hard can it be to find a stray teabag? We’re so messy, there’s bound to be one floating around somewhere. Behind the caddy? No, just some breadcrumbs, a hair band, and strangely, a razor blade. In the cupboards? No, not even an empty packet – again, curious, as we are known for storing great numbers of empty packets in cupboards, rather than throwing them out.

I start to search odder places. The fridge. The pockets of my bag. The pockets of my coat. OK, so maybe a bit desperate – and quite possibly I wouldn’t have wanted to drink anything that was found in the bottom of Ben’s underwear drawer – but it just seems so implausible that not one single solitary tea bag can be unearthed in the vast caverns of our boat. People have been drinking tea in it for 107 years for goodness sake! There has to be one.

In a flash of inspiration, Ben suggests the camper van. Yes, eureka! True, we haven’t been camping in it since last year, and it’s now more of a semi-mobile SORNed laundry basket-cum-tool shop, but at one point in the not too dim and distant past we had definitely enjoyed tea in that van – and so off I trot, keys in hand, eager as to what I might find in the cupboards. Kettle – good, I’m in the right place. Mugs – check. Sugar, a little damp, but otherwise serviceable. Good lord, there’s even a carton of milk in here. Must throw that out. Coffee jar. Hmm, this isn’t boding well. I could have myself a veritable picnic out here – there are even biscuits – but no sodding tea. My mind’s eye takes me back to a similar occasion when, on what was probably another slightly-inebriated Sunday evening, I had the exact same moment of inspiration – and ransacked the camper dry of teabags. Damn my previous self! Why hadn’t I the presence of mind to only take what I needed, and keep the emergency tea supplies safe for another occasion?! I bet I wasted those tea bags. Used one per cup. Used them for people who don’t even really like tea. Or left half of it to go cold. Those selfish tea-stealers! Don’t they understand my needs?

Dejected, I walk back. “There’s no tea in this boat,” I declare mournfully. “I’ll have a coffee,” says Ben cheerfully. I could hit him.

“Neighbours!” I declare suddenly.

“Scott? Charlene? Madge?” chirrups the husband, who is WAY too perky in the face of No Tea, and is I suspect, not taking this situation seriously.

“There are loads of people living on this marina. Go and wake them up,” I say. “Be neighbourly.”

“I’m naked,” he objects. It is true, he is naked. (It’s a Sunday night and we’re pissed. This is normal, right?)

“Well, put some clothes on and go and be neighbourly. Introduce yourself. But don’t say you’re from here. Don’t say you live on the rusty Dutch barge with the cat that eats all the baby rabbits and the car whose doors really need oiling when they’re opened at six in the morning. Say you’re from that nice shiny cruiser on the corner – the one with the netting around their fenders.”

“I’m happy with coffee,” he maintains, and narrowly misses the empty tea caddy I was holding.

Half an hour later and I’ve done the entire rounds of the marina, and am still no closer to procuring a cup of tea. They’re all bloody hippies who drink fruit tea, or mint tea, or sodding ovaltine. “I can lend you some sugar,” says one wag. I loosen his ropes.

So I’m now staring at my last hope, the only possible way I can get a nice hot cup of tea tonight without actually ringing a taxi and getting them to drive me to a Starbucks, or failing that, China. It’s a used teabag. It’s not just a used teabag – it’s a used teabag that’s sat inside a used coffee filter, covered in coffee grounds. It’s a day old and a little sad, and half of me is saying “Go on, it’ll be fine, it’s only been used once, you can wipe off the coffee grounds, and that’s probably not a cat biscuit stuck to the side, and it’ll taste great!” whereas the other half of me is saying, “This is the first step towards insanity Alex. Have a glass of water.” This last voice sounds a little like my sister-in-law, and is of course right. I hesitate. I look to see who’s watching. Ben has long since retired to bed (with an ovaltine to spite me). I’m all alone. No one will ever know. I put the kettle on the stove and… the gas runs out.

Oh sod it. Where’s the wine?

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