Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hot and Strengthening, or Just One of Those Days

Jeeves was bringing me the morning cup of tea when I read these missives, and I handed them to him in silence. He read them in same. I was able to imbibe about a fluid ounce of the hot and strengthening before he spoke. 
--from The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

Yesterday was one of those days. Disappointment didn't come in the form of missives, it came in the absence of them. I was expecting a package of advance review copies of books from one of the girls over at Forever Young Adult, but the envelope I got was opened and empty. I'm not sure why it got me down, but it did. The prescription? Fortifying cups of tea! (Why, yes, I have read a lot of British lit.)

I did what always cheers me up a bit and pulled out my silver tea tray, badly in need of polishing, and got the omnibus copy of some of Barbara Pym's novels I picked up at the Friends of the Library booksale a couple of weeks ago and settled down with my new teapot. Also, I know it looks virtuous of me to have an orange as a snack, and while it's partly because it reminds me of that bit in Cranford where they eat their oranges in solitude* because there's something unseemly about sucking the juice from them, it's mainly because I'd already eaten the last cupcake and a handful of chocolate chips, and the Girl Scout cookies hadn't been delivered yet.

Isn't it neat? It's actually an old teapot, one my brother got me for Christmas ages ago. He scoured the mall and other shops and this was the only one he could find (I think it predated the teapot vogue of a few years ago). I was thrilled, and on Christmas Day, the first time I used it, the lid fell off and smashed to pieces on the floor. Of course I was crushed, but when I got home, I found the lid of one of those brew mugs fit perfectly and added a little dash of color.

Anyway, ever since reading The Code of the Woosters a couple of years ago, I've been dying to embellish this teapot with Bertie's wonderful epithet for tea, the "hot and strengthening." I just used a couple of Pebeo Porcelaine pens and a great deco font I found on urbanfonts that I can't manage to find now, and Bob's your uncle.

Have any of you read P.G. Wodehouse? He's marvellous, and I wish there were more opportunities to sprinkle his hilarious turns of phrase into ordinary conversation. Frankie Landau-Banks, the protagonist of E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks does a pretty admirable job with her embrace of neglected positives (like "gruntled" and "maculate"), if you're looking for a way to get a little more Wodehouse in your life.
*When oranges came in, a curious proceeding was gone through.  Miss Jenkyns did not like to cut the fruit; for, as she observed, the juice all ran out nobody knew where; sucking (only I think she used some more recondite word) was in fact the only way of enjoying oranges; but then there was the unpleasant association with a ceremony frequently gone through by little babies; and so, after dessert, in orange season, Miss Jenkyns and Miss Matty used to rise up, possess themselves each of an orange in silence, and withdraw to the privacy of their own rooms to indulge in sucking oranges.

I had once or twice tried, on such occasions, to prevail on Miss Matty to stay, and had succeeded in her sister’s lifetime.  I held up a screen, and did not look, and, as she said, she tried not to make the noise very offensive; but now that she was left alone, she seemed quite horrified when I begged her to remain with me in the warm dining-parlour, and enjoy her orange as she liked best.
--from Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell


  1. I've been reading some of the Jeeves & Wooster books, and have been watching the series at the same time (too too wonderful). I keep having the urge to say "very good, sir" but there is just no way to work it into conversation!

    The writing really is wonderful, I love how no one enters a room - they drift, shimmer, etc into it.

  2. ah, and no one shimmers like stephen fry. i love the television adaptation so much, it's impossible to separate fry and laurie from jeeves and wooster anymore.
    also, i saw a cow creamer at a shop the other day and was DYING to buy it. it was ceramic though, not silver.

  3. wow, that excerpt is wonderful and hilarious! And your teapot is beautiful! Gorgeous font! I just started re-reading Jane Eyre for the first time in years (I want to read it again before seeing that new movie version coming out). I just read the scene where Miss Temple has Helen and Jane into her room and they have tea and cake. The scene is so warm and bright---I think Jane would agree that tea is "hot and strengthening!"


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