Sometimes the mood to write descends but unfortunately there seems to be no inspiration, and the blank page or screen stares reproachfully, and the little wriggle of an idea loses courage and wriggles away. This may have been what happened to Ted Hughes when he had an empty page before him, and from that came a beautiful poem, The Thought Fox which is a poem about writing a poem… there is no actual fox at all, even though we might see it as we read the verse.

So what to do if you want to write but have an empty head? if you’re a tea drinker, have a nice cup of tea… it doesn’t have to be a real cup or real tea any more than the thought fox was a real fox, but write about a nice cup of tea, or coffee, or glass of crystal clear water drawn from a mountain spring –  why you might have a glass halfway up a mountain, standing by a spring doesn’t matter, because it’s not a real glass or spring or mountain.

When I was a teacher of some quite challenging but great young people, trying to get a discussion or debate going was impossible, nothing engaged them, even the most controversial topic… however there were two subjects which caused the most fierce and well argued discussion:

  • TIF or MIF? Tea in first or milk in first?
  • Cream tea – jam on first and cream on top, or cream on first and jam on top?

If you want to write and are bereft of inspiration, argue each way for TIF/MIF, and cream jam/jam cream. Once you have sorted that little difficulty out, consider the tea itself, leaves or bags? Metal or china pot? Stir or don’t stir? And in every country there is a vast array of different teas – teas made from tea, and teas made from every sort of leaf, petal, herb and spice you can think of – choose your favourite!

Recently we were in Australia and we stayed in quite a few different places and the most common tea we were given in our hotel rooms was Dilmah which we had never heard of but comes from Sri Lanka. We bought a box of tea so we could make some when we wanted and bought Dilmah as it’s nice and strong and full of flavour. Inside the box was a little leaflet with the history and background to the brew. The Dilmah company was started by Merrill J. Fernando and he created the name from his two sons names, Dilhan and Malik. He was determined to grow and produce a first class Ceylon tea, and to produce it ethically too. He also has two charitable foundations supporting people in need and nature conservation. It was an interesting little leaflet, tea is something you just take for granted, you know it is a leaf which grows on a bush and is picked and dried, and it’s grown in India, Sri Lanka, China and Kenya… and a few other countries too including some small estates in England, yes, England.

I began this post with no clear idea what I was going to write about; I actually could write a lot more, my family and tea, the social history of tea, tea drinking today, tea in literature…

There is never an excuse not to write – you might not be writing your masterpiece… but on the other hand, you never know…


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