Advent. 'Tis the season to be jolly. Somehow, despite all of my best attempts, the Christmas spirit has insidiously worked its way into my shrivelled, darkened soul and I feel festive. This terrible feat has been worked upon me by the combined effects of singing carols in college choirs, and receiving generous quantities of stollen from tea-chum and champion bratwurst-consumer, Herr Dr. Kim.
Currently, I find myself stuck in a university town in Belgium (pictured below), where some of the locals had foolishly asked for me to give a six-hour talk on extreme value statistics. I will ensure that this is a mistake they will come to regret.
While trapped in a slightly more modern version of The Shining's "Overlook Hotel", surrounded by snow-laden Belgian pine forests, I have time to reflect on some writings from my sordid little journal, written last week-end, when I managed to spend some time at the tea-table.
Darkness, Monday, 6 a.m. My tea-table has come out of storage.
No tea session comes close to that which I have at home. In my office, or college, the teas tastes different - flatter, emptier, unexceptional. The same teas at home, at this long-serving tea-table, are transformed. Zidu, my pot, along with some good water, brings pu'ercha alive - and me with it.
It is before dawn, and so all I see in the uncurtained windows is a reflection of the bright room in which I sit. My tea-table now has a permanent place at the far end of our long dining table; my back is to a bay window that looks out onto the Close, my view is of the sitting room, then the conservatory, Out further, in the distant darkness, the huge willow tree sleeps at the end of our garden.
each sip I take
the old willow tree
loses more leaves
Yellow leaves fall in bundles; near-naked branches are whipped by the wind and snow - the wet hair of the willow. I composed this willow haiku, which pleases me despite its humble accomplishments, while sitting with the spiced woodiness of the 2003 Quanji Bulang.
My teas were picked at random from the various packing-crates around the house. Each has its own charm, and is entirely different to its companions. The 2009 Yunzhiyuan Guanfengzhai is more yellow, fresh, mushroom-like, sweet. The 2003 6FTM Fengqing Lushi is dark red, tar-like, smooth. The 1997 Henglichang Bulang is sharp, woody, and clean. Finally, the 2007 Douji Yiwuzhengshan is tobacco-like, dark, and yet sugary sweet.
I remember them all, and the character of each comes to mind like a sequence of favourite musical pieces.
Old friends, waiting
Retired at last: my old tea-cloth, kindly provided by M. Erler many years ago, which has now run its course. In its place, a yellow-cotton baby's bib, my new tea-cloth. One of a stack of similar yellow bibs.
baby's yellow bib
mops up the dribbles
from papa's teacup
Like father, like son.