28 November, 2013

Tag Team, Back Again

Being tag-teamed by a Chinese academic brings to mind a highly amusing mental image. 

However, the fact remains that I have been slammed into the figurative ropes of the wrestling ring, and need to extricate myself by means of answering the following questoids.

Make it so.

1. "How were you introduced and fell in love with the wonderful beverage of tea?"

You know, I'm completely the wrong person for such questions.  To begin with, I see only the grammatical error in the question.  I cannot see past it.  Clauses have to agree, grammatically, and in this question, they do not.   It is the kind of error that leads me to wonder as to the nature of the soul behind the question.  So, I start following the chain of links up from the Duke of N, all the way up to the ultimate source: "the tea cup of life".

It is an illuminating journey.  I am familiar with the first link in the chain, because I have reading the output of the Ducato di N for the majority of the last decade.  The Duke of N may be many virtuous things, but a murderer of grammar he is not.  We work our way slowly back up the chain of "tea blogs" and suddenly I am far, far, far out of my comfort zone.  All of sudden we have curly fonts and pictures of white porcelain.  We have pictures of table settings (i.e., with tablecloths) and, may the Lord have mercy on our souls, we have discussions of teacakes.  I don't know where we are, but I am scared.  There are things out there that people shouldn't have to see.

I've seen things... you people wouldn't believe...  attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion...

Curling up into a ball, hugging my knees tightly to chest, I begin to regain control of my breathing.  In... out... in... out... My vision returns.  My mind recoils from the horror of an infinity of tea blogs, stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see.  I focus on the present.  I return to safety. 

Some things are beyond the comprehension of the mortal mind.  The only thing that keeps us from madness is our inability to see the horrific, infinite truth, stretching off into the abyss.

As my hands stop trembling, I realise that I have not answered the exam question.  I steel myself, trying not to prevent my mind from wondering about the remainder of the questions yet to come.

So, then.  How was I introduced and [HRRRNNNGGGG] fell in love with the [HRRRARRRGLE] wonderful beverage of tea?

A searing pain tears across my chest, making my vision white, as I struggle to parse the sentence.  My breathing is laboured, hoarse; my tongue, a dry rag slung against the side of my throat.  A number of pills may have passed from pill-bottle to mouth; I cannot recall.  Merely, I am aware that later, much later, my consciousness returns.


Tea.  I was introduced to it in the womb.  It came down the umbilical cord in its unadulterated form.  Tea is the glue that binds life together in England.  We drink it by default.  It is the cure to all ills, the panacea.

Did I "fall in love" with it?  Is a dry, rancid soul such as my own capable of such lofty emotion?  I can tolerate tea in a way that I cannot tolerate much else.

Perhaps I really am the wrong person for such questions.  Let us plough on.

2. "What was the very first tea blend that you ever tried?"

I conclude that the writer of these questions is foreign to me in a way that I will never understand.  Is this the stage of the proceedings at which one should write "mint chocolatte eggnog nipple-tweak energiser"?

Like every other life form in England, I have consumed "tea" since before the day I was born.  I imagine that the real answer to this question, in my case, is "English breakfast", but that really depends on whatever it was that my mother happened to be drinking when I was happily gestating.

3. "When did you start your tea blog and what was your hope for creating it?"

Heavens, we're only on question 3.  At least this one is a little more explicable.  I fired up the ol' Half-Dipper in the spring of 2007, back when I was a fresh-faced young man, eyes wide in joyous wonder at the rapturous possibilities that the future held in store.  Obviously, I am now a decrepit crustacean.

Documentation forms a major part of my life.  I have a some fifty or so journals, stretching back to when I was 18, and two dozen logbooks that describe my work and the details of the experiments that form part of it.  A tea blog was a natural extension of this process.  I cannot remember very much at all, and so having a searchable list of my conclusions concerning matters related to tea seemed to offer the same possibilities as do my journals or laboratory logbooks.

Later, after tonking around for some considerable period, I came to appreciate that the real fun with the web-site came from bouncing ideas off like-minded (i.e., rabidly strange) individuals.  There is a chance, Gentle Reader, that you fall within this category, if you are reading this.

4. "List one thing most rewarding about your blog and one thing most discouraging."

We have may surmised, looking at the above text, that I (and probably you) are not immediately similar to that which the majority of people might call "tea people".  I dislike that label immensely, in fact, because it is a diminutive.  You, Gentle Reader, are so very much more than a "tea" person.  You are, quite probably, entirely fascinating.  You might be a scholar, a warrior, a poet, or perhaps even (as the youth of today might say) a d-bag.  You are, undoubtedly, more than someone who consumes a drink.

I sigh a weary sigh as I realise that I have not even remotely answered this question.  What is rewarding about my blog?  People.  Connections.  If you were not here, Gentle Reader, then I would be just a strange individual shouting at an empty space.  Instead, I enjoy the luxurious facility of intercourse.  Intercourse!  With you!  It is an entirely satisfactory experience.

The most discouraging?  I don't find much, if anything, discouraging about the whole affair.  People come and go - even you and I will go, perhaps sooner, perhaps later.  This transient behaviour of readers and writers is a charming feature of the medium, in fact - it is the constant reinvention that makes for renewal.

Actually, I just thought of something.  The one thing I dislike.  It is the adoption of the word "scholar" when referring to tea.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the one discouragement that I have encountered: "scholar tea".  The chap who coined this phrase is a lovely one, whom I like very much.  You might remember him.  It is more the phrase itself that is the problem - the notion that something I love so dearly (i.e., scholarship) could be co-opted to hawk tea.

"That's all I have", as our American cousins might say.

5. "What type of tea are you most likely to be caught sipping on?"

I feel that these questions are quite revealing as to the texture of the mind that generated them.  It is not a texture that is immediately recognisable to me, and I have to feel my way around it in the same way as a newborn might require continued tactile sensation to come to an understanding.

I drink Right Tea.  I do not drink "good tea" or "excellent tea", because that is rather a lazy description.  Sometimes, I drink downright horrible tea.  However, I always drink the Right Tea.  Every day.

6. "Favourite tea latte to indulge in?"

I would like to meet the person that created these questions solely for the purpose of extending my comprehension as to the vast and infinitely-varied spectrum that comprises humanity. 

I am consistently amazed, year on year, by how many new types of people there are out there - people thinking and existing in a manner that I would have hitherto not even thought possible.  Rather, so alien are these souls to my own that I could not even conceive of their existence, let alone their impossibility.

And yet, somehow, such people exist.

It's a miracle, really.  Nature is a miracle-worker, and we, Gentle Reader, are witnessing the results of that magic.  It is a humbling thought.

7. "Favourite treat to pair with your tea?"

Malaise?  Ennui?  Artery-splitting terror that I might be asked such a dread question?

8. "If there was one place in the world that you could explore the tea culture at, where would it be and why?"

If there was [HRRRNNNGG] one place in the world that you could explore the tea culture at [HR-HR-HRRRUNNNNNGGGH], where would it be and why?

My physiology attempts to cope with the brutal violence done to our dear language.  Merely writing it, tapping fingers against keys, has caused my systolic blood pressure to rise beyond that of an exploding sun.

I... I... you win.  You win.  You have challenged me, and won.  You have bested me in combat.  I am honour-bound to answer the remainder of your questions.

9. "Any tea time rituals that you have that you'd like to share?"

I begin to suspect that the victor in this combat, which is to say the originator of these fell questions, may come from the United States of America.  The notion of "sharing" in this context is very definitely foreign.  It makes me feel similar to that sensation I experience when I hear the word "leverage" used as a verb.  It is akin to describing a problem as a "space" or as an "issue".

I have rituals, and plenty of them, all of which are automated and performed without intervention by my consciousness.  I am sure that you have them, too, of your own sort, Gentle Reader.
We have learned the rules, and then forgotten them.

10. "Time of day you enjoy drinking tea the most: Morning, Noon, Night, or Anytime?"

Such cavalier use of capitalisation is to be admired, really.  They say that Shakespeare created three times more new words, and new usage of existing words, than anyone else in the history of the English language.  This spirit lives on in the driving force behind these questions.

I would love to experience the complete freedom to play with language and syntax in such a way, but I am constrained and limited in a way that the questioner is not.  The ceiling is low indeed, for me, and I scrape against it, while the devisor of these questions soars high above, in the clouds, free and unbound.

11. "What's one thing you wish for tea in future?"

Tea is just a drink.  My advice would be, if I may be so bold as to venture advice, do not limit yourself by association.

"Buddha is in the details", it is said, and so while tea is "just a drink", it contains so much more.  Do I wish anything for tea?  Not particularly.

However, I wish very much for you, Gentle Reader, and that is surely the purpose of our time together.

 12. "Whom do you tag?"

The buck stops here.  I will be the Atlas to your globe, Gentle Reader, and bear the weight of your subsequent judgement.

I pray you, be favourable.


Adp said...

Ah! The Cup of Life....
I made the mistake of googling it. The mind blowing journey through the vastness of the googlesphere took me in no time, like some latter day Arthur Dent, from Ricky Martin to strange chalices, and on to the (Canadian) tea blog to which you refer. Why, on supping from the Cup of Life, was I left with an enduring image of the culmination of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'?
Your amusing musings made my day. Thanks from one crustacean to another, making progress sideways :-).

Adp said...

Oops. I think I mean The Last Crusade - but you probably get my drift...

NorberT said...

Does it really bother you, that those questions are grammatically not correct?

Hobbes said...

While it is true that this article is exaggeration for comic effect, there is "many a true word spoken in jest". :)

I see far worse errors every day of my life, usually from my students, believe me...



jj said...

I've spent rest of the evening researching on grammar, after this post!

MarshalN said...

It is quite clear that my tag was not in vain.

Charles T. Draper said...

Dear Hobbes,

This Gentle Reader and like-minded individual enjoys every article. Thank you again. That's all I have.

All The Best,