15 December, 2010

Back to the Tea-Table

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.

Gallia Belgica

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.

A retour

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

Winter Garden

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.


Unknown said...

Glad to hear from you again!

I hope your child is doing well, and that he is bringing you as much if not more joy then stress.


Hobbes said...

Thanks, Adam - I have been enjoying The Sip Tip, even though kept away from my tea-table.

Xiaohu is a real joy; there is no stress at all. I heartily recommend impregnating someone.

Best wishes as ever,


Tom said...

Yes, it's nice to see your thoughts and photos again!

And to hear that the kid is doing well.


Hobbes said...

Thanks, Tom - have a good Christmas. :)



Ruqyo Highsong said...

I have never had a tea table. But, man, just looking at these pictures gives me such a warm, homey feeling. Do you think I should get one?

"I heartily recommend impregnating someone."

I love how bluntly you put that. Just reading that makes me giggle. Don't tell me you didn't have a huge smile on your face when you wrote that. :P


Anonymous said...

Power of pure, unadulterated nerdiness, right there, Asiatic Fox...

spells with a u, but nerd anyhow.


Ruqyo Highsong said...

Shah8...I don't quite follow you. In what way does my comment seem 'nerdy'? Because I found his phrase to be humorous?

Also, I'm a geek, not a nerd. :P

Abricot said...

Were you stuck in Leuven?

Hobbes said...

Dear Fox,

Tea-tables take up a lot of room, especially with all of the whatnots that accumulate around it. If you have the space, they're worthwhile - I rather like the fact that the tea-table marks the tea area, a little zone in the middle of an otherwise hectic house.

Dear Abricot,

My aim in Belgium was to (i) drink plenty of excellent Belgian monastary beer, (ii) consume plenty of delicious, high-calory Belgian food, (iii) give a talk at one of the universities. It snowed hard, and was a very pretty way to see a part of the country that I'd not visited before. I seldom make it past Brussels, and am glad to have finally done so.

Oddly enough, as the train crossed the tunnel back into England, the temperature dropped noticeably - Blighty is quite a bit colder than continental Europe at the moment. We made xueren!



Anonymous said...

I was saying that Hobbes comment was nerdy in the not-meant-to-be-misogynist fashion. It's *really* something that could be taken the wrong way if Hobbes had a somewhat different personality.


Hobbes said...

Oh, I'm hugely nerdy :)

Bram said...

It's rather strange seeing a picture of my home town pop up on your blog all of a sudden. You should have announced your coming to Leuven, I have a tiny bit of some of the best gyokuro I've had in years left in my cupboard. Would've been nice to share it with you!

Hobbes said...

That would have been nice, Bram! Perhaps next time - I'll probably be back in Leuven at some stage, given that I've started an academic collaboration there as a result of the visit. It's a lovely city, you have.