Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coal Valley View - Guest Post

Please welcome today's lovely guest, Mel. Mel and I first connected a while ago over the twin thing. She has four-year-old twins  as well as two older children AND a new bub. She must be a superwoman because when I met her last weekend at a blogging event, she seemed as calm and relaxed and lovely as could be - though anyone would look calm next to the frizz-frazzle that is me when I get an hour or two to myself. Mel is one funny lady. Her blog often has me chuckling out loud at the screen. Enjoy her story.

My morning coffee ritual is completely unsatisfactory at the moment, such is life with 5 smalls in the home. My first coffee of the morning appears on my bedside table while I feed the baby still bleary-eyed from the earlier 4am feed. I inevitably doze off and wake up to a cold coffee. The second attempt at a hot coffee is also made in vain as the odd sip is interrupted with doing hair for school, making lunches and finding misplaced school items. By the time I get back to the coffee it is luke warm at best. 

Once the kids are off to school I either make two back-to-back coffees to replace the earlier coffee failures or I spend the good part of the day flicking the kettle on as I walk past it without ever managing to actually complete the coffee-making process. It all just depends on what day of the week it is and how many children are at home with me.

So let me tell you about my favourite morning tea ritual instead. It is the one I shared every week with my gorgeous grandparents when we were living in Sydney. 

Every week I would front up to the home they had built 60 years previously for a 'relaxing' cup of tea. I emphasise 'relaxing' because taking the kids to visit their great-grandparents was actually anything but relaxing. Every available surface of their home was adorned with breakables or valuable trinkets and controlling two year old twins in such an environment was as relaxing as jumping out of an aeroplane blind-folded.

Nevertheless I would be welcomed in by my grandmother and summoned to sit down, somehow relax and tell them all my news whilst keeping an eagle eye on the 2 year old twins as they eyed off my Grandma's collection of Lladro Ballerinas and and the rows of Wedgewood China propped along the shelves that ran the length of the living room wall. 

After successfully making it through the minefield of breakables in the living room, we would settle in to the family room. Whilst my 95-year-old Grandpa toddled off to prepare the tea, I was handed the latest photo album and letters from relatives and looked through these while I chatted with my Grandma who sat with her latest knitting project in her lap. As I recounted the news of the week she would repeat it all back to my Grandpa who was still in the kitchen preparing the tea tray. Conversations were interrupted with constant reminders to the boys to stop playing with Grandpa's collection of ceramic pumpkins or to step away from the crystal glassware set out on the bar.

Tea was a traditional affair with everything served in fine china on a silver tray. There was none of this quick tea-bag in a mug of hot water business. It took a very long time as Grandpa would place the teapot down on the table and then go backwards and forwards from the kitchen to the table for the next half an hour gathering cups and saucers and napkins, the tray with the milk jug and the sugar bowl. 

Meanwhile, the boys continue their search for the most breakable objects in the home and keep my blood pressure at a rather unhealthy level while I waited for a sip of restorative tea. I would pepper my grandparents with questions about our family history, keen to learn as much as possible in between reminding the boys not to de-frond the indoor ferns or fondle the chains of the grandfather clock. Grandpa would almost be ready for tea when he would have to head into his study to retrieve some papers because he couldn't remember precisely what year the patio extension on the house was done.

I'd hang off every word as Grandpa recounted stories from his time serving in the army in New Guinea, all the while peering sidewards as the boys moved in on the fish tank. The fish tank sat precariously on the top of a wonky pedestal with matchstick legs and teetered from side to side like an amateur juggler on stilts. 

Somewhere between distracting the boys from wanting to go outside and step directly into the swimming pool that had no child-proof fence, morning tea would finally be ready.  Homemade chocolate cake was usually on offer as well as a container full of chocolate biscuits of the TimTam or Mint Slice variety, a very welcome distraction for the boys. I'd watch chocolate crumbs descend from the mouths of the little boys into the cream flokati rug as I took my first sip of tea. Without fail, and after what seemed like an hour of preparation, the tea was either too strong or only luke warm. However, if we stayed long enough, morning tea would morph into "elevensies" which involved a little nip of wine from the fridge which thankfully only took a small moment to prepare and was already chilled. More often than not, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Despite the stress levels, the shenanigans and the cold tea, my visits were a highlight of every week, a little tradition of spending time with my very special grandparents that I am so grateful for, especially since my Grandmother passed away just shortly before we left Sydney and moved back to Tasmania - a different kind of morning tea ritual that is all about the ritual and (thankfully) not about the tea.

Thank you, Mel, for visiting today. Make sure you check out her blog at Coal Valley View.


  1. oh Miss Mel I love your writing so very much. My Pop also served in PNG, but never ever talks about it in the presence of ladies. What a great tradition to have held with your grandparents, and the sounds of elevensies make it all worthwhile! :)sarah

  2. Beautiful.
    This has me reminiscing tea-time with my grandparents - always a very proper affair. Fine bone china cups & saucers, sweets on Wedgewood platters, & never a tea bag in sight, combined with hours of pouring through photo albums & listening to family stories. Thank you for reminding me.

    Sar xx

  3. I loved this post...I can just picture it all.
    And as for "elevensies" I cannot wait until I am a grandmother myself so I can start up that tradition...I would love to start it now but unfortunately a semi stay at home mom who drinks wine in the morning would be get labelled something other than charming!

  4. Loved this post Mel. Loved it to bits.
    I'm visiting my grandparents house in a couple of weeks and can so relate. My blood pressure is already a touch higher than usual just thinking about all the breakables and sharp corners on offer.

  5. That's a beautiful post Mel, it's reminded me of my Grandparents house, all full of beautiful bone china (they lived for most of their lives in Staffordshire where Wedgewood & Royal Doulton are made hence the love of fine china). Sadly they didn't get to meet any of my children but they are in my thoughts every day.

  6. Thanks so much for having me Greer! I've so loved hanging out at your space here this week for your Bloggy Morning Tea x

  7. Such an entertaining post! I used to visit my parents once a week for lunch. Although I never worried about breakables with my kids (their house was very kid friendly), I can relate to the lengthy preparation of getting "bit of pork pie", "a few cookies", "would like some pickles?" ... the preparation all revolved around making the tea. "Is the tea made?" was the cue to all sit down and begin. My husband's parents, however, had those same delicate Lladros figurines and THAT'S where I could never relax for fear of something getting bounced off the shelves whenever my kids raced past! Wendy

    PS I had the same trouble with never finishing a good hot cup of tea in the morning, so reverted to an insulated, lidded mug that stays hot for an hour!

  8. Hello Mel! Lovely to see you here. :-)

    This is such a nice post and reminded me so much of my own grandparents, who would insist on using bone china cups and saucers, leaf tea, a tea pot, jug etc, all on a little tray, every time they wanted a cup of tea. It was all about the ritual.

    And if I had a pound for every time I switch on my kettle and forget to make myself a cup of tea throughout the day I'd be a rich lady. I keep thinking I should get a stove-top kettle that whistles so then I'd know it had boiled and I'd make that cup of tea! xx

  9. Oh that so reminds me of when my kids were little and visiting my mother's house with all her china, vases and figurines etc. Eventually there was a whip around to put everything in a high place! x

  10. Lovely. I have afternoon tea with my grandparents every Thursday at their place. They lovingly set out a spread for me and my kids. It's a precious weekly routine that we all adore. And Nan insists on serving me tea in a cup with a saucer, not a mug! Fi xx

  11. Just beautiful, Mel. You have a delightful way with words, painting pictures so splendidly. J x


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