Afternoon Tea Anyone?


The taking of Afternoon Tea first arose in England in the 1840’s just as the Agrarian Age began to give way to the Industrial Victorian era. The class structure at that time saw the upper classes eating luncheon at about Noon, with dinner or at times a late supper, at 8pm or later. The lower orders ate their more substantial meal, referred to as, dinner, at about 11.30 am and had a lighter meal, which they called tea or supper, after the working day at about 7pm.

For both classes a welcome mid afternoon cup of tea with a little something delicious filled the gap between main meals. The custom spread throughout the Empire and beyond for decades to come. These days changes in social customs, working hours, and conditions mean that most people rarely have time to take afternoon tea in quite that prescribed way.

Traditionally, loose tea is brewed in a warmed teapot and served in a china cup and saucer with milk and, if preferred, sugar. For the working poor of the Industrial Age the sugar and caffeine provided fortification against the doldrums of long working hours. Theirs was a hard-scrabble life of physically demanding labour and they ate far less than their 21st century counterparts. For these laborers strong tea was often accompanied by a small sandwich or a baked scone that had been packed for them in the morning.

For the privileged few afternoon tea was replete with luxury ingredients. Sandwiches of cucumber, egg, fish paste, ham and smoked salmon. This over the top culinary feast was followed by baked scones, served with clotted cream and jam and cakes and pastries that might include a Battenburg, fruit cake or a delicious Victoria sponge.

The High Tea or Creamed Tea we partake of today is an emulation of the opulent lifestyle of the English upper classes in the hey day of the British Empire. Although these days it’s become quite a trend to suspend calorie counting and splurge and it’s a great alternative to the wine bar or pub allowing you to spend time with friends who don’t imbibe.

A luke warm cup of water with a stale old tea bag on the side is not tea. If anyone tries to serve you such you can quote literary geniuses like, George Orwell and Christopher Hitchens, and tell them it is quite simply, swill, and out of the question.

The Fall Day


Watch as birds float freely on the slipstream of a passing breeze

Wind chimes sound bell tones across the valley

These are some harmonious times

Crisp, bright and clear, the way all fall days should be

Freesias fill the air with spicy aroma and look handsome in the vase

They burst their buds. Leaves on the Live Oak turn to colour

But still, even more, hold fast to their summer green coats winter defiant

Like soldiers ready for battle against the chill of a Great North.

A full moon burns orange in a starlit sky

And shines a bright path down upon our leafy lane.

Now we walk over to the old man for celebration hot chocolate toddy

And later still, when we return, that same mischievous moon

Spotlights our garden and everything it touches with eerie magic

Blue shadow bright.

The fire crackles. It fills the house with woodsy warmth

And all is cozy and right in this small world.

While talking quietly

And drinking wine and eating food aplenty

That same full moon reaches a zenith

And comes creeping in through skylights clear

To dust our heads with madness

And touch our not-yet-so-dreamt, dreams.

The fire burns. The flames twist and turn and make our eyes all sleepy

So down to bed, perchance to dream go we, to sleep amongst the moonbeams.

Tales of The Miwok Lodge ~ BdF 2012

Tibet and the Murmur of a Prayer


TIBET. Land of mystery and intrigue. Roof of our world. Peeking out from the highest of mountains. Swirling in the clouds like tea in the bone china cup. Tempting us with tales of pleasure domes and eternal life. Traversed by nomads and ancient explorers. Spoken with reverence by Marco Polo. Immortalized in poems. And in our mind’s eye a perfect Xanadu. Steeped in the tradition of the peaceful, Awakened One. Holy. Spiritual. Sublime. Oppressed by those who fear for their own souls and should. Tibet, you are immortal and will live forever.

Shimmer – Magic on the Wet Edge


The principle of a rainbow divinely captured here on the wet edge of a beach. Seen in the still frame of a seeking eye. An iridescent light. Illusive, like a playful shimmer of magic, lying stretched out along the sand and pebbles on which the Pacific Ocean endlessly ebbs and flows. The alchemy of sunlight rippling on sea foam, inventing golden, magical particles of fairy dust that dot the landscape. All at once fascinating, enchanting and alluring and quite simply, spellbinding.

Photograph by Jerry van de Beek


The Japanese have a Verse for it


The flow of the river is ceaseless

and its water is never the same.

The bubbles that float in the pools,

now vanishing, now forming,

are not of long duration;

so in the world are man and his dwellings…

They die in the morning,

they are born in the evening,

like foam on the water.”

– Kamo Chomei (1153-1216), Hojo-ki (An account of my hut), 1212

The Painter of Light – Illumination of the Soul


Who, as a child in England, doesn’t remember being ushered into an impossibly darkened gallery to view the paintings of J.M.W. Turner? That viscerally despondent feeling that perhaps our very breath might destroy the delicate miracle unfolded upon the paper or the canvas. Saddled with the monicker of, “romantic landscape painter” Turner was in fact so much more. The son of a barber and wig maker with a mother from a family of butchers, made him a true working-class son. Admitted to the Royal Academy of Art in 1789 at the tender age of 14 he produced his first water colour a year later for the Summer Exhibition.

The independence such early recognition gave Turner, coupled with the financial freedom it brought him, allowed the young artist the license to experiment and dabble. Water colours, oils and print were the mediums he chose to express his outstanding visions of light but he did more than just capture the right moment. Many of his paintings cast a distinct narrative such as this emotive piece, The Slave Ship or Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying. Surely that broiling sea and that blood red sunset in reflection speaks to us even today of the barbarous practices of slavery and the pact made with the devil of that evil trade.

Better Than the iCloud the Real Clouds


A thousand particles of water droplets. A million tiny ice crystals. A fleeting mass of astonishing visuals suspended above us and strung across the atmosphere in a free form motion of flight. Cast your eyes skyward and read the signs.

Cumulus: Fluffy white heaps of cotton wool that promise the kiss of summer. Stratus: The bringer of just a light dousing of drizzle – perhaps even snow. Cirrus: High wispy strands curled around the sky like an innocent lock of hair but still the forward phalanx of a tropical cyclone. Nimbus: Looming large and filled with heavy foreboding. Dark as thunder and swollen with rain – yet sometimes edged with a silver lining.

A paradox of meaning, an infinite distraction, a celebration of being. Clouds – sustainers of life. No app necessary.

Dedicated to VERLYN KLINKENBORG – the extraordinary writer of New York Times column, The Rural Life.

For Lovers of the Arcane


History and art were my favorite subjects when I was growing up in England and they still are today. The knowledge one stores in the recesses of the mind has a way of percolating through to the present time to become something of an applied science in the modern world. Here’s an extract from one of my most treasured books, A Shortened History of England, by G.M. Trevelyan. His skill with language could bring any passage of history alive in the mind and fire up the imagination to conjure up vivid dioramas.

For many centuries after Britain became an island the untamed forest was king. Its moist and mossy floor was hidden from heaven’s eye by a close-drawn curtain woven of innumerable treetops, which shivered in the breezes of summer dawn and broke into wild music of millions upon millions of wakening birds; the concert was prolonged from bough to bough with scarcely a break for hundreds of miles over hill and plain and mountain, unheard by man save where, at rarest intervals, a troop of skin-clad hunters, stone-axe in hand, moved furtively over the ground beneath, ignorant that they lived upon an island, not dreaming that there could be other parts of the world besides this damp green woodland with its meres and marshes, wherein they hunted, a terror to its four-footed inhabitants and themselves afraid.
– A Shortened History of England – G.M. Trevelyan

Magic in the Sigh of a Breeze


On a still day they may rest hidden in porticoes. Some hang in the garden or lie unseen from the eaves of a roof. Others dangle above a doorway. Some tinkle or clang, ring or peal. All are percussive and attuned in inharmonic spectra.

Used since time immemorial to ward off evil spirits and attract good fortune. Revered from epoch to epoch across borders and seas: the phallic tintinnabulum of ancient Rome, the glass Furin of the Japanese Edo period, the temple bell protectors of 2nd Century India, the strategically placed wind bells of early Chinese pagodas – and still today.

What coastal beach town has not it’s beaded shell strings, or suburban garden it’s tinkling muse, or city balcony it’s melodic ring?

All vibrate to the continuum of these magic dancing objects, sentinels from an age gone by, that wait in silence for their aural signifier the gentle sigh of a breeze. A stir of treetops, the lift of a zephyr, then Wind Chimes.



What manner of a man must Sir Launcelot du Lac have been to induce the melancholy, Lady of Shalott, to leave her loom and suffer the curse of certain death? One fleeting glance reflected in the mirror. Launcelot, Knight of the Holy Grail, a raven-haired, sun baked beauty. The medieval bad boy whose seduction of his liege’s queen ultimately led to the downfall of the Kingdom of Camelot. Were that we could bottle that enchanted essence today.