I had lunch on my own recently (a regular occurrence, sometimes I’m even good company) in Ard Bia in Galway. It’s a popular eatery so it can be difficult to get a table there, but I arrived at the end of the lunch rush and secured a spot.
The water for my tea arrived piping hot, so I took a couple of shots with my camera to capture the steam wafting off the china cup. One of the things I like about Ard Bia is its eclectic decorations, and the fact that it uses a mix of crockery.
It’s always lovely to have a teapot of loose tea, a strainer, and a china cup when you’re drinking tea (although this was Green Tea, so it should be slightly off the boil). I’m not a traditionalist about most things, but even I take comfort at times from the ritual of a cup of tea made properly.
The colouring on the tea cup and saucer reminded me of the Willow Pattern. There was a time when that design was considered incredibly uncool – since it was mass-produced to death – but now it seems to have progressed into the realm of the retro.
My grandmother had a set of Willow Pattern cups and plates (if memory serves me correctly), and at some point as a child a relative explained the story behind the design to me.
The idea that there was a narrative hidden on a plate really appealed to my childish imagination. I would look at the lovers running across the bridge and silently urge them on to escape. Eating off those plates was a slow reveal of the story. Meal times aren’t always fun when you’re young – adults discuss nonsense that doesn’t mean anything to you – so, it was a lot more fun to look at my plate and imagine myself into a Chinese story (I didn’t discover for a long time that the story was an English invention).
I think it clicked with something inside my mind. A cup of tea could be the start of a fascinating adventure. I realised stories were around me all the time. I merely had to look about for the requisite elements, and embellish my own tale if none already existed.
To this day when I take tea on my own I construct stories to entertain myself.