There’s no right or wrong about keeping a diary. It’s not a fashion, a trend or a fad. It just happens – to some of us. We keep diaries. It’s a fairly personal pursuit too – unless, of course, one is so damned famous or notorious that the public drools over every pen scratch.
Michael Palin said recently that “It’s a very good discipline to try and unscramble your mind.” Now if one is as famous as Michael Palin, what do you get in his diaries? An inside look at The Dead Parrot sketch? The low down on John Cleese? A detailed account of his Monty Python days? Actually, you’re much more likely to get details about hotel carpets that he has encountered and other day to day normalities. But this, surely, is as valuable as any historical document. What an individual notices at any moment in time is crucial for our social history. Understanding why something is noticed and recorded leads us towards a deeper understanding of not only other people but the time in which they live(d) and how we relate to it and ourselves. It is a moment of stopping and reflecting, a moment which is not glossed over or ignored in the general rush of life; it is a moment which is respected and valued.
As a lady of letters AND tea, I am pleased to read that someone as busy as Michael Palin has been keeping a diary since 1969. Mine have only been going since 1994 and as they are never likely to have the kudos of an ex-Python’s, I bury my old ones in the garden. They are currently providing nourishment to my Jerusalem artichokes. It was the only place for them. My shredder is dead and I would loathe to imagine them being found on a rubbish dump. I can just see all those bin men sitting round with a cuppa and a diary each, roaring through my painfully penned pages of angst.
But I waffle and the relevance to glorious tea is seeping away. Well Michael Palin referred to his diary writing as a ritual and I have been lucky enough to encounter two books recently:
both of which are on the subject of glorious TEA and both cover the various tea rituals that occur around the world. I can thoroughly recommend these books.
Now there will always be tea bag dunkers; there will always be tea gulpers; there will always be ‘tea to go’ merchants; there will always be those who with a mindset more suitable for a neolithic period drag their knuckles along the ground and have absolutely no idea or appreciation of the wonders of real tea. So be it. But on reading these books I pondered on the tea rituals of Japan and Korea and China – so seemingly far removed from our lives today. It occurred to me, however, that we do still have tea rituals of a sort in our everyday, mundane, rush around the clock existence. No, they are not formalised yet we all recognise them. “I’ll put the kettle on.” is one. It signals a pause, a de-stress opportunity. It heralds a change of pace; a time to stop what’s going on and take a break from it. There are some notable Big Thinkers present and past who have put this wisdom into their own words and ways of being and have probably enriched our lives because of this. For me, the chink of cups and spoons on saucers immediately lifts my spirits and a surge of comfort courses through my veins. And talking of veins, our local teashop upholds the tradition of serving Prosecco with afternoon tea…..now I could really enjoy a glass of that with my Oolong……
Oh dear, it’s all going downhill again. I’ll put the kettle on, shall I?