Monday, 12 December 2011

‘Boiling a kettle & making tea.’

On waking the first thing you do is get up and go downstairs to make tea. The kettle stands silent in the same spot, waiting to be used. Your right hand reaches out and clasps the kettle’s handle and you pick it up one handed, then turn and walk towards the sink. With care you open the lid, and place the newly revealed opening beneath the faucet. The lid broke sometime ago and flies off into space if you exert too much force.

The tap is turned on. Water spurts, and then splutters, until a sudden whoosh of activity, it issues forth. You almost jump, and if you’re careless and drift a little the rim of the kettle will catch the fountain and spray everything. Wall, sink and wet your Pj’s’ with an unnecessary intensity of coldness that makes you swear out loud. Usually something suitably unrepeatable.

The kettle fills quickly not quietly. You turn off the tap. Push the lid back into place until it locks into position and with two hands carry the kettle back to the original work surface. With care you place it on the stand and flick the switch. The red light pops on. Cheery and bright in the winter morning gloom. The roar of the rumble as the water begins to boil makes the kitchen feel as if it is coming to life. The quiet solitude broken by the rapidity of the rolling boil. It’s quick this old kettle it’s why you haven’t replaced it yet.

Your hand reaches up in the air, finds the cupboard door without you looking, your fingers loop casually around the handle and pulls it open. The tea caddy faces proudly, outwards. You pick up the sealed container, pop its lid wide open and select two tea bags. These are dropped carelessly onto the surface.

The smell is familiar, slightly oily, aromatic bergamot the box had stated. The lid snaps shut. Seals in that fragrant perfume. And again without looking your hand returns the tin to its place in the cupboard, well-located, within easy reach for next time and with a lightest touch the cupboard door swings closed.

You pull open the fridge door. The light shines out highlighting its contents. You stoop, retrieve the bottle from the door rack and twist the green cap off, intending to remove it, place it on the work surface. The lid flies. Airborne it crosses a vast expanse of floor before landing with a clattering noisiness unlike any magic flying saucer. You go to pour the milk and stop. Turning you open another high level cupboard, reach up and take down two mugs, one a pretty multi-coloured butterfly scene on a lilac background, the other an old favourite, a VW Golf.

The milk is poured, measured into these two receptacles. I’m very particular milk first then the tea, never the other way round. You humour me, ‘Yes dear,’ when I say I can tell the difference. And opening the drawer beneath the kettle you rummage, find a spoon and place it on the work surface next to the mugs.

At last the kettle finally boils, it switches off and you lift it. Pour a small amount of water into the empty pot. You put it back and pick up the patterned teapot, a modern design in blue and white, with both hands and swirl this hot liquid around before turning and tipping it away down the drain. The warmed ceramic pot is ready. Teabags are dropped into its cavity and the kettle is picked up. You pour slowly, the steam escapes, rises, hits the surface of the overhead cupboards and curls out tendrils of white vapour that disappear in an instance. You return the drained kettle to its stand, it clicks into place. Before you pop the lid of the tea pot on, you stir the water into a whirlpool and watch the teabags swim, round and round.

You take two steps and nudge the green lid out from under the washing machine with your big toe, pick it up, blow on it to make sure there is no dust adhered to the lid and twist it back firmly. The milk is stowed away and the fridge light goes out, extinguished until the next time. The kettle is quiet. The kitchen is silent.

You fold your arms, wander over to the back door and look out over the garden, the garden wears a thin layer of frost, everything is coated in white. You pull your dressing gown tight around your torso and you wait for the brew to stew. You round your shoulders, then shake them out before stretching your arms above your head. But you do not yawn.

Occasionally you will place the cups and the pot and the sugar bowl on a tray and then go back to bed but not today. You need to get going. You need a shower. But not before this amber nectar has reached your lips, revived your dry thirsty throat. A sudden cough grabs you. Your body convulses. The wait is almost over, one final stir with the discarded spoon, its time to pour the tea.

A long stream of dark golden brown liquid ascends from the pot to the mug. It mixes with the milk, turns pale. Fills the mug. Bubbles form, sit proudly in a gaggle on the surface that makes you smile. Yet as the bubbles dwindle, your smile fades.

Temptation to lift a mug and sip this hot invigorating liquid will result in a burned mouth. Patience is required. You pick up both cups and head off back up stairs, whistling.


Observation of the small details in life can help me and lead me to write a more detailed character/situation. Writing a piece like this about an everyday occurrence, with all its attendant actions can be a cathartic exercise.

When I wrote this piece initially it was in the first person. But then I decided to attempt the second person, which I’d never done before. I wanted more distance and to give the impression of being a voyeur. I’m not sure if it works. But if I don’t try these variations I will never find out what does and what doesn’t work.

There are so many things that I could take for granted and in trying to find the magic/mystery I may miss important elements that are essential to a character.

1 comment:

  1. A really nice piece of writing. Will plough through and find more......