Sunday, 14 February 2021

I Set A Breakfast Tray

My grandmother used to correct me: "It's set. You set a table. Hens lay eggs." 

I think this insistence on the verb set being the correct way to describe the arrangement of cutlery, glasses, etc. might be named a shibboleth: a characteristic principle, often outdated, of a group that distinguishes it from another group, or class. 

It felt, when she emphasised set, as if Granny were hanging on to something for dear life.

This grandparental voice is clear in my head whenever I prepare to serve a meal. I still set tables, cannot do anything else, and, this morning, it being Valentine's Day, I set a tray with teapot, jug, plate, glass, and mug, ready for breakfast in bed.

I selected the teapot first, 50th birthday gift from my Longest-Serving Friend. I spooned in equal measures of English Breakfast and Earl Grey loose leaf tea. 

Next, the tiny milk jug, just enough for one, a present from Charlotte. It comes from the Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke-on-Trent where she and I used to, and will again, meet regularly for tea served in their patterned mugs, large slices of cake, and meanderings round the factory shop. I miss her, our long and easy catch-ups, spiced with giggles. 

The plate is also Emma Bridgewater: one I bought myself in an on-line payday spree last autumn. Toast tastes better when eaten from a plate whose colours complement strawberry jam. 

The glass, filled with freshly-squeezed blood orange juice, is one I bought from IKEA in Antwerp. They can be bought from IKEA anywhere, but this one is a souvenir from the seven trips I made there to see my son over the three years he lived there: trips which came to an abrupt end with the pandemic.

Finally the mug, lovely gift from Mike. Last night, I wondered darkly how long I have to go without writing a poem before I stop being a poet. This morning, preparing a Valentine's breakfast for one, this was the obvious mug to choose. 

I sat in bed this morning in the company of crockery, eating toast, drinking orange juice. Three times, I poured milk from the tiny jug into the mug-of-affirmation, before pouring on the English Breakfast / Earl Grey mix. With each mugful, I felt the warmth of love, in all its richness and many forms, grow stronger.  

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