Tea with Miss Jill

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by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Funny, but over all these years Miss Jill and I have never actually had any tea when we’ve congregated for our now ritual Friday afternoon tea. There has been coffee certainly, and Sherry from the side-board many times on a chilly autumnal day or a frosty winter’s eve, and once even some Cointreau (which I personally detest and therefore welcomed the opportunity to unload), but never tea. Sometimes we have nothing at all to drink and we content ourselves merely to imbibe the gossip, quips, cynicisms and private, uninhibited explosions which we are wont to intercommunicate. Tea by osmosis so to speak. In a word, we devour one another’s company with or without anything to slurp.

Imperceptibly our end-of-week custom has altered. We were for example originally habituated to roost in the sanctum sanctorum of my inner chambers, lounging about in large stuffed and leather-bound armchairs splayed upon the precious Persians, metaphorically snapping our collective fingers at industry and commerce (frequently a dying thought on a late Friday afternoon in any event). Gradually as our symposiums became more regular our venue changed to the front, side office wherein I conduct the real work of my business and in which we were by virtue of the room’s austerity and comparative economy plunged even more forcefully into the substance of our communion. As with true friends engaged in any reality, the loss of frills didn’t diminish whatever the depth of our parley.

Recently I remarked to myself how salubrious these conventions are primarily because of the immediate and heightened levity they promote. As anyone knows, a good laugh is good medicine. And cackle we do! Our personalities have since the day we met been plumb compatible, each of us knowing exactly how to rebound off the other. Even in the midst of unspeakable personal displeasure we unhesitatingly rise above it and soon find ourselves engaged in a comic free-for-all. If either of us should dare to pull rank by succumbing to anything even remotely adult or mature, the other precipitously counters the assault and instantly reduces the conversation once again to the wholesome and level field of playfulness.

No doubt you too have a very good friend with whom you can openly confide your most treasured thoughts. It’s an addendum to be longed for. So often we are trounced by the crush of life and without a ventilation we are further distressed by having to surrender to the demolition. It would be passably acceptable if we were merely befuddled by the miseries of living, but more often than not we must surrender under agreed conditions which inevitably spell defeat. How welcome then is the attentive ear of a complaisant and harmonic soul!

Occasionally our private forum is, like the piercing of the corporate veil, laid bare by the unanticipated visit of another, someone who – not surprisingly in a small town – is frequently known to us both and whom as a result we beckon enthusiastically to join the fray. It is near impossible to belie the purpose of our nefarious concert; rollicking bravado imminently throws wide open the door! I thrill to see others so conspicuously participatory! The boardroom agenda screams divestment and unburdening! Howls of laughter invariably ensue! It is the lost art of turning misfortune on its head by ridiculing its flagellation. Tea!