It is 4pm. I get cranky if I don’t have a cup of tea by this time in the afternoon. My boyfriend knows this and so he drags me to the nearest shop to indulge me in my favourite brew. We are very lucky as the nearest shop turns out to be The Fourteas, a 1940s themed tea shop. Despite being just 25 (literally just; we are away in Shakespeareland to celebrate my birthday) I am hit with waves of nostalgia, more than likely fabricated memories and feelings that I have built up with the aid of tales from my grandparents and grainy television footage and photos of the war.
The lady in her headscarf comes over to take our order. A list of more than twenty teas is a little dizzying for me, and her and her husband help us out. Basically I want something that will go well with that scrumptious looking carrot cake over there. The frosting glistens and calls to me, and the smell of nutmeg wafts temptation.
She brings a big slice, two forks, and a pot of tea. Period crockery that I last saw on the Antiques Roadshow is laid on the table. I don’t really know what to do with tea when it’s not in a bag. We manage. It tastes good. I read wartime recipe books and study the ration cards around the room. I peer out the daintily clad windows, grateful that I am in here out of choice and will not have to leave to escape an air raid. I see the smiles of people in newspaper cuttings, enjoying VE day celebrations. I listen to a scratchy Vera Lynn on the wireless. And I remember what a treat afternoon tea is, when you make it matter.
By Francesca Baker