Sunday, 18 April 2010

Bitter and Red Tea

A dimpled pint of bitter


Friday morning saw me sitting in a comfortable chair in the library, the sunshine was streaming down and warming me, over my forehead came a slight, cool waft of air and in the quietness of that cosy corner memories started to flood into my mind, as I drifted back in time, revisiting places and tastes.

The flavour of a pint bitter filled my senses and in half closing my eyes I was sitting in the bar of a small pub in Builth Wells, Wales where the dark wood wall panels and cushioned benches provided me with an inner warmth. I muse on how the dimpled glass is held not by it's handle but with one's hand placed around the glass with the underside of the top the part of the handle resting on the the right index finger, as I sup to swallow a goodly draught of the nectar.

April does this to me, it draws in the memories more than any other month. I was reflecting on this earlier, when I recalled visiting another pub on the outskirts of Combe Down, Bath. I think it was called The Pack Horse, an old establishment that sold a delicious cider that oft tempted me as a refreshing lunchtime drink. It was there on the radio that I heard the news of John Lennon's untimely demise and where I immediately wrote the following piece

John born Liverpool 1940

ex Beatle and M.B.E.

Departed New York 1980

Cupro-nickle six

Impales vital flesh

Discord rhythm slips

Lennon into death

Amplified sound loses

Earth’s mystic beat

Playing Yoko’s love

with substituted pain.

Songs of love and peace

Will flower forever on

Echoing thro’ the world

In green growing harmony.

©MRL 1980

I don't want you to think that I spent all of my time in pubs. I did tho' frequent many an establishment in my younger days and they provided me with insights of human characteristics and some of them quite pitiable as:

Bristol 6

My favourite Pub

My favourite pub stands

gaunt to the street.

Yet alive with vitality

It’s balance of humour

A serious intent.

Not in this pub stand

the pretentious and proudly sober

they drink not at this bar.

They exist stoned, cold

Beyond their fronts

With hand held can


Hypocrisy for company

In this bar

Faded winter flowers

Open deep their centres

Bright blemishes lie honest

naked, bare to the sky

Avoiding not the quick glances

Nor to ask for dispensation

For here drink labourers, pimps

lags and tired working girls.

©MRL 1982

I was aroused from my reveries in the library by the arrival of Mrs H, who dragged me off to the health shop to purchase our weekly supply of Red Tea (Rooibosh).Which is now our favourite tipple, with it's versatile and restorative powers; and the person to who we have to thank for bringing it to our attention is the author Alexander McCall Smith and his series of books on Botswana - 'The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency', where the main character Precious Ramotswe indulges herself by making pots & pots of red tea. For it was in this library that we borrowed his books.



  1. Through one's student years, the pub' becomes a second home. Later it becomes a refuge. I very rarely visit pubs now (when I'm in the UK), but love the idea of them. A good friendly 'local' is a wonderful place; it's where people meet and discuss.

  2. What a coincidence.......I have just finished my delicious cup of Rooibos, 'red bush', first introduced to me on a trip to beautiful South Africa 18 years ago! The country pub and half a cheshire cat is calling..........

  3. Lovely memories, interesting spring seems to do that to me too- Ah and poetry - and I will have to get some 'red tea', always did like it and have none here, in the bonny hills of Dorset.

  4. The Pack Horse is more than a memory for me, though I hardly ever go there these days. In your day, it was renowned for cider, but these days it's gone down the Gatsro route - still a nice place though. I have a friend who was badly beaten up in the car park for placing his glass on the Shove-Ha'penny board, which was kept in tip-top condition by a bunch of alcoholic locals then.

    Roobosh (as I like to call it) is a good tea, especially after a night in the Pack Horse.

  5. P.S. I was up some scaffolding, chopping stone as usual, when you were in the P.H., listening to the death of Lennon. Where were you when Kennedy got whacked?

  6. Hi Heron,
    I am more of a cider girl than a beer fan, though I know my father had one of those dimpled glasses when we were little to enjoy his pilsener. I don't think I have ever had red tea, as the style here in Canada leans heavily towards orange pekoe, which is a grade of black tea. I am also a fan of vanilla tea, which has just been delivered from Mauritius to me by my visiting mum. I am also a great fan of an orange peel, cinnamon and clove brand from the US, which I've ordered as you can't get it here.

    Toronto has a lot of pubs, many of whom are English and Irish style, but I believe it is also the place with more coffee shops per capita in the world. I might want to verify that, but it's amazing how many there are.


  7. Rooibos & a good ale just happen to my fav luxuries!

    Thank you for your messages on my blog. I love reading your blog, your writing throws up such strong imagery! I can almost smell that little old Welsh pub!


  8. The only pubs I can find around here have polystyrene beams... a very long call from the old pubs with blazing hearths that I used to frequent in Essex and environs for sure. As for the tea - never heard of that one but I can get a fairly good selection of infusions of one sort or another to keep my occasional yearning satisfied. Since being here I have to admit to having become a real coffeeholic I'm afraid.

  9. Hey - I'm a fan of AMS too, but not that tea, I'm big on green tea and camomile tea. Re JL, I was sitting in a Hillman of some kind outside Naik's Newsagents in Cotteridge whilst the BF, later to become husband, went in for ciggies. Nowt to beat infusions from hops and apples though.

  10. I was taking a sales course when Lennon was killed.....The next sales course I did, the twin towers came down, I was thinking about a sales course in July.....

    Only kidding....

    When the flavour of booze fills yer senses 1st thing in the morning......


  11. I've not tried red tea yet, but I have been contemplating reading the books you mention. In 1980 I was in the last year of school, deciding whether to go to France fruit picking or not ... I decided against it in the end.

    Shirl x

  12. Rooibos is the only tea I drink. Having lived in beautiful SA for 20 years, it was simply the tea to drink. Luckily it's available in every supermarket here in Holland...the Dutch connection, I suppose. I love it and normal English tea just doesn't it it for me anymore.

    Now I want to read the ladies' detective agency booksnow. My soul longs for Africa more often than I care to admit.Nice mmories and moving poetry too. Thanks Mel!

    Like Anne Marie, I am also a Cider lover when it comes to somethin stronger than Rooibos.

  13. My thanks to one and all for your comments. Rooibos is a very versatile herbal tea & is as far as I know the only one that can be be drank with milk. We like to let it brew for 15 miutes or so to strengthen the flavour, it can also be added to stews/soups etc and another use is to apply it cold to sunburnt skin.