A day out isn't complete without a flask of tea
S ADLY in September Bluebell Court said goodbye to our chef Tony, and to Claire, our lovely waitress. Both will be sadly missed.
Derek and I already knew Tony before we moved to Bluebell since he was our former neighbour. Apart from lunches, teas, coffee and cakes, we enjoyed some really special evenings meals at Christmases, St George's day, fish and chip suppers, and our lovely barbecues.
Claire brightened all our lives with her lovely smile and happy nature. Every home has a hearth, my mum used to say, and without our café our residents' lounge is now empty.
Derek and I are lucky to be still so independent and able look after ourselves, so lunch or Sunday dinner cooked by someone else is a treat instead of a necessity (of course, Derek has his own "someone else" – me!)
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I heard after Tony left that those with pacemakers cannot even eat frozen meals, because they are unable to use a microwave.
It is fortunate Bluebell has 'caring' carers to look after those that need it. I absolutely love my morning coffee and afternoon tea when I am at home but when I am out I never go to Starbucks or Costa Coffee unless I am forced to, because it is so expensive.
Those shops are everywhere, which I think destroys our lovely little independent cafés which we still find tucked away.
Mind you, I am old fashioned enough to still use a vacuum flask – and have done ever since I can remember, probably because Mum always did when I was a child.
Dad couldn't abide the sort of milky tea we had out sometimes, so a flask was the obvious answer – and a lot cheaper then buying five cups of tea on a day out.
Somehow tea always tasted very different out of a flask, and, of course, needed more preparation because in the time I am talking about, before the war and afterwards, tea was loose-leaf and we had to make a pot of tea first, then add it to the milk and sugar in the flask through the tea strainer – something my grandchildren cannot envisage.
When Mum and Dad took us children to Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon or Portishead for the day, the only things Dad shelled out for were an ice-cream, pony rides along the sands if it was Weston and a bag of chips before we came home.
Down we would sit on the sands, and Mum would unpack our meat paste or fishpaste sandwiches (I still love Shiphams salmon paste) and then out would come the trusty flask with its own little cup.
Of course, Dad got the first cup, then Mum, then us girls.
When the Second World War started Mum bought another flask and when the air raids got really bad, and we were on hot bricks every night in case the sirens went off, Mum would fill one flask with tea (as Gran said if there wasn't an air raid nothing was wasted because we could drink it anyway) and the other one would be filled with boiling water – in case we got home from the shelter and had no water or gas, which fortunately didn't happen often.
If we had been in the shelter long enough to drink the tea, we would have a lovely cup of cocoa, mixed with milk, and made with the still-hot water from the Thermos.
When Dad was demobbed and went to work at St Anne's board mills, whatever shift he was on, off he went with his flask of tea and his sandwiches (often Spam).
When George and I got married we bought our own flask but because we didn't use it so often it did have a funny smell – so before using it we washed it out with vinegar.
Gradually after George and I married, and rationing finished, instead of the paste sandwiches Mum would cook a chicken for our day trip and take some tomatoes. What luxury! But we still took our flasks of tea. Those were good days, my friends.
But one day Dad was upset because Mum forgot to put in the salt cellar – well, truth to tell we were all disappointed because in those days, in our house anyway, the 'condiments', as Dad called them were on the table at every mealtime. If we had a sandwich or a bit of bread and dripping we always salt-and-peppered it.
I am known for my somewhat excessive use of pepper – for which I always blame my dad when I set everybody off sneezing, because he was exactly the same.
Now to my son's disappointment I no longer salt my vegetables like my mum did – and the only salt on the table is Lo-Salt, which my son refers to as "no salt"
All the ladies in those days were quite heavy-handed with the salt, unlike today.
Mum, and my first mum-in-law, always put a great big tablespoon in each saucepan. The only habit I cannot break is a sprinkle on my boiled or fried eggs! But as my first husband tried to persuade me when he grew a moustache – which I disliked – eating an egg without salt is like kissing a man without a moustache!
God Bless, love, Marion.