The little yellow teapot in the centre of the table draws my eyes like a beacon as I walk through the door into the modern, spacious, arty space.
Our hosts today are Jackie and Peter. Peter, lovely chap though he is, seems almost insubstantial next to his other half, who seems to glow with inner warmth as she welcomes me in to join the throng.
To my left I see that odd young man in a dressing gown. Someone suggested his name was Thomas, but I don’t know. Every so often he bursts forth , Wilde-like, with some funny utterance, but then prefers to slip back into the shadows.
Sitting next to him, as I suspected, is Milly. Beneath the harmless old lady exterior that she likes to play on is a keen wit, a sharp eye, saucy humour and a big heart. It’s like a variation on Angela Lansbury’s most famous role, except here, it’s “Tea, She Wrote” and there’s a lot more double entendres. Wellington snores at her feet.
My eyes skip over Cynthia — I know who she is, but she’s kind of hard to spot next to her partner Estella, who is handing her a small glass of Oriental Beauty, or “Bug-Chewed Oolong” as it’s often – and accurately – described.
It’s not hard to see why I find Estella fascinating. It could be just the natural curiosity to see things that are different to oneself — the fascination of the lesbian to the heterosexual man, the intrigue of the dyed-in-the-wool Marxist-Pinko-Socialist-Communist-whatever to an insipid, vaguely Orwell-inspired social-liberal-conservative-democrat like myself, or even the fact that Canadians and Australians share a common British ancestry and fear of becoming American.
But I suspect it’s more to do with the way she rails against injustice, wears her heart on her sleeve and can find humour in the blackest of situations.
Obviously, my place is on the other side of the table, with the Antipodean contingent. Hazel is there, steadfastly refusing to drink tea. Hard to figure out why she hangs with this crowd, except that she shares our tilt on life and we all think the world of her. She’s laughing, which seems to be an almost permanant state.
I sit in the middle between Hazel and Meredith, who is as Australian as I am but is forced to live in exile in New Zealand. I note that not only does she have an enigmatic nametag, but her teapot is also sporting a nametag.
At that moment, Liss and Ken come in; contrasting world weary and well-travelled with youthful exuberance. Ken’s already joking with Jackie; as usual much laughter ensues.
Peter pours Liss a nice green and we chat amongst ourselves. I enquire after The Literatus, but no-one’s seen him for a while.
On an easel is a photo of our last gathering, from the Tea and Coffee Brewery in Temecula, Dianne steeping heroically whilst Eddie tinkles the ivories. The photographer has done masterful job, and whilst it’s unsigned, the perfect angles and the small hissing cockroach inserted into the corner tells me who it is.
Then Jackie rings a bell, the signal to get down to business. “Today, The Devotea will share something special with us”, she announces as I pull a packet of Daintree from my pocket, basking in the glow of a dozen friendly faces.
This story is brought to us by our guest contributor The Devotea.
Ed.note: This post was originally posted in late 2010 but was lost in a technical error. It has been recovered and is being reposted in honor of Milly. Rest in Peace.