My Cuppa Runneth Over.
(Part One: In Strictest Confidence!)
“Shhh!” murmured friar Tetley. “If word of this gets out the whole monastery will want it; and if that blabbermouth the Abbott gets to know of it the whole of Yorkshire will too after his next mass.” His companion friar Tips put his finger to his lips in acknowledgement before looking over his shoulder surreptitiously to see if they were being observed.
“This is in strictest confidence, strictest do you understand?” whispered Tetley
“Only me, thee and the Almighty know of this and I’m not sure that even He knows.”
Tetley and Tips slunk out of their dormitory amid the snores and grunts of their brothers and slid round the cloisters towards the kitchen keeping in the shadows. Outside the full moon hung low over the Abbey watching them like a big jaundiced eyeball that blinked every so often as a thick swirl of mist rolled up over the edge of the cliff top from the sea below.
“Quick put that kettle on those cinders!” Tetley bid his partner in subterfuge as they entered the kitchen, “Make sure there’s at least two cupfuls of water in it!” Tips complied keenly. Tetley dug deep into the left pocket of his cassock and produced a small cloth pouch. He brought it to his nose and inhaled deeply languishing in some sweet yet earthy aroma as yet alien to his companion.
“Can I have a smell?” asked Tips, his nose twitching like a guinea pig at the prospect. Tetley broke off in mid sniff and eyed him with reluctance. “Oh go on then” he relented handing over the pouch begrudgingly “you’ll be tasting it soon enough I suppose, so what harm can a little whiff do?”
Tips, grasped the pouch eagerly, loosened the drawstring and opened the neck, then stuck his nose deep inside and inhaled as though it were his dying breath. Coughing and spluttering ensued with much poking and prodding of his nasal cavity as he tried to extract numerous small particles of leaf and stick from his pointy conk with his stubby finger.
“For heaven’s sake man be quiet!” hissed Tetley “you’re making enough noise to wake the dead.” “Sorry” said Tips “but I seem to have got the sweepings of last autumn up my nose,” he mused. “What on earth is in that bag?”
“Give it here!” Tetley growled, closing it up again. With no explanation whatsoever he poured the now hot water into a wooden pot on the table in front of him and dunked the little bag of sticks and leaves into it for as long as it took him to recite the whole of Psalm 23.
“Take it, drink it!” said Tetley handing him a freshly poured cup. Tips looked at the golden brown liquid and sniffed at it cautiously (1). This time his nostrils were assailed by a piquant mellowness with a warm fruity quality that promised forbidden pleasures, reminding him very much of the days of his misspent youth chasing the love of his life Lillian Layman through the bracken on the moors (2). Hesitantly he took a sip.
The memories came flooding back to him in a wash of passion and emotion so intense that he momentarily spun around expecting a pitchfork to be pointed at his posterior with a ranting farmer behind it. “Wonderful!” he exclaimed before drinking deeper. He closed his eyes and drained the cup. An expression of sheer ecstasy then swept across his visage like a renaissance, his arms raised heavenwards in angelic rapture.
Tetley drained his cup also and gave an energized little shudder before being able to say, “I told you so! How do you feel, can you explain it?”
“Like a new man” said Tips “Invigorated, revitalised, rejuvenated, born again! I feel ten, no twenty, no make it thirty years younger, yes thirty definitely thirty maybe even more…”
“Isn’t it amazing stuff?” said Tetley. “Can you see now why we have to keep quiet about this?” he reminded his friend. Tips winked hard and rubbed at his nose, “What d’you call it?” he asked amidst much facial twitchiness.
“ I think it’s what all men have been searching for through the ages,” Tetley boasted “the fountain of youth, the water of life, The Elixir of Adolescence!” he boomed proudly before suddenly remembering it was a secret. “I call it TEA for short.” He whispered.
Tips’ facial spasms had reached the point of no return “HWAAAATCHOOOOOOO!”
The sneeze bounced from pot to pot out of the kitchen and reverberated down the cloisters like all seven trumpets of the apocalypse.
Tetley wiped a snotty twig from his cheek with the cuff of his cassock and discretely put the wet ‘teabag’ back into his pocket.