Tea and sympathy
Peace ... the ritual of tea can be deeply calming. Photo: Jennifer Soo
IT HAS only been a week of seven days consisting of 24 hours each. Just like every other week. Yet so much has happened.
For years I have been walking past a property I have lusted after. A sensible amount of land, handcrafted stone-and-brick buildings, a killer view over a large expanse of water and a brick pigsty, complete with a decorative chimney. I have dreamt of a bigger orchard, longer vegetable beds, happier poultry and a resident sow. And then, as I hurtled past on the way to work one morning, there was an auction sign.
How could this long-held dream possibly be realised? Then somehow, with a week to go, I was fortunate enough to have asked the right questions of the right people and had found a way that could make those dreams come true.
Those years of walking and dreaming were collected, swiftly, and organised into a neat and orderly business plan. A ground-floor restaurant overlooking the reservoir. A small private dining room upstairs. A cafe for visitors to the garden. A stone shop to sell my eclectic range of farm goods. And a garden, orchard and poultry space that was large, irrigated and well drained. Multiple income streams, to service the cost of such an expansive and long-held dream. Assets would need to be stripped and sold to raise capital.
''Stripped and sold. Stripped and sold.'' Tossing and turning in the small hours of the night, I was no longer dreaming aimlessly of the future but making calculated decisions. And in those small hours, doubt crept in. Was I punching above my weight? And how could I leave all that was already done? For all of us who love our gardens, I realised there was an unexplored and unspoken sense of loss and grief attached to the selling of property simply to raise capital for something better.
The land where most of my vegie garden and orchard trees sat would revert to title and be sold as two quarter-acre blocks. I was starting to fret about when the trees could be moved, as I couldn't bear for them to be bulldozed to make way for another brick veneer. And the front yard, all that stonework, all those crab apple trees I hadn't taken grafts from and would never be able to replace. And all those pets, buried deep under the ground, having their loyalty and companionship remembered every time I passed overhead with the mower.
As the week progressed, the weather dutifully changed from beautiful spring to cold-and-wet spring. The day of the auction arrived, cold and bleak. Plans were finalised and limits were set. My real day was as normal. Getting the bread on, completing my mise en place, cleaning down and setting up for lunch service. Customers arrived, orders were dispatched and at 3pm we all had half an eye on my phone.
The texts started to come in from my spotter, just numbers, starting below the reserve, then climbing. With a splutter here and a sense of false expectation there, the numbers kept rising. Until there was a pause, a sense of exhilaration, immediately quashed by a flurry of numerical activity that went beyond the limits and vanquished that dream forever.
A cup of tea arrived on my bench to temper the sense of disappointment. Another dessert order came in; a souffle was made and dutifully sent out. The souffle reminded me a bit of my week and my dreams. Sweet, impressive, constructed with skill and knowledge, yet ultimately fragile and full of hot air.
And as if fate was not fickle enough, the prism of reality was then deftly focused on what really mattered. Not the trees that can grow again, not the pets that can be lovingly remembered, but replaced, and not stonework that can be dismantled and relaid, but a parent. Quietly, without a fuss, after years of battling the twin evils of dementia and Parkinson's, my father died with dignity and grace.
Of all the things I eat and drink and cook, the one that gives me the most pleasure and comfort is a cup of tea. I've shared a cup of tea with my dad for as long as I can remember. But as of this week, I never will again.