'Daddy! Daddy! Can I have some red tea, please?'
'I don't think I have any red tea son, just normal tea'
'You have, Daddy, I want red tea. Pleeeeze? Pleeeeze Daddy?'
Having been asked so nicely I was reluctant to let my little boy down but, red tea? What the hell is red tea?
Any parent will know that young children develop their own language. For example, when Alex asks me for hot chocolate, what he really means is a cold milk chocolate Nesquik. Other little quirks he has are due to being only four yet having to master both English, the language I use with him, and Pork and Cheese, the language Marcia and everyone else around him uses. The correct way to say, 'give me' in Portuguese is 'Dar-me' but he uses the local street patois and says, 'Me dar'.
I recall once asking my Grandfather why he always wore a hat when we were out walking. ‘How else,’ he enquired of me, ‘could a gentleman pay a compliment to a Lady?’ And, if you think about it, it’s true. As a Gentleman of the old school, he always raised his hat to a passing lady during his perambulations while politely wishing them the time of day. The other bit of advice he gave me, by the way, was that a Gentleman was someone who did whatever he liked so long as it caused no offence. I really liked that definition, absent as it was of any snobbery. He could knock back one Schnapps after another while eating Eisbein mit Sauerkraut shoulder to shoulder with Hamburg dockers chummily calling him by his Christian name, Ernst, and the next evening as Diepenbrock von Borken, another facet of the brilliant cut diamond he was, mix it with royalty.
I confess to being a snob at times. Saying 'me dar' rather than 'dar-me' is equivalent to saying, 'me and my mate', rather than, 'my friend and I'. Sadly here, it is a vocal distinction between the educated and the unwashed masses. Not a measure of intelligence, by any means, but of breeding. I find it ironic in the extreme that I am correcting his Portuguese.
I feel sorry for Alex. Not only does he have to cope with two entirely different languages, he has to cope with entirely different constructions. The English would say, ‘I found a black rock’. Alex, using the construction of a romantic language says, ‘me find rock black.’ As far as he is concerned, he’s got his message across which, after all, has to be the essential point of verbal communication.
So what the hell did he mean by red tea?
He goes over to Rico’s place a lot and being South Africans, they have Rooibos Tea made, unsurprisingly, from the Rooibos plant indigenous to South Africa. A brew of that is as red as any plant infusion I have ever seen but in my opinion, as disgusting as the various herb teas my Grandmother would force down my throat as a child for every infant ailment, real or imagined. The South Africans claim all sorts of medicinal benefits for Rooibos Tea and given the general meaty robustness of the average Boer, I shan’t argue with any of them. Besides, I did not have any Rooibos tea so could not help Alex on that score and told him so.
Five minutes later, he was back in my room clutching a bag of Ceylon tea.
‘This’, he announced, ‘is red tea’
OK, I thought, let’s take this a step at a time.
‘So how do I make red tea, son?’
He sighed and rolled his eyeballs like all kids exasperated with their stupid parents do, shot off to the kitchen and returned with the small stainless steel tea pot I use to brew my morning tea.
‘You put water in here, Daddy, and then you make it hot’
So I placed the filled pot on the stove and lit the gas. Normally, I would just leave the pot and push off to do something else in the meantime; watch the news, catch up on my emails, that sort of thing but this time, with Alex in charge, we stood guard over the pot. Three months and a 25kg bottle of gas later, the watched pot gave up and came to the boil.
‘Now what?’ I asked.
Alex produced his tea bag and told me to put it in the pot.
Now so far, I hadn’t done anything different to my usual morning tea routine. I grabbed a tea towel and carried the steaming pot to our room and placed it on the table. Alex dug out his special mug while I found a clean spoon, dragged the sugar out of the cupboard and the milk out of the fridge. With all the makings to hand, I waited for further instructions.
Alex lifted the tea bag out of the pot and even though I offered, insisted on personally dumping it in the bin.
‘Shall I pour?’ I asked him.
‘Yes please’, he said quickly followed by ‘Chega! (enough)’
‘NO DADDY! I want RED TEA!’
Aah! Now how do I explain to him that for the English, tea is either black or white yet, with the evidence of his own eyes, he can see it is either red(ish) or milky?
Any Royal birth is mildly auspicious and that of the third in line to the British throne no less so. If this child lives to the grand old age of 87, it will be the first British Monarch of the 22nd Century. Along with, yet bored by, a frenzied media, I did wonder what reason for the delay these last few days, after all, Her Majesty, leading by example, has instilled punctuality in her offspring. I was two weeks overdue and just look where my tardiness led me.
Team Britain seems to have been enjoying a sporting renaissance recently and I could imagine Palace media consultants respectfully reminding HRH of the advantages of the Royal birth coinciding with some event of national significance in order to make it memorable. I put my money on yesterday gambling that England would thrash the Aussies, Froome would win the Tour de France and Westwood would enjoy success at the open. What better day for a future King, or Queen, to be born? Lee Westwood, however, succumbed to nerves squandering a three shot lead but was commendably too polite to blame the Palace who had placed him under unbearable pressure to complete the desired triple. You try concentrating on that oh so crucial putt with the knowledge that a bogie could cost you your head.
Denied the triple, Palace officials informed the expert team of consultants and midwives to do whatever necessary to delay the birth by one day. Although a ‘second best’ scenario, Monday the 22nd of July is a very good second choice.
The future King or Queen, (I’m betting Queen, I have some losses with Ladbroke’s to recover and why else all this fuss about suddenly changing the rules of accession?) will be born on the same day as Cro Magnon.
Happy Birthday, Cap’n Cro, you old Pirate! Alex and I toast you with a glass of Red Tea.