Writing Greenwood Tree – and more

Greenwood Tree and Tea

Tea Caddies and a Ghostly Tale thereof . . .

I did say I might write about tea caddies . . .(smacks paw against making such rash promises in the future) . . once I had recovered from talking about teapots. However, I see so much already written about them, I feel justified in limiting myself to a couple of details, and inviting the reader to peruse the following post by @GeorgianGent : The Tea Caddy Revisited

Again, like teapots, these items came in a range of shapes, from straightforward boxes to apples and pears; from miniature desks to barrels (see examples in Mr M. Rendell’s blog)

As for the word tea itself (and this too has been pointed out elsewhere): it has  an etymology that I find strangely satisfying –  actually indicating what route the commodity took to reach western shores.

‘Teh’, for example, is its denomination in Indonesia and Malaysia,  whence it crossed the seas over to Italy, Spain and France, before making its way with Catherine of Braganza and Charles II to the British drawing room – and in all three Latin languages it is called té, or thé (thence likewise  in Dutch and German thee or Tee).

Meanwhile, the use of the word cha or char in Chinese, Russian, Persian, Urdu– suggests land routes taken, including the Ancient Tea Route starting from Sichuan Province in mainland China: (http://www.silkroadfoundation.org/newsletter/2004vol2num1/tea.htm).

(Other links relating to tea caddies:





And the details that tickle me  in particular are  : that caddy derives from the Malaysian word ‘kati’ or measure (approximately a little over half a kilo); and that some of them were designed to have a secret compartment – like writing desks . . . so I could not resist writing up a very short ghost tale around one . . .

(Click on cover below to read in Issuu form with zoom capacity)

The year : 1929

The place : An antique dealer’s.

 ‘Nice piece. Very nice. Shall we say, knock a guinea off for the slight damage on the corner there?’

‘Well, perhaps a shilling or two.’

‘Knock off the guinea, and I’ll take it now, as it is.’

‘You are a shrewd customer, Mr Anshaw – you know a good thing when you see it,’ chuckled the antique dealer.

Edgar Anshaw certainly did know a good thing when he saw it; shrewd was the polite word used to his face. What the antique dealer said later on to his colleagues was less flattering – and rather curious.

‘He is welcome to his guinea – he won’t be able to get rid of it fast enough, mark my words, and then we’ll see what he makes of it, the skinflint.’

‘Is that the caddy from Portland House ?’ asked one of them, raising an eyebrow.

The antique dealer nodded, just the once.

‘Well, sooner him than me,’ was the general comment.


Mrs Anshaw displayed much delight at the wonderful inlay and warm, glowing veneer of the caddy – it was immediately instated with full honours on the sideboard.

‘Do you think it is safe to keep tea in it ? Weren’t some of them lined with lead ?’

‘My dear, it was the one of the first things I checked – it is a little older than that, and made entirely of wood – with an old silver tray on the inside which has worn a little thin.’

‘I shall line that with tissue paper- I have some left from Worth’s which would be perfect.’

And Mrs Anshaw duly proceeded to line and fill the caddy; she stood back to admire the general effect: on either side, a couple of vases with purple primulas complemented it perfectly. Behind it, the huge Georgian silver teapot.

A rattle of teaspoons roused her from her reverie – ‘That will be Amy – it must be later than I thought.’ She turned to remind the maid about the visitors due that afternoon – but Amy had already left the room.


‘What a lovely colour,’

‘Doesn’t it look splendid with the primulas ?’

‘A delightful thing.’

‘How old did you say it was ?’

‘Edgar says at least early 1700s, if not earlier.’

‘Goodness. Beautiful inlay . . .’

The latest acquisition to the Anshaw collection was proving a great success – admiration, curiosity and mild envy in perfect measure which normally would have satisfied Mrs Anshaw mightily. However, she found herself somewhat distracted; twice she found herself pouring an extra cup for nobody in particular, and on several occasions she was convinced she heard the rattling of teaspoons on the tray by the door – when nobody was in fact standing there.

‘Are you all right, Emmeline ?’ asked one of her closest friends quietly while the others were still gathered around the caddy. ‘Only you seem a trifle nervous.’

‘Oh dear, do I ? It is the oddest sensation I have today, Mary – I keep counting how many of us there are – it always seems there are more people than I can see – isn’t that fanciful of me ?’

‘How very strange that you should mention that,’ replied her friend, widening her eyes, ‘for I have found myself turning my head to see who is by the door – but there never is anyone; now why do you think we have that feeling ?’

‘What’s that ?’ asked another of the guests, who had moved away from the group.

When they explained, she nodded her head to agree – and one by one, the whole gathering discovered they had each in one subtle way or another, sensed an extra, indistinct presence moving amongst them.

Somebody tapped the side of their cup with a spoon. Mrs Anshaw started. ‘I think I shall open the window,’ she announced suddenly. ‘Let a little fresh air and light in, as it is such a glorious day.’

‘Might chase away some of our fancies, too,’ murmured Mary to herself.


On tea, elephants and cabbages

” ‘. . .do have some more toast, or something . . . shall I pour you another cup ?’

Aunt Isobel reigned over the silver pot like a determined if somewhat vague and inept hare; one with a busy day ahead.  ‘I’ve been talking to Charlie, and as I really need to have the place cleaned up before the ball, I suggested a trip of some sort, and Charlie mentioned – ’

 ‘Yes what fun I thought as we’ve always liked we could you know try the what’s it called where we used to go not far from Morton Manor you remember and eat at Harlequin’s just outside Fradley what do you think?’ Charlie dive-bombed a sausage and continued munching industriously.  Julia gazed down at her grey porridge, and regretted her choice. If not immediately eaten, it had a habit of sitting there, congealed, and looking solidly back at one. She poked at it nervously.

‘Which place did we use to go to? There were so many.’

Tea trickled out of the spout.

‘I think Charlie means the old ruins by the river. I must say, I can’t see the others taking much interest in that, but the idea of Harlequin’s ought to appeal to everyone.’ Aunt Isobel had evidently found this most recent batch of Bunty’s acquaintances more than a little trying. There was a rare tinge of determination in her demeanour this morning, connected with the polishing of silver and the waxing of floors that would, however delicately, brook no argument.

 ‘That sounds wonderful. Lovely idea.’  Julia tried to swallow the porridge. She gratefully accepted Isobel’s offer of a cup, and forced the glutinous mass down with molten liquid. After she’d finished spluttering, she inquired when they should start. ”

 Greenwood Tree, Chapter 11

I have been told by a reliable source and authonomy chum that Greenwood Tree contains oodles of tea. I have not yet made a head count of every cup that is poured . . . but I suppose there is a fair amount of pouring, stirring, slurping throughout. Verisimilitude is my only defence. Gossiping ? Put the kettle on. Freshly arrived home from the big city ? Put the kettle on. House guests at the breakfast table ? Put the kettle on. (A good hostess who did not supply her visitors with plentiful supplies of the stuff was simply not doing her job). Just been hit on the head by unseen assailant ? Put the kettle on. No wait, stop, I  don’t think I put tea in that particular scene, actually . . . but they probably did anyway, whether I wrote it in or not. Indeed, every British film ever made would be incomplete without a gentle pouring from the spout. A comforting sound, redolent with promise of things to come (did someone mention fondant fancies ? I’m quite happy with a jam tart, more likely a sandwich . . )

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Twining was the man of the hour : after starting out as weaver’s apprentice, he then moved into commerce and ended up converting the drinking habits of a nation – in the face of coffee culture Britain (at least, London) he saw a niche in the market and seized it – so you can blame it all on him. Nobody suffers from a surfeit of tea in Greenwood, at least, I have had no complaints from the characters to date (“I say, old thing,” says Richard, pulling at my sleeve, ‘couldn’t pass the scones along, could you ?”, while Aunt Iz pours out another cup . . .)


Among all the rites, rituals, customs and paraphernalia surrounding tea, I can’t leave off without mentioning at least the evolution of the teapot . . . from genteel Wedgewood to cheeky Japanese elephants through political comment on stamp duty(see here : http://teapotsteapotsteapots.blogspot.com/2009/04/1765-no-stamp-act-teapot.html
back to the humorous, bizarre, even grotesque pots, designed to represent various vegetables : cabbages, cauliflowers, corn cobs .  . . I wonder they didn’t suffer from indigestion just looking at the squat horrors, in their unrepentant gaudiness . . . (wraps wet towel around head) …am in need of tea sustenance; when I am feeling stronger, I might, just might write about tea caddies. . .

 Quote : “I comfort myself, that all the enemies of tea cannot be in the right”(Dr Johnson in defence of tea, while reviewing Mr Hanway’s Essay on Tea (http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/tea.html )


(The English Tea Set in the slideshow was photographed byJenny O’Donnell)

 A history of Twinings here : http://www.twinings.co.uk/about-twinings/history-of-twinings

 Some interesting details on Mr Twining, tea-merchant here : http://www.twickenham-museum.org.uk/detail.asp?ContentID=176

  Japanese elephant teapot here : (he is rather cute)http://thebluelantern.blogspot.com/2009/12/im-little-teapot.html

 A well-illustrated history of tea gardens  : janeaustensworld.wordpress.com


  A fine assortment of tea services here : http://naturalisticspoon.com/Rococo_Tea_Equipage.html

 A delightful gallery of living 18th century history from re-enactors :


 Tea trends from the British Tea Council : teawithmarykate.wordpress.com


 V&A ceramics gallery : http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/m/masterpieces-of-ceramics-timeline/