Ian McMil­lan

THE BARD OF BARNS­LEY PRO­VIDES HIS WHIM­SI­CAL LOOK AT YORK­SHIRE LIFE

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

IT was a quiet af­ter­noon at the lit­tle fac­tory in Darfield where I worked at week­ends in the school hol­i­days to make enough money to keep my­self in pro­gres­sive rock al­bums from Casa Disco, Barns­ley’s home of groovy records for the dis­cern­ing long­hair like me.

Ernest and Philip, the men in charge at the fac­tory, no­ticed I’d fin­ished sand­ing down the pipes that were to make us all a for­tune and they looked round for a job for me. “I’ll tell you what, Ian lad,” Ernest said, “let’s all have a cup of tea!” Philip nod­ded, and I made my way with a heavy heart to the kitchen at the back of the fac­tory where a ket­tle that had been around since Vic­to­ria’s reign sat wait­ing for some­body to put it out of its mis­ery.

I’d been asked to make a cup of tea be­fore and it had been a dis­as­ter; the wiser peo­ple amongst you will be shak­ing your heads at this point at t the thought of a teenager not be­ing able ble to make a cup of tea, but all I can say ay in my de­fence is that I never drank k tea and so the mak­ing of tea in our house­use was sim­ply a strange alchemy of wa­ter and steam per­formed in the kitchen en by my mam and dad.

So the pre­vi­ous time I’d at­tempted ed to brew a cuppa at the fac­tory I’d reused some old teabags be­cause that’s what I thought you did. I’d be­lieved that there was no point putting tea in bags un­less they could make more than one cup; it made com­plete sense to me. The re­sult­ing liq­uid was the colour of very weak light from a fad­ing torch and Ernest ac­tu­ally said the word “Groooh!” when he drank it, like a char­ac­ter in a comic. c. He of­fered me some ad­vice: “Don’t re-use the teabags, Ian lad. Use them prop­erly: they’re bags, re­mem­ber. Tea in bags.” Well, that was all right as far as it went but as I was about to find out, it didn’t go far enough.

I looked at the teabags I’d just got out of the packet as though they might re­veal their truths to me. I could just have put the bags in the teapot and poured boiling wa­ter on them, but Ernest seemed to sug­gest there was some­thing else to the rit­ual, and it seemed to hinge around that res­o­nant phrase “tea in bags”. I fur­rowed my brow and thought long and hard. Well, short and soft.

Ah, that was it: I needed to empty the tea leaves out of the teabags. They were just re­cep­ta­cles. They were the mes­sen­ger, not the mes­sage. I ripped them apart in a cloud of tea dust and sprin­kled the smithereens into the teapot. Od Oddly, there didn’t seem to be enough du dust/smithereens in the pot so I ripped op open a few more and emp­tied them in. I f felt proud of my­self: if the fac­tory eve ever got rid of me I could set my­self up as a tea boy some­where. The ket­tle boile boiled in a slow and stately fash­ion be­fit­ting an an­tique. I poured the wa­ter into the po pot and gazed out of the win­dow as it brewe brewed, con­tem­plat­ing that I’d learned so some­thing new. I’d prob­a­bly get a bonus at the end of the week and then I could buy the new King Crim­son alb al­bum. Or, as ac­tu­ally hap­pened, Ernest said “Groooh!” again, f for much longer a and in a much lo louder voice. Still, the they never asked me t to make the tea again again!

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