Chronicling the Days – Carolyne van der Meer

Welcome to QWF series ‘Chronicling the Days’, specifically for this strange uneasy time of coronavirus and pandemic, of social distancing and self isolation, of lockdown and quarantine.

In April 2020, we invited writers in Quebec to submit a story – of a single day at this time, because while we’re all living through this time, we know that we’re not all living through it in the same way. To stay connected – to know how we’re getting on. Every story valid.

Submissions have now closed for the series but we’ll be continuing to publish the pieces throughout May. Keep an eye for them here, or join us on the QWF FB Community page, and let the authors know if their words resonated.

This piece is by Carolyne van der Meer, writing in April 2020.

Image: Creative Commons

Today’s tea remedy for coronavirus

I’m standing at the window. I’m on the eleventh floor of a high-rise. The world seems small. And when I look out, there’s almost nothing going on. A few cars on the road, crawling along. It’s like a Sunday in the 1970s. Except it’s not—because this is every day. Since the virus arrived, it’s like the world has taken an anesthetic, and I can’t help but wonder when—and how—it will wake up.

I look in the pantry. There’s far too much tea in there. And it’s not because I’m a hoarder. I didn’t go out and buy truckloads of toilet paper. What was with that, anyways? I shake my head. What, you run out of food—and then, miraculously, increase your trips to the loo? People are strange.

My big problem is baking powder. Screw the toilet paper—we have plenty of that but I can’t get any bloody baking powder. I pull the Ahmad Aromatic Earl Grey tin out of the cupboard as I consider it all. So, people are making loaves of bread and bathroom trips. It makes no sense.

I use a spoon to pry off the lid of the tin and take a whiff. The bergamot overtakes my senses. Tea is my way out of this. I make cup after cup of it, day after day—all the while considering the baking powder shortage. Seriously, there are about 15 different types of Earl Grey in here—from Ahmad to Fortnum & Mason to Taylors of Harrogate, all promising something different. Then there are my sister-in-law’s favourites—Thé des Tsars and Rooibos Samurai—brought as a thank-you gift back in the days when you could host a dinner party. I finger the smooth black tins, think back to those evenings of food and wine, laughter and conversation and wonder if all that is a bygone era. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking through a post-apocalyptic novel, that there’s no way out of the pages.

I put the lid back on the Ahmad tea and turn to the rooibos. Open it, inhale the fragrance. It’s a deep red mix with bits of dried orange zest. I imagine the Valencia orange groves I once visited in Spain. The bitter orange marmalade I smeared on toast in London cafés. Yes, tea is my way out of here. Out of the pages. I’ll find my way home eventually.

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