This is a true story about when I blew up the kettle (accidentally) when I was nine. Probably long forgotten by everyone else, but something I remember every time I plug the kettle in. I drew this, my kettle and tea-making equipment, here in my kitchen in Davis, and it is part of the Pence Gallery’s ‘Teapot’ show, being displayed until the end of December upstairs at the Pence (D st, Davis: visit www.pencegallery.org for details). I do love a good cuppa tea. I don’t use a teapot (no point unless there’s a few of you) and I don’t do none of your fancy nonsense, just a working class cup of tea, thank you, lovely. Fortunately I can get my normal teabags here in America, so I can have my typical four or five cups a day. I would not have lasted long here otherwise. I remember being nonplussed when my American mother-in-law first came to England and remarked at how cute our little ‘tea station’ was (it was the kettle and jar of teabags), now I live here I know it’s not actually typical to have an electric kettle in every single household- in Britain and Ireland it’s so essential, we get a kettle before we get a bed or a roof or anything. A cuppa tea back home is a language we all understand. I won’t drink anyone else’s tea here in California either, not even in cafes, I only drink my own tea, made at home, perfect and unbeatable in every way. And when I discovered you can get chocolate Hobnobs here in Davis, well my cuppa tea experience moved a little closer to perfection. Now I’m just waiting for my son to get old enough, and that’ll be his job, just as it was mine. Hopefully, of course, he won’t blow up the kettle.
The chocolate bar is a Milky Way, but don’t let that deceive you, British friends – American Milky Ways are nothing like our Milky Ways. They are in fact almost exactly like our Mars Bars. They also go very well with tea. The Milky Way/Mars Bar thing is one of many instances where our two cultures look different and call itself different things but are in fact the same. I can’t be bothered to name any others.
I got that mug at the Getty in LA. And you know what? I didn’t actually drink this cup of tea from that mug, I drank it from a different one, with my name on it. I just thought the colours and pattern would be better next to the milky way. I used to have a funny way of eating Mars Bars: I’d eat the sides first, then I would nibble off the top, and then the rest. A friend at college once gave me a king-size Mars Bar for ny birthday with a big note on it saying “eat it properly”.