I recall one of my first ever entries to blog, back in early days on arriving here in Florence; it expat’s sad search for Baked Beans.

In some ways, a quiet reflection on how often the mundane is source of most comfort. breitling replica watch bands

Today, three years later on, I was again somewhat maligned by a similar craving; this time for tea. Granted, tea is perhaps a slightly more refined and ‘cultured’ hankering, but the longing, driving, urgency was the same. My ache came about by having been over-rushed before leaving the house; and had not had the time to make myself my routine morning cuppa. The unfinished feeling weighed on me and I felt irritable knowing that regardless of Florence’s many offerings, tea was not among them. Tea, (like baked beans), is not something the continent. In as much as to order a tea from any cafe, you would provided with wrapped tea bag, some lukewarm water and possibly slice of lemon. This is not tea and I was in no mood for over-priced tepid, insipid coloured water.

I couldn’t shake the niggle and thus proceeded to members of modern civilisation the find themselves in such a pickle – I turned to google, like one would have turned to prayers in years bygone.

I simply typed ‘tea’ into the maps. repliki zegarków

Up came a variety of entries, indeed a particular one caught my eye ‘the way of tea’ (La via del Tè). It had several listing 1, 2, 3 and in typical illogical Florentine style, they all opened at slightly different times.  I simply opted for the one which would be open soonest, and off I went on my very British pursuit.

I arrived at the google pin, and again in typical Florentine style, the shop was closed, shutters rolled down, despite the opening time being clearly listed as 9:30 and despite it being 9:35!  My first reaction was that of resignation – how many times have I followed a google treasure hunt in this town, only to find that X marks nothing but a completely futile undertaking.  I sighed and craned my neck to the obligatory 90 degrees in search of something… who knows what? But when in doubt; return to screen (god)?

As I was distracting myself with bite-size world politics and silent screaming matches between trolls, I heard the loud and disharmonious sound of the metal shutters behind me roll up! Of course! How naive of me to expect a stated opening time should correlate with actual time? After three years in Italy perhaps I might have figured this out by now? But I must remind you, that I had not had my cup of tea yet, and therefore was not functioning at optimum efficiency.

I was welcomed into a dimly lit tea room, complete with tables and chairs, single tulip in single vase. A sage green backdrop complementing the off-white table cloth.

I sat and opened the menu, one hundred different infusions from across the orient written in fine script, and to my delight, entirely in Italian with no english translation (most establishments in florence will have translated menus).  The irony amused me.  Tea, that which epitomises all that is British.  In a shop dedicated to it as if a shrine to the victorian era and yet not a word of english to be found!  I pondered this enigma… until it dawned on me that the Italians, overall, do fetishise British culture.  Not unlike Americans do in some ways.  Englishness in these quarters, is strangely synonymous with royalty, imperialism or simply put; the better sorts.  Thus is a thing of aspiration, but only for those for which it is unattainable.  Hence this quaint tea shoppe is in fact clearly targeted at Italians, particularly those with this penchant for idealised romanticism; and not as it happens for the bedraggled, stranded, tea-deprived anglo-saxon with an addict’s itch – the likes of me. imitatie horloges

So with mischievous intent I decide to do away with my clumsy attempts at Italian and rather resort to my native tongue, accentuated with exaggerated cut-glass intonation.  Something I never do.  But today, on the eve of what would have been the heart-wrenching and calamitous BREXIT, it only seemed fitting.

To be here.  What it means to be a British national who identifies as European.  In a European town, in a British themed tea room.  What it means to be British and why tea is the ubiquitous symbol for a nation with a bloody past.  A history of imperialism, enslavement, oppression.  An empire on which the sun never set.  From which these teas originate.  (These teas which ultimately saw Great Britain loose America).  And yet if it weren’t for these unpalatable acts of world domination would we have such a multicultural, cross-pollinated world today with a common language? On the eve of the most notorious and slap-stick act of graceless incompetence, akin to the most cringe-worthy sketch in a Fawlty Towers episode – It seems uncanny to find myself exactly where I am.  Comforted by this absurd paradox, the upside down topsy-turvyness of it all.  A mad-hatter’s tea party.