7th September 2011
It’s a beautiful day out there, and it feels as if spring is truly upon us. Little blue birds are singing their hearts out in my garden, and the sun is shining with a hint of summer on its breath. I walk towards the café but it looks like a war zone there. Security fencing, cages, street closures, huge trucks and heavy machinery, security guards blocking what’s left of the foot paths……they are demolishing the old police station and courtrooms on the opposite side of the street, so the ground is shaking and the dust is flying… Definitely not the energy of the café on the outside….
I walk on in through the “cages” and into the café and feel that “aaah” feeling…that gentle lift and settling of my being as the energy of the café and the smiles of those therein, reach out to welcome me. Here it is. Home! The feeling never changes. From the oven wafts the smell of a quiche and croutons baking and there’s soup simmering on the stove. The cake cabinet is, if possible, even more extravagantly exciting than ever before. The colours and textures defy belief!
“Heidi went wild!” says Brenda with a smile, and I can see that Heidi has not only been baking again, but like everything else in this café, she has been expressing herself in the most artistic way.
Banana and honey cake with honeycomb shards…
Dare I say more…?
But wait, there IS more on the second shelf!!!
Victoria sponge, and Banoffee pie (Banana – Toffee pie)
The poems and notes from the tables are waiting for me…
This one perfectly summed up my entrance to the tearooms this morning!!
I sprinted along at the double,
‘Cos the street was littered with rubble
But the coffee was hot,
And the smile that I got
Made the trip to your shop worth the trouble!
It may not be so simple tomorrow as the workers inform the gallery managers that the street required digging right up to the front wall, which means NO front entrance! Where the footpath is will be a bulldozer and if they don’t dig carefully, possibly a fountain! The gallery managers suggest closure of the gallery and tearooms, but that just does not seem feasible.
There are staff members who require hours and need to be paid, as Brenda says, there are meals being planned and confections already prepared for this week, and so the Café should remain open for business, with just a more adventurous path inwards for those daring enough to come find the heart of the building!
Stumbling down the street,
Climbing sand piles and rocks,
With jackhammers and diggers
Avoiding trucks and blockades,
Past fences and gates
With detours to wind through
Fall in through the door
Breathe a sigh of relief
You’ve conquered the outer
For what lies beneath.
Here in the tearooms
A whole new landscape
An oasis of calm
A tranquil escape
The coffee is hot
The cakes are divine
The smiles are embracing
The kindness sublime.
They say all good things
Are worth the effort or wait,
And it’s never more true
Than in this café.
In Brenda’s words, it’s the agony and the ecstasy today… making decisions for the café that are fair to all. After much discussion, Brenda decides to close the café to the public tomorrow but to use that time to complete other jobs here – repolish the floor, rearrange furniture, pack up wholesale items that will no longer be for sale (all those beautiful old teapots and crockery), and for her and Heidi to make a start on the Christmas cakes….. (aaargh…there’s that word…”Christmas”… it’s starting to creep into vocabulary around town, I guess it’s only a matter of weeks and the reality will appear on shop shelves and displays….and start ringing through the supermarket speakers and repelling us from shops quicker than any security guard).
The containers of all the dried fruit come out and the mass production of this season’s gift begins.
“’scuse me” says Brenda, after a while of mixing … “I’m just off to get some whiskey” We all laugh and someone says “time her!”
The giant containers of fruit glisten with colour and texture, as they get combined, and the bracing smell of whiskey arises as the bottles are poured into the mix. I wonder if there will be any sixpences added to these puddings in the making. I feel inspired to go home and plan my own traditional Christmas puddings and cakes.
I dropped in to post a letter,
But they said I had it wrong,
It no longer was a post office,
The post master – he had gone.
So I sat a while and had a think
Then a cup of tea and scone
A lovely place to stop for afternoon tea!
China cups and teapot and beautiful cakes to see!
You have created a nice teashop!
So when we’re back again with our friends
In we’ll pop!
The coffee’s nice
The tea is sweet
And this is a
Great place to meet.
Indeed it is!
One cup… or two …
A pot of tea
Wait three minutes
Then sip it slow…
Somehow life looks better
Over the rim of a teacup.
(Jacinta Matrenza, Mandurah)
That’s a wonderful truth! How many of us have memories of visiting a parent or older friend at various times of our life, when we have sadness or pain, and being given a hot cup of tea to help ease our troubles while we talk, or just sit quietly. I know some very special people whose first line of support is to “put the kettle on”. Don’t you?
We talk between us about the healing power of the hot beverage. From a hot chocolate for our children at night, to a cup of tea with our parents…. Many women are the makers of the “cuppa’. But what of the joys we get when someone else makes that cup of tea for us ….?
Brenda recalls the joy of someone else making her afternoon tea, just as I remember that feeling when after a tiring week of caring for my family, I visit a friend who lets me sit down while she makes me a coffee. It’s a simple but much valued gift. And it is part of the charm of the tearooms too. It’s the “giving” and the “caring” behind every cup that makes this place so very special.
I think the longer I am in the café, the more I get to see and hear. The “behind the scenes” is very enlightening…. You do gain such enormous respect for business owners in the hospitality industry. And empathy too. I helped Brenda one cold, dark evening when she was here alone, to pack up and carry in all the tables and chairs on the verandah… folding cloths, putting away plants, decorations, sugar bowls – the furniture was heavy and I even worked up a sweat. And Brenda does this every night and puts the furniture out every morning… along with the decision making, the precision baking and prep work for the day’s fare. Not to mention her care and support for her staff. Again I think of the expression “labour of love” and know it to be true.
Now, back to my garden and little blue things….I made an interesting discovery last week. I think I have mentioned that my blue wren family consists of Blue Boy, the male, and his “Henny” the female, and a young female from their last nesting season (last summer). I’ve learned that even when the blue males lose their feathers and appear to be the same colouring as the females, you can tell them apart because the female wrens have orange coloured skin around their eyes, on their legs, and their beak colour is orange. The males have black or very dark skin in these places.
Last week I was watching my wrens play in the garden when I walked outside. The young “female” would sit on the branch when the father bird flew up and open her beak and hold that pose. My initial thoughts were “Hey, you’re not a baby any more, what’s with the “feed me” attitude!”
But then the little one landed on my hand and I got a surprise. “Her” beak and legs and skin colouring had darkened like the male bird, even though “she” still had a grey plumage like her Mother.
Now, that really got me wondering “Was ‘she’ a ‘he’??” Then I realized that would explain the open beak display she was giving the male bird. Like with baby foals, or young horses, who open and close their mouths as a sign of respect for an older or more superior horse in the herd, this was a sign of respect towards an older, more superior bird. And that would make sense that the juvenile wren was showing “respect” towards the dominant male bird in the family.
The next day after making this observation, when the young bird landed on my hand, I noticed tiny flecks of brilliant blue emerging from the soft grey feathers, the beginnings of a spring plumage. “She” was a “He” !! It was no great discovery compared to events in the rest of the world, but for me, it was just momentous! As the days went by, the blue became more and more noticeable, as did the relationship woes between youngster and father. The male wren would chase the little one away at any point where I was interacting with them, and the juvenile wren would make the “open beak” respect sign at him, or fly away and hide. But he did not go far and still would come out when the coast was clear to land on my hand as he had done in the past. I felt a bit sorry for him, with his spotty, scruffy, half grown coat, he looked kinda disreputable, and a bit “down on his luck” especially when the older Blue Boy chased him away. At one point, when “Little Blue” as I called him was on my hand, “Blue boy” flew in with such a vengeance and chased him so blindly that they both flew into the side of my head. Talk about the dangers of befriending blue wrens!!!
What was however, quite inspirational, was to watch the young Blue wren realize he had a song. He would sit alone on a branch and throw his head back and burst forth into the most powerful song. It really was the most amazing thing to witness and hear! Over a few days, his song became loud and clear in my garden and I loved hearing him sing his presence and his heart into the world.
I was really happy to think I now had TWO Blue boys in my garden that would respond to my presence and the camera, even if they did not much like each other. I tried to seek “Little Blue” out quietly and give him so treats, so he would not be driven completely away. The irony was not lost on me though, that even if my original Blue Boy would drive this little fellow away, there would come a time when the tables would turn, and this young male would become the king of the garden and chase his old Father bird away. I guess that made me sad, even though it was simply “nature”.
So there they were, not caring that days might be numbered, or positions lost, or that the world was full of crisis, pain, wars, debt and chaos, they just felt their own song rise up in their hearts and let it out to the world for no other reason than that they were alive, and they could sing. And do you know? I believe the world is a better place for each and every note they freely put out there….. with no thought or expectation of anything except the joy of expressing their place in existence.
And so it is…