• Author:Ben Jones
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Put the kettle on, John

It’s over twelve years since my Nan died. Twelve years since I said goodbye to my Mary. My mate.

She was – she still is – someone very special in my life. She is with me every day. Not in a ghost on the wall, creepy way; not in a sad, can’t get over her loss way; but in a way that makes me smile and gives me strength.

Of course, I miss her – miss her desperately – we were very, very close. She was a bright and powerful light in my light, but my memories of her are now kept alive by something I do several times each day; something that forms an important part of my daily routine: having a cup of tea.

She was the queen of tea. Drinking it. Talking about it. Complaining about it when not made properly. Ordering it from John, my Grandar. She was a chain-tea drinker; cup following cup, following cup, almost taken intravenously through morning, noon and night.

Like so many in Ireland, Liverpool and across the north, very little could be done without a nice cup of tea. The response to any major news; family crisis or national emergency was to put the kettle on. In Mary’s case, often also to light a Woodbine to accompany it! As I picture her in my mind’s eye, she is sat in her corner of the sofa, with the Echo nearby, or in her chair in the back kitchen, always drinking tea; always from a cup and saucer. The tea accompanied all important conversations; in fact, all conversations, including those when talking to the empty chair across the room, recreating for me the scene from earlier when she handed out her wise counsel to a friend or family member.

I recalled this today after enjoying another part of my normal routine. The best thing about working at home is to be close to my wonderful wife and our darling daughter for impromptu breaks for a chat, cuppa and cuddle. This morning, we undertook our usual early week tea date – where we go out to a few selected venues for a cuppa together whilst Miss J is at nursery – just to be together, one on one. Our cuppa this morning was in our favourite tea-drinking haunt in Southport, Lilibets on Lord Street. The tea is lovely, although probably a little weak for Mary’s taste; “that’s like water!”.

She would appreciate the role that tea still plays in my life and in the conversations I have with Mrs J. Each evening when Miss J goes up the wooden hills, I make Mrs J and I a cuppa and we chat about the day that has gone and what lies ahead tomorrow. It is one of the many ways we make time for each other; time being the most precious thing we have.

I am glad that I enjoyed my time with Mary and although I don’t look back and rue missed opportunities, or long for days that are gone, I would love to hear her say her much-used request, just one last time; “Put the kettle on, John”.


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