Time for tea

I love my creature comforts. Don’t you just love a nice cup of tea and a sit down?

We are creatures of habit and so we punctuate our days with tea-breaks … in the morning with a slice of hot buttered toast, as a break from work or household chores, when we’ve been on our feet all day and, of course, when the clock strikes four, everything stops for tea.

Tea – a drink with jam and bread …

Memories are made of tea
My tea childhood memories include being sent to the Co-op at the bottom of the avenue, for “a quarter of tea” and rushing home to discover what collectable card was lurking inside the packet. We would swop them with friends and paste them into albums until our collections were complete. Cars and planes, Adventurers and Explorers, International Football Stars, The History of Aviation were some of the sets you could collect. This was how I learnt about famous people, like Amy Johnson, the female pilot who flew solo in 1930 from England to Australia in a Gipsy Moth plane. That’s 11,000 miles and took 19½ days. I wonder if she stopped for tea or took a flask?!


Flying high with Amy
Amy Johnson was born in Hull in 1903, went to Sheffield University and worked as a solicitor’s secretary until she took up the more adventurous pursuit of flying. She was a gutsy pioneer and got her pilot’s licence in 1929 – just a year after women over 21 were allowed to vote in the UK. It was very unusual back then for a woman to be a pilot, or aviatrix as they were known, let alone take on the challenges that she did. She held many records and her flying achievements were recognised in numerous ways. She loved buying clothes and flying outfits and was a style icon, a celebrity in her day and even had a hairstyle, the Amy Johnson “wave”, named after her.

Queen of the air
Who knows what stories Amy Johnson would have lived to tell if her plane hadn’t crashed in 1941 during World War 2 whilst on a mission for the Air Transport Auxiliary. This was valuable and risky active service for the war effort. Her body was never recovered. What actually happened remains a mystery. Was she on a secret mission or did she simply get lost and run out of fuel? Let’s chink a toast to her achievements – Queen of the Air. Who else do you think is worthy of a tea-time toast?

A toast to tea

I think of my Nana when I think about tea. I didn’t drink tea at home as a child but on a sleepover with Nana she would make tea with milk and sugar, served in a cup and saucer, with egg and toast and we would chat in bed.

She also enjoyed a pot of tea with a nice salmon sandwich at Whiteheads of Bolton department store, where she worked for a while in Ladies Fashions. Bolton was a very grand place for shopping and an even better place to stop for tea.

There used to be a traditional tea-room with waitresses wearing black and white uniforms in Knowsley Street, Bolton – near the Market Hall. No-one else I know remembers it. Did I imagine it? I don’t think so. I have a vivid memory of the cakes and Welsh rarebit and the staircase down to a lower level. It turned into the Scholl foot shop. If anyone remembers it, do let me know!

© Bolton Council. From the collection of Bolton Library and Museum Service

Here’s another blast from Bolton’s past – La Casa Blanca Coffee Bar in Old Hall Street North, down the side of what was then Whitakers department store. I remember this as a bohemian cave in the 1960s serving coffee and pasties on red and yellow melamine. My mum and I would meet my dad there in his lunch-break. He worked for the Bolton and District Textile Managers’ Association and his office was nearby in Lloyds Bank Chambers, Le Mans Crescent. I would meet him there after school if I had spent my bus fare and wanted to cadge a lift home. I was allowed to sit and wait for him in the very grand committee room amongst what would now be memorabilia of the Bolton textile industry.

Thanks to officers working in the archives at Bolton Library and Museum Services for digging out this photo. They would love to learn more about people’s reminiscences of going there, so if you have any memories to share please let me know and I will pass them on. Do you remember La Casa Blanca? Who did you meet there? What did you eat? Did they serve a good brew?

Things to natter about over tea

It’s hard to beat the very fine cup of tea served with care and a smile at Bakewells in Bolton. Opinions vary about what makes the perfect cuppa. What’s your preference?

  • in a mug or cup?
  • tea-leaves or tea bags?
  • Builders’ Brew or Earl Grey?
  • from a pot or not?
  • with or without sugar?
  • one lump or two?
  • strong or weak?
  • milk in first or last?
  • digestive or ginger nut?
  • rich tea or jammie dodger?
  • custard cream or chocolate hob-nob?
  • dunking – are you a fan or not?
  • do you like to sip or slurp?

If you’ve enjoyed this take a look at other things to natter about …