Today I had faith restored in the phrase “community engagement”. I had booked a party into Eastside Community Heritage’s afternoon tea party. The event was planned to acknowledge WW1. We came together at Valentine’s Mansion in Gant’s Hill. It’s easy enough to get to, just on the Central Line. The squirrels and Canada Geese never disappoint and came out in their Autumn colours today. The park isn’t too manicured and the Mansion is a treat and a half.
I took delight in seeing our hostess Judith Garfield turn away people because she had emphasised on the promotion via social media that booking was a must.
The tea room for this programme was gorgeous, full of lilacs and mauves, green leafy wallpaper, pretty prettiness and twee crockery. The room was full as we launched into Victoria sponge, loose tea brewed and poured through a strainer, stories of family sit-down for your tea teas, stories of coming to UK shores, memories of stern fathers and a presentation from Gerrard of Redbridge Museum in which he produced an home-made “iron biscuit”.
There were stories of servants, and Mauritian vanilla tea, Russian samovars and dumplings, Valentine’s Mansion as an infants’ clinic, a housing department and right back in time as having melons and orangeries. There was respect for parents during wars and poverty feeding families on very little, rations or not. We came from Kenya, from Mauritius, from L’ile de Reunion, Leyton, Whitechapel, Woodford and beyond.
We talked of fly cups, puckles of coffee, going without salt, recycling cooking oil, making cups from discarded bottles and tins.
We played games and were thus lulled into reminiscing, tears and laughing.
Now for my real tea.