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Welcome back, old friend. Lockdown provides one benefit.

26 Apr

We’re going left field today. Of course we should be talking about Saturday’s quite wonderful Brentford lockdown special with Sam Saunders and King Kev. Perhaps tomorrow. Instead, the memory has been tripped by an early morning message from friends in Australia and a trip to Africa that took place many years ago. A trip that was fuelled on something far stronger than a dodgy whisky run to Algeria. Err… Move along, nothing to see here. It was a trip that was powered by PG Tips.

So this one’s for Fay, Bucko, Rich, James and co today but, at the same time, feel free to come along for the ride if you want.

love a cup of tea as much as the next person. Or should that be ‘loved’. Lord knows it  kept us going some tough times – the aforementioned Africa trip being the quintessential example.

Back in the early 90s I spent six months going overland from Chiswick to Nairobi in the back of a truck via such exotic sounding places as Ouagdougo, Bangui and Kisangani to name but a few. Places I’d never even heard of before naively deciding that  being thrown together with 30 strangers and my University mate Rich would be the perfect way to put off entering ‘the real world’ after graduating. Some of which I’d never heard of even after we’d left them.

It was an amazing time. Sometimes scary. Sometimes rich in culture. Usually boozy. Often we were hungry. Ocassionally we ate like kings. There were fights. Angst. Stress. Dodgy guts and no toilet paper. Cabin fever – try crossing the Sahara with nothing to do for a week beyond playing Yahtzee, digging the truck out of (yet another) sand dune and look at sand.  Nothing to eat beyond powdered leek soup and Angel Delight. Made in a bucket. Andrea’s bucket….. I fell ill just thinking about that now we have hygiene once more.

If ever there was a metaphor for current life then there it was.

Moreso when you chuck ‘Eric Clapton – unplugged’ into the mix. How all but a few of my fellow overlanders had managed to bring the same tape, with it’s plinky-plinky acoustic stylings and piss weak mid-song banter, must be beyond the law of averages. But there you go. With no downloads or Apple Music it was C-90 cassettes or nothing.

And I reckon a good 26 out of 32 opted to bring ‘Handjob’, as I believe he had been nicknamed, with them. Because what everybody needed was yet another glass of ‘Malted Milk.’ It was stuck on almost repeat loop. A musical torture that kept hammering away at whatever place your mind was trying to escape to.

Eric slowly, and unwittingly, adding to the powder keg atmosphere that was brewing. Every twee chuckle from the audience another nail in the coffin of my sanity. That was, until salvation arrived. PG Tips based salvation. 

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This has to be against the Geneva convention

Whatever the stresses, hunger or confinement of the day there was always one thing to bring us together – a cup of tea.

No matter how hot it was or where we were, the stuff was always being made. The first rule of pitching camp was to get the fire burning and the water heater on. Forget dinner (such as it was) or washing up afterwards. It was always a case of getting the tea going before anything else. 

110 degrees in the middle of the desert – still need the tea. Want to climb a mountain in Algeria or need to rebuild a bridge in Zaire to cross a river? Fine, but not before a cup of tea. Stomach falling out of your arse? Pretty sure tea will fix it.

And boy did we drink it by the bucketload. Blue plastic mugfuls of the stuff. Overstewed and strengthened, if that is even the word, with powdered milk. Powdered milk that had quite likely been wee’d on by the family of rats we found nesting amongst the supplies somewhere in the Central African Republic. And by quite likely, I mean definitely.

Ahh – the sight of them being liberated from the Weetabix (Jurassic Park edition) and returning to the wilderness one I’ll never forget. But let it never be said that something as simple as rat piss got in the way of enjoying our breakfast cuppa. Anything but.

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Now with 100% less rat

Given the challenges we are currently experiencing c/o lockdown, I’ve found myself catching up a lot more with old friends. Several of whom I’d enjoyed/endured (delete as applicable)  the African odyssey with 25+ years ago. F*&k. Wow. That’s scary. But this morning there was a nice surprise over the messages – Bucko, pouring forth from Australia has put the question:

 “Nick essays on life and how to live it –  Fay and I find enlightening and entertaining. So mate can you please give a quick-shot  analysis on this this obsessive coffee culture…what is wrong with a nice cup of tea?”  

I’ve a lot of time for Fay and Bucko. Namely because he taught me about music, beer aswell as being quite the philosopher. “Never ruin a good story with the facts” being my favourite and one still used to this day. We’ve all remained great friends and have met up with each others many times over the years. Rich and I even had the denouement of Euro ’96 ruined in quite spectacular style upon our fast post-Africa catch up in Australia, although that’s a story for another day. 

The point being that a question from the otherside of the world is one which can’t go undheeded. Not when it comes from Bucko who, true to form, was sparked out cold at this juncture and had left Fay to ask it on his behalf. Got to love an Aussie who can’t hold his beer…. 😉

So – why coffee culture over tea? I’d not really thought about this but he’s right. There has been an almost subconscious move over to the dark side. My old friend tea now nothing more than a relic from a bygone age.

We’ve all manner of coffee chains where I worked before the spare room became the office in recent months. Their call has contributed to my enjoying the black stuff over the years. Perhaps because paying £3 for a teabag and a cup of boiling water compared to fresh ground coffee beans seems morally wrong. A damming indictement of my own laziness when the office kettle and box of teabags in the desk would provide an infinitely cheaper and identical alternative.

At least with coffee, only the most hipster of workplaces is going to have their own supply of beans and a grinder.

Then there’s just the power of that eSpresso hit (take your ‘x’ and shove it). The perfect kick start to a morning which is usually being run against the clock of school runs and commuting. Every second counts ; every caffeine boost a performance enhancing drug with which to combat the pressures of modern life.

One which has now become the norm and spilt over into the weekend. The cup of tea now a forgotten memory in our house. But why? Addiction?  Habit? Taste? Preference? Probably a bit of all, if I’m being honest. Plus I really struggle with milk these days. Unless it is brand new opened that second, anything approaching a day old hits the gag reflex. I can’t drink tea black ; I can with coffee.

Which is a crying shame. To miss out on the comfort factor and more relaxed way to start the day is truly a loss that has crept up without even realising it. Until now.

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Tea – comes in many shades.

So waved on by nostalgia I’ve done it…..

The kettle has been boiled and a fresh container of milk opened. The drink has been made and, my word, it’s amazing. I’m now on mug 3 and whilst it won’t be a case of saying farewell to the coffee, perhaps the two can co-exist on a more equal footing. Perhaps the feel good factor and more calming feel of Yorkshire’s finest is what we need in these crazy times.

If it was good enough to keep us together in the middle of the jungle it’s certainly one remedy for personal wellbeing right now. A way to try and cope with what’s going on outside as we look to avoid the confines of lockdown.

Assuming you can get hold of some.

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Nick Bruzon 

Missing football? Go ‘Business on the top, party on the bottom’.

26 Mar

Urghh. Coronavirus and Covid 19. Brutal words to rank alongside: Mrs Browns Boys, Simply Red, Rail Replacement Bus Service and Team GB (It’s Great Britain and Northern Ireland) in delivering a sickening punch to the gut every time they are mentioned. The cessation of football being the least of our immediate concerns at present yet a huge impact for many. The morale boost of watching Brentford denied to us for an indefinite time period as we are all confined to quarters. 2000 fans having to get that live action ‘hit’ from watching Lewis Frampton representing the Bees in the #UltimateQuaranTeam Cup. Yet there are a couple of other ways to keep your team in mind – one which yours truly will be undertaking and one thanks to Charlton Athletic fan and Absolute Radio breakfast show DJ Dave Berry . And its all down to the fact that so many of us are now having to work from home.

First up, Dave.  With video chat currently one of the ways we are all communicating, why not combine professionalism with support for your team ? Namely via an idea suggested by his own breakfast show team this week : Business on the top, party on the bottom. 

Put simply, keep the upper (visible) part of your attire as professional as possible. Yet below the desk, why not slip into something more sporting, more comfortable, more Hummel or Umbro? Why not wear a pair of football shorts off camera ?

By all accounts, Sir Trevor McDonald was a huge fan of the shirt/shorts combo when presenting the News at Ten. I’m not sure if this has ever been proven but it is a wonderful bit of imagery for the mind’s eye. Regardless, and much to Mrs. Bruzon’s chagrin, I did sip into the 92/93 ‘away’ shorts yesterday. Just to try it out.

Fashion and comfort were very much the winners. Good taste, perhaps, going out of the window. Yet the beauty being that nobody else knew. Until now. Like yours truly, Dave has also gone for the Hummel, albeit a more modern pair of Charlton Athletic shorts – as shared on Twitter.

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Why not get involved? And share them. Come on, we could all do with a laugh. And showing the support for our team. #Businessonthetoppartyonthebottom. Or something.

Perhaps the more discreet way of doing this is just to wear your favourite colours. Don’t hide them away under whatever you are using as a makeshift office table (for me, a 6 years old’s school desk in the spare room) . Why not wear your shirt for all to see? Why not do a Football shirt Friday ? 

We’re all on video chat with colleagues so, whilst keeping it professional (if the boss is reading) how about wearing your favourite colours. Rather than chat about Corona in the small talk part, let’s chat about our teams. Let’s share them on Twitter. Even though our teams aren’t playing at present, let’s get the back out there. Here’s an easier hashtag: #FootballshirtFriday   

No idea which one to go for but that’s a problem for tomorrow morning. For once, a nice problem. I’ve done the shorts – they weren’t as good on me as they will be on others (as you can see) . 

The shirt thing may be different though. Nothing says style like CHAD. Like the black and silver. Like brown/orange. I’ll be sure to share a picture of the workplace attire – it would be great to see yours too. Come on, let’s get involved. 

The one piece of football news that has emerged overnight was another victory for Lewis Frampton in the FIFA 20 #UltimateQuaranteam Cup organised by Leyton Orient. A 3-1 victory over Finn Harps means he is now through to the last 32 where he’ll face the winners of Thursday night’s clash between Blackburn Rovers and Forest Green. Well played Lewis. Bring on the third round. Or the round of 32 as we are contractually obliged to call these things .

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Well played Lewis

For now, there’s not much else to say. Get your favourite shirt on tomorrow and share a picture. It would be amazing t see what our fan favourites are.

Likewise, why not wear your shorts today? It looks like it might be a sunny day so there’s no excuse.

Besides, they can’t look any worse than mine…

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Nick Bruzon