Tag Archives: Eric Clapton

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. 


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.

Screenshot 2020-04-26 at 12.09.38

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.

Screenshot 2020-04-26 at 12.59.49

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.


Nick Bruzon