Alexander technique, gemmology and afternoon tea
Nowadays we might call it abuse, but back in the mid 70’s I didn’t question it. I was told to drink tea by my teacher Ken Parkinson (Fellow of the Gemmological Association) so I did.
Ken was already in his 70’s when I went to him to learn about gemmology. He was always smartly dressed in a brown tweed suit (including waistcoat) and was mercurial in the way he moved around his office.
Ken usually rang me up before a lesson to get me to bring him some Erinmore tobacco and moustache wax. I suspect Ken must have been a regular at the corner store as they sold both those things.
Our lessons would start with tea. As a coffee drinker that was abhorrent, but Ken insisted as I was British, I had to drink tea. The tea arrived on a tray, with matching tea pot, china cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl. I had to drink it with lots of sugar at first to get it down, but that’s no longer the case.
During the tea pouring ceremony (because it was a ceremony with Ken) he also started to fill his pipe with the tobacco I had brought. Padding it down, sucking on the pipe, and taking great care with this ritual. The fact his handlebar moustache was ginger in the middle and white on the ends reflected the years of pipe smoking.
I loved those lessons, surrounded by cases of gemstones, sourced from around the world by Ken. Learning to open gemstone packages and Ken’s rather un- PC mnemonics for Mohs scale of hardness, getting to grips with spectroscopes and refractometers, filters, microscopes and the names and beautiful shapes in which gems grow. It was fascinating. My love of tea began then too.
I’ve left the world of gemstone identification long behind me but my tea relationship remains, and the whole ceremony with loose leaf tea is still a pleasure. I recently met a woman who gave talks on “taking afternoon tea” – yes it’s a thing. I would have loved to have heard her give the talk. Tea bags be gone!
What on earth does all of that have to do with the Alexander Technique? Life seems to have shifted massively for many of us, from the days of taking afternoon tea and loose leaf tea towards instant hot water from a tap and teabags. In the fast, faster, fastest world there’s the possibility of virtually no gap between thirst and quenching that thirst. AT, however, gives you the opportunity to enjoy the process of whatever you do. Enjoy the moment by moment ceremony that is life. It allows you to slow down and savour all the senses.
I think there comes a time, for some it’s sooner, for some it’s later, that the minutiae of life becomes important and not to be missed. I think tea drinking is extremely important but what’s more precious is that I have the possibility to be aware of all aspects of my life.
If you would like to explore how the Alexander Technique can support you in enjoying your cup of tea, do get in touch.
Jane Clappison MSTAT