Back in 1969, American short story writer and novelist John Cheever complained of the underdog status of short stories, calling the short story ‘something of a bum‘. I bought Six Bedrooms after being exhorted by Charlotte Wood (winner of 2016 Stella Prize) to support the Australian book industry by buying more books; it turns out I am easily persuaded on such matters. Otherwise, I probably would’ve passed over this collection. Like a lot of folk, I don’t tend to gravitate to short story collections, and my last exploration into this territory with Hot Little Hands left me feeling a little meh. However, Tegan Bennet Daylight’s skill with this form has me recalibrating my position.
I asked myself a question recently; a question that every human being really ought to ask themselves at least once in their lifetime: is it possible to drink too much tea? The answer to this essential question is: yes, but only in extenuating circumstances. An extenuating circumstance might look a little like this.
Recently, I forsook my Sunday morning ritual of porridge and yoga and negotiated weekend public transport to arrive at my very first ever tea festival at 10am, sharp. At 1.30pm, I staggered from my first ever tea festival, with a belly full of tea and very little else. My teeth were gritty and coated in tannins, my mouth was dry and I felt strangely jittery. I had spent three and a half hours solidly tasting tea. That is, undoubtedly, an extenuating circumstance. And I loved every minute of it.
For those who’ve never had the pleasure of visiting a tea festival, let me describe it for you.
Lately, I’ve been wondering what happened to the word chauvinism. You don’t hear it so much anymore. It’s not like the act of being chauvinistic has disappeared, instead we seem more confident in calling it out for what it is – misogyny. The less offensive act of being chauvinist (believing women are unequal to men) and misogynistic behaviours (indicating a hatred or distrust of women) now seemed aligned.
Here are three tea facts and my personal resolution.
Question: In the mid-nineteenth century, which country drank the most tea on a per capita basis?
Answer: Surprisingly, Australia. The Brits overtook the Australians during the 1900s, although Aussies remained the second highest consumers of tea per capita globally until the late 1940s. Apparently this Australian tea obsession was to do with cleaving to notions of British civility and impressing social order within the colonial outpost.