Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Love Coffee, I Love Tea

“Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.”
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand 1754-1838

I wasn't always a coffee drinker. For the first twenty-two years of my life I was all about tea... I don't actually remember when I was too young to drink tea. For all I know, my baby bottle was filled with milky tea.

I didn't like coffee at all back then.

I blame my parents. They drank instant. Seriously? Who would forsake tea for instant coffee? On special occasions my mother would perk coffee. By that point in the evening her guests had so much food and drink they didn't notice how bad it was. Or maybe they were too polite.

I'm not being mean. Mum would have been the first to admit she did not have the knack of brewing coffee. She was English after all. Most of the time she drank tea and her tea was excellent.
"You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me."
C. S. Lewis
In my senior years at high school (in Ontario we effectively had two senior years when I was growing up: grades 12 and 13) I used to have a tea locker. It was outside the chemistry classrooms. I kept a travel kettle, tea, sugar, powdered milk and two or three mugs. (I didn't take milk or sugar in my tea by then, but I was a very good host.) At lunchtime, I do a brew-up in the lab. Our chemistry teachers not only allowed it, one had his own tea beaker.

When I went to university, the tea was terrible. Sure, I could bring my own, but they charged the same for a cup of hot water as a cup of coffee. Worse, tea didn't keep you awake when you had three papers to complete in twenty-four hours. That's what drove me to coffee. Since I wasn't crazy about it, bad coffee didn't bother me.
“I don't really like coffee," she said, "but I don't really like it when my head hits my desk when I fall asleep either. ”
Brian Andreas
I'm not sure when the turning point came... maybe it was when I was hanging out at cafes writing longhand fan fiction when I was supposed to be writing essays... but I became a coffee drinker.

Back in my fan fic days, I preferred flavoured coffee. When I was Captain of the Guelph Star Trek Club I had my own "Captain's Blend". (Two parts Columbian dark roast to one part Dutch chocolate flavoured beans.) I started drinking straight dark roast about the same time I started writing mysteries. Coincidence? I think not.
“Coffee first. Schemes later.”
Leanna Renee Hieber
Now I am known as "She who must have coffee." But truth be known, when the world is falling apart around me, my first instinct is to go and put the kettle on.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Farewell Sir Terry - But Not Good Bye

I was introduced to Terry Pratchett via his Discworld novels in 1989. My parents, my sister and I were visiting London (my mother's hometown) -- the last trip the four of us would make as a nuclear family. My sister and I would wander around the west end while mum and dad had a nap in the afternoon. One day we discovered a "gentile blackhole"* aka a bookstore, and I discovered Wyrd Sisters.

That was the day I made a grievous tactical error. I only bought the first two Discworld books, The Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic. I should have bought every book up to and including the newly released Wyrd Sisters - or at least also bought Wyrd Sisters. The books were slow to be released in Canada back then, and it took three years before I finally read the book that first caught my attention.

I can't remember how long it took before I read Guards,  Guards, the book that started my favourite series within the series, and ongoing unrequited love affair with Commander Sir Samuel Vimes, Duke of Ankh Morpork. I read them all, from Guards, Guards to Snuff at least once annually.

Fast forward a dozen years later, my collection of Discworld novels was complete and up to date. I was (and am) the mother of two wonderful children and every night, for about a year, I had to read  Where's My Cow to my son Sam**... complete with appropriate voices. He was delighted that Sir Sam was reading the title story to Young Sam, his son.
Illustration from the book illustrated

When my kids got older, we started collecting the audio books so we could listen to the books in the car. Unseen Academicals is the family favourite. It's the only one we have that's not abridged. (That must be fixed because you shouldn't miss a word of a Pratchett novel.)

When my daughter hit her head and we spent about six hours in Emergency, I read Wee Free Men to her... with appropriate voices.  When we finally were called, a woman remarked that she was sorry she wouldn't hear the rest of the story and, by the way, what part of England was I from? (I'm born and bred Canadian.)

I have never met Sir Terry. I do not know his family. But he and his books have been part of my family for twenty-six years. I'm going to miss him, but he will live on through his books.

From Sir Terry Pratchett's BBC News Obituary

* “A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.”
Terry Pratchett, Guards, Guards

**Sam is named jointly for Sam I Am from Green Eggs and Ham, Sam Vimes from the Discworld series, and the first cat I had as a child. But don't tell his father. He has other ideas.

Sam is the Ginger.