Friday, 27 April 2012


On this day in 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act (which resulted in a later invitation to a certain Tea Party), and we’re celebrating by publishing some of Isla Blair’s tips for tea, taken from her memoir, “A Tiger’s Wedding”...

“Tea has many therapeutic uses apart from just drinking it.


If you have a late night and you wake up with suitcases under your eyes, the whites of which look like uncooked egg whites, only bloodshot, lie down for ten minutes with a couple of cold teabags on your eyes. You will get up with your eyes looking and feeling better – really – I’ve tried it. It works!

Uses in the kitchen

Rub a pan that still has the smell of onion or fish (the latter never in my house of course, because I hate fish!) with damp tea leaves and the smell disappears.

You can use it as a cleaning agent. Dip a cloth in cold tea and wipe over mirrors or chrome and it will gleam.

And of course feed houseplants on tea; they love it. Not every day, just as often as you would normally feed your plants.

In theatre companies, the wardrobe mistress often uses a dilution of tea to “dip” shirts or lace, giving it the colour of a soft sepia photograph.

On the other hand if you want to remove those stubborn brown circles of tea from a white table cloth, drop a few drops of lemon juice on the stain, leave it a few minutes and then wash out.

For a very old tea stain – water mixed with glycerine. This does work.

Tips on serving tea

Always heat the pot, but never add “teaspoons – one for the pot”; it makes the tea too strong. Use filtered, cold water to boil up and pour it on the tea as soon as it’s boiled. Leave it for three minutes if it is Indian tea, a little longer if China tea.

If you are not serving it immediately and you think it’s brewed, strain it, to prevent it becoming stewed and bitter, and stir it. If a cup of tea is too strong, poor some water into the cup first and then add the tea – don’t add it to the pot.

Which brings me to the vexed question of milk first or tea first? My father used to get quite animated about this. In posh circles, the etiquette was tea first, followed by milk. Apparently if your porcelain was not of good quality, the boiling tea could crack the cup, hence milk in first. If your porcelain was of excellent quality, it would withstand the hot tea being poured in first.

I’m told that is how it started. Who had the best china – the richest, poshest people. So it became a sort of class snobby thing. Very cucumber sandwiches and Lady Bracknell. My father (and I must say, all his tea planter colleagues) insisted on milk in first and to hell with the snobbishness. It was the same thing as putting hot water into the cup then the tea if you wanted to dilute it. The tea mixed better, swirled around more if it followed the milk into the cup. To this day I am fussy enough to have my tea in porcelain cups instead of chunky pottery or thick china mugs. I just like it in cups; it feels more refreshing and gracious, it is more calming – to me anyway.” – Isla Blair

Photo by katerha

Friday, 20 April 2012

London Book Fair for Ladies

We had a great time at the London Book Fair this year! Ali has some great DOs and DON’Ts that she passed on to someone who was attending the Fair for the first time this year. Maybe they’ll come in handy for you next year! These tips are mostly for women, but men may find a useful titbit or two...

1. DON’T rush out and buy six inch new leather court shoes for the bookfair - you will be crippled all week!

2. DON’T rush out and decide to dye your hair a bold new shade of auburn for 'the fun of it'!!

3. DON’T decide to have a facial peel to brighten the complexion convinced the redness will have gone by Monday morning!

4. DON’T spend a grand you haven't got on a new power business suit!

5. DO remember to wear comfy underwear that doesn't dig in or has cleavage enhancing removable padding which then 'removes' itself halfway through a meeting!*

6. DO check every time you go to the loo to be sure you haven't tucked your skirt into your knickers!! Ali Muirden

*This apparently happened to a colleague of Ali’s. Her ‘padding’ worked its way up her chest. She snatched it out, claiming it was a rogue shoulder pad.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Happy Friday the 13th!

We hope you don’t suffer from Triskaidekaphobia*! We don’t – and we’re celebrating by listing some of our favourite quotes about luck and the part it plays in success.

A good idea is about ten percent and implementation and hard work, and luck is 90 percent. – Guy Kawasaki

Captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill. But don't try it without that 10 per cent. – Richie Benaud

A pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck. - James A. Garfield

Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

And I always found that the harder I worked, the better my luck was, because I was prepared for that.  Ed Bradley

But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck anymore. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready. – Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.  - Thomas Jefferson

And our favourite:

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. – Seneca

What do you think? Is success largely preparation, perspiration, or luck?

*fear of the number 13

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Friday, 6 April 2012