Helen remembers it was pre-World War II. She was a nurse. Some of the patients on her ward were there for psychiatric reasons. “One lovely old duck” she recalls “was in one of the ‘closed rooms’ on the ward”. A ‘closed room’ from what I can tell, is equivalent to a padded cell. On her rounds one day Helen checked in on the old duck through the slit in the door, and couldn’t see her. “She was nowhere to be seen, so I called the warden, which is what you did when you wanted to enter a closed room”. The wardens were like body guards for nurses in these situations.
Once inside, Helen found the woman in a corner, “She was stark naked” says Helen, “and she had put her tin potty on her head. When she saw me, she looked up, and with a beaming smile said, ‘A cuppa tea’d be nice!’ ”
Helen recalls her response to the nude, thirsty senior, “I looked at her and said ‘Yes it would dear. A cup of tea would be very nice!’ ”
I know this story is true, because Helen is my grandmother. The story is a family favourite. In fact, the phrase ‘a cuppa tea’d be nice’ is one that has rung through our family for my entire life. It’s like a comfortable slipper to a whole family.
It is pertinent, not only because we all enjoy a good cuppa, but also because we often find ourselves in situations that are not unlike that lovely old duck’s – metaphorically naked, with an upturned potty on our heads. And what else is there to say when you find yourself like that? … Nothing. But it’s best to always be honest about your inclination towards a nice cup of tea.