I love the description that came with this photo from Emma Belfield on Twitter: “Here is the cup I drink gallons of tea from each day, alongside the inordinately floral teapot I inherited from my granny (its knobbles reminds me of her knobbly arthritic hands).”
I don’t know Emma, but I rang her this morning to ask about her grandmother and her teapot. Emma lives in Hobart and has been an environmental campaigner for 25 years. She’s currently studying to be a teacher.
Emma and her family (including her grandmother Peg) used to live on a sheep farm in Armidale, NSW. The teapot sat in the cupboard with a bunch of other fine crockery, and was only used for special occasions. Tea time was a regular thing on the farm after sheep work. Out would come the strong black tea with rock cakes or scones. “Rock cakes weren’t my favourite,” says Emma, “but Granny was such a good baker, she could bake for Australia.”
“Granny had been this kind of big buxom country farm woman, then in her older years shrank to be this tiny little bird. Her hands were tiny, but she had these enormous knuckles and these arthritic hands.”
I asked Emma what life was like for her in these coronavirus times. She said that in the scheme of things she was doing quite well living in Hobart, where she is very close to the ocean. “But I worry about our health system, and those who are disadvantaged.”
“I’m doing all the things like radical social distancing. I’m studying and working from home. Here we haven’t seen the hysteria yet of people on the mainland buying all the things from shops. I’m not sure if that’s a population scale thing, or a lag.”
“It’s such a strange time. For me, it’s been about reconnection with family, and caring for friends and community.”
Emma says that some really wonderful things are happening. For example, she’s only recently moved back to Hobart at the beginning of January, and had yet to meet many of her neighbours. “So I’ve been going to neighbours and saying ‘Hi, I’ve been meaning to introduce myself. Let me know if you need anything.’”
A few people have messaged Emma to say thanks, and she’s waved and spoken to neighbours ‘at an appropriate distance’. “I wish people would focus on the positive things, and on the many community driven things that are happening.”
Peg lived to the age of 97. Emma inherited the knobbly teapot in ‘the great sort out’ of Peg’s things. Things are very different for the teapot these days. It no longer sits in a fine china cupboard waiting for special guests. “I thought to myself, no, I’m just going to use this every day,” says Emma, who thinks about her Granny whenever she makes a pot of Earl Grey.
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