It began as a silly moment with Mama Rosa.
Then came the writing assignment; write a story with a clear time and place.
Knocking on the door echoes through the great house on Magnolia Lane, and finally reaches Rose’s ears.
“Oh drat, “ mutters Rose. “Who would be out calling this early in the morning? I’ll just let William get it.”
Again the knocking resounds.
“Impatient aren’t we?” Rose says to herself. Then in an impatient tone, “William, William. Where is that lazy butler this time?” wonders Rose as she leaves her sitting room to answer the door. “He’s most likely still down in the Scullery, I don’t understand what draws him down there all the time. Heaven knows we don’t have enough food.”
All of a sudden William comes rushing from below wiping crumbs from his uniform stretched taut about his middle.
“I’m going to have to put restrictions on his meals or buy him another uniform,” she decides, giving the short, fat man waddling up the stairs and towards the door, a disapproving look.
“Don’t worry yourself about it, William. I need the exercise.” With that, the butler heaves a sign of relief and returns to the scullery with a nod of despair from Rose.
Outside Josephine is getting impatient. She lifts the knocker and lets it fall for a third time. When the door isn’t answered, Josephine begins pacing before the door. Finally the door is answered and Josephine turn’s to see Rose’s smiling face.
“Josephine, my darling, what brings you to this corner of England? I haven’t see you for ages! Where have you been keeping yourself?” Rose cries joyfully.
Josephine smiles, mentally mimicking Rose word for word. Obviously Rose gives the same speech every time she sees her beloved daughter.
“Mother, I’ve come to take you to morning tea at the Outdoor Café. As you see it’s going to be a beautiful day. Claire will be there; she can’t wait to see you. You two haven’t seen each other in ages!” Josephine explains to her mother quickly. “But we must hurry. Claire is holding a table for us.”
“Alright but let me change into some more dignified clothes. If I walked into the café in these clothes people would think I was from the eighteenth century instead of the nineteenth. I was just trying to get used to this costume for the party tomorrow night. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” Away Rose flies to her room to change, for she loves the Outdoor Café.
At the café, Claire is waiting.
“Where are they?” Claire thinks impatiently. “Maybe Josephine can’t get Rose here, maybe Rose isn’t home. No, now Claire, you know perfectly well that Josephine will get Rose here. There they are now, “ Claire observes, waving to Josephine and Rose.
“Claire, my darling, what brings you…” Rose goes into her speech and Claire just smiles, amused at the fact that Rose still gives that speech to every one of her friends.
“I must have heard this speech a thousand times,” reminisces Claire. “Would you like to sit down, Rose? I’ve taken the liberty of ordering three cups of Earl Grey tea for us. Is it still your favourite?” Claire says in a very hostess-like way.
“Of course. Thank you.”
The two elderly women reminisce about old times together and gossip about their old friends while they wait for their tea.
The tea comes and Rose and Claire go through an amusing act of putting sugar in their tea.
As Rose drinks her tea she utters a small slurping sound and immediately puts her hand to her mouth and turns red.
Claire looks astonished at dignified Rose’s behaviour but immediately comes out of it.
“Darling, if you’re going to slurp tea you must do it right. Now pay close attention,” Claire exclaims, then proceeds to slurp her tea annoyingly.
“Okay,” says Rose, catching on to the joke. “Let me try again.” With that she proceeds to slurp her tea even more annoyingly than Claire does.
Josephine stares aghast at her mother.
“Mother,” she whispers, “people are staring!”
“Do I have it yet?” Rose asks, lowering her cup trying no t laugh at the rest of the people at the café with their mouths hanging open, astonished at her behaviour.
“No,” says Claire, trying to retain the same laughter. “You have to slurp just a little bit louder,” Claire instructs laughing.
To Josephine’s surprise and the old ladies amusement, the rest of the café suddenly starts slurping their tea and asking Claire advise about slurping.
Humiliated and appalled at her mother’s outlandish behaviour, Josephine walks out of the café in a huff.
Claire and Rose continue to enjoy themselves.
Rose and Claire had started a fad that went on for about a month. During that month, Rose and Claire were called upon for their expertise on slurping. Even the Queen of England was slurping her tea until she spilled in on her dress and ruled that no one be allowed to slurp.
Josephine was the only person in England who never did slurp her tea.*
It went on to become the defining story of our relationship.
Three copies were made.
One is here, in this corner of England. One is lost to time. One is with her.
*The original story as it was 'published' in 1993