Tag Archives: tea

Hot and steamy and up in the hills – tea anyone?

The Tea Planter’s Wife

By

Dinah Jeffries

A NetGalley Review

The Tea Plantations owners and their way of life feels hot, steamy, immensely privileged, full of snide gossip and hidden secrets.

tea_plantation

We really feel the atmosphere of Ceylon before the Second World War, as it was then known, when we read this book.

 

According to the author it is set between 1925 and 1934 and all the events that happened to the Western world have their impact on Ceylon but often some time later as information was passed along much more slowly then.

sri-lanka-map

The author lived in Malaysia as a small child so she understands the culture of Ceylon as it might have been then and the issues surrounding skin colour and who it was correct to talk to, socialise with, and even marry. The same issues were of course reflected in India at this time – the whole of the old order of the British Empire was breaking down – and the differences in lifestyle became not only more obvious but more iniquitous. Unrest amongst the workers became more common and Ghandi was speaking in India and the concept of autonomy and self-rule were suddenly being discussed amongst the natives of all the British Empire.

And yet to fuel this Empire’s economy workers had been drafted from all parts of the Empire to work in different countries where they were regarded as third class citizens – perhaps not even citizens with rights even though they may have been born in the country in which they lived and worked. All of which gave fuel to the growing unrest.

Currently Sinhalese constitute the largest ethnic group in the country, with 74.88% of the total population. Sri Lankan Tamils are the second major ethnic group in the island, with a percentage of 11.2. Sri Lankan Moors comprise 9.2%.

Tamils of Indian origin were brought into the country as indentured labourers by British colonists to work on estate plantations. Nearly 50% of them were repatriated following independence in 1948. They are distinguished from the native Tamil population that has resided in Sri Lanka since ancient times.

There are also small ethnic groups such as the Burghers (of mixed European descent) and Malays from Southeast Asia. Moreover, there is a small population of Vedda people who are believed to be the original indigenous group to inhabit the island. [wikipedia]

This multi-ethnic  and multi-cultural country did not in fact achieve independence until 1948 – after the Second World War but a universal franchise was achieved in 1931. However, the Tamils were left as a minority in the Govt as a result of this – they later demanded 50% representations for the Sinhalese and 50% for other ethnic groups but they did not receive this and the Sinhalese dominated the legislature.

The result was the Sri Lankan Civil War which began in  1983, with intermittent insurgency by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), an independent militant organisation which fought to create an independent state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of the island. After a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in 2009.[Wikipedia]. Of course, the way in which the plantations had been run and the Govt were the root causes of this war.sri-lanka2

But the war had not started when this book was set although we begin to see the actions that began it through the treatment of the Tamil workers on the plantations.

There are also many secrets in the family histories of the plantation owners that they kept hidden away. Family blood lines were ‘cleaned’ up to represent the line they which they had rather than the one they really had. And these family secrets begin to destroy the wife of the title as her marriage comes under increasing strain.

I don’t usually read these type of books but was intrigues by the book description and the idea of a tea plantation. As they seem very foreign and very romantic and I could almost see myself being seduced enough by the idea to become a planter’s wife – almost – but it was a very isolated life, very remote, and very formal – which really isn’t me at all!

I did enjoy the book and would probably be tempted to read the next book by this author especially having read on her website it will likely be set in Vietnam. Far Eastern travel by book…and some fascinating periods of history too.

 

Guilty Pleasures: Shopping and friends

A box of Russian Caravan made by Twinings

A box of Russian Caravan made by Twinings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Christmas tree with presents

Christmas tree with presents (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you have a guilty pleasure or two? I’m sure you do – especially if you’re a woman like me. These pleasures can often feature duvet days when you are under the weather (or at least that’s the excuse) with romantic novels or films; biscuits and cakes or chocolate; or – most especially – finding time for ourselves. And here I’m not talking about time to have our nails done or hair coloured, but time that has no agenda or appointment included. The last is one we find almost always bottom of our list, duvet days are all very well but as they are usually accompanied by a cold, they don’t really count. Time to do things we really want to do – like writing our blog for instance – which is why I haven’t written anything in such a long time!

I have so many things I have been meaning to write about this year – a long list I have created – and I still haven’t written all about our Scottish holiday last August! But at this time of year especially, finding ‘me’ time is very difficult indeed, and my husband has complained I’m for ever on the computer, but then that’s how I ordered the presents, the food and the cards and the wrapping paper and…

A friend and I have spent most of the end of November and beginning of December trying to find time to go to Bath together, for the Xmas market which had over 100 stalls and the website looks fabulous. We had managed to go together to the V&A exhibition about Pearls (more on that in a later blog) even though she had to go into hospital the next day and spent the first 10 minutes or more of our visit on the phone to the hospital who were explaining all about what was going to happen and asking lots of questions about her health in preparation. We had such fun we decided to go out again soon and the Xmas market seemed an excellent excuse to go to Bath which has a wealth of interesting small alleyways full of unique shops and tea-houses. But xmas is so busy with al the other things that need to be done – you know – buying presents, buying cards, writing cards, posting cards, wrapping presents, posting presents. Buying and planning the menus – who will be staying, and how long for and do we have enough pillows? By the way, there is a YouGov report that says that most of the Xmas work is done by women and some grumpy males who say that this is because women want to do this – well I suppose to some extent we do, but then my husband hates shopping and when he can avoid it (not food but presents) he does. He also believes we make too much fuss over the whole period but it is a family time and the grandchildren are now of an age when they can really enjoy it, so… do you agree? Do we make too much fuss? Do women do most of the work? Not the washing up of course but all the rest?

And then there is work and my charity – emails and reports, reading and writing, then more emails, budgets, more emails. Meetings and then more meetings and yes, more meetings to plan the next meetings…

Finally we agreed a date that suites us both, having had 2 original dates blown out by meetings. Ok. Let’s book the train tickets. Tickets duly bought and then a couple of days before the excursion my friend shame-facedly came up to me and said that the Xmas market had now closed! But we decided to go anyway as we finally had a day for our guilty pleasure of shopping and chatting…chatting and shopping and drinking tea and eating cake and eating cake and drinking tea. We found a great little tea shop down one of the alleyways, don’t remember the name of it, but it had a great selection of teas, not so great on coffee but.. it even had something called Russian Caravan Tea – which I had as it was completely new to me. It really looked very grey when poured and less than inviting and you didn’t know how much milk to put in, but I put in my usual amount and tasted. It was actually quite nice. But not an experience to repeat perhaps. They had loads of samovars on display as well as Chinese tea pots and a really good selection of Chinese teas.

We did rather egg each other on when it came to the shopping and ended up with so many bags that we struggled to carry them all home – luckily the train was full of local commuters who got off at the next 2 stops coming home and so we could spread out a bit. Especially as we were very wet as the rain and wind had pelted down on us, and in our faces, as we struggled back to the train station fully loaded.

We are now planning our next excursion in the new year – before I have my back operation and am thus more or less unavailable for a few months… it will likely include an exhibition of some kind as we love the same types of stuff.