Sunday for tea I’ll see you Sunday for tea
And though it’s not far away each hour’s a day to me
Lettuce and ham or maybe crumpets and jam
Oh baby it’ll be fun Havin’ a Sunday tea
So sang Peter and Gordon in the 1960s.
For our family, Sunday afternoon tea was a ritual. The whole family that is Grandma and Poppy, their two sons and daughter, their spouses and the 9 grandchildren regularly met on Sunday at Grandma and Poppy’s apartment.
While the adults talked and discussed whatever adults discussed, the 8 granddaughters and the sole grandson amused themselves as children did then. We played cards, dominoes, monopoly and other childish games that our grandchildren would not think of playing today.
The adults would, of course, have cups of tea while catching up on the gossip. They all lived near each other, in fact, my grandparents lived in our apartment complex. Families saw and interacted with each other in a much closer way than they do now. Really it was one big, mostly happy, family then.
As 5 pm approached the wives, that is mother and her two sisters-in-law, would go to the kitchen to prepare tea for us all. In retrospect, it seems that every Sunday we had the same things. Egg and tomato sandwiches, made with white bread as there was no choice then. I think occasionally there would be sardine instead of egg but egg and tomato is what I remember. There would be small cakes that one or other of the sisters-in-law had baked and of course, Mother’s Victoria sponge cake.
I can’t imagine, or indeed remember where everybody sat for Tea. The apartment was quite small but somehow every Sunday we all ate together.
The table was always set, with the prized epergne in the centre.
This was a thing of rare beauty in our world. Most of the things in that era following the ending of the Second World War were functional rather than beautiful. I have no idea where this thing came from or where it went. I hope that one of the grandchildren has it and treasures it still.
Shortly after tea, with the table cleared, dishes washed (by hand, no dishwashers back then) and the kitchen, the living room and the ‘blue’ room where the children amused themselves, put back to order, we all departed to meet again next week.
I don’t know when this ritual ceased, but I hold it as one of my very dear memories of a happy, carefree and much-loved childhood. And when I think of it I think of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Lamplighter”
“My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at tea-time and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.”
It doesn’t have much to do with tea at Grandma’s but I really love it. For the rest of that poem, which is firmly stuck in my head from childhood go to The Lamplighter