A plate of hot scones and a pot of tea make a Sunday Afternoon In both cosy and calm. We drink a lot of “PG” (meaning plain ordinary tea, named for the brand PG Tips), but my favorite tea is called Assam. Try it, if you can find it. I buy it in the Oxford Covered Market. It’s light and soft and flavorful, and is really at its best with milk. I know Earl Grey is the tea of choice for many but it has weird undertones to my taste and besides it is never, never drunk with milk. I imagine one is allowed to have scones with it, however, so there is one point in its favor.
Someone asked me recently if I tell the truth on my blog. “Yes, I do,” I said, “but not all of it.” There’s one thing I rarely mention, though I am aware that it leaks out from time to time. It is this: I know homesickness well. It is an emotion that I live with. I don’t mean warm moments of fond remembrance and thinking how nice it would be to see our loved ones. I mean a sudden, heavy longing for home that crushes in on you and makes it hard to breathe. A longing the fiercer because you have no idea when you will next be able to fulfill it. A longing that feels unbearable in September when you know the next time you will see anyone in your family might be a brief visit from some of them in May. I mean the children’s birthdays without family, the holidays alone, a year or more away at a time. I mean adapting to a totally different lifestyle in a place that is unfamiliar and where people do not behave in the ways you are used to and suddenly just craving things that are familiar and easy, the people who understand you, and the places you love.
It’s a longing that you learn to live with. You hold it there in your heart, swept to one side and kept there by piling up all of the happy things against it. You carry it around with you, and you pray that it deepens your longing for heaven. And sometimes, over scones on Sunday afternoons, you let it out for a little while.
And then the children wake up and attack the scones, so you stuff it back again.