When Mr A gave up alcohol before Christmas he bought some nice tea to drink on the sofa of an evening, in place of beer. He's used up all the Earl Grey and started on the Lapsang Souchong, but there was a box of Darjeeling still unopened in the cupboard, and one evening this week I thought I'd have some of that.
It was the spookiest thing. I took a sip, and whoooosh I was back in 1986, sitting in Sas's living room in Jesus Lane drinking a cup of tea poured from a chipped old teapot while he drank a from a huge mug that held a whole pint. I could almost taste the plain chocolate digestive biscuit that we dunked in the tea. I'd never imagined that people dunked chocolate biscuits in tea until I saw Sas do it.
I lived with Helen in the house on Castle Hill. Sas lived in a house shared with other students that I never met. There was a notice on the front door by the doorbell illustrating different combinations of short and long rings: each occupant had a different sequence, so they could tell who needed to get up and answer the doorbell.
He was in a different college, but we were first introduced by a friend of mine who had gone to school with Sas. Another of my college friends knew him from the car club. We were all engineering students, and we met in lectures. Those were the days when the most hi-tech teaching aid was a continuous flexible blackboard mounted between horizontal rollers, which could be moved upwards to make space below for even more impenetrable equations, diagrams and graphs.
We got to see each other more in our third year. I can bring to mind hardly any visual memories of where we used to meet or what we did: Helen and I infiltrated the car club meeting at The Mill once or twice, Sas and I went to a ball at the end of the year... there must have been lots more, but I just don't remember. The taste and smell of the tea only brought back the teapot and that huge mug and the chocolate digestives.
I should like to write more about Sas, but it's personal and not really appropriate for this blog. I am somewhat tormented by certain memories of when I behaved rather badly towards him, but when I talk to him about it, he doesn't remember those things. At least, he says he doesn't. Water under the bridge.
I shan't be able to drink any more of that Darjeeling tea without being haunted by all those wonderful, painful, rose-tinted memories.