Tigger decided it was time to float.
Not on the Stock Exchange but in a tank of water with added Epsom salts. This activity – or, rather, lack of all activity – for an hour is supposed to be a wonderful stress reducer and relaxant.
I was invited to participate but the idea of imitating a pickled egg for an hour and emerging stinking of Epsom salts and having to be hosed down in consequence did not appeal to me. Like most tigers, I have been known to splash about occasionally in bodies of water if the weather is hot enough but spending an hour in the dark, enclosed in a tank, seemed, if not a claustrophobe’s nightmare, at least a waste of perfectly good time that could be spent on other more productive things such as doing sudoku puzzles and drinking tea.
Fortunately, geography cooperated. The floatation tanks are located in an establishment not far from London Bridge which, as luck would have it, is also where The Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee is situated. In fact, the two are within sight of one another.
The Bramah is not only a museum but also a tea shop a cut above your usual kind. You there meet a genteel atmosphere that has largely disappeared in an age where “a cup of tea” more often than not means “a teabag in mug with some warm water poured over it”. I was happy, therefore, to spend an hour and a half in there while Tigger was enjoying a brief encounter with gravity-free living.
The decor of the cafe reflects the tea-based theme. There are about 20 varieties of tea on display and sale, each of which is accompanied by a sample in a bowl so that you can look at, and sniff, the tea. On a previous visit I bought some Russian Caravan Tea which at £5 for 125 grams was a mite expensive but is very good tea.
There is a window display of tea pots and other tea making equipment and cabinets containing more of the same. Unfortunately, none of these items are for sale.
There is a tea and coffee menu offering several of the varieties on sale. Yesterday I chose Gunpowder, a green tea with a rather subtle taste. It was delivered to my table on a tray containing the teapot (a proper porcelain one) a cup and saucer to match and a strainer, one of those elegant metal ones that sits in its own little metal cup to catch the drips when not being used.
I didn’t have anything to eat but could have ordered cakes, in which case they would have been brought in one of those cake stands with three levels. I almost ordered them just for the pleasure of having that on my table.
You might wonder how interesting the museum is. I wonder too, because I didn’t actually visit it. I was too busy drinking tea and completing the sudoku in the three free newspapers that we had managed to collect for precisely this occasion.
I realized with a start that they were getting ready to close (it was nearly 6 pm) and there was still no sign of Tigger. Politeness demanded that I leave, so I did and shuffled the few yards that separated the Bramah from the floatation place.
Having arrived, you find yourself standing in front of a huge warehouse-style door. You glance nervously around but the sign board indicates that this is the place. Then you spy a small notice bearing the legend “PUSH”. Surprisingly a push suffices to open the big door, whereupon you find yourself atop a staircase that descends to a transverse corridor. It reminds me of a companionway that takes you below deck on a ship.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, one feels (well, I felt) a moment of confusion while trying to work out where to go in the face of conflicting notices. In the end I turned left, the direction indicated for “RECEPTION”.
There are no windows. The illusion of being below decks in a ship is thus perpetuated. Then there is an omnipresent strange odour which I found slightly unpleasant. Entering the “RECEPTION” is like entering a cross between a private gym and a church. There is a hushed atmosphere and among staff and clients there is that warm conspiratorial air of being involved in Something Good. You feel slightly guilty for being an outsider.
Tigger eventually emerged, slightly damp but otherwise none the worse for her voyage into tank-space, changed into her shoes from the regulation slippers and off we went.
Shame the Bramah was closed by then.