"I wondered if you'd like a jam sandwich? Margaret pushed a tiny bag of dainty sandwiches along the worktop towards me. "They were rejected by a passing monk."
I was intrigued.
"He took the paté and cucumber ones. It's a long drive to Ambelforth so I'm surprised that he didn't want the others."
She pushed the bag a little further toward me with an encouraging nod. I was vaguely peckish but . . jam sandwiches?
To be polite I took a tiny sandwich and sampled it. Perhaps it was the jam (expensive) or the thinly sliced white bread or the dinky size but it disappeared in a trice. As I reached for another, Margaret suggested that I took the lot. She resealed the bag and presented it to me,
"They won't get splattered with paint if they are in the bag."
I pushed open the picket gate and stood in the sunshine, beside an avenue of cherry trees. The jam sandwiches had transported me back. I was four years old again, standing beside my mother who was enjoying an old fashioned tea in someone else's garden.
As my birthday falls in mid September, I started school a year later than most children. So I accompanied my mother to a lot of tea parties. I remember this garden well as it had a revolving summer house, so as to catch the sun throughout the day. As it was full of old ladies the hostess couldn't demonstrate how it turned. It seemed marvellous to me and I imagined it spinning at speed, like the roundabout in the park, as the old ladies sipped their tea.
There was always orange squash for the children and large silver pots of tea for the grown ups. Tea was poured first into delicate teacups, then milk was added and possibly sugar. There weren't mugs in those days.
Plates of small, crustless sandwiches were offered and put onto individual tea plates (smaller than a side plate). After these had been eaten the cake was cut. Generally sandwiches were savoury, egg, cucumber or a revolting fish paste. In this garden, somewhere in Cambridge, I was offered my first jam sandwich, and discovered that they are almost as good as cake.
Since Margaret reintroduced me to the delight of a jam sandwich, I tuck a small one into my lunch box if I am going to be working late. This is savoured in the late afternoon with the last cup of tea from my thermos.
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