The blinding sunlight, sieved through the translucent window shades, lost all of its glare but none of its brilliance as it washed the walls of the living room, painting them a clean, soft white.
Outside, the treetops’ gold highlights and white sky were reflected in the beveled glass panels of the kitchen doors, glinting and refracting the light into the shady kitchen.
Thus was teatime with an aunt.
The bevel-edged glass table was set with a Royal Albert teapot with Peter Rabbit characters painted on it. English cake plates accompanied the tea cups, filled with mango tea from Sri Lanka. A cool breeze, courtesy of the airconditioner, made us forget about the heat outside.
We caught up, the lady from the post-war generation and I. I hardly remember what we talked about, though it focused on our family lives, hers of an empty nest and hosting visitors from abroad, mine of bringing up children in the 21st century and my trivial pursuits in music, writing, and a host of other things.
Truman Capote once described three o’clock as ‘the empty, middle hour of an endless afternoon.’ Empty of awkwardness, full of catching up in the middle of a busy week, an endless flow of conversation.
And so it was, and so it is, forever etched in my memory, this teatime conversation, which felt like “the slowest of honeys in the richest of sunlights.”
A couple of hours later, we walked out into the bright sunlight, for at five, the afternoon was still revelling in its timelessness. I know I’ll see her again. Quite a few times she had told me to drop by.
Here is someone from another age, who remembers Singapore as an infant nation, whose house and garden are still occupied by ghosts of her children’s past, and who, miracle of miracles, I feel I’ve met before, perhaps in another life.
How odd that it took all this time for us to meet, how wonderful that it has happened at last.
On Hold (Part II) : The source of the phrase “the slowest of honeys. . . ” (findhorn.blogspot.com)