TEA AND ROMANCE LAPPED UP BY FRENCH AND RUSSIANS!

Today is a red letter day! Two parcels arrived: one containing copies of the French edition of The Tea Planter’s Daughter and the other the Russian version of its sequel The Planter’s Bride.

What is so interesting about being published in translation is how the new publishers interpret the stories anew, changing covers and even titles.

 

Presses de la Cité have created a sumptuous, alluring cover of a woman’s face and called 9782258106956it, LES LUMIÈRES D’ASSAM (Lights of Assam). This was chosen for the May catalogue of the prestigious GRAND LIVRE DU MOIS.

33358_49422_kMeanwhile the Russians (Hemiro/Family Leisure Club) have gone for the romantic hero with smouldering looks, plus a peacock to denote the Indian setting; they’ve re-titled the novel, A KISS WITH THE TASTE OF MANGO

 

 

 

 

 

Both editions are gorgeous in their own way and have been expertly negotiated by Maddy Milburn at The Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV and Film Agency. Merci beaucoup Maddy!

 

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Where Did This Tea Fixation Come From?

For me it started in 2006 – I was struggling with the bones of a story about itinerant travellers in late Victorian times. It was to be set in the North East, or maybe the borders, but I just couldn’t get to grips with it. For some reason I just couldn’t find the story to tell.

Then one evening I had a life-changing experience when I went to speak to the Mens’ Fellowship at the Methodist Chapel in Stakeford. My husband, Graeme got chatting to the grandfather of one of our son’s friends. It turned out that he’d started his working life as a driver for Ringtons tea company. Not just any driver though – he drove the company’s last horse and cart van around Blyth.

Tea, I thought. I like tea. I buy it in boxes from supermarket shelves now. But where did it come from a hundred years ago? Was it the same as we drink now, or different? What about the supply chain and logistics – both things that we take for granted now, but surely at the turn of the 19th century things were a little different? I had fuzzy images of tea clippers and refined tea rooms, and the feeling that there was a story to be told.

I needed to look into this tea business! So as usual, I started my research deep in the bowels of Newcastle’s Lit & Phil. Society Library to see what the archives could tell me.

I discovered a world of Victorian tea rooms such as Miss Cranston’s of Glasgow (as in, the famous Art Nouveau Willow Tea Rooms): glamorous places of potted palms and aspidistras, starched linen and waitress service that offered an alternative to the pub and dazzling gin palace. Certainly, Catherine Cranston herself was a firm supporter of the Temperance movement.

Then there were the tea merchants: the Star Tea Company, the London and Newcastle, Andrew Melrose of Leith (whose original salesforce all boarded together). In London there was Mincing Lane, where huge amounts of tea were auctioned. It was a world of brokers and bonded warehouses, of agents and lead-sealed chests, of tea tasters and spittoons. I poured over Edwardian government reports into the tea industry, and was astonished at its scale – 4,264 plantations producing over 345 million lbs  weight in exports a year. And I found myself pouring increasing numbers of cups of tea to aid my digestion of this huge storehouse of information.

Britain, it appeared, had gone bonkers for tea in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We simply couldn’t drink enough of it.

Whereas it had once been the preserve of the upper classes, who drank China tea that was so expensive they kept it under lock and key, now tea was being bought and drunk by everyone.

How was this possible, and where was all this tea coming from?

BRITISH EMBASSY WASHES ITS MANICURED HANDS OF DIRTY TRAVELLERS, 1977

[Having been euphoric the day before with promises of tickets home, it turned out to be false in my case and complicated in Nikki’s.  The British Embassy were as helpful as a chocolate fire-guard.  We spent precious money travelling out to the luxurious area of New Delhi where our diplomats lived to be told by a brusque officer that he would be out of sight and out of mind over the weekend, so not to bother him.  It was a day of hassle – and my last one as an eighteen year old!]

FRIDAY 7TH JANUARY, 1977

“New telegram for Nikki – she must go to Ariana [Afghan Airways] for ticket!  Went and saw a very unhelpful young bloke – ticket has to be blacklisted in Kabul before a new one issued!  My ticket not here.  Nikki decided to ring home that evening – felt better for it.

Also went to British Embassy to collect Nikki’s money that father had arranged – very unhelpful – would give nothing, no money for travellers.  They would only fly people home if destitute – if there was no one at home to pay; they would disown then repatriate! [This meant having your passport revoked]  Any money leant had to be repaid before left the country!

Taxi took us to the wrong post office, so nearly had stand up fight with driver because we refused to pay full fair.  No tickets again.”

DELHI DESIGNERS – we are models of Indian hippy clothes for a day! 1977

[For a day we became models and advisors for a small Delhi clothing business that was selling to the hippy market in Germany.  The best part was being invited into an ordinary family home with a view over the rooftops and given a delicious Indian lunch.  And there was good news to follow …]

THURSDAY 16TH JANUARY, 1977

Had breakfast [in the YMCA] with Bali, the Sikh.  Went to his room and Nikki tried on different fashions – very attractive and original designs.  Took us to his “factory” – his own family house in side streets of Delhi.  Lots of family help in the business.  Went to room at top with nice patio – great view over street below and roof tops of Delhi.  Nice white-washed walls.

Nikki tried on loads of clothes and I gave advice!  Lots had to be altered slightly – brother, cousin and designer all there too!  (I tried on nice maxi cheese-cloth dress for fun).

Afterwards we had tea on patio, then lunch below – sister-in-law made lovely meal of curd, curried cauliflower, curried tiny beans, chapatis and salad.  Then Bali directed us to B.A from his house.

No news.  Back to hotel – reading when phone went – B.A said tickets should be here tomorrow!  Nikki has money at High Commission if necessary!  Celebrated with sundaes at “Kwalitys”!

DELHI – samosas with postmen, Tamla Motown and Indian whisky to drown bad news, 1977

[Thanks to the help of the B.A staff, word was finally filtering back home that we were stranded in Delhi.  But they feared that the reason I hadn’t heard from my granny was that she had died.  Worse still, they couldn’t confirm if this was true.  My grandmother, Sydney Easterbrook, had gone out to India from Scotland in 1923 to marry forester Bob Gorrie, and they had lived there until the Second World War.  Granny was one of the inspirations behind my trip east.  Now like the elderly enigmatic Mrs Moore in Passage to India (another inspiration for going to India), it was possible she was dead.

So we ‘attacked’ the whisky to drown our sorrows …]

WEDNESDAY 5TH JANUARY, 1977

“Happy Birthday Ank! [youngest brother Angus]  At breakfast a Sikh came to our table and asked us to model his clothes, so could guarantee right size – he sells to boutiques in Germany – we certainly meet all sorts in this place!!!

Went to B.A – nothing.  Went to GPO – they’re so used to us, today we were given sweet tea and chapatis wrapped round potato samosas (potato in batter)!  Cheerful fella warmed chapatis over small electric fire!  Must be the only tourists to have done this – probably the only ones to penetrate so far!  Nice middle-aged man gave us address of Foreign P.O and told us to try there in case mail had been insured. 

Off we went in a rickshaw for miles, racing with traffic far beyond the confines of Connaught Place!  Hassled away with Indian and weren’t understood very well – 2 blokes helping – said had no access unless we had registered number etc.  Discovered this wasn’t foreign mail!  Went to building behind – same story.

Back to centre – cheered ourselves in record shop by listening to Tamla Motown L.P!!  Then found really good Penguin bookshop and browsed in there for a while.

Back to B.A – telex for Nikki telling her to go and check GPO!  Several for me – no reply from Granny.  They in touch finally with parents.  Dad sent cheque for ticket – then horrible news that Granny may be dead.  No confirmation – felt very upset.  Can’t stop thinking of it – what can be happening at home?  To be stuck in this place because of Asian Greyhound inefficiency and to have no news from home!  Very anxious and miserable.

We attacked the bottle of whisky bought for New Year – drank half of it before supper – took mind off worries.  Went down to dining room giggling and wearing new tops.  Waiter in good mood tonight.”

DELHI YMCA – witches, hair washing and Whisky Galore, 1977

[The YMCA continues to be our home as it becomes increasingly obvious that Asian Greyhound have never sent tickets for our return home – paid for the previous September.  But eccentric ballerina’s, a clothes sale and Whisky Galore keep up our spirits.]

TUESDAY 4TH JANUARY, 1977

We were joined at breakfast by one of the “witches”!! (Two bony women with scraped back black hair, pencilled eyebrows and tight-skinned, gaunt faces, who sit in garden too – Nikki calls them the witches).  She was Aussie with cultivated English accent; loved London and the Arts (!) – a ballerina also feeling “the call of India”.  Runs her own company and has a theatre room in the Sydney Opera House!  Very easy to talk to but we can imagine a Prima Dona.

Into B.A – Nikki got telegram – her parents in touch with Asian Greyhound – said sent ticket on 20th Dec! (Supposed to be in Kathmandu by 14th!)  She sent another saying to buy ticket as desperate.  Went to GPO – no tickets.

Read!  Bored silly again.  Went into B.A in evening. Nothing.  (No shops open but had found chemist, so washed hair in afternoon for something to do!)  Sale still on – succumbed to temptation and tried on half of garments!  Had great time tossing clothes all over the place! (Bought 2 tops again).

Waiters in a bad mood tonight – ours was rude and refused to change a note for us, as well as ignoring us and serving us last!  Bed early – reading “Whisky Galore” now!”

STILL IN DELHI WITH NO TICKET HOME … 1977

[Another day of fruitless searching through post office mail and waiting for telexed replies to our messages home via British Airways.  I escaped to the world of Cathy and Heathcliff …]

MONDAY 3RD JANUARY, 1977

“Into B.A in morning – no messages.  Went to Delivery GPO – man at desk asked for intimation again but let us up this time.  Nothing came – checked American Express mail too. 

Read [Wuthering Heights] in garden most of day.  Sale on in hall [at YMCA] – had pleasant half an hour going through tops and dresses – we bought 2 small tops!

Bed early – nothing else to do.”