There’s a sort of peak experience which I think is mostly peculiar to British people. I call it the “British Moment”. It’s a physical set-up, and an internal and spiritual attunement, which allows us to experience a level of intense coziness that literally transports us to a transcendental place beyond the fabric of our very being.
Let me try to explain.
The British Moment can be as simple as the perfect cup of tea.
This isn’t something to be sneezed at. There is tea, and there is tea. You can get a cup of tea at a French bar where they consider the drink to be a sort of crutch that allows people who don’t like coffee to still go out. You can grab a plastic cup of vending machine tea because it’s the only thing you can find on short notice and at least it’s hot. Or you can really make a *perfect* cup of tea, with mineral water, good quality tea leaves, milk or milk substitute, sugar to taste, all served in an adorable bone china mug with cats on it. I’m not sure if I can adequately explain to non-British people how important all this actually is. It’s very, very important.
Indeed, I’ve tried to make the contrast between good and bad tea as stark as possible for those who would have trouble understanding, but really the difference between a transcendentally-good cup of tea and a just OK one is a lot more subtle than that.
I’m not sure if it’s entirely to do with ingredients or preparation. That’s a lot of it. I think it may also have to do with your psychological state at the time. You have to be ready to go inwards and have a deeply intimate moment with yourself and your drink. You have to be in an environment of comfort, or at least stillness, or at the very least you need to be able to psychologically check out from your entire life for a few exquisite minutes. The tea also has to be at just the right temperature and drank at just the right moment. There’s a lot of factors and some of it is still a mystery to me.
So the British Moment is a transcendental peak experience hinging around, and, indeed, sometimes being entirely about, that one, perfect, unrepeatable cup of tea. That’s the basis, but it’s usually not all of it. To make it all more potent, you’re going to need things things like a crackling fireplace, supremely comfortable armchair, and a certain specific article of food: either some good quality English biscuits, or a couple of cheese toasties. (Daiya brand vegan cheese for me). Cake might also do.
There will probably be a book involved. Fiction. Maybe an old favourite, like Harry Potter or The Lord Of The Rings, that you save up to re-read until the perfect moment presents itself. Or, perhaps, you’ll be reading the long awaited latest instalment from a favourite author.
If not a book, then the British Moment with probably involve some other relaxing and absorbing activity such as knitting or writing something non-serious like this very article. Yes, I did just make a recursive reference in an article about Britishness.
If you’re really serious about perfecting your British Moment, then you also need a purring cat. Probably lying on the arm of the armchair or on a cushion nearby. Having it sleeping on your lap is also nice and could potentially add to the Moment but you must be incredibly diligent in getting everything in place beforehand so that at no point do you need to worry about moving the cat. We can consider this “Ninja” level skill in being British.
I’ve detailed the standard armchair-and-fireplace British Moment because for me that’s the epitome of this art. However there are different permutations. Another good set-up for a British Moment could involve a bedroom which has been decorated exactly the way you like it, propping yourself up in bed with some cushions, drinking your tea and having the cheese toasties by the warm-toned light of a bedside lamp. The fundamental rule is simply: coziness. It can be done in various ways. It is most definitely an art and not a science.
I’m a long way from understanding how to pull off a perfect British Moment at will. Most of my best British Moments have been entirely accidental, and I get the feeling that – like many things in life – this could be one of those things where the more you chase after your object of desire, the more it eludes you. I think there must be some way of ambushing it, though, somehow.