Sheri Silver Unsplash afternoon tea
Not the author's actual petit-fours. Image credit: Sheri Silver/Unsplash

The world, as we know, is largely down the lav. I may often remind you of this state in print, but I am wont to forget it regularly in life. I urge you to do this as well. We must not gaze too long into the neoliberal sewer of the present. Before it gazes back, we must practise what a youngster might call “self-care”, or what I call “disavowal of the devastating truth”. You may choose your delusion as a craft, novel or physical exercise. I prefer mine served on china.

Afternoon tea is my most direct route to denial. When I sense that our very public problems — wealth inequality, nativism, sexism, climate change, etc — will never be resolved, I make a scone in private. When the world looks especially bleak, I find a tea room. A tea room that serves afternoon tea. Afternoon tea. This is more difficult than those with limited interest in pinwheel sandwiches suppose.

To the best of my imperfect knowledge, there is but one commercial provider of afternoon tea in the nation. One. The Windsor Hotel of Melbourne is now alone in refusing the insolence of Australian marketing departments who agreed to rename the custom “high tea”. High tea is a lie. “High tea” refers to a meal taken while sitting upright at around 6pm. “Low tea” is another term for afternoon tea, which, FFS, is often taken on low seats, such as my Nan’s settee. High tea is the thing workers ate ravenously after selling their labour commodity all day from the dawn of the industrial age and if you don’t believe me, check Jane Pettigrew’s A Social History of Tea or the very particular Mrs Beeton.