Jazzy and Lucy were visiting Mrs Clancy for tea. They loved going to see her at around 4 o’clock, because she would light a fire and they would have crumpets, toasted on long forks in the fire, and served with butter and a pot of proper tea.
‘Mrs Clancy, what’s the best cafe you have ever been too?’ Jasmine asked, stretching her toes closer to the fire.
‘Ooh – well that would be the tearooms at the Paragon Station Hotel. Me and my friend Lily would sometimes spend what was left of our wages on afternoon tea there – after we’d paid our mums our board money. Oh – it was smashing. Sandwiches, scones and cream and jam, and lovely cakes – I had my first chocolate eclair there. All served on silver and china, with the most lovely tea. Ooh, I can taste it now.’
‘I think you make the best tea, Mrs Clancy,’ said Lucy. ‘I don’t normally like tea, but I like yours.’
‘That’s because I make it in a pot with loose leaves. But you should have tasted the tea at the Station Hotel. And the best bit was watching all the posh ladies and gents in their fancy clothes. They’d get out the first class carriage – and don’t forget, they were steam engines then, beautiful to look at – and then they would walk straight into the Station Hotel tearooms. Oh, it was marvellous to see. Me and Lily used to spend the whole afternoon there, just watching people coming and going.’
‘Didn’t you mind?’ asked Jasmine. ‘Didn’t you wish that it was you with the lovely clothes?’
Mrs Clancy looked into the fire and thought for a minute. ‘Not that I remember. Maybe I’ve forgotten. I just remember me and Lily having a wonderful time.’
That evening, Jasmine told her mum about Mrs Clancy’s memories of the Station Hotel and how Jasmine had had the idea of taking Mrs Clancy back there.
‘I just want to say thank you for all her help. She’s been so kind. The thing is, the tearooms aren’t there anymore. I’ve checked on the internet.’
‘I know,’ said Mum, putting the laundry away. ‘Why don’t you and Lucy take her on the train to Betty’s Tearooms in York? They serve traditional high tea – I think Mrs Clancy will enjoy it.’
And so the following Sunday, Jasmine, Lucy and Mrs Clancy took the train to York. Mrs Clancy was wearing an emerald green coat with a matching green and black hat, and black polished shoes. On her coat label was a beautiful broach, in the shape of a peacock.
‘You look lovely,’ said Jasmine, who always noticed people’s clothes. Jasmine also noticed that Mrs Clancy was wearing lipstick and powder, and she wondered what Mrs Clancy looked like when she was a young girl.
Betty’s Tearooms was beautiful – it seemed to be made entirely from glass and dark wood, and they could see the people inside drinking tea served by waitresses dressed in smart white blouses and white lace hats. It all looked very glamorous. The girls and Mrs Clancy spent a few minutes looking through its huge glass windows at the beautiful display of cakes and chocolates. When they finally went inside, they found even more glass displays filled with wonderful cakes and stacks of wooden shelves containing teas, coffees and chocolates from all over the world.
The smell of chocolate and coffee was wonderful.
‘I think I’ve died and gone to heaven!’ sighed Lucy.
A kind faced gentleman in a black suit took them to their table by the window. They ordered high tea, which arrived served on a silver cake tray that had two layers – the top for sandwiches and the bottom for scones, which were served with jam and cream. Jasmine and Lucy were thrilled to discover they could each choose an extra cake from the silver cake trolley that was brought to them by one of the waitresses in the lace hats. The trolley was laden with a selection of the wonderful cakes they had seen in the cafe window.
Whilst Lucy poured filled the white china cups with tea from a silver teapot, Mrs Clancy and Jasmine sat back and watched people passing by in the busy streets outside. Mrs Clancy kept on her hat and Jasmine felt very special, sat in the window of Betty’s, whilst tourists outside gazed in.
‘I could stay here all day,’ said Jasmine.
Mrs Clancy smiled. ‘You see, it is fun just watching people. Now you can see why Lily and I loved it, all those years ago.’
After tea, they walked to the Castle Museum, which Mrs Clancy had remembered visiting as a child. Jasmine and Lucy had never seen anywhere quite like it. It was a huge beautiful building, and they were amazed when the museum guide told them it used to be a prison hundreds of years ago.
‘Dick Turpin was held in these cells, whilst he was waiting to be hanged!’
The girls were even more amazed to find that inside the museum walls was a long cobbled street lined with all sorts of shops. Everything in the whole street, including the thousands of different things in the shops, was from the Victorian period, more than a hundred years ago.
‘I feel like a time traveller,’ gasped Lucy. ‘Look, there’s even a horse and carriage like in Sherlock Holmes!’
Mrs Clancy liked the Victorian street best. There was a grocer’s shop there, filled with huge tins containing every sort of tea you could imagine.
‘This shop makes me think of going to visit my grandma, when I was a little girl,’ Mrs Clancy told them. She used to take her tea very seriously. Everyone did then. She would only drink black china tea made with loose leaves. There were no teabags then. She’d give my grandad ordinary indian tea, because she said he didn’t appreciate the difference! Me and my mum would sit in the tiny front parlour. It was so dark, you could hardly see each other’s faces. We would have cups of tea and bread and butter. It doesn’t sound much, but oh it did taste good.’
Wandering along the the street, they also found a toy shop and a sweet shop. They were both small, but crammed full of treasures.
‘No-one I knew had much money,’ explained Mrs Clancy. ‘Me and my friends used to spend hours gazing through the windows of shops like these, but we never had any money to buy anything. The sweetshop man used to make his sweets in the back room and the smell of sugar used to fill our noses, whilst we were playing outside in the street. I remember once he came out with a tray of humbugs that had gone wrong. They were all funny shapes and he couldn’t sell them in the shop, so he gave them to us for free. We felt like royalty, sat on the kerb eating those sweets, trying to make them last in our mouths as long as possible!’
That night when they were back home, Jasmine and Lucy told Jasmine’s mum about the tearooms and the Castle Museum, and how Mrs Clancy had told them what life was like for her, when she was young.
‘There was less food then, especially for those people who didn’t have much money,’ Mum explained. ‘And so even plain food like bread and butter was served in the best way you could afford. And tea was a delicacy.’
‘The thing is,’ Lucy explained, thinking hard. ‘Because of the way it was served, it made every thing taste extra delicious. Even the cucumber sandwiches, which I thought would be horrible.’
‘Lucy!’ said Jasmine, jumping up suddenly. ‘I think I’ve just had the most amazing idea! Come upstairs to my room and I’ll tell you about it. We need to keep it a secret from mum!’
Find out Jasmine’s amazing idea in the next chapter!