Monday, January 21, 2008

Hurrah for Hibiscus

There’s no sitting on the fence with hibiscus tea, either you like it, or you don’t. It’s one of those evocative, exotic names, like bougainvillea or jacaranda, which are obliged to mean something wonderful - a big burden of responsibility, for one little cup of tea. I’m almost frightened to take my first sip, in case I don’t like it - witness deep childhood disappointment with HONEY, after all the Enid Blyton hype. Happily (for me, I don’t suppose the hibiscus cares one way or the other...) it’s delicious: a rich, red tea, as deep and fruity as blackcurrant.
We sit sipping it at 2 a.m., when our confused body-clocks have tipped us out of sleep, and I wonder, idly, whether hibiscus is a stimulant, and thus against our purpose? Hands up, ye of little faith...How could I doubt it? Hibiscus is not only innocent, but actively heroic - taken to reduce fever, blood pressure, cholesterol, congestion, liver problems, you name it, hibiscus will have a go. Practically the only thing not mentioned is cloning, and I expect that’s out of moral finesse rather than lack of skill. So, it’s definite. Hibiscus is the new PG Tips.
You’d think life at the top of a monolith would be quiet, away from the hurly-burly of the street, but you’d be mistaken. In the background, the clatter and thrum from the building-sites, overlaid with the melody of car horns. In the foreground – well, let’s be honest, right by my ear – the pigeons bicker and coo, all day long. It’s either one very vocal pigeon with a lot to say, or else they do it in shifts. They’re very bold, peering in at my kitchen window, laughing at me trying to make Indian pancakes, as well they might. They like to sit in the lift-shaft, so their voices are magnified. Or possibly they have a PA system, I’m not sure. Deep in the night, when the bulldozers are finally silent, the odd car still beeps his horn, despite having the road to himself and no-one to beep at. When the street dogs set up their relay-barking across the city, we put on the fan, to drown them out with its gentle hum.
Everywhere you look, there’s a dog or three. You don’t always see them at first, because they’re usually asleep, and they’re the same colour as the pavement. I can’t imagine any of them running to fetch a ball, like a mad English dog. They all seem to be of the same heritage, the greyhound/sphinx cross. Judging from their undercarriage, every other one has just had a litter, although we see no puppies around. The temptation to pat them, en passant, is a constant risk.
I would at this point paint a thousand words with a picture, but one of us (not including me) has lost the camera, and its replacement is still in the shop. As an interim measure, for visual relief, I offer you Doug the Dog, currently putting his paws under the table at Ab Kettleby.