Leaving behind Bangalow Markets, we were back onto the interminable Pacific Highway heading back over the Queensland border for High Tea at the Old Teahouse Gallery in Mudgeeraba in the lush Gold Coast hinterland. With traffic ever unpredictable, we arrived an hour early, giving us time for explorations and an impromptu photo shoot.
This was stage two of my Sister-In-Law’s 60th Surprise Birthday Party. I must admit it was getting harder to keep the secret quiet, especially when she’d asked us when we were heading home the night before. I’m not a good liar.
Although we’d been on quite a journey, this house is surprisingly well travelled. Nothing like splitting a house in two, sticking it on the back of a truck and moving it around.
In 1911, it was originally built in Scarborough Street, Southport. Salvaged from demolition, it was cut in half and moved into a historic pioneer village, The Settlement. In April 1995, the house was sold, cut in half once again and moved to its current location in Mudgeeraba, nestled among gigantic eucalypts and palms. No wonder it hasn’t moved since. It no doubt wants to put down roots and settle down.
If you are not familiar with Queenslander houses, they have their own unique charm and have been designed to suit the hot, wet Queensland climate:
“The Australian tropical house conjures a vision of a large sprawling timber structure on stumps with an extensive, deep, shaded verandah accessed via French doors. The roof is iron and the pitch is steep. A bougainvillaea, a Mango tree, and or a Frangipani adorn the front garden of the house. The primary reason for the development of the Queenslander was the climate. The long hot summer days often ended with a torrential downpour. A house with wide verandahs that provided shelter from these conditions was essential. The importance of the verandahs as an architectural element in a tropical Australian house cannot be underestimated because it is one area which lent itself to an informal semi-outdoor lifestyle suited to the climate. The verandah became an integral part of every house and their use an essential part of the Australian way of life. The cool space framed with white posts, decorative balustrades and brackets became a symbol of the tropical house as an essential link between the indoors and the outdoors.
Stepping into the Old Teahouse Gallery, we weren’t only experiencing its history. Indeed, we were returning to my grandparents’ Queenslander home in Ipswich and retracing the footsteps of my great grandparents and their parents and even their parents before them. My grandmother’s family were Queensland pioneers in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Bowen.
So, as I’m sure you’ll understand, being inside this pretty Queenslander House, brought back so many bitter-sweet memories. My grandparents have passed away. Their Queenslander home has been sold. And, we don’t cross over the border often now either.
Memories, light the corners of my mind
Misty water color memories of the way we were
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
smiles we gave to one another
for the way we were.
The Way We Were.
Indeed, my memories of my grandparents are so vivid and real, that I can almost reach out and touch them again. Say hello. Give them a hug. Hear their unforgettable voices again. Then, those visions brutally fade and they’re gone. Just like phantom limb pains, my renewed grief is like that macabre, intense itch on a missing foot. Memory’s now hacking through my heartstrings like a blunt knife, severing those precious ties all over again. A desperate beggar, I fall to my knees. Please…just one last cup of tea, one last chat? Then again, I can’t help being greedy and wanting more.
Indeed, I would love my grandmother to meet my kids and for them to know her. I’d love them to go fishing with my grandfather with his handmade line, frugally wrapped around an old lemonade bottle. How I’d love them to hear his stories. He was famous for his stories. They might have been the same old stories and I still remember the annoyance: “We’ve already heard that one”. Little did we know, that he’d outlive his stories, his memories and that laugh would be silenced long before we’d say goodbye.
You see, my grandfather developed Alzheimer’s, that cruel disease which snatches away more than just your memories. Like a blasted thief striking during the night, the disease took him away too. At least, the man we knew and who knew us… not that we loved him any less. Perhaps, feeling him slip away, we even loved him more!
Yet, while there were all those spangled threads of memories past, with a spider’s architectural genius, we were weaving new threads into a dazzling web. Down the end of the table, the children sparkled, back lit by the sun. Our son sat at the head of their table, surrounded by the girls wearing floral garlands…almost “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes”.
Time for tea.
The table was beautifully presented and we each had our own, unique vintage tea cup, saucer and plate. Nothing beats tea in a vintage bone china tea cup, except when you have a smorgasbord of specialty teas to choose from.We were presented with what I’ll call a tea tray with over twenty different varieties of tea in little jars. It was very hard to choose only one and inhaling the rich scents of “Creme Brulee”, “Fruits of the Forest”, orange, cinnamon, raspberry… What bliss!
I chose Creme Brulee. Please don’t ask me to describe the specifics. I’m not the tea equivalent of one of those wanky wine tasters who can find “plum” in a grape. What I will say, however, is that the tea tasted fresh and very smooth. That’s as good as my description gets.
However, High Tea isn’t just about tea and fancy dresses. It’s also about dainty, edible morsels in miniature.
Considering we hadn’t had lunch and our sitting started at 2.ooPM, our family was ravenous. Naturally, I wondered whether all these small morsels were going to be enough to satisfy our enormous appetites. Was this going to be one of those places where you need to dip down the road for “real food” after paying $50.00 for a lettuce leaf on a huge white plate? I hoped not!
However, I needn’t have worried. There was plenty and each morsel was scrumptious. There were savouries, macaroons, mille feuille, mini scones with rich dollops of jam and cream. By the way, the scones were soft and moreish and nothing approaching ammunition. Scones are hard to get right and a good test of culinary ability.
By the time the scones appeared and quickly disappeared, I was starting to think about what we’ll call “an elegant sufficiency”.
There can be a fine line between hungry and gluttony.
Thank goodness, I just made it!
It was time to head back over the border ready for the long drive home.
Have you ever been out for high tea? Please do share and link through to any posts.
Anybody looking at savour the delights of high tea at the Old Teahouse Gallery can check out their website at http://www.theoldteahousegallery.com