Alright, for those a little further from the characters, this might take an explanation.
The kids and I were invited over to Emma and Ian’s house for dinner one Sunday while Jeremiah was hunting, and they made marinated grilled chicken breast for “tea.” They’re English, so “tea” is code for “dinner.”
Dumb American commentary: “Tea” is dinner…except when it’s “afternoon tea,” which means snacks and a hot drink around 3 p.m. Or “morning tea” which is also a snack and a hot drink, but (wait for it) in the morning. A literal cup of tea is just that: “a Cup of Tea.” Or, in NZ, a “cuppa.”
Ian had carefully pulled the succulent chicken meat off the bones, setting the serving plate on the table.
“I want a bone!” William, the youngest son, demands.
“I want a bone too!” says Amelia, their daughter.
“Excuse me?” Emma reprimands.
“May I have a bone please!” they chorus, obediently.
Ian passes one the gristly bone to William and another to Amelia. The bone-heaped plate at his elbow must have been his personal stash, but a generous dad, he was willing to share. They proceed to suck them clean.
I watch them with interest. The thought of the greasy tendons rubbery in between my teeth makes me shudder, but they’re devouring them with relish. Maybe this is why England once commanded an empire; their people aren’t wasteful like us Americans.
After dinner we all went over to the Halswell model trains. Run by a club of “good old boys,” the ride-on scale models are enjoyed by drivers as much as the riders, and this evening the place was packed, noisy with train whistles and heavy with coal smoke from the genuine steam engines.
“Ummm,” signed Ian as he stands in line for a ride. “I love that smell.” Emma nods, appreciatively.
“The coal smoke?” I ask, choking. I didn’t know what coal smoke smelled like until a year ago when we burned some at a DOC hut while tramping. The term “acrid” comes to mind, certainly not savoury.
“Oh, yes!” they say. “We used to have an open fireplace in our house; Emma’s house growing up had four. We’d burn through a whole bin of coal in just a week. Ummm!”
Well, perhaps to them it’s like us smelling wood smoke on the breeze on a crisp autumn evening. The scent must conjure up images of cosiness and warmth…as warm and cozy as an English home gets in winter. Brrr.
The next day at dinner I debriefed with Jeremiah: “Emma and Ian like to chew the bones!” I marvel. “And they like the smell of coal smoke!” We shake our heads. Milo listens intently.
I few days later we had Milo’s friend Ella with us in the car; her family is also friends with Emma’s family. That’s when I overheard the kiddy conversation in the back.
I laughed with Ella’s mom about the exchange. “Fancy,” hum? she said. “We don’t even use that term.” We brainstormed a bit, and concluded that Ella must be picking up her world view from her favorite princess movie. It’s amusing to think what Milo’s picking up from his dinosaur documentaries….