Tea Cosies : Your Questions Answered

After I posted the piece entitled Denktash Fugue Syndrome, in which mention is made of Mrs Gubbins and her knitted tea cosies, I was deluged with mail from younger readers who complained that they had no idea what I was talking about. The general tone of these missives was along the lines of “Oi, Mr Key, what in the name of heaven is a tea cosy, for crying out loud, innit?”

It would appear that today’s youth have been seduced by something called “tea in a bag”, and no longer make use of teapots and, thus, of tea cosies. This is a sorry state of affairs. However, here at Hooting Yard we occasionally make attempts to be “with it” and “groovy”, so we decided to track down some of these so-called “tea bags” and see what all the fuss is about.

Our delegated rapporteur, decked out in trendy East European clothing, strode manfully into an indoor retail-and-leisure consumer park and, selecting a boutique at random, went up to a counter and said, politely yet forcefully, “I would like a bag with tea in it, please”. He had chosen an inappropriate boutique to make such a request, however, for the only bags for sale at this counter were empty ones, with handles, made of leather or plastic or cotton or the pelts of various endangered animals. Surmising, not unreasonably, that bag and tea had to be purchased separately, our doughty rapporteur picked from the display a small dimity pippy bag and, having paid the criminally expensive asking price with his Hooting Yard Card™, made off along the rattling pneumatic pedestrian express walkarama in search of somewhere to buy tea.

Locating an emporium packed to the gills with grocery items, our chap hunted the aisles until he found a cardboard box of shredded tea leaves. After paying for this at a bleeping self-service console, he wasted no time in ripping open the box with his gnarled fingers, until it looked as if it had been savaged by a squirrel. He then poured the contents of the box into the pippy bag.

The next step was to eke from the bag a lovely cup of piping hot tea, so our rapporteur repaired to a yard where he knew he would find an outside spigot. Holding the pippy bag open under the spigot, he filled it with brackish water, then zipped it shut. He then caught the bus back to Haemoglobin Towers, where Mrs Gubbins was waiting with her array of giant bunsen burners. Using a contraption of coat-hangers to suspend the pippy bag over the fearsome flames, crone and rapporteur waited for the tell-tale sight of steam escaping from the partly-unzipped bag to alert them that the bag’s innards were coming to the boil. From there, it was a simple matter of detaching the bag from its coat-hangers and placing it under a tea cosy. Of course, Mrs Gubbins used a pair of heat-resistant padded mittens to perform this action.

Giving the infusion a few minutes to brew, the rapporteur then borrowed the mittens from La Gubbins, fully unzipped the pippy bag, and upturned it, sloshing the tea inside into a couple of dainty tea cups. There was a little spillage, but that was soon mopped up by a passing factotum armed with a mop and a pail. A dash of milk added, and the duo sat on a threadbare ottoman to enjoy their well-earned cuppa.

All in all, and in spite of the sterling efforts of both the rapporteur and Mrs Gubbins, this seems to be a frankly foolish way of obtaining a cup of tea, and it is not an experiment we will be repeating.

9 thoughts on “Tea Cosies : Your Questions Answered

  1. Please, I must know more about the pippy bags. Tea cosies I am familiar with, I have even worn one myself. (For a moment, until my grandmother yanked it of my head.)

    In my mind’s eye these pippy bags constantly shrink and grow and sprout new combinations of zippers, toggles, straps, handles, tassels, buckles, webbings and drawstrings, until I lose focus on your sensible prose and burst into tears.

    Is there an online store were I can order a Hooting Yard themed pippy bag? If I could listen to Hooting Yard with my own pippy bag sitting on my knee (or slung over my shoulder, strapped to my back or clipped to my belt), it would be a great aid to my concentration.

  2. I imagined the Pippy-bag to be starkly utilitarian – made from a dun coloured canvas or hide, it would have charactaristics somewhere ‘twixt a haversack, a gunnysack and a satchel.

  3. I also need more information on pippy bags…
    During my, not infrequent, journeys through the cosmos, I often have need of an item whose description could easily be “the bag of bags”…
    Bare in mind that most of the items I need to place in a “bag of bags” are festooned will tentacles, suckers, antennas, eyes on stalks and more legs than one could shake a stick at and you see why “the bag of bags” would be a necessity…


  4. What exactly do you mean by “the bag of bags” anyway? Do you mean to say that it is an archetypal bag, the very embodiment of “essence of bag”, or perhaps you mean that it is the “universal” bag – the one bag to rule them all?

  5. Mr Shuddery,

    I suspect that the pippy bag is a fabulous thing rather than,
    “starkly utilitarian – made from a dun coloured canvas or hide, it would have characteristics somewhere ‘twixt a haversack, a gunnysack and a satchel.”

    How have I reached this conclusion you may ask…?
    It is plain to me that the “inappropriate boutique”, visited by the fellow in the story, can be none other than part of that colossus of the retail world,
    Huberman’s (Indoor Retail-and-Leisure Consumer Park Division)…!
    A pippy bag, therefore, must be a thing of utter gorgeousness for Huberman’s sell nothing else…

    (unless it’s a franchise of course…)

  6. Entertaining as this correspondence is, I am reluctant to interject. But it seems to me that a bit of common sense is all that is needed to grasp the nature of the pippy bag. Pansy Cradledew, who is rarely seen without her pippy bag, may care to add her tuppenceworth should she be reading this.

  7. Although I can only speak for my own pippy bag, I am happy to do so. Although it is modest, it is indeed a ‘bag of bags’ – the best of all possible bags. As for the particulars of construction and appearance, its style is best described as one ‘in which form follows function’. This was all my bag had to say, but I’m sure it will make everything clear.

  8. Mr Key. I am a busy and important man. My automated manservant, Spegdroth, is driving me mad with his relentless demands for a pippy bag to call his own. His wheedling will be curtailed only by the failure of one or more of the components along his desire/whinge nexus, for instance a brain pipe, or his throat-plate, or the giant granite bearings on either side of his monstrous gob. But I will be dead long before such a failure occurs.

    All day and night he clumps up and down the corridors of the institute keening for a pippy bag. Geraldine and I have not had a nod of sleep for months, and I’m too tired even to caulk the primary heat exchangers these days. He’s ruining my research right when it’s entering the crucial phase!

    I don’t even know where he got wind of such a thing – he certainly didn’t get it from me, and my wife has never so much as acknowledged Spegdroth’s presence (apart from running screaming from the house when he first lumbered from his birthing pod). I suppose it’s possible he read it in a magazine that one of the Burbage twins left lying around – Italian Vogue, probably, or the Damart catalogue.

    To begin with I thought he might mean a bag emblazoned with the likeness of Astrid Lindgren’s well-loved children’s book character Pippi Longstocking, and risking imprisonment (or at least a hefty fine) for copyright infringement, I fashioned him a stylish hessian shoulder-bag bearing an iron-on transfer of her pigtailed countenance. Alas – it was all in vain. He plucked it from my outstretched hand, studied it for a moment, and hurled it sullenly into the lake.

    I was momentarily disheartened but the thought struck me that I may simply have made a slight mistake in the rendering of Pippi’s face. Perhaps her hair colour was not red enough for Spegdroth’s eye-graticule to resolve, perhaps his objection was to the work of Viveca Serlachius, who portrayed the character in the 1949 film, and he preferred, as Lindgren herself did, the child actress Inger Nilsson. These variations and countless more I explored as I sat up night after night, weaving my fingers raw. I tried hessian, denim, polyester, chiffon, oilcloth, calico and a hundred other fabrics. I tried black and white photographs, screen-printing, applique, patchwork, embroidery, and methods of textile production as yet too advanced to describe without inviting derision. I tried satchels, holdalls, haversacks, clutch-, tote- and kit-bags. All of them beautiful, strange and wondrous. All of them offered up hopefully to the metal tyrant. And all of them now in the lake.
    In God’s name, Key, I beseech you, tell me where to get one of these infernal things so I can shut his ceramic cakehole up once and for all!

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