I’ve been out on a covert operation and managed to infiltrate the little, brown offices. Well, ok, I was invited, I didn’t just break in. I was there for a special event – a vintage tea – to celebrate The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene.
I promised the other Romaniacs that I’d get a few pictures of the offices so we can all drool over them and dream of the day when we get invited there as one of their authors.
It was every bit as grand and I was hoping. It was shiny, with massive sofas and books galore. I would have liked to live there for a week to carry out a sponsored readathon, but my giddy smile would give away the fact they’d have trouble kicking me out.
So instead I tried to act as sensibly as a Romaniac can. I didn’t once go up to someone sitting innocently at a computer and ask if they wanted to sign 9 nutty, but lovely writers. Instead I found myself sharing a lift with Vanessa, the author of The Vintage Teacup Club and by the end of the event convinced her to join us on the blog to answer a few questions.
Q: If you could take afternoon tea with any celebrity, who would it be and why?
Benedict Cumberbatch would make a pretty gentlemanly tea-date, don’t you think? I developed a bit of a crush on him in the recent series of Sherlock, and then Parade’s End sealed the deal – he has a really magnetic, quirky charm. Alternatively (and so my boyfriend doesn’t get miffed) a nice natter about books with Mariella Frostrup over cake would make for a great afternoon.
Q: If you could visit any era for 24 hours, which would you choose and why?
It would have to be London during the Blitz. I’m so curious about what the reality of wartime life was like – what did women like us find to laugh about, how did they help each other cope? What was it like falling in love then, when your world could change in a moment? On a lighter note, I love dancing, so I’d definitely seek out an underground party I could swing at!
Q: Is there anything that you collect? Vintage teacups, pretty hardback books and antique postcards.
I think our past, and also our family histories, are an important part of who we are, whether we realise it or not, and so that is one of the themes of the novel.
In The Vintage Teacup Club all three of the women – Jenny, Alison and Maggie – are confronted by aspects of their past, and their village’s past, that they haven’t properly understood or dealt with. Together, they are able to work through those hidden histories and truly move on in their own lives.
In a way that’s true of my family history too. My father was German, and my mother is English – so during World War II my grandfathers were, essentially, fighting each other. As I was born in London and feel English, I used to find it difficult to understand how my German grandfather could have fought on Hitler’s side. But when my German grandmother died, and we went through the letters her husband sent from the front line, you could see how much he loved her, and how delighted he was at the news that he was going to be a father. Sadly, he was killed before he had a chance to meet his son, my dad. I realised reading those letters and seeing photos that both grandfathers were human first, and soldiers second – both were doing what they felt was right.
Q: Do you have a favourite tea advert?
It’s not an advert, but I loved the bit in the series Homeland where Carrie almost blows her cover by mentioning Brody’s liking for Yorkshire Gold tea. It’s my favourite brand (my boyfriend, who’s from Yorkshire, introduced me to it) and I went straight out in the ad break to make us a cuppa!
Cup or Mug? For special occasions I can’t resist a vintage teacup – but at home I prefer my tea out of a mug. I have a mug from New York, with an illustration of a dog walker walking every possible type of dog. Tea always tastes best out of it.
Paris or Rome? Rome – it’s the lure of pasta and ice cream. I also love the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday and it would be fun to retrace her steps.
Tea at the Ritz or a West End Show? Are you offering? Tea at the Ritz please! I’ve always wanted to do that.
Cupcakes or Cookies? Cookies are better for dunking in tea, I find – so they come out on top.
Bargain Hunt or Dickenson’s Real Deal? I can’t resist Bargain Hunt. As I work from home I try to pretend daytime TV doesn’t exist (far too much temptation), but I sometimes make an exception for this, in the name of ‘research’.
Champagne or Chocolates? I love a bit of fizz – it turns even a small event with friends into a real celebration.
Belgian buns, that’s vintage, right? Off to the shop to go and get some. Maybe if I take some to the little, brown offices they’ll let me in again?