Tea, coffee, and shareholders: It’s the news from Britain

Let’s talk about something other than the pandemic, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

The shareholders of Tesco, a British supermarket chain, objected by 67% to whatever’s left to paying its outgoing chief exec an extra £1.7 on top of the £6.42 million he was already scheduled to get. And while we’re at it, to paying an extra £900,000 to the finance director. 

To which Tesco said, “They didn’t really mean that.”  

That’s a paraphrase. What they actually said was, “Recent engagement on our remuneration report with a number of our larger shareholders” told them that shareholders are actually just fine with it.

That one marginally comprehensible phrase was wrapped in enough extra verbiage that I had to borrow the neighbors’ an hedge trimmer to cut it loose.


Irrelevant photo: Somebody else’s flowers. I have no idea what they are.

A Spanish law that was passed to keep Canary Island separatists from flying their flags on public buildings ended up blocking the town of Villanueva de Algaidas from flying a rainbow flag to mark Pride Month. Town officials put up a rainbow flag, the police got three complaints (or possibly one complaint from three people), and down the flag had to go.

What happened next? Residents filled the town with rainbow flags. Hundreds of people flew them from windows, from balconies, from anything they had access to. The instigators–sorry, the organizers–are hoping to do the same next year.


A German post office closed down because a suspicious package smelled so bad that six people were taken to the hospital and others became nauseous and were evacuated.

The place promptly filled with police and firefighters who cleared sixty people from the building and looked for some sort of dangerous gas.

The cause turned turned out to be a four durians from Thailand. 

The durian is a fruit, and one of those things people either love or hate. It’s been compared to cheesecake. It’s also been compared to dirty feet and to rotting onions. In parts of Asia, it’s banned from public transportation. Some hotels won’t allow it on the premises.


After I moved to Britain, I learned that Britain and the U.S. have a special relationship.

Sorry, make that the special relationship. It’s something that almost no one in the U.S. knows about it, but mention it in Britain and 93.6% of resident humans will know what you mean.

And 47.3% of statistics are made up on the spot.

That doesn’t have much to do with the following story, but it needed some sort of introduction.

Michelle from North Carolina posted a TikTok video that involved making tea by mixing milk, powdered lemonade, spices, sugar, Tang (that’s an orange-colored drink mix), and a teabag, then microwaving the whole mess.

Did the microwave die of embarrassment? It did not. It stuck around long enough for her to try making “British tea,” which (as far as I can figure out without actually going to TikTok myself) involved cold water, a tea bag (possibly the same one, but possibly not; what do I know?) and that same microwave. 

The internet went nuts–or at least the British segment of it did. Eventually Britain’s ambassador to Washington posted a video of in which three branches of the armed forces appeared separately and demonstrated how to make a cup of tea. 

Take that, Americans.

They didn’t. The U.S. ambassador to London responded with a video demonstrating how to make a cup of coffee. He dumped a spoonful of instant coffee in a mug, poured milk in, and put water in a kettle. 

“Have a nice day,” he said.

The British think all Americans say “have a nice day” at the end of every encounter. They’re probably right, but they’ve started saying it themselves.

A source at the Italian embassy has said, unofficially, “What [the ambassador] made was American coffee. And I stress: American coffee.”

Michelle from North Carolina turns out to live in Britain. She’s having a great time, thanks and has 5 million TikTok likes. You can trade those for money at the concession stand on your way out.


As I’m sure you know, Britain’s leaving the E.U., and that means we have to do all sorts of things for ourselves that the E.U had been doing for us, including find satellites to bounce our navigation system signals off of. (I know: a preposition is something you should never end a sentence with. Aren’t I just daring? Don’t you just hold your breath at the audacity of it all?) 

So Britain bought a 20% stake in OneWeb, to the tune of something like £500 million. The problem? OneWeb doesn’t run the kind of satellite network navigation systems need. 

According to Bleddyn Bower, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester, “What happened is that the very talented lobbyists at OneWeb have convinced the government that we can completely redesign some of the satellites to piggyback a navigation payload on it. It’s bolting an unproven technology onto a mega-constellation that’s designed to do something else.” 

All existing navigation use satellites in medium orbit. OneWeb’s are in low orbit.

The original plan was for the UK to build its own satellite system, to the tune of about £4 billion. That was put on hold just before the feasibility study was due to be published, by which time the cost had gone up to £5 billion. 

Giles Thorne, a research analyst, said, “Let’s give the government the benefit of the doubt. . . . It is probably quicker and cheaper to smash the square peg of OneWeb into the round hole of a Galileo replacement than to do it from scratch.”

But he also said, “This situation is nonsensical to me.”

OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. in March. Which has nothing to do with anything.


Okay, one pandemic story: A barista in San Diego, California, asked a customer to wear a face mask. Instead, the customer cursed at him, threatened to call the cops, took a photo, and posted it to Facebook.

“Meet Lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption,” she wrote.

His name isn’t Lenen. It’s Lenin Gutierrez. 

The move backfired. Her post is full of comments that range from reasoned arguments to abuse to my favorite explanation of why you wear a mask: “You know what’s really uncomfortable? Pants. But I still wear them in public. Not for me. For others.” 

In American, pants aren’t underwear. They’re overwear: trousers. In British, they’re underwear.

Okay, one more comment on her post: “Covid-19 sent you a friend request.”

Then someone–not anyone who knew Gutierrez–set up a GoFundMe page, asking people to leave Gutierrez a tip for standing up to the customer. He hoped to raise $1,000 and ended up raising $80,000 in less than a week.  When I checked at the end of June, it was close to $100,000.

“I don’t know how to truly vocalize how grateful and blessed I feel with this opportunity everyone has given me,” Gutierrez said. 

He plans to use some of the money to pursue his dream, which is to become a dancer, and to donate some of it to organizations in San Diego.

107 thoughts on “Tea, coffee, and shareholders: It’s the news from Britain

  1. Although a hardened coffee drinker (who sides quite strongly with the Italians) myself, even I know the importance of tea to my compatriots. Although we generally know absolutely nothing about American history (or even our own history beyond two world wars and a 16th century misogynist called Henry) we never really got over that tea party that happened in Boston. By all means reject British rule, but don’t waste good tea…

    Liked by 4 people

    • Now there’s a reading of the Boston Tea Party that I can get behind.

      It’s funny, but the Americans getting themselves exercised in the defense of statues would, I’m sure, tell you that the Boston Tea Party wasn’t vandalism, it was–um. Patriotism, that’s it. It was patriotism.

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Fortunately I hadn’t started my breakfast when I read that paragraph about tea. It has rather turned my stomach though. I suppose it wouldn’t have made such a good video if she’d just asked her neighbours how to make a cup of tea.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Britons laugh at Americans making ‘British tea’, Indians, Japanese and Chinese laugh at Britons making ‘tea’. Arabs and Turks join in. It’s good everyone can just laugh together.
    I suppose at least Britain now won’t be going off anywhere else in the world to invade it for Empire 2.0 now, as it’s not looking very likely we’ll know how to get anywhere. The Brit will be the one peering quizzically at a paper map stretched out on the bonnet of a Land Rover.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. intellectually, I understand the importance of tea. I even understand, and have opinions on the correct way to make tea…

    I do, however, think the stuff tastes like hot leaves and never drink it!

    That man claiming to make coffee, has, I believe made something known as “coffee flavoured drink” this is not the same as coffee. It is like the difference between Orange Juice and Orange flavour drink. One is good, and the other is made artificially and never quite tastes like the real thing!

    I feel quite strongly about coffee, I may have mentioned this before. It is evidence that I am not a proper British person, despite actually being born here…

    Liked by 4 people

  5. 5 bill for a satellite that probably won’t work? That’s nothing. How about 100bill for a train set.
    I’ll not attempt putting in the link after last time but there is a stunning info graphic on Phil Ebersole’s WordPress blog “A time lapse map of known Covid-19 deaths” with creepy music.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’ll see if I can’t find it–and mute the music. I hate creepy music. It works entirely too well.

      Sounds like a great train set. We all need a train set, don’t you think? If we have to go into lockdown again, we’ll have something to play with.

      Oh. It’s not built yet, is it?

      Liked by 2 people

    • >>5 bill for a satellite that probably won’t work?<<

      One expects nothing less government that can insist on nominating Liam Fox for the top job in the World Trade Organisation and Chris Grayling to be chair of the House of Commons Intelligence Committee (as they used to say, "you couldn't make it up")

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I heard about the last story.
    And watched the tea video. She made another video on ? Can’t remember what. Although the upshot from that was that I learnt that a large portion of Americans do exactly that. Make tea in the microwave. They don’t use kettles. Or stoves either for that matter. I learnt a lot from the threads of outrage on the topic. She sure garnered followers :)
    Happy weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

    • There’s a magic formula to acquiring hundreds of thousands of followers. Unfortunately, no one knows for sure what it is. Including me. But I have known people who make tea in the microwave. Electric kettles in the US are few and far between, and they’re slooooow. At work (and probably at home) lots of people–

      Okay, not that many Americans make tea. But a significant proportion of those who do heat the water in the microwave, where it will never boil. Don’t ask me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just slag off the british :) then everyone british will be up in arms and the world will be your friend.
        I can’t understand how you drink cold tea but then I’m not a tea drinker. I know, maybe I’m just a pretend brit…

        Liked by 2 people

        • I need to introduce you to Sam Catchpole–she has comments in here somewhere–who’s also not a tea drinker and has managed not to get herself deported yet, although it’s been touch and go.

          The way Americans drink cold tea is by dumping huge amounts of sugar and lemon into it. It verges on lemonade. But then, you shouldn’t take my word on that. I’ve only had iced tea a few times, in desperate circumstances.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m confounded. I would think that a nation that could build a base on the moon that survived the massive explosion that sent the moon out of Earth’s orbit (at apparently near-light speed) could easily handle launching a few navigational satellites into orbit.

    Liked by 3 people

              • Sadly, this was not Britain’s only foray into the moon. It’s predecessor (Moonbase 3) lasted for a whopping 6 episodes, probably why they decided to blow up the moon for Space: 1999. Not being satisfied with two major flops there is talk about revising 1999 with Space: 2099. Maybe the moon will finally come home to roost.

                Liked by 2 people

              • I do hope so. I remember reading that the earth would be in real trouble without it, although I’ve forgotten what kind of trouble. As for blowing up the moon, I leave you with the words of the immortal Douglas Adams: Never destroy the world in the first chapter. You may need it again later.

                Liked by 3 people

              • Dear Ellen and The Modern Theologian,

                The “Moon base” in Space 1999 was reputedly the most expensive TV series of its time.

                In case you are a ver big fan of Space 1999, I would like to inform you that most of the people involved in the TV series have left us:

                Here is the note of the following video:

                To honor the late Actors and Production staff of the TV series Space:1999, this video was created for the closing ceremonies of the Alpha:2012 convention held September 2012 in Burbank, California.

                Liked by 1 person

              • You are very welcome, Ellen. Happy July to you!

                As we maintain spatial distancing and stay home to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus, please kindly allow me the pleasure to entertain you and your family with a bespoke poem and music recently published in the multimedia post entitled 🎼🎹—THE—🎹—LAST—🎹—RAG—🎹🎵🎶, where the featured composition can be enjoyed and studied in multiple formats available to you as the audio playbacks, the video captures of score with music, and the gallery of score sheets.

                The post is available for you to enjoy at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2020/04/12/the-last-rag/

                Please be informed that you might need to use a desktop or laptop computer with a large screen to view the rich multimedia contents available for heightening your multisensory enjoyment at my blog, which could be too powerful and feature-rich for iPad, iPhone, tablet or other portable devices to handle properly or adequately.

                Since music can be an essential part of the process of sustainability, wellbeing, healing and even social change and spiritual awakening, may my music and poem in the said post bring you some creative “distractions” or “diversions” amidst the disruptions and woes engendered by the pandemic.

                I look forward to receiving your feedback at the post there. Happy reading and listening!

                Yours sincerely,

                Liked by 1 person

              • I haven’t been ignoring you. WP, in its wisdom, dumped this into spam and I just dug you out. I’m going to have to check out the post later, because my partner has the TV on and I’m earplugless. But I do indeed agree that music is part of wellbeing, healing, and getting through this mess we’re living through. I’m normally part of a singers night at a local pub–folk music, mostly–and I’ve been missing it sharply. I look forward to the day when singing stops being a high-risk activity.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Dear Ellen,

                Indeed, the art, music, movie, retail and tourism industries have been severely affected by the pandemic.

                I wonder what kind of folk music you have been singing at your local pub, and whether that is any recording on your blog that we can listen to.

                Thank you for liking and commenting on “The Last Rag”, where I have already replied to you with a highly bespoke and animated comment.

                May you have a lovely weekend soon!

                Liked by 1 person

              • No recording. I’m–okay, I’m trying to figure out how to explain what I am or am not. I’m on the one hand quite serious about my singing and on the other I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m not, at heart, a performer. I came to it late, I love it, but it’s my writing I’m trying to get out into the world. Singing in the pub is about my limit. Most of the songs I sing are the American folk songs I grew up with, although I’m not above tossing in a British one if my accent won’t make it too odd. Or the occasional song in Spanish–although again, there’s that accent to contend with.

                Thanks for your interest–and for the music on your site.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Dear Ellen,

                Thank you for your clarifications about your love of singing and writing. By your sentence “it’s my writing I’m trying to get out into the world”, I suppose that you are referring to your blog posts as well as your third novel.

                Since you write fictions, I would like to recommend to you a very detailed checklist that I have made available to writers. It is published at https://soundeagle.wordpress.com/manuscript/

                The said “Manuscript Assessment Criteria” page provides a complete checklist for writers to evaluate and inspect their own works (either by themselves or with a group of readers) before submitting their manuscripts to publishers, and also during successive edits after the previous submission(s) and before the next submission.

                Please kindly let me know what you think of the Manuscript Assessment Criteria by leaving a comment there, especially if you think that it could be improved in one way or the other.

                Liked by 1 person

  8. I met durian when I was a student in London. I was walking through one of the little streets behnd Leicester Square on a sultry afternoon when i was aware of a smell like the drains of Calais in August…it wasn’t just a smell, it invaded your lungs….and it was centred on the veg shop of the corner with a box of what looked like spiky rugby balls, one of which had dropped to the pavement and had broken.
    I had no idea what it was – that went for a lot of things sold by that veg shop – so asked the man in charge. He told me and asked if i wanted to try a bit of the broken fruit. I was always curious…but that smell was too much. I declined.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I remember correctly, I did try the durian whatever it was. To me, it tasted roughly like it smelled, only not as strongly. Maybe it’s one of those genetic things, like whether coriander tastes like soap (to me it does) or like coriander.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. The “why you wear your mask” explanation is brilliant. I’m going to use it. As to the durian, you’ve made me super-curious about it, I wonder if I can find any here in Rome…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. When we went out yesterday [necessarily, of course], we witnessed 3 instances of people resisting wearing masks [even though the long overdue mandate went into effect a few days ago]. I don’t understand the resistance.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Ummm…I know from looooong experience with coffee that one way NOT to make it is to pour instant coffee and milk in a cup and then add hot water. You might put POWDERED milk, or powdered coffee creamer in with instant coffee and add hot water (if your caffeine headache is bad enough) but adding liquid milk to powdered coffee will congeal into something not even a caffeine headache would savor.

    This just in : Dear Leader has announced that he took a cognitive mental status exam and not only passed – but his doctors were amazed that he passed. And so are most of the part of the electorate to which I belong.
    As to “Ballygullion” – try teaching a sixth grade class reading “Tom Sawyer.” Talk about needing translations.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The cognitive test? Was it, “What year is it? What day of the week is it? Who’s the president?”

      Answer: “I don’t remember his name, but he’s a great president. A Great president.”


      Yeah, I hear what you’re saying about Tom Sawyer.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sorry, uniquely Ellen in the UK, but a barista at Starbucks? I think not. When I used to visit the US regularly on business, me and my fellow international colleagues would scour the host city for places that could actually make drinkable coffee. What always amazed me when I was dragged in to a Starbucks was the 5,789 variations of brown dishwater that were available and most customers seemed determined to have at least 13 of these options included in their order (usually followed by a hissy fit because the ‘barista’ got one step wrong).
    And finally, re masks, I think you may have stumbled on a genius solution: compulsory durian-flavoured masks! No-one would want to go near anyone else and people would lose the will to go out as soon as they donned their mask. Objectors could opt to choose gloves with a similarly scented middle finger.

    Liked by 2 people

    • About Starbucks: I can’t comment on their coffee. I quit drinking the stuff years before the place came into existence. But the mask idea could prevent a second wave. Have you thought about patenting the design?


  13. Coffee, tea, or me? Oh well, I think we may need a new navigation system to answer that one.
    Let’s be sure to order one that fits with our new saddlelites we last saw leaving town on a herd of shetland ponies. Old joke: Shoot low, Sheriff, they’re ridin’ Shetlands.
    You probably already knew that one – or maybe someone in your family heard it growing up in west Texas.
    Thanks for the always entertaining post and
    Have a good weekend!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Great post and even better novella-length commentary. It must be a sign of our stir-crazy times that people will actually watch a video on how to make tea. (I’m an American and even I know better than to use teabags.) And kudos to flipping off the grammar police by ending a sentence a preposition with… Yoda would be so proud.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, if I can make Yoda proud, my life is complete. Although I still can’t levitate a space ship.

      And now the complete destruction of the British image: Most people use teabags. What Americans don’t do is use boiling water. And then there are the teabags themselves. Most of the tea I bought in the US was pretty terrible–Twinings and all its cousins. I’m told that the upper classes like their tea weak. I go for what they call builder’s tea–the good strong stuff construction workers drink.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. We have a hot water dispenser. It produces water at 190°f (88°c). I use it to make tea. My wife uses it to warm her tea cup. She dumps it out before pouring in water from the kettle. The people who yell at retail employees are simply idiots.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Your wife’s tea would meet the British standard. But I shouldn’t get in the middle of that, should I? As for people who yell at retail employees–or other people, for that matter–something in the water (or the political mix) seems to be bringing that out in people. You’re angry? Take it out on someone. Preferably someone you figure is less powerful. You’ll feel so much better.

      Liked by 2 people

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