One of the authors of Ice Ages: Solving the Mystery (John) himself, Shackleton himself, and Emiliani himself were ushered into the building past the graduate students, the guards, and the members of the public who wandered the halls of the museum blissfully unaware that the powerhouses of paleoclimate research were brushing past them. They were Glynn Isaac’s guests (and friends and colleagues) and were meeting with Glynn in preparation for an impromptu public conference that would be held the next day in the Geology Lecture Hall downstairs. These were the people who had put the climatic theory of Milutin Milankovic together with the sea core data and nailed down, once and for all, the cause of the basic mode and tempo of Earth climate for the last two or three million years, and at some level, certainly, for all time.

It turns out that the orbital geometry of the Earth in relation the Sun is the most consistent single factor in determining whether or not we experience an ice age. You can find more details here.

So there they were, now sequestered, in Glynn Isaac’s office. The dons of climate change research. I was Glynn’s student, but I had only been his student for a few hours. Suddenly, Glynn, a decidedly energetic person of modest stature and elven appearance, appeared in the lab, caught my eye, and said in his thick Undifferentiated British Colonial Accent (always delivered with a big smile) “Greg! Make us tea, would you?” and turned on his heel and headed back to the private meeting.

Tea. … Tea?

How does that work?

This was the mid 1980s. I was to spend the next several years more often than not in Africa, and when in the US, more often than not in the company of an Australian, a Canadian, a Brit, an Israeli or a South African. In other words, tea would become part of my life, by and by. I would become expert at making it, and drinking it was to become a habit that I would relish. But in the mid 1980s …

Tea? That stuff in bags? What?

As I stood there, starting to sweat, a woman whom I barely knew but who was to become a good friend, and in fact, in about five seconds was to earn my unending love and devotion for an act she was about to commit, an Australian woman named Nikki, came barreling out of her nearby office, and took my arm as she passed to drag me across the room to the Lab kitchen, muttering “You Americans. Follow me and pay close attention. I’m only going to show you this once, but you’ll probably get it.”

So Nikki Stern taught me how to make tea using … a tea pot and tea and stuff (no bags). In less than 10 minutes we had a tray with tea cups, tea, sugar, milk, hot water, the whole nine yards. We threw on a box of bisquits (cookies to you ignorant Americans) and I carried it down the hall to Glynn’s office, knocked him up, and delivered the goods.

“You know how to make tea?” Glynn noted, quizzically.

“I do now, thanks to Nikki,” I replied.

“Lucky you!” said Glynn, as I backed clumsily out of the room, returning to the hallway.

There are two reasons I bring this up. First, today is Milutin Milankovic’s birthday, as I am reminded by Coturnix (see this blog post for very interesting details). Second …. well, actually, I was just thinking of having a spot of tea. Care to join me?

(Oh, for those of you who know Nikki, you WILL enjoy listening to this podcast!!!!)and here’s Nikki’s faculty page.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Dow
    May 30, 2009

    I’m hoping “knocked him up” is a British Colonial expression.

  2. #2 Stephanie Z
    May 30, 2009

    Oh, yes. One of the staples of international humor is the look on the young American man’s face when the lovely young British woman asks him to knock her up that evening.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    May 30, 2009

    Or this phrase:

    “He asked me to knock him up in the morning”

    “But why?” I ejaculated.

    (something late 19th century I was reading)

  4. #4 Kim
    May 31, 2009

    As a tea drinker I had the same experience when asked to make coffee, but I’ve learnt now!

  5. #5 ItsAboutTea
    May 31, 2009

    That is a great story. I can only imagine your response when you could only find tea in bags. It does not compare does it? Loose leaf is the only way to go. Bravo to Nikki for teaching you how to make tea the proper way.

  6. #6 Jen W
    May 31, 2009

    I had thought that to knock someone up was specifically to *wake* them by knocking on the door? Is it more general than that? Just to get their attention/announce your arrival?

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    May 31, 2009

    These days in the British context, I have heard this phrase used mostly for waking someone up, but it also means “to summon” and I’ve seen it used in that context in 19th century and early 20th century literature at least as often as “to wake” someone.

  8. Oh, yes. One of the staples of international humor is the look on the young American man’s face when the lovely young British woman asks him to knock her up that evening.

  9. #9 MadScientist
    February 22, 2010

    You need to consult the Chinese and Indians (and to some extent the Japanese) about tea. I never understood why the English are regarded as an authority on tea.

  10. #10 Blooming tea guy
    April 12, 2012

    Just to answer “MadScientist” comment. According to Wikipedia, ‘Since the 18th century the British have been the largest per capita tea consumers in the world, with each person consuming on average 2.5 kg per year.” this explains why they know their tea pretty well.

  11. #11 Wow
    April 12, 2012

    “I never understood why the English are regarded as an authority on tea.”

    Just because someone has a huge, complex, and pointless, ritual to drinking tea doesn’t mean they’re any form of authority on it. It only proves them an authority on tea-drinking rituals.

    In the UK, we have discussions about “milk first, or last?”, “milk, lemon or nothing?” and “sugar or no sugar”. You know, things about ACTUALLY TASTING THE TEA.

  12. #12 Wow
    April 12, 2012

    PS “knocking someone up” also means “putting them up the duff” or “in the family way”.

    I.e., like everything in England, it’s a euphemism for sex.

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