There’s nothing like a brisk walk to wake you up a bit. Particularly when that walk takes place in sub-zero temperatures, with the sort of breeze that stings your cheeks and bites your fingers and brings tears to your eyes before swiftly freezing them. The tears, not your eyes.
Today I went in search of a little box in which to put a few little Christmassy bits and bobs for The Parents. You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to find a box, would you? Well, so far I have searched in two malls, a variety of craft stores, a market, and several gift shops. No boxes exist. Lots of gift bags, wrapping paper and suchlike, but not a solitary box.
No, that’s not strictly true. I spotted some pretty boxes in the window display of a cosmetics shop (something like The Body Shop). They were red and green and had quaint drawings of Christmassy people in traditional Estonial knitwear. Just the sort of gift box mums like. Perfect! I went into the shop, browsed for a while out of politeness, and then asked the assistant if it was possible to buy one of the boxes. I had, of course, no wish to purchase a boxful of overpriced lavender bubble bath and honey lemon bath salts with foaming essence of wild gingerberry or whatever the heck they put in such products these days. It is difficult, however, to convey this to a shop assistant whose main job in life is to sell said products, and who also mostly speaks a language that I have not quite yet mastered.
Box… box? she repeated uncertainly, looking stumped. I instinctively resorted to mime (it is not very difficult to mime a box) before spotting a pile of the boxes and pointing happily at them. Box, I clarified.
Ah, jah, jah! said the shop assistant in her most assistive tone, gesturing assistively. She was clearly foreseeing a large sale. You want… present? We… eh… packing. Paper, ribbon. Box! Yes.
I cleared my throat in some embarrassment. Great! I said sheepishly, but what about, erm, just the box? No… uh… stuff. I indicated the lavish displays of expensive smelly things and did some hand-wavey “no” actions. The shop assistant looked decidedly miffed. Then no! she exclaimed haughtily, clearly appalled that I would even think of trying to do such an impolite thing. She glared at me in some annoyance and I backed hastily out of the shop, with a final wistful glance at the Only Boxes In Tallinn.
Eesti Post was no use either, with approximately 376 different types of jiffy bags, brown paper, gift bags, envelopes and wrapping sheets, but no boxes whatsoever. In the end, I settled for something that I’m quite sure is intended for storing documents in an office, and went for a soothing wander around the Christmas Market. Following a cinnamon-related comment on my blog post of the other day, where I’d questioned the Christmassyness of “Christmas Tea”, I couldn’t resist trying some when I passed by one of the stalls today. The Christmas Tea is kept in a large silvery flask, which is wearing a fluffy Santa hat to keep it warm (and also because it is Christmas Tea). I watched as the Christmas Tea Lady poured some into a cup for me, and the smell of Christmas did indeed begin to waft around us. The Christmas Tea was dark, reddish-brown, cinnamony and steaming hot. She pushed it towards me and reached me a spoon.
I looked at the spoon.
Ah! said the Christmas Tea Lady, seeing that I was clearly a novice. You must add as you please! She indicated an overwhelming selection of tubs and jars, the only one of which I recognised was sugar. This was an unsettling position to be in. I know how I take ordinary tea. Milk and two sugars. Easy. But how do I take Christmas Tea, and how do I know how I take it, having never tried it before? Completely unfamiliar with Christmas Tea etiquette, I surveyed the ‘ingredients’ nervously, and then looked back up at the Christmas Tea Lady in a rather helpless manner.
Palun! I said eventually, handing her my spoon and cup. Relieved and intrigued, I watched as she took charge of the situation with calm and experienced hands. Various unknown things were spooned into my cup, finished with a generous dollop of runny honey, and she stirred it all together and reached it back to me, this time with a little Christmas cookie shaped like a smile. She watched with the satisfied expression of a truly professional Christmas Tea Lady as I took a tentative sip and gave an involuntary mmmmm!. It seems that I am a fan of Christmas Tea.
I stood at a wooden stall, nibbling my smiley cookie, drinking my Christmas Tea, and watching a group of small children in Silly Hats going to see Santa in his cabin.
I want it to always be Christmas.