Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Maybe it's just that the tea's so bad...

Last night I unsuccessfully attempted to mime (in Czech), "Please kind sir, I beg you, do not froth the milk before putting it into my tea… Pleeeeaaasssee…. Noooooooooo!!!!!!"

Perhaps it was the lack of white facepaint and stripy jumper, but it didn’t work. Paper cup of tea arrived at the end of the station with a lovely frothy head that would do a cappuccino, or even a Belgian-style serving of lager proud. I wept. It always seems to be the way. You spend time in a place where good coffee is steam-pressed by a million precision-engineered geysers, and the tea just goes wonky. If the tea is perfectly brewed nectar of the gods, then the coffee is made by someone running warm tap water over a few clumps of petrified instant coffee and shaking it about in a polystyrene cup.*

All of which leaves me, a tea-drinker at heart who has a fondness for really good coffee, somewhat bemused. I mean, why go to the coffee place and order tea? That's just asking for trouble. But sometimes, I just gotta dice with the gods. Live on the edge. Oh yeah, baby.

So given the deep and abiding excitement of my life, is it any wonder that I enjoy the odd spot of evil-villain(ess) excitement in my reading material? Possibly not. Nevertheless, I've never really had character identification as one of my top ten reading requirements. When I encounter this sort of bad dudette, I don't gush, "Ooh how thrilling! Secretly I have always wanted to claw out my enemies' hearts but lack both courage and pointy fingernails. At last, I can vicariously satisfy this thrill within the confines of a novel!"

Of course, I'm not going to deny the odd fantasy about bashing people's heads in after a stressful day. But it's a big step from that to thinking, "Aha! I have at long last discovered my soulmate, the one person in this crazy, mixed-up world who can truly understand me!" As I said, I don't actually like her. But compared to the witchy-washy heroine who's out to defeat the Mega-Evil That Lurks 'Neath The City, the villainess has more internal conflict, more personal growth and more tension. Could it be that a lifeless heroine makes the scary lady come alive by comparison?

*leaving out places Middle East in this, because there both tea and coffee are good, but neither taste the way I usually expect.

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