by Ian Bysh
Do things carry karma? I ask because a curious incident occurred to me in Clitheroe the other day in a tea shop. We had gone to Clitheroe because it is one of the places where the dragon lines swarming up the spine of England are meant to cross. We had gone to the tea shop because we were hungry and I was cold. I was cold because I had had shamanistic shiatsu that morning, and my energy was all a-dither.
Tea shops are very Jane Austen are they not? Although the one in Clitheroe had a Lewis Carroll theme. Whatever we do in England, we accompany it with a nice cup of tea. I guess we have the British Empire to thank for this. The rest of Europe drinks coffee, but in the 1800s, the British introduced tea into its colonies, and merchants encouraged a large market to consume this foreign commodity. So when that most quintessentially English innovation – the tea shop – started, it was a very exotic beast. Most of the ingredients do not originate in this country. The tea came from India or Africa and the sugar from the West Indies. Even the china was a Chinese innovation (that’s why it’s called china), although we had stolen the secret of making it, and now it was being mass produced in Stoke by the descendants of Josiah Wedgwood. The milk I suppose was British.
In the Clitheroe tea shop there were some very fine cakes. I had one. Gwen had one. We ate them. Five minutes later Gwen had a headache and I was hyperactive. We considered what we had done and what we were a part of.
Sugar is not just to be found in cakes. These days, refined sugar crops up in diet foods, soft drinks, processed food and home cooking. Our society is addicted to it. Sugar would never have become ubiquitous if it hadn’t have been for the slave trade in the 1700s. Suffice to say countless millions were tortured, demeaned, constrained, abused and defrauded so that rich Georgian ladies and gentlemen could rot their teeth to black.
And the legacy is still with us. Sugar causes havoc even today, even if it does mostly come from beet these days instead of cane. So I am tempted to conclude that the greed and cruelty of our ancestors does indeed have karmic consequences today in the form of obesity, kidney failure, heart disease, tooth rot, hyperactivity, and Gwen’s headache. It has even tainted our very language. The sweetness of honey or fruit has an innocence sugar sweetness is devoid of.