Since moving to the country I’ve learned that it’s traditional, if not absolutely essential, to have ‘Second Breakfast’.
Without curtains and with east facing windows at the top of a Gothic tower, I wake as the sun rises.
Gently but persistently the day drags me from my slumber, regardless of when I went to bed.
Now, I am not often convinced this is a good thing; least of all after a long night inventing new martinis. But it happens and there will only ever be one result when a sleeping human has clear morning light splashed over its face.
Despite these occasional doubts, awakening naturally each day is far better than any alarm clock. As such, I’ve acquired a habit of a proper cup of coffee, toast and a cigarette to reward me for my new-found, if occasionally reluctant, resonance with the day.
This first breakfast has become a ritual – usually taken on the lawned battlements or walking through the top field in my pyjamas – as I attempt to retrieve messages, sent after dark, by my friends living in cities where you get a phone signal all the time. Even indoors apparently.
Usually though, there’s only a rather worrisome text from my bank informing me of my ballooning overdraft; this is quickly deleted and forgotten as I gaze at the fast-changing light on the mountains and instead dwell on my blessings rather than my direct debits.
Still requiring an income for rent and cheese, I tend to use the few hours following first breakfast for catching up with the work I should have done the day before.
I’ve also acquired a bad habit of getting distracted (as happens in the country) with visits to the local brewery, discussing new cocktail recipes, sausage-tasting or other less essential, but much more interesting, tasks than replying to emails can ever be.
And so, about four hours after sunrise I find myself hungry, in need of proper coffee and a plate filled with local eggs, bacon or sausages. Usually all three.
Everyone here agrees: a second breakfast is an essential part of country life; it’s not just for hobbits; it fills the gap nicely before lunch; regardless of the work done, it is very much deserved.
After all, without second breakfast Agas and tractors probably would never have been invented.
Obviously, for those who don’t have to work and have the curtains drawn at 9am by servants, with first breakfast delivered to them in bed, the old fashioned elevenses is a perfectly suitable alternative.
Well that’s what my grandmother told me ever since I learned what a chocolate digestive was.
Thus, I’ve assumed everyone has elevenses or second breakfasts. It’s just what the British do. Unless you worked in a coal mine or for British Leyland, in which case it might be called a ‘tea break’.
Again, that’s what my grandmother told me.
Whatever one’s background, it’s all the same thing. An essential part of life.
So it was with some alarm today that I learned of the demise of this institution.
Its death came suddenly and out of the blue. Rather as if a great-aunt choked on a fish bone and died at the table, midway through a story about an evening she’d shared with Oscar Wilde.
Except this one came over the phone sometime between first and second breakfasts, rather than dinner with my great-aunt:
Caller [corporate-type]: “Can we Skype a conference call at 1030?”
Me [fiddling around in the larder]: “Yes, but can we make it 1045, after second breakfast?”
“What’s second breakfast?”
“It’s like elevenses but with sausages.”
If the corporate world doesn’t even know about elevenses, let alone second breakfasts, we are all certainly doomed to witness the world end on nothing but snatched over-priced lattes. With not an Aga or tractor in sight.
No wonder this country is going to hell in a wicker basket.
First the polar bears and now elevenses. The end of the world is nigh.