“Stands the church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?”
– Rupert Brook
I heard a story once about an old woman, a very old woman with hands big and cracked from their craft. She spent her life as a sculptor and even after laying down her chisel and soapstone for the last time, she always appeared to be covered in a decorous layer of powder and clay. One day a friend came to visit her in the old people’s home. “There comes a point,” she said, cracking into wheezing chuckle, “when you wonder if its worth buying another tube of toothpaste.”
It is a disconcerting thought, and one that, I will admit, rarely crosses my mind at 25 years old. I was reminded of this story, however, and its evocation of tenuous brevity when I opened the cupboard yesterday in search of honey (to slather on a slice of my monumental sourdough bread). I fished out the jar, all but empty. As I scraped around the interior like a thwarted Winnie the Pooh, I wondered, a stew of emotion in the pit of my stomach: should I buy another jar of honey?
It was a familiar feeling, a bittersweet cocktail of anticipation tinged with sadness, and I have felt it too often in the past few years of restless uprootings. This time it hit me with a honey pot. With three weeks before I leave London, it is time to being the dismal process of eating down the larder.
It starts slowly, with things like tomato paste and mustard, but as you near departure the cupboards become increasingly barren. Then it spreads to your fridge, to the crusty lumps of parmesan and knobs of butter, until, by the day of departure there is nothing left but a forlorn pint of milk and a couple of shriveled carrots you have steadily avoided.
On the bright side, this process of eating down your provisions can include surprising bonuses: forgotten bottles of wine or the pound of dark chocolate bought in bulk one desperate day. This time, for instance, I am faced with a last half bottle of Laphroaig that I’ve been sipping in parsimonious rations for the past few months, and a measure of delicious if brain bogglingly potent truffle honey – this would not do for the morning toast.
Between indulgent whiskies and undressed pasta, it is a liminal phase—a tangible thinning of the web that binds you to a place and time. And yet, with three more weeks, gray skies and the elusive English summer nowhere in sight (I was warned of this), I need a little honey for my tea; just one more pot of honey for the road.