Sunday 31 August 2008

'The Tiger Who Came To Tea'

How clear are your memories of childhood? I have to admit that whilst, if I put my mind to it, I can retrieve images of piercing clarity - like frosty white & blue mornings in the Autumn on the way to school, and the smell and taste of home-made treacle toffee eaten round the bonfire on Guy Fawkes - that a lot of the time memories of my formative years, although always there, just sort of muddle around in a mainly happy fog somewhere at the back of my mind.

There are bad memories, of course there are. The time I was caught out by my J4 teacher when she phoned my parents to check out my fabricated excuse for not doing my half term homework. The all-too-frequent bad report at the end of the school year ('could do better' was my motto for longer than I care to remember). The crushing embarassment of being a teenager with severe eczema round my mouth and in my hair, at just around the time I wanted to be noticed by boys for something other than what I was convinced looked like a dessicated coconut mouth. But overall, these were character building experiences, and whilst not enjoyable, I wouldn't change them. Well - maybe the last one. But only if I could throw in an extra couple of inches in height, naturally blonde thick hair, and blue eyes whilst I was at it...

Anyway, my point is that most of the details of my childhood are lost in the overloaded files in the sluggish computer that is my brain. They are there, yes - just not instantly accessable.

Yesterday, though, we took the Boys to see a stage adaptation of 'The Tiger Who Came To Tea'. They loved it. The slightly subversive idea that a ring on the doorbell could announce the visit of - not someone boring, like the postman, milkman, or grocery delivery boy (who of course nowadays would be the Ocado man) - but a real, live, enormous Tiger was fantastic to them. A Tiger? Coming to tea? Eating all the sandwiches, cake, and buns, and drinking all the water in the tap? How fabulously outrageous!

Boy #1 bounced on his seat, growling, roaring, and waving his tiger-paw glove (dug out of the dressing up box at home in preparation, and carried carefully all the way to Bloomsbury on our tube journey) at the stage. His afternoon was only marred by the foot-stuck-down-the-back-of-the-seat incident, and that the whole thing was over too quickly. Boy #2, at two years younger taking a little longer to warm up the whole experience, eventually worked out where in the theatre to look (the stage, rather than the child behind us misbehaving and horsing down popcorn), and was entranced - especially when the tiger danced to the radio... Though what he was most impressed by? Our journey there on the tube. Typical.

And me? I was swept away on a wave of nostalgia. If you've read the book to your children, you'll know the wonderfully dated illustrations that show life in 1970's Britain in all it's dreary wonder. Well, this stage adaptation we saw yesterday very cleverly picked up on that. So whilst the children were wide eyed with wonder and howling with laughter at the antics the tiger got up to when it unexpectedly turned up for tea, the adults in the audience were lapping up the visual cues to their childhood.

We were reminded how it was normal to have 'high tea' at 5.00pm, and that feeding your children now contraband cake and biscuits was the norm and consituted part of a proper balanced diet. That milk came in tall glass bottles rather than in disposable plastic cartons, and that Daddy's beer was just that; not lager, not pilsner, not alcohol free. Just - beer. And going out to a cafe for sausages and chips followed by ice cream was considered a real treat at the time the book was written.

Actually, that last has not changed - it's just that now we call the cafes 'brasseries' or 'gastro-pubs', the chips are fried in Duck Fat, and the pigs the sausages were made from had names....


  1. Agreed, everything has changed so much in the last 30 years with the digital age, healthy eating lifestyles, corporate restaurants have put more interesting places out of business, major cities all look the same with corporate clothing shops- makes me wonder how things could get equally as different in 30 years for our children.

  2. Honey! This is Norfolk - what changed? t.x

  3. Oh, it's my very favourite book. I once did an entire blog post on it. How totally lovely to see it on the stage - the company isn't planning to tour the Midwest by any chance, is it?

  4. I LOL when I read that son #2's fave part of the day was the transportation! We took ours on whirlwind of cultural and kid-tastic activities in Chicago once and their fave bit? Riding in the taxis. Boys - dontcha just love 'em?!

  5. You must tell me where and when this play is on! The Littleboys adore the book, (and so did I when a child).

  6. SB - funny how these thoughts don't usually occur to you until you have kids of your own, isn't it?

    KP - very funny. But something tells me that even you don't get milk delivered in tall thin bottles anymore (more likely short and squat), and the beer has probably changed too...

    Iota, don't think so, sadly. But it was at the Bloomsbury Theatre so you could always get in touch and get the rights... Fancy a new career as a theatre impresario? (In your spare time, obviously...)

    M/M, you have to expect it, of course. I wouldn't have minded, but Boy #2 cried all the way from Russell Square to the theatre - just because we got off the tube. Lovely.

    VG, it was at the Bloomsbury Theatre, though I think the run ended yesterday. Interestingly the girl who played Sophie also played the mouse in the stage production of the Gruffalo last Christmas (which I didn't see but Husband took the Boys to), so I suspect there will be other similar productions in the pipline even if this one has finished.

  7. That was a fantastic post - cheers PM! I remember the book well, it was my brother's favourite and I always remember them buying a tin of tiger food at the end just in case. A tin of tiger food! Excelllent. MH

  8. I've been trying to catch up on my blog reading and I've just read your stories about boy #1 starting school. Thank you for sharing your experience. I've got that to look forward to on Thursday. I think I'm more nervous than she is.

    Never read The Tiger Who Came to Tea when I was young, but I know it from reading it to daughter, will have to look out for the play. Sounds fun!

  9. Hi MH, thankyou - and doesn't every house have a tin of tiger food in the cupboard? Boy #1 thinks so, anyway...

    WM, I hope I haven't depressed you too much with the starting school story. If it's any consolation, 95% of his classmates skip in happily with not a care in the world... (or that's how it seems to me, anyway!).

  10. It sounds like a blast!

    I honestly have never heard of the book, but of course, I'm an American, so we get left out of much of the fun stuff!

    I think I may look for it though! It sounds like a delight!

    Jonathan is going around roaring, but he is a dinosaur, not a tiger. For now anyhow.

  11. Well - now you've got me thinking PM.

    Of course I've never read the book but memories of milk in bottles....and we don't do tea over here - but the thought of it has always been comforting to me.

  12. OH it's one of the BB's FAVOURITE books! We absolutely LOVE it and have the CD for the car too. Would you recommend going then as it is on in Richmond at half term so was thinking of getting tickets..

    BM x

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