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Mr. Bristow

A nice cup of tea

Highslide JS
Strip 2618 was published in the Evening Standard in August 1969, in Bristow (1970) and in Bristow's Guide to Living This scan is from the Sydney Morning Herald November 1969

Bristow's request for a weakish Darjeeling with a whisper of lemon in a china cup is satisfied.

Lunch, in the firm's canteen or in the park, may provide the essential fuel for Bristow's body. Tea nurtures his soul. He bases his working day around the regular arrival of the tea-trolley. True, there will often be the chance to sample Mrs. Purdy's famous light-as-a-feather fairy cakes or maybe a plump jam-oozing doughnut but it is the hot steaming brown liquid that Bristow craves.

Appearances are deceptive in my case
Outwardly I'm completely relaxed. Inwardly I'm like a coiled spring
There are only two things that make me leap into action. One of them is the thought of promotion
Tea lady sticks head round door
Tea lady: “Tea up”
That’s the other
from strip 546 published in the Evening Standard in November 1962

Nearly forty years later as those ubiquitous two men walk down the corridor..

Man: The next door on the right is the Buying Department. I'd take you in and introduce you but the tea lady is due any minute. The chap wriggling in pleasurable anticipation is Bristow, eighteenth in line for Chief Buyer
strip 10128 published in the Evening Standard January 1998

But is Chester-Perry tea all it's cracked up to be? There are innumerable occasions in which Bristow complains bitterly about it strip 2390
Strip 2390 was published in the Evening Standard in November 1968 and in Bristow (70)
for example - it's too cold, it's tasteless, the cups aren't big enough to dunk biscuits properly and above all, it's always too expensive. For the tea is not free and every delicious drop comes at a price.
Highslide JS
Strip 4811 was published in the Evening Standard in January 1977. This scan is from the Melbourne Age February 1977

How Mr. Bristow receives the news of another price rise

All the clerks resent having to pay for it, and that resentment boils over whenever there is price increase. The canteen staff know this well and have their counter-measures ready, Here is the head tea-lady confronting the news that some of the staff have vowed to give up tea rather than the pay the latest increase:

Mrs Purdie- Get on to the caretaker and ask him to turn the central heating up. Mrs Buxton ask the maintenance men to declare all lifts out of order..I'll get on to the chef and tell him to put more salt in the potatoes..
from Strip 2812, published in the Evening Standard in March 1970 and in Bristow (1972)

How on earth can the poor clerks win? They can't. They are dependant on the stuff. This is what makes the price hikes so much harder to bear strip 3622
Strip 3622 was published in the Evening Standard in November 1972 and in More Bristow and The Big Big Big Bristow Book. This scan is from the Melbourne Age November 1972
. And there are times when Bristow, and even more so Jones, become quite ecstatic about it. Or is that because Gordon Blue has laced it with some illegal substance?

Mrs. Purdy (or Purdie) has been dishing up the fragrant brew for many years but Bristow has clashed with many another tea-lady along the way. These encounters always take the same form. A newcomer appears - perhaps standing in while Purdy is on holiday, or perhaps just starting out as a probationer in the canteen. They offer Bristow a cup. He subjects it to a withering burst of contumely, viz:

"One hates to be too critical but the consistency seems a trifle thick and the slight film on the surface implies it has been standing for some considerable time"

"You were born under the sign of Aquarius the water carrier"

"Shall I compare thee to a vending machine?"

"Are you sure this is tea? Doesn't taste like tea...doesn't look like tea and doesn't smell like tea. I think what we have here is acid rain. I'll take it down to the lab for trouble at all"

Some tea ladies wilt and flee; others are stronger and find that the threat of a lapful of hot tea is sufficient to win the day.

From Frank Dicken's website it appears that Purdy may have retired at last. Bristow waxes lyrical about the quality of her tea to her successor.

"It gave one the strength of ten men...the drive of a high speed locomotive...the staying power of a herd of cattle and it tasted terrific."

before adding, inevitably:

"Mind you, it didn't come cheap"