Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Monday 21st July 2003

"You have arrived at a propitious moment, coincident with your country's one indisputable contribution to Western civilisation - afternoon tea. May I press you to a cucumber sandwich?"

Thus speaks Hugo Drax to James Bond. And despite Goscinny and Uderzo's claims to the contary (which state the convention was introduced by an indomitable Gaul) this most eloquent of Bond villains has a point. Coffee is an indispensible beverage, but, to further strengthen the sterotype, I will always be in the mood for a cup of tea - not solely in the afternoon. A mug acted as a handy replacement for a cigarette when I first gave up a couple of years ago, and still functions to fill that void, that slightly disconcerting feeling which is often difficult to pin down - I'm on the sofa, in front of the telly, comfortable, the remote control nearby, tranquility almost graspable...but something is missing, something is barring the way to utter contentment - tea completes the picture and settles the mind.

I've often endured ridicule for my choice of tea - I like the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong or the strong distinctive flavour of Assam (made from leaves carefully selected "from the best tea estates situated around the humid banks of the Brahmaputra River in Assam, north east India" according to the box of tea bags sitting on my desk) both which appeared to offend the more delicate tea sensibilities of Earl Grey drinking ex-housemates. But I'm equally happy when the local Chinese tosses a couple of complimentary Green tea bags into the delivery. Which brings me to the point of these tedious ramblings - to pass on the story of a recent criminal trial in the States, which suggests that not only does tea have, even when undoctored, stronger effects than Drax's slightly patronising aside assumes, but also provides a watertight legal defence to certain illicit activites.

Various newspapers have reported the story of a Florida man who landed up in court after chasing his neighbour with a dagger. And quite right too. However, he escaped prosecution on the grounds that the "chasing with a dagger" activities (I'm not sure of the legal term for this act) and other instances of criminal behaviour were caused by the halucinogenic properties of Jasmine tea. Gilbert Walker was on ten cups of the stuff per day, and as a result had been having apocalyptic nightmares based on the Biblical struggles between good and evil.

Other, less theological, delusions included ceramic dogs shouting at him (although I think this might happen somewhere in Ezekiel) and the compulsion to throw a brass duck through his neighbour's window - which he did. If it wasn't enough for his neighbour to have metal water fowl interrupting her daily fix of Jenny Jones, she then had to endure the terror of Mr Walker bursting into her house, doped up to the eye balls on jasmine. He subsequently chased her into the street at knifepoint. The Roll on Friday website reports that "the police arrived to find him bug-eyed and shouting 'I'm crazy' - an accurate, if unneccessary, summary of the situation".

This story made me worry a bit - I'm sure my mum drinks more than 10 cups of tea a day - in fact, despite some strong competition over the years, I have still yet to meet anyone who drinks as much tea as she does. Her tea of choice is regular Yorkshire Tea, which is, I hope, only a Class B or C tea, unlike the positively skaggy Jasmine. But there is hope if I catch my mother busy on a crime spree suggested to her in a conversation with a particularly chatty ornament. I can rely on the precedent set in the Walker case, which could be pursuasive in an English court. A band of psychologists and forensic toxicologists assembled by the defence attorney helped the judge to come to the conclusion that Walker "had been suffering from a psychotic episode induced by drinking the ostensibly innocuous beverage". The charge was dropped and Walker is free to put the kettle on another day.

Would be misfits might like to note that this defence has variants, as mentioned by The Houston Chronicle when reporting this story:

"Prosecutors likened the tea theory to the "twinkie defense" used by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, who was charged with killing the city's mayor and another supervisor in 1978. He avoided a first-degree murder charge and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after his lawyers convinced jurors that eating junk food had diminished White's mental capacity."

29 - posted at 11:24:28

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