Sipping my umpty-umpth cup of tea the other day, I was reminded of a story told me by my late friend, Canon Kenneth Druitt.
It was the 1930s and, for his first curacy, Kenneth was sent to an impoverished parish in the East End of London.
One day, he called on an elderly woman living on her own in a particularly dilapidated slum dwelling. The surroundings were squalid and the single room and its elderly occupant were both filthy. Her clothes were dirty, her face and hands black with grime and there was a fetid odour in the air…
“Sit down!” said the woman, taking a swig of tea from a cracked and chipped cup, and with only one chair (and that being occupied by the woman herself), the young priest had no alternative but to perch on the side of the unmade bed.
As soon as he was settled she asked: “Would you like a cup of tea?” Kenneth accepted but was then horrified to see his hostess throw the dregs from her cup into the fire and then refill it and hand it to her visitor.
What was he to do? He couldn’t possibley refuse the drink! Why, it would be as if the Lord Himself had declined her hospitality.
So, reasoning that God wouldn’t let him come to harm while “on duty”, he accepted the cup, but decided to take the additional precaution of turning it around in order to drink left-handed.
They chatted while he drank, the old woman intently scrutinising her visitor throughout.
Only when he had finally drained the cup, did she give him a gappy smile and say: “It’s odd that, ain’t it, Vicar? You and me both being left-handed…”