Alice Wetherby-Pimms’ teas were famous for drawing an eclectic crowd. Every Wednesday at precisely 2:55 p.m. the area before her gate would be swamped by a mob of the most unlikely bedfellows – dashing princes and their chamber pot removers, knights and their nemeses, good-humored gnomes and curmudgeonly trolls, pirates and bankers’ sons, just to name a few.
At three o’clock sharp the five-year-old would sashay from her forest bound playhouse and flip the latch, a signal to the swarm that two gold rimmed bone china cups had been filled to the brim with the Darjeeling that had been created just for her in the year of her birth.
Dressed in a sky blue smock and cloud white apron tied in a tidy bow at the back of her water melon sized waist, the barefoot child would peruse the now orderly queue snaking along the trail. In choosing who would be blessed by her company, it was not uncommon for Alice to toy with the crowd, first pointing to one, shaking her head, then settling upon another.
In moments like this, Grandpapa Pimms, stationed behind the letter box, would clear his throat – a gentle reminder that time was of the essence unless one wanted to partake in iced tea. The soon-to-be centenarian – his hunched elfin stature, snowy coif, mustache and goatee, a sharp contrast to the looming redwoods – stood guard ensuring his granddaughter’s safety. The child insisted upon it and since the doting elder could never refuse Alice a single one of her many curious whims, he willingly obliged.
Once the worthiest bloke in the crowd had been ushered beyond the threshold, Alice would turn, face her admirers with pursed lips, and nod to the broken wooden chair obscured by a five finger fern – the unspoken promise that perhaps next week she might bestow admittance upon more than one guest.
Thus would begin Alice Wetherby-Pimms’ weekly afternoon tea.
Sometimes a place will scream with a personal story that needs telling. Much like last year’s trip to Mendocino, this play house, tucked away on a property in the redwood forest behind Mill Valley, had exactly that effect on me. Its abandoned state inspired today’s blog – well, it was that or the ghost of Alice Whetherby-Pimms. Either way, what’s been your experience with places yearning to share their untold tales?