The start of a new relationship is such an exciting time. Full of spontaneity and passion. Everything is bright, shiny new and the possibilities are infinite. Two people dance around one another, experimenting with different tempos and steps.
But the familiar is good too.
When you walk side by side with someone for a quarter of a mile or so, you inevitably fall into step with them. The faster walker slows down or the slowcoach speeds up until a steady rhythm is reached.
For all the excitement of the new, it can be equally enthralling to look at a person and to know – know what they are thinking or intend to do. And there is a wonderful satisfaction from developing little rituals. Practised behaviours that you both fall into without deliberate thought.
Rituals cannot be rushed, however. Or created intentionally. They simply develop over time and then one day you realise that they are an integral part of your life.
Take coffee, for example.
For as long as I can remember I have had a bad coffee habit. Sitting at my desk, I would drink 6, 7 or 8 cups a day without thinking. Normally, dare I say it, instant as drinking that much freshly ground coffee would give me the shakes by mid-afternoon.
One day, about the time it became apparent that Robert’s car was spending more time outside my house than his, he turned up with an espresso machine under his arm. It was not, I am a little ashamed to say, welcomed with a great deal of grace – I had spent the previous couple of years attempting to declutter the house, and I rather liked my kitchen worktops to be empty. A space was made, however, and I agreed to give it a fair chance before relegating it to the Outer Darkness where I believed such gadgets belonged.
The first attempts were disastrous. The coffee pack may proudly state that it is “Suitable for all machines”, but a filter coffee grind simply will not make espresso – the water just goes straight through taking with it all the flavour of dishwater.
So a coffee grinder was needed. One that would grind the beans finely enough to make espresso. Teeth were firmly gritted as it took up residence beside the coffee machine.
The coffee-making learning curve progressed, but not 100% satisfactorily. Cappuccinos became drinkable, but still too foamy. Espressos or Americanos were fine but still nothing special. Despair was setting in with the owner of the coffee machine, as he knew its days were finite.
Then, one day, we discovered the flat white – and a whole new world opened up. Microfoams, cremas, patterns drawn on top of the cup. U-Tube videos were watched by the dozen. We suddenly understood how whole college courses can be devoted to coffee-making. The coffee painting became competitive, and we jostled for position in front of the Gaggia, arguing over whose turn it was to make the breakfast cup.
In the end, I admitted defeat. He can do the foaming thing better than I can. And paint the pictures.
Somewhere along the line, the breakfast coffee became the only one that mattered – we sit and savour it, watching the birds on the feeders. Now it is almost impossible to imagine starting the day without my breakfast milky coffee – and I rarely have another one, unless after a big meal.
Rituals definitely take you by surprise, but they become an essential part of life.
And as for that cup in the picture – I bought it when I was still alone to use as a tea cup. It never really took off as such.
As I said. You can’t force a ritual.