Audio - The Last of the Tea Ladies

One lump or two as Susan Omand takes a break with this audio short from Neil Gardner and Spokenworld...

The most important person in Fellows & Sons Amalgamated Grommets & Doohickeys relates the history of the company from the time she started with them aged just 9. Her name is Charlene and she is The Last of the Tea Ladies.

From filling sugar bowls for her mum, the head tea lady, when she was 9, to having the responsibility at 15 of her own department to literally cater for, we follow Char, or Mrs Oo, as she provides tea and the right kind of biscuits for the brown coated, pipe smoking lathe workers. But time marches on and things change with advances in technology getting rid of the lathes and replacing them with computer components. Changes for the staff too as pipes are banned and jobs are cut and changes for the tea ladies as they have to make... coffee.

Just as you get wrapped up in the comfortable nostalgia of the history of the factory though, the story takes a sudden, much darker turn as we learn why she missed a couple of days work in her 50 years service and what her own future plans are.

The voice of Louise Jameson is perfect for this role. She manages to convey the weight of the years spent in the factory with a real down to earth, “just get on with it” quality to make the tea lady utterly believable. The history of the company and the changes as it evolves is very well related in the writing of Neil Gardner, from the viewpoint of the constant lynchpin of such places, the tea lady, and it's a brilliant dark twist made even more surprising in the matter of fact way that it is told.

I really enjoyed this story, maybe because personally it brought back a lot of memories. My father worked in the office of an agricultural engineering factory, so I can just picture the lathes and the men in brown coats, smoking pipes among the engine oil, who spoke to 5 year old me when I got "taken to the office". Their factory went through similar changes as the older partners died off or retired, so I know the upset that “progress” can sometimes bring.

Image - Spokenworld

Last of the Tea Ladies is FREE TO DOWNLOAD on Spokenworld.
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