This poem was inspired by a ‘How to Make the Tea’ exercise undertaken during a Dementia Awareness session, where participants were asked to record the many steps and processes the brain goes through when making a cup of tea. People with dementia often face great difficulties and confusion when carrying out such everyday tasks.

Tea Time

To make them all a cup of tea
I must fill up the kettle first,
and switch it on, and fetch the tea.

I must take out the tea things first
and put the teabags in the cups;
get out the milk and smell it first.

Who poured the water in the cups?
Who says I musn’t use the gas?
Such pretty cups – I like my cups.

I’ll put the kettle on the gas.
No, No! But, oh, the water’s cold.
“Now we’re really cooking on gas!”

Mother always said. Who said that?
I must make sure the milk is cold,
then add it in – there, just like that.

In Prague that time, it was so cold.
Goulash. Do you remember that?
“Angie, you’ve let your tea go cold!”

“Stand back. Be careful of the gas.”
We used the stove against the cold.
I musn’t put this on the gas.

I must make sure the milk is cold.
I’ll pour the water in the cups.
I must make sure the water’s cold,

turn on the taps and find the cups,
take out the tea and smell it first.
But why are there so many cups?

Such pretty cups; I’ll count them first.
Perhaps I’ll have a cup myself.
No. Ask them if they want one first.

Yes. Go back now and ask myself.
Always this going back, while first
remembering to make myself.

James Manlow
Poet Laureate for Bournemouth

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Find out more about the National Dementia Action Alliance and Dementia Friends 

The first public reading of this poem was at a Dementia Awareness event in Southbourne. Rebecca Mattina was one of those covering the event, for Bournemouth’s University’s Buzz.