Little Rob

"What a fantastic idea. I`ll be up for a brew. Do you have a chosen venue?"

-Little Rob

This was the second email I received following the initial gumtree post back in May. Little Rob sounded like a nice guy! And he was keen to meet for tea, which is most definitely a requirement of ours.

I feel a little bad that it often takes so long to finally have tea with some of the people who have contacted us, but to be fair, meeting strangers for tea can be more difficult than it may seem, what with differing schedules and all. Though feeling renewed after my meeting with Mark J. Winter, I got back at it, and approached Rob once again.

As eager as he was at the start, Rob got down to it and offered up a venue - conveniently, only a short walk away from my work. The excitement was ripe in the air as I walked to meet him - he would be yet another cup who I knew nothing at all about. No idea what he looked like, what he did for work, no leads at all. All I knew is that I would be meeting Little Rob at Carluccio's at around 6:30pm.

I saw him as soon as I approached, but decided to play it cool for a moment. It's hard not to be presumptuous - but I try whenever I can to avoid myself the embarrassment of joining the table with a slightly shorter than average guy, seated alone, outside Carluccio's, at 6:30pm - on the off chance that he is not Little Rob. I stand for a minute or two near the door, pretending to check a text message or something. Scanning the other tables, in the event that an even shorter gentleman is seated alone, awaiting a meeting...

Nope. I'm all clear it seems, so I send a glance back to the man I assume to be Rob. He smiles, and gives me the nod/grin/point that I am growing more and more accustomed to.

He's clearly already had a cup of tea, and I apologize for keeping him waiting - but he doesn't seem bothered, which is a relief. Rob is smartly dressed, he looks professional, but young too - and I learn quickly that Rob is someone with whom the conversation will flow with ease. Easily approachable, friendly - it's nice to see that there are still so many people like that around. We talk about the usual - our jobs, our lives, our thoughts on society. Rob seems to be a man with many ideas - and I was happy to hear the ones he had about 100 cups. Maybe my next meeting could be a result of suggestion - to form a chain, so to speak - with each individual sending me off to my next cup via personal reference. An interesting idea for sure!

While our initial meeting didn't last too long - myself having to get home before it got too late, and Rob having to do the same I suppose - it's not so much the cup of tea that has left me excited about meeting Rob. You see, Rob is having a party. I am not sure yet when this party will be, but I am invited - and all I know at this point is that the purpose of this party will be revealed, well, at the party. So, it's a party to celebrate something that we won't know we are celebrating, until we are actually celebrating it? Does that even make sense?

Needless to say, I am intrigued and eager to hear more about this secret party.

Rob was also kind enough to take on of Mark J. Winter's business cards - which I had agreed to hand out given the opportunity. Rob has a friend in graphic design, so maybe some strings can be pulled?

I will update again soon - and of course, keep you posted on the super secret party. This won't be the last you hear of Little Rob!

The Employment of Mark J. Winter

I'm not exactly sure what inspires me to approach certain people for a cup of tea. Of course, most of the time, we leave ad's online, posters at the laundrette or on a cafe wall in Paris, things of that sort. Every once in a while though, I meet or hear about someone, much like Patti Gaal-Holmes (Cup # 2) or the lady I met at the book store (who has yet to contact me!), and I feel a strange urge to ask them to have tea.

I can't help but think back to being a kid - when it was completely acceptable to befriend someone on a whim - when one child would walk into his or her first day of school, lock eyes with another boy or girl, and say, "Hey, do you want to be my best friend?" - and that was that.

I guess I have the ability to use this project in much the same way. To use tea as a guise to make new friends. It's still a little bit weird, I can admit. But it sounds far less creepy than me approaching Mark J. Winter with, "Hey mate. I like the look of you. Do you want to be my friend?".

I guess you're wondering who Mark J. Winter is now, aren't you. Well, let me explain...

I've been tweeting lately. Yes, tweeting. 

I'm not one to really make use of social networking websites - that isn't to say that I don't use them, I am just not always that active - one of those Facebookers who lurks in the back ground, but doesn't say much. And yes, that does sound worse when it's typed out doesn't it...

Anyway, back to twitter, and my tweeting. My attention was drawn to a tweet by Mr. Danny Wallace - a writer that, truth be told, has a lot to do with me gathering the courage and inspiration to embark on this tea filled journey. Danny had tweeted about a gentleman named Mark J. Winter - an aspiring graphic designer, in search of work. Only, in order to aid his search, he is offering 10% of his first months salary to anyone who can help him secure a job.

Brilliant! A campaign man, much like myself and Kiwi! I wouldn't be able to offer him employment, but I thought he might be keen to grab a cup of tea and have a chat. And he was. Of course he was, he was a campaign man! We're all alike, and willing to help out other on their journeys when we can. We're a good bunch...

Mark and I met in London outside Oxford Circus with plans to hit up a pub on Carnaby Street.

Our meeting was comfortable - more so than I had expected. Perhaps, being that we are both on a journey of sorts, maybe that common ground made our connection a little more effortless. Like all the cups before Mark, we shared stories and ideas - Mark admitting to me that he tends to favour electronic communication over verbal, face to face connection. His agreement to meet me was clearly a personal effort to change this within himself - and I'm glad Mark was willing to take the chance. I'll admit though, I was beginning to feel as if each meeting starts and ends much the same - with a slightly awkward first few minutes, followed by the setting in of comfort, and enjoyable conversation. At it's core - this whole tea thing is, while also a push to connect with people and break out of routine, is an social experiment of sorts - to see if a cup of tea can change your life, or mine of course. And for Mark, on his search to find work - I couldn't help be feel like I needed to make this meeting something a little more than just a cup of tea accompanied by conversation.

As Mark described his hopes for the job search, and his genuine desire to follow through and have his employment be the result of a reference through his campaign, I began to wonder if Mark had considered approaching BBC Radio. He had, it turns out, but had not taken any action.

"Why don't we go over to the BBC now then - we'll walk in, and try to get you on the radio!"

It was a bold statement, and it was clear to me that I had caught Mark off guard. A reserved guy at heart, his own quest was forcing him to be a little more outgoing, just as the tea project was doing for me. A few minutes later, with some direction for a friendly stranger on street - we arrived at the BBC. Mark walked in the doors, explained his story to the guy at the desk, handed out some business cards - before being directed to the administration building. Administration sent us to Radio 4. Radio 4 sent us up Great Portland Street to Radio One - the storming of BBC radio was beginning to feel impossible, though, we did manage to get several of Mark's cards into new hands. We contemplated waiting outside the studio for Fearne Cotton to arrive, but I could see that Mark had pushed himself to the limit already, and maybe I was getting a little carried away too, trying to help Mark push onwards.

We retired back to Oxford Street for some lunch before calling at a day - both feeling good about what we had helped each other accomplish - Mark making a push forward with his job search, attempting to take it to the next level - and myself, attempting to us tea as a means to meet new people, and challenge them in the hope of achieving some positive change.

I liked Mark. I had fun with him that day. I hope he felt the same about his time with me - and as we bounced ideas back and forth about our respective projects - I couldn't help but feel like this won't be the last that Mark J. Winter has to do with the journey to 100 cups.

On that note - if you are a graphic designer, know a graphic designer, own a graphic design firm, or even know of one - head over to to find out more about how you can help find Mark a new job, and possible earn youself  10% of his first months wages!

Tea with an Irish Guard...

Rewind to Monday, May 17th - the day we met Lee Allen for our first cup of tea...

We felt good. Accomplished. The quest had begun - one cup in the bag. We sat, slightly tired, but content on our train ride back to Windsor, talking excitedly about all the people we would soon be meeting, about all the ways we could find these people, about the potential for adventure that lay ahead.

A bloke a few rows down from us caught Kiwi's eye - rather, the bloke's hat caught Kiwi's eye - it was a Bearskin - the tall, black, fuzzy hats worn by the soldiers who guard the Queen of England. This was no imitation however, this was the real thing - and a few minutes later, we were wearing it.

(Greg & Kiwi looking very official in the Bearskin hat!)

After a brief conversation with Sean, the train arrived in Windsor and we prepared to part ways - but, I couldn't resist the urge. So soon after our first cup - a chance encounter was practically handed to us - I had to take advantage of it. And that's part of the point isn't it? I mean, life gives us opportunities to connect with other people each and every day - in the end though, it is entirely up to us as individuals whether or not we take advantage of these opportunities, these meetings born of chance.

"This might seem a little odd," I said to Sean awkwardly, "But would you want to grab a cup of tea with us sometime?"

"Uhhh, yeah... sure."

A few months passed, and Sean and I texted back and forth a few times - but a second meeting didn't happen - not for a while anyway. September was approaching, and I knew Sean would be due to ship off to Afghanistan soon - so with a brief and apologetic text, I offered up a place and time to meet, hoping Sean would still be interested. Thankfully, yes, he was still keen to meet - and so we arrange to meet on the upcoming Monday - at the Carpenter's Arms pub in Windsor.

Now, here's where I let you know that we cheated a little. We didn't actually have tea that Monday night at the Carpenter's Arms. Oh, Sean still met with us - and we still did attend the pub - but as the 3 of us walked in, a spot of tea didn't seem appropriate some how...

So we had beer.

And yes, it still counts!

In fact, we had a few beers, and fish and chips too. And we just talked. Like 3 old friends getting together to catch up. Sean told us about life in the military, about life in Northern Ireland before the military (including some not so pleasant tales of the UDA and IRA - and chapter of his life he has since left behind); about his plans for the future, his excitement to head off to Afghanistan - and we shared our similar stories with Sean. Though, I think our stories were a little less exciting, if I'm honest...

(Left to Right - Greg, Sean Burns, and Kiwi)

Everyone is born...

It's an odd thing isn't it - us meeting strangers for tea... The idea was born back in March of this year, and after letting the idea brew for a month or two - I went ahead and threw an advert up on I wasn't expecting much to come of it really - but it was worth a shot.

I certainly didn't expect to have nearly 10 people interested by the end of the first day.
Here is where you meet Emma Gridley - the third person to drop us a line back in May. An actress living in London, keen to have a laugh, it took Emma and I a few months to finally sort out a day to meet up. The day arrived, and as I rode the train in to London Waterloo from Windsor, my nerves were more calm than they had been on my way to previous cups - a good sign I think...

As I waited under the big clock for the girl wearing a white top, shorts, and apparently having a really bad hair day - the nerves began to kick in a little. I positioned myself off to the side of the clock a little with my back to a wall - at least there I was protected, secure - I had a good view, had all the angles covered, couldn't be snuck up on. There is something odd about the feelings you get meeting a stranger for the first time, almost like you want to be the one to see them first, if for no other reason than to have that single moment to weigh up the situation, to have that moment to back out perhaps, if something doesn't feel right. I'd never back out of course, and I began to feel bad for needing so badly to have that moment to judge the person I would soon be meeting - so bad in fact that I left the wall. I left the zone of safety I had created and walked cautiously underneath the clock. What was I doing? The doubt began to kick in again I stood out there in open, scanning the station for the girl with the bad hair. How bad would her hair be? Maybe our definitions of bad hair were tragically different - maybe I'd approach the wrong girl and make a joke about her hair not being so bad - this whole thing was starting to feel like it could go very wrong...

A few meters away a young lady kept glancing over at me as she rocked her baby back and forth in its pram. Shorts, white top, and her hair wasn't brilliant... Could that be her? She didn't mention bringing her new born baby - oh god. Did Emma misunderstand? Did she think this was a date? Was she in search of a man to be a father to her baby?

I scan the room again, taking note of the nearest exits - planning my escape. And then I saw her. The 'real' Emma. I could see it in her eyes as they met mine and she gave me that 'you?' kind of look, mixed with an awkward finger point. I walked over to greet her, feeling a little foolish for letting my nerves get so carried away.

We walked through Waterloo, Emma taking her place on my left side (due to bad hearing in her left ear), and we got the necessary small talk out of the way as we made our way to the Southbank. We navigated the tourists flocking to the London Eye, and managed to order two cups of tea and a blueberry muffin from a small outdoor cafe at the Eye's base. Taking a seat on a nearby bench overlooking the Thames, we got down to business...

It's always difficult to reflect on the entirety of a conversation with a complete stranger - and somehow, over a cup of tea, the conversation tends to be rather comfortable. We talked for an hour or so, like old friends. Sharing stories, ideas, goals and aspirations - I confided in Emma that I often feel very average. Not that average is a bad thing, but I've always felt as if I lacked that one thing that I love more than everything else. That one thing that I am so naturally good that to not dedicate my life to it would be a complete waste. I guess that is why I have always struggled to pick a specific direction in life - to stick with anything for too long...

It was a quote that Emma cited from the film 'Matilda' that really hit me, more than any other aspect of our conversation...

"Everyone is born, but not everyone is born the same. Some will grow up to be butchers, bakers, or candlestick makers. Some will only be really good at making Jello salad."

Maybe I should give making Jello salad a go?

The point, though, is that maybe I am spending too much time searching outward for something to guide me, and not looking hard enough inward - at myself, at who I am. Maybe there is something that I am better at than anyone else.

Hell. Maybe having tea with strangers is exactly what I am here to do?

As 2:00pm approached - Emma had to be on her way to an appointment, and I too had to be on the train back to Windsor for work at 4:00pm.

Our meeting ended with a friendly goodbye, and of course, my thanks to her for being so willing to embrace my silliness - and I suppose she too was grateful, as she admitted that she finds it hard to break out of her shell sometimes - and saw meeting me as an opportunity to break out. I was happy to help...

And as I walked gleefully back to Waterloo - I realized that I had forgotten to take a picture! I had no proof of our meeting, of our lovely conversation, no memento to keep of our new friendship. I guess we'd just have to meet up another time I thought...

No! I needed a picture of this meeting! This moment was special to me - just as each meeting has been thus far, so I turned on my heels and a began to run. As I made chase across the footbridge, dodging tourists and men in suits, trying to catch up to Emma. And as I approached her, slightly out of breath, I realized that I was coming up on her left side - her deaf ear! Would she hear me? Should I call out? Surely this would be slightly creepy for her, meeting this chap for tea, and having him chase her as she made her exit...

I tried to slow to a casual walk as reached her - reaching out to tap her shoulder as casually as I could.

She spun around, clearly startled - and I stood there, clearly out of breath having just chased after her.

"I forgot to take our picture! Is it okay if I get one quickly?"

"Yeah, I guess!" she replied.

Don't worry, Emma, your hair looks just fine...

It's about time...

Wow. It's been nearly 3 months since I last posted - I can assure you though, I have still been having tea, I guess I've just been finding it difficult to make time to share my stories with all of you. Time to get caught up...

It was a Thursday morning. I was feeling tired; lethargic - as I generally am in the mornings. I took a quick walk to the post office to mail some things home to Canada, and I passed it again. The sign that Lou had noticed a few weeks back. The sign inviting me for tea. It was too perfect - I had to join them. And for only 30 pence a cup- the deal was too good to pass up.

Now, I am not a member of the Windsor Reform Church, or, well - any church at all for that matter - and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about walking through those doors. Who would be there? What would we talk about? Would they assume me to be a lost soul, in search of answers and purpose... I guess in a way, that's what I am - but maybe that's what we all are? And, certainly, I wasn't out searching for answers of the spiritual kind. With my heart beating a little faster than it normally does on a Thursday morning, I walked in. Actually, I almost walked in - and then I turned and walked quickly away, around the block, and back again... and then I walked inside the church.

The room fell silent as I appeared in the door way - their wise eyes fixed upon me. There were eight of them in total, 9 if you counted the dog.

"I...errr... thought I might join you guys for tea. If that's okay?"

Jackie sprung up from her seat like a lady 30 years her junior.  "Of course you can dear, let me fix you a cup!"

And with that, I was in. I had some explaining to do of course - but not about why I had just walked in for tea, nor of my religious beliefs, but about where I was from, and what I was doing in England; what I did for work; whether or not I called my mother as often as I should... I sat with Jackie, Gwen, Heather, Norman, Eric, Fahtima, Naomi, Peggy, and Chip (the Dog) for nearly 2 hours. Norman shared stories of his time in the military - of the time a dog whom he had adopted had saved his skin when he fell asleep at his post, almost to be caught by his commanding officer. Peggy spoke fondly of her family, and not so fondly of her former son-in-law, and Naomi shared her frustration about her bank, in that they would not allow her to open an account for her grandson, as he is not a British citizen. And Eric and I fed Chip our biscuits underneath the table...

(From Left to Right - Eric, Chip (the dog), Heather, Jackie, Norman, & me)

(From Left to Right - Myself, Peggy, & Naomi)

These were real people, with real stories to tell - and the thing that made the difference is that they knew how to tell them. Each and every one of them grew up in a time when communication was respected, when it was praised. They live now, in awe of the way world has experienced such a social deterioration. They don't understand it, and they want nothing to do with it. So what do they do? They have tea. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning. And they talk, with whoever decides to show up.

The funniest thing of all... I don't think any of them were members of the Windsor Reform Church - they, like me, were just there for the tea and conversation.