Masala Chai (the first part)

Wyverstone Chai

Hovering over a stove-top stirring doesn’t seem difficult.

In most places, it isn’t.

Chai blog

But hovering over a stove-top stirring, whilst hovering over the ocean in a dirigible running increasingly low on power? In the middle of what appeared to be a hurricane?

Very difficult.

I have had many odd experiences but this one was about to become the oddest.

The fragrance of assorted spices infused the steam escaping my pot. Bracing one foot against the cast-iron base of the stove and the other firmly in the wedge of the doorway, I lifted the pot off the heat and deposited it carefully onto the cast-iron trivet beside it. I buckled the pot in tightly – thank goodness for my designer, forward thinking chap that he is! – added a handful of my finest Assam, and clamped the lid on tight.

Somehow I managed it all without falling, dropping anything important, or spilling a single drop.

“Oh!” I exclaimed as the dirigible tilted sharply to the left. The steep angle of the worn timbers beneath my feet caused my boots to slide away from their supports and I threw myself forwards to clutch the door frame.

Something crashed noisily behind me and I winced. “Not another tea cup!” I groaned.

“Maisie!  Maisie!” I shouted as I struggled to pull my self upright enough to get out the door.

“Maisie what is going on out there?”

For a heart-stopping moment there was nothing but silence and the rising whistle of the wind. Then, as if from a distance, I heard a reply.

“I’ve got it under control Mistress Wyverstone. Just another minute…..”

I was finally in the main corridor that ran down the centre of the airship and, using a wall as half the floor, I half-ran half-fell along it to the stairs that led above-deck. Occasional crashes and tinkles in the various rooms as I passed struck a fatalistic fear into my heart but onwards I pushed. There would be time for stock-take later.

I had taken three of the six stairs to the hatch when the ship lurched in the opposite direction. I was thrown against the wall with a curse that I miraculously managed to keep from passing my lips.

“Maisie!” I shouted again, clambered up the remaining steps and pushed the hatch open.

The force of the wind almost tore the hatch both from my fingers AND it’s hinges.

“Rule number one of flight, you silly woman! Listen for the wind before flinging open doors!” I muttered to myself and firmly tied my skirts, petticoats and hat down as tightly as I could. “I’d make an airship all of my own otherwise. Why must I insist on skirts below decks?”

Have you ever been outside in a storm? There is something electric in the quality of the air. Something tangible that you could almost reach out and touch.  A taste of ozone and the thrill that comes from the potential for danger.

I could feel all of those things as I hitched myself carefully to the rope that ran the length of the airship. Only a fool would neglect the safety line in weather like this – and although I am many things, a fool is not one of them.

I looked up towards the bridge and finally spotted Maisie. She was fighting the wheel, and at the same time her feet were working the pedals as though she was an organist in a great church.

The deck suddenly evened out and she shouted something gleeful and indeterminate into the air.

I noticed then that not only had my faithful First Mate brought the airship back to an even keel, she had raised the collector nets – and that trickle of electricity was being harvested and fed back into the storage amidships as we flew.

All that remained was for me to tie down the sails before they were torn to shreds and we would be safe and comfortable again – and fully re-fueled.

The dirigible was old and well-used. She had been passed down to me by my father, and I had no recollection of him ever disclosing where he had got it from. Such a faithful vessel, she stood up to more repairs and modifications than any other ship I had ever laid eyes or feet upon.

I owed much to Master Turner, an endlessly clever and inventive soul, who not only kept her running but created new and spectacular additions every time we returned home. Sadly he was not much of a flyer, so if repairs were required mid-journey it was up to Maisie or myself to do the best we could.

His most recent improvement had been to add the collectors. Harvesting raw energy from the storm-charged air allowed us to go on longer journeys than ever before. The room in which the energy was stored was locked up firmly and we were both under strict instructions NOT to enter – all I needed to know was that the system worked, not HOW it worked.

I was a curious soul – without curiosity I would not be who I am today! – but I had no interest in interfering in Master Turner’s work.

With the sails tied firmly and Maisie back in control, the airship gained just enough height to be out of the worst of the wind. Maisie angled the collectors below us and kept an eye on the various gauges that adorned either side of the great wheel.

I made my way back to the little stove, and found much to my delight that the chai was still in place.

Carefully unhitching both the lid and the sturdy leather straps that had been it’s saviour, I strained the spices and tea leaves out, added honey and stirred until fully dissolved.

The masala chai syrup was ready.

In a few days, there was to be a festival, with music and many folk requiring a heartening beverage. This chai syrup was destined to be blended with hot, foamy milk and served there.

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