Written with an almost Wodehousian love of language and a wonderfully creative wit, a Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down is a delight on many levels. At a brisk and friendly trot, Nicey and Wifey take us through everything that makes for a satisfying tea-time. With a keen and knowing eye, the duo (husband and wife team Stuart and Jenny Payne) refresh us with observations on details we'd never noticed or long since forgotten. From ruminations on the cows on Malted Milk biscuits, to comments on the “baroque relief” of Custard Creams, Nicey brings the critical eye of an educated friend steeped in the highs and lows of cookie art.
Unlike other books – fake travelogues or disposable one-joke skits and rip-offs – this comes over as a warm and comforting labour of love, a well-researched and entertaining take on an important cultural pastime. Given that it's an offshoot of Nicey and Wifey's long-established website (the snappily titled www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com ) it's clearly not something done on the hoof. Definitely aimed at those who love a nice cup of tea and a sit down, this is still a book that confirmed coffee-drinkers can easily enjoy. Open it where you like – Nicey's biscuit reviews, Wifey's asides on the perils and pleasures of office tea-making, the pros and cons of bags versus leaves – it's an easygoing, illuminating and rib-tickling treat. And handsomely produced too, the hardback short and compact, the paperback an improvement, ditching the tendency for hard-to-read orange-on-orange or orange-on-grey text. It's copiously illustrated too, a photo of each biscuit smiling out at you – literally in the case of the oft-forgotten Happy Faces – like an old friend.
If Bill Bryson had decided to stay at home with a cup of tea and a cookie jar, this is the sort of book he'd have written. And it's as genuinely witty, intelligent and informative as any of his travelogues and without the sarcasm. Rather, Nicey and Wifey nibble away enjoyably at subjects familiar – or too familiar – to all of us. If you've ever, or never, wondered about the science of dunking, or stopped to think about the mug you drink out of, the chair you sit in or whatever happened to the biscuits you had as a child, then you should put the kettle on and pick up this book. You'll soon be won over by the flashes of recognition, the glow of fond memories and the didn't know that freshness of the facts. And yes it is funny. One of those you shouldn't peruse in a bookstore unless you don't mind snorting with laughter in public.
Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down is that rare thing – a reasonably priced book that will make an ideal gift for your mates, your partner, your parents and even yourself. Which just goes to show how universal a nice cup of tea and a sit down really is.