The minute I learnt that Maya Angelou had died I texted my daughter to break the news. “She was our best, our Phenomenal Woman, wasn’t she?”
“Oh, how sad,” my daughter texted back. “Do you remember we used to invite her to our tea parties?”
We did indeed. Through my daughter’s teenage years we would make mental lists of who we’d like to invite to tea. Our guests had to be bookish and interesting, but if they could muster neither of those qualities, they could qualify by being handsome so we would have the pleasure of just looking at them.
Thus it was that the fabulous, irrepressible and utterly brilliant Maya Angelou was a permanent fixture on our list. We would ask her to recite ‘And Still I Rise’ before giving her a generous slice of luscious lemon cake or possibly a piece of Dorset apple cake.
We’d also give her a second cup of tea if she would give us ‘Phenomenal Woman’ in return. A poor exchange, a cuppa for those incredible lines, but we were the hosts so she might oblige.
We were well prepared for our great guest’s acceptance of our invitation: we avidly read her books and could quote chunks of her poetry, so we would never be found wanting should she suddenly appear on our doorstep.
Below her, way below her in our virtual list of guess who’s coming to tea, was a ridiculously good-looking man we encountered selling scarves on a stall in Camden Market. Not so much eye candy as tea candy.
Dear Maya Angelou, we owe you a great debt for the legacy of all your wonderful words. We loved how your beautifully expressed emotions so deeply touched ours, and we know how privileged we were to have you, a beacon of wisdom, at our virtual tea parties.