I always use the "Divine" mug for Diana, the deputy manager. The script used for the word is ornate but in a very controlled way, and the mug is gold-coloured but not flashy. She has a goddess's name. She swithers between tea and coffee, I always have to ask her, and today she is taking tea with milk but no sugar. I don't recall her ever taking sugar but she always specifies "no sugar". Perhaps she is trying to remind herself. She always invites me to come and join her when she goes outside for a smoke, though she knows I don't, and when I decline she always tells me quite sincerely that I'm very sensible to do so.
Roger puts sweeteners in his tea -- not sugar, because he's diabetic -- furtively, when he thinks nobody is looking.
Emily has only just started today, so I don't know what mug to give her. I want to give her the mug with pictures of herbs and flowers, to go with the Raspberry and Echinacea tea that she's brought in especially -- avoiding caffeine is "her latest thing", she tells us -- but it's smaller than all the rest and I'm worried that she'll be annoyed by the apparent slight. Personally, though, I only ever want a small cup of herbal tea: I find it's too dilute in a large mug. Will she be irritated if I give her a too-large mug, overcompensating for the fact that I don't really know what to say to her, or more annoyed if I give her a small mug? We can always just get another cup of ordinary tea or coffee, they don't charge us for it, but it's different if you've brought your own tea, isn't it. I give her a mug with a watercolour-style picture of a thatched cottage with flowers on it; it's the most neutral thing I can find.
I use the white-and-gold Disney mug for myself, annoyed by the mark of the Mouse, but this mug has a thicker lip than any of the others and I like the feel of it in my mouth when I drink from it, I like the way that sensation chimes with the warm drink. The coffee always smells of gingerbread when it's still in the jar, but it never tastes as good as it smells, though it's still quite full-bodied. Hence the aptness of the thick lip of the mug. I always do my coffee last, partly for the faint feeling of selflessness is gives me -- if there isn't enough water in the kettle, I will be the one who goes short -- but also so the water will cool a little: "a coffee boiled is a coffee spoiled", it's more a superstition than anything, like crossing myself when an ambulance passes, or walking under ladders to prove that no bad luck will come of it.
Somebody has bought biscuits. I choose one which I think will dip well into coffee, but it doesn't, the tastes remain discrete and the biscuit remains hard. The annoyance of the wrong decision stays with me for a few minutes, then ebbs away, only to return in full force when I find crumbs in the bottom of my cup.
There are days when I feel I would like to derive a moral, a greater truth, from all this. This is not one of those days.