We’ve all dreamed of a fantasy meeting with a hero, locked in conversation over a cup of tea, listening to them recount familiar stories and a few juicy secrets. But who would you choose?
To celebrate the birthday of the St Vincent de Paul Society and to raise awareness of the amazing work of the Society’s members and volunteers, you are invited to take tea with a guest of your choice.
A fantasy guest for a cuppa means you can choose anyone past or present, or if you are feeling particularly existential, then it could be your future self. Whoever you choose, the common theme is tea and chat.
Here is a collection of the tea guests who have been inhabiting the thoughts of SVP members and staff…
“You know who I would love to have a cup of tea with? Any one of my children, because I’ve really missed them during this lockdown. So, any one of my children who could join me (on 23 April for the Tea With The SVP ‘Tea Talk’ webinar) would be wonderful.”
Frank Cottrell-Boyce, SVP patron and member, screenwriter and author
“My fantasy cuppa would have to be with Dan Levy. As the creator, writer, director and star of streaming TV phenomenon Schitt’s Creek, Dan has risen above the level of ‘household name’ and entered the realm of the media legend. Wait… you haven’t seen Schitt’s Creek? Where have you been and what have you been doing during lockdown?
For those enlightened enough to be a Schitt’s Creek fan, the chat would include the joys and pressures of working with your family, the unrelenting perfection of scriptwriting and creating that glorious relationship with Patrick (superbly played by Noah Reid).
Forget about the tea, let it go cold, let’s just chat…”
James Welton, SVP Media & Communications Officer
“My fantasy guest for Tea With The SVP is Hollywood superstar and all round good guy, Paul Newman. While we will certainly chat about his stellar performances in classics like Hud, The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke and The Towering Inferno, we’ll also discuss his time fighting for his country in the US Navy during WWII and his versatility, tireless energy and ambition as a successful movie director, world class racing car driver, political activist and philanthropist.
With tea, we’ll be sure to sample the wide range of his Newman’s Own fine foods which have chalked up an impressive $550 million for charitable causes, and we may even crack open a bottle of his fine wine to salute the 83 years of a life well lived. We might also listen to South American Getaway by Burt Bacharach, that iconic melody from Butch Cassidy that has become a prominent tune in the soundtrack of my life.
A mere 14 kilometres from my home in County Kildare, we might pay a quick visit to Barretstown Camp for sick children, one of at least 14 camps worldwide run by Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network, and I’ll be asking about the Scott Newman Centre, dedicated to the prevention of substance abuse.
Before he leaves, I’ll also introduce Paul to my other role model, my dad Laurence. We’ll reminisce once more about all those wet Saturday afternoons of my childhood in Derry, sprawled out on the sofa, savouring Paul’s finest performances, and he might tell us how many boiled eggs he actually ate in Cool Hand Luke. If Paul and my dad want to hang around for another cup of tea and a bit more craic, that’s ok too!”
Dermot McGilloway, SVP trustee
“I would love to have my fantasy cuppa with my mum and dad. Sadly, I lost my dad to Covid late last year and my mum died 10 years ago. I would love nothing more than to knock on their door and have a cup of tea with them.”
Helen O’Shea, SVP National President
“The people I would really like to be sitting down for a cuppa with are my best buddies and my family, especially my friends who are over in America and Canada. It has been too long since I saw them and too long since we had a good natter over a cuppa.”
Julie Etchingham, SVP patron and ITV newscaster and journalist
“There’s absolutely no question that my fantasy cuppa guest would be Charles Dickens. He has been my favourite writer for a very long time, and I would love to sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat with him. I would like to thank him for the joy he has given millions of people in the 150 years since his death in 1870. He wrote 15 novels, a number of short stories, some wonderful journalism, a phenomenal collection of letters, and a number of interesting speeches – he was a great fundraiser.
But I love Dickens because of the stories he tells, and prisons feature in so many of his novels. Prison is the central idea in Little Dorrit, which is set in the Fleet prison, where people were sent in the 19th Century for debt. Oliver Twist goes to visit Fagin at the end of that novel in prison, and of course, David Copperfield goes to visit his father in prison when he is arrested for debt.
And so we have this lovely theme of the prisons, and the readings, and the stories, but above all with Dickens, there is the great hope, the redemption. He speaks always about human forgiveness, of a better world, of our ability to live with each other, and to create better relationships and better justice for each and every one of us.
So, the next time I sit down with Dickens (I’m reading Bleak House again), I will be thinking of all of us in the SVP, all our friends in prisons wherever they may be, and hoping that it won’t be long before we can all sit down together and enjoy a cuppa and a good read. So, here’s to Charles Dickens.”
Father Paul Shaw, Spiritual Advisor to the SVP Prisons Group
“The person I would love to have a cup of tea with is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I tried to have a cup of chai with her 48 years ago. I knocked on the door of her mission in Calcutta to try to meet her in person. I travelled in my days at university, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity of trying to see her. The set-up she had was amazing. It was so touching, so impressive, so heart-rending, but the meeting didn’t happen.
There is a parallel story. I had an aunt who was a Little Sister of the Poor for many years in France, and like Mother Teresa, who was sent off to Ireland to learn English from her native home in North Macedonia, my aunt was sent to learn French. I watched my aunt washing people’s feet and tending to the poor, the sick and the lonely. With that inspiration, I was determined to have that cup of tea with Mother Teresa. I didn’t manage it, but it was the wonderful experience seeing her staff. The way her mission grew from just a small band of nuns in the 1950s to a worldwide mission at the time of her death, and the recognition she then received as a saint. But I think we will always remember her, not as Saint Teresa, but as Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”
Stephen Perry, President SVP Conference St Werburgh’s, Chester
“The person I would like to have tea with would be Saint Catherine of Siena, a contemplative and doctor of the church, who left the cloister of her home as a young woman to give help to people suffering from the plague in those times. She became known as a person of prayer, and later in life she actually challenged popes and emperors to do the right thing. If I had a chance to have tea with her, I would ask her how we hold together, in our times, contemplation, but also compassionate action for justice and peace in our world today.”
John Battle, SVP member and former MP
“My fantasy cuppa would be with George Eliot, one of the leading Victorian novelists. I’ve loved her writing for years, but what I’d really love to chat with her about is, what is it like to forge a career as a writer at a time when women were rarely independent. And she, just like the Brontës, Mary Ann Evans in reality, had to pretend to be a man to get published.”
Brenda Bates, SVP Head of Communications
“My fantasy cuppa would be with Jane Austen, because from reading her stories I think she must have known a lot of funny and interesting characters in her real life. It would be really interesting to hear about that.”
Rachel Barry, SVP member
“I would like to have a cup of tea with Saint Basil. In the 4th Century, in what was the worst famine in recorded history, he spent his own money to feed the entire population (of the region in which he lived). He also introduced the notion that it was not charity, it was justice – that is what giving was. God had given the rich plenty of stuff as a test to see what they would do with it. He persuaded the local rich to contribute, and at the end of the famine, he built a complex at the edge of the city with a church, a school, a hostel for travellers, a leprosarium, and a massive warehouse full of food for distributing during future famines. It was, in effect, the first combination of a monastic institution and a hospital. Within a century, they had spread all over Europe at the end of the Roman Empire. So, he’s the man I would have a cup of tea with, but there is a slight downside; he’s an esthetic, so you might have to make do with a cup of water. I’ll take my chances.”
Paul Vallely, SVP patron and acclaimed writer
“If I could have a cup of tea with anyone this week it would be my mum, Jan, who died last year. She used to make an awful cup of tea. She used to fill the cup half full, and because she didn’t drink milk, she used to buy those little UHT cartons for anyone who would come round for a cup of tea. I used to complain about it, but if there was anyone I could have a cup of tea with this week, mum, it would be you. Even half a cup would be great.”
Kate Nightingale, SVP Deputy CEO
“My fantasy cuppa would be with Darren McGarvey, also known as Loki, who is a Scottish rapper and writer, and who has also written, in my opinion, one of the best books in recent history - it’s called Poverty Safari. He writes about class and poverty in modern Britain.”
Alessandra Sciarra, SVP Social Policy Manager
“During lockdown I have been drinking a lot more tea than usual, in fact, probably gallons of it every day if I think about it. But what I don’t stop to think about is the person who picked the leaves that went into my cuppa. So, my fantasy cuppa would be with the tea picker and their family. I’d like to sit down with them over a cup of tea and learn about their daily life. I’d like to talk about the things we have in common; children, family, ambitions, and I’d like to savour that cup of tea together with them, because that would be quite a different and amazing experience.
And to end, I’d like to say thank you to them for all the work they do, every day, to make sure that me and all the other tea drinkers can enjoy our cuppas every day.
Ken Madine, SVP Director of Fundraising, Communications and Marketing