Breakfast in Heaven

Despite the entreaties of the breakfast cereal manufacturers, a plate of sweet mush is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a good breakfast. My own demands are simple – a good strong cup of tea (the more proletarian the better) with milk and no sugar – preferably not Darjeeling. As proletarian teas go (‘builders’ tea, as it’s often called) you can’t beat Fortnum and Mason’s Breakfast Blend, though Marks & Spencer’s Gold Blend comes a close second  if there isn’t a branch of Fortnum and Mason to hand (we are not blessed with a branch in the Czech Republic). Typhoo or Lipton Yellow Label will do at a pinch. Drink Sir Winston at your peril.

Bacon and eggs, a dangerous pleasure in any case, is a figment of the English Tourist Board. Croissants are pretentious.

Tea will do, and sometimes an apple.

But to get the day off to the best possible start you need a harp.

Harps are rare, and are generally to be found only in the concert hall or in the breakfast rooms of good hotels.

I am in Chisinau, proud capital of Moldova, enjoying a pot of strong black tea and the gentle sound of a harp. Both are a welcome distraction from the wrinkled mushrooms I unwisely selected as a low-calorie option from the buffet (I shall have to eat them since I don’t like waste).

hotel harp

The harp is a difficult instrument. Well played it sounds gentle and calm, but if you look carefully there’s panic beneath the surface and some furious footwork going on below. Pedals are needed to lift or lower the strings a tone or two. And you must also be handy with a spanner so that you can constantly adjust the tuning of the strings, which slacken as you pluck them, and drift too easily out of tune.

The playing of this, presumably Moldovan, harpist is good, but the best I’ve ever heard was in the mid 1990s in Moscow when two harpists played together from the gallery of a breakfast room at another international-style hotel. From a distance they looked like twins, and I don’t doubt they were playing truant from the one of the great Moscow orchestras. They were the highlight of my day every day for two weeks, my time otherwise devoted to the enforcement of SunSystems in an ungrateful environment.


Harps are also played by angels in heaven and I look forward, if my good deeds outweigh my sins,  to an eternity of gentle plucking as I consume bowls of breakfast, lunch and dinner manna (which I suspect will taste like Corn Flakes). In Hell they make do with children who are just starting to play the trumpet, or groups of Andean flute tooters, or Jazz. Reasons to be good.

The harp is holy, and pure, and if you’re blessed with it at breakfast you begin the day with energy, holiness, joy, generosity and optimism. If you’re not at a hotel and your budget doesn’t run to a domestic harpist then at the very least you can choose the harp option on your iPhone alarm. There is no better way of waking up unnaturally.

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