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(Tea… with Dave R)

When Elska did its first shoots a year ago in Lviv, Ukraine, I believed a tradition had started. For that first shoot week we rented an apartment right in the city centre. And since we’d be self-catering rather than in a hotel, I brought loads of tea bags (English Breakfast and Earl Grey) along. Well, actually I stole them from the airport lounge in Heathrow (sorry)! Oh, and I also brought boxes of traditional shortbread biscuits for each of the boys, plus some for the apartment.

The plan was that all the boys we shot would come to the flat first for a chat and then we’d go out to take the pics. We ended up have a cup of tea (with milk as is the English way, which they all wanted to try) and a biscuit before the shoot, and sometimes more after the shoot. It was a cute custom that helped us bond with each of the lads. And I hoped it would become a tradition for future Elska shoot weeks. ​

For Berlin I also procured a load of tea bags before arriving, but the city was just so huge that it wasn’t convenient for each guy to come to our apartment. But even those who did meet us at our place seemed to not be keen on hanging around. Maybe it’s the hustle and well, unfriendliness, of a large city, but it was nothing like Lviv.And what was worse was that even when we went to other guys’ homes to shoot, nobody offered us tea. Maybe it’s not a German custom to offer a drink to visitors, or maybe they just considered the Elska experience more of a “strictly business” situation. The only person who was truly hospitable was Roman T, who even made us dinner and offered not just tea but Sekt! But then, Roman isn’t a born-and-bred German – he’s originally from Russia. And even if it’s not politically correct to compare Ukrainians to Russians, they do share a knack for hospitality in common.​​

In Reykjavík, Lisbon, Taipei, and Istanbul too, tea was rarely offered. But I thought that in Cardiff it might be different. I’d never been to Wales but in every home I’d ever been to in England, I was offered tea before I even took my shoes off! So when I went to Dave’s place I was disappointed that he didn’t offer us a brew. Maybe it’s not a Welsh thing, I don’t know, but my hopes were dashed.And then only ten minutes after I left I got a text from Dave. He was apologising profusely for not offering a cuppa. It was the nervousness of being shot nude for the first time that distracted him. His apology made my day, and it renewed my faith in British hospitality. There would be lots more tea after that, and hopefully in more Elska cities to come.

See more of Dave R and read his story in Elska Magazine Issue (07) Cardiff.

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