OK, yes. Years ago I worked as an apprentice engineer at an English coalmine, in the north of England. For a few weeks the induction sessions had me on the night shift on the surface - the pit top - working from 10pm to 5am in the lamp house. This was the place where all the miner's lamps were stored and maintained.
The 'lamp man' was a fellow called Alf Tombs, a permanent night shift worker with eyes like a zombies' and a voice similar to a whispering Dracula. He always wore the same grimy greasy green overalls and always had a his thick hair smothered in oil and combed back straight over his head.
Alf Tombs was a nice man but he had strange habits. His obsession centred around the canaries that were kept at the coalmine for emergencies underground - beautiful yellow finches that sang when the sun came up, filling the lamp house with song. He had names for all 12 of them and treated them like little Queens,feeding them lettuce and sunflower seeds, telling them he would never let the 'gas' (methane underground) kill them.
But strangest of all was his tea making ritual. In England we drink loads of tea and we usually make it in a teapot, adding milk first and sometimes sugar to the tea when it's in the cup. Not Alf Tombs. He made tea in a kettle, an electric kettle.
Water, tea, milk and sugar all went into the kettle and it was boiled up to make a brew!
Those were strange surreal nights and early dawns, drinking tea listening to the canaries sing their hearts out. Sitting next to the ghoulish Alf Tombs.
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