Life Chez Dee Episode #50: Cafe Musings
It was suggested to me that I should sit in a café and write my blog. It was my minister who suggested it. Running the charity is sometimes quite solitary, and so too is the life of a writer. It was his opinion that not only would it offer some company for me; a feeling that I was amongst others, rather than sitting alone at home. To be honest it never occurred to me that I had quite a solitary existence, quite the contrary in fact. I suppose there are so many occasions when I do meet people, and am amongst so many, that I don’t really think about the times when I’m by myself. I think I need time to myself quite honestly, time to think, recharge, process and indeed let my thoughts be creative, and I’ve always quite liked my own company as it happens. It was also suggested that maybe I’d have a lot more material to write about, more people to watch, more people to perhaps talk to even in passing. Maybe, there is an element of truth in this, not that I feel I am running out of material whatsoever, quite the opposite in fact. Only last week Justin said to me that he found it interesting how easy I find writing, and that I could probably churn blogs out at the same rate Barbara Cartland can produce a novel! I took this as a compliment ... I think it was intended as such. I actually don’t plan when and where I write my blog, I write when I feel the urge to write, and I write whatever comes to mind at that time. I am incredibly observant, and I’d go as far to say that my writing is generally observational, and always through experience. Observational of others, as well as of myself. Anyway, this suggestion that I sit in a café to write must have been swirling around in my thoughts as that is exactly what I did just recently. And it was fascinating. People watching is fascinating. I defy anyone not to enjoy people watching. It’s real, relatable, interesting.
People have loved watching others for as long as time … soaps, reality TV shows, autobiographies all point to our interest and fascination in others … their characters … their lives. I remember so many times and occasions when I’ve been people watching … with my friends … with Justin. You don’t know the names of the people you see but some of them really stand out … their features and characters highlighted and accentuated like a caricature in my mind. Names are invented for these people to describe them, some kind names, some not so nice, concentrating on both their endearing, as well as their not so endearing traits. “B.O. Bloke” springs to mind (the clue is in the name … need I say more); “Connie” (the lady on the bus who used to be plastered in what we regarded cheap make up, almost clown like with her face painting … we called her Connie after the relatively cheap make up brand Constance Carroll); hippie lady (she had coloured hair, piercings all over and bells on her ankles); there was “Dimples”, and indeed there was “Dimples’ friend” or “DF” as we called him …. there are so many more, but all these names were used when we chatted to friends about our day, our journey into work, and back home. Who had we seen that day?… it was all part of our story.
I sit and watch, with my laptop and a coffee, writing my thoughts and musings of the morning. I look at all who are standing in the café queue... all waiting patiently … others not quite so patient, huffing and puffing that those at the front of the queue are exchanging pleasantries with the café staff. A hello, how are you, comments on the weather, on what the day has in store, how busy it is, how empty it is, why there’s a shortage of teacakes and other worrying things to discuss.
You can’t just ask for a coffee these days … it has to be a latte, cappuccino, Americano … hot milk, cold milk … tea isn’t just tea, its English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Earl Grey … bag or loose leaf. You need to be specific … and my goodness does all that vary from place to place. The tea varies as to what pot is used, which brand of tea is used, which cup you drink it from. Yes I’m a fusspot, I like loose leaf, in an old fashioned teapot, plenty of milk, and a nice (preferably vintage) teacup and saucer … forget that horrid thick rimmed white cup and saucer you generally get in cafes. I know for example, and I can’t really complain as it’s really cheap, but in Booths, I know what I like. I like loose leaf English Breakfast tea, with a large jug of milk, and a flat white cup thank you very much. Of course, sometimes, if I know who will be making the coffee, if it’s someone who can make a nice latte, then I’ll order a latte. Either way, something very milky is always on the order.
I’m writing this blog in that same well known local supermarket, always busy, because its rather nice and airy inside, you can pretty much always get a seat, and the drinks are incredibly cheap given that you can get them half price if you’re a cardholder.
So many people meet there, individuals who take their laptop and do a bit of work taking advantage of the cheap drinks and the free wifi; the groups of mums catching up after the school drop off; the retired couples who’ve popped in for a few bits of milk and bread etc whilst on their regular visit to the café … the café more likely to have been the reason for their visit, rather than getting the milk and bread.
I know my mum and dad are daily visitors to this café. Every day, like clockwork, regular to the minute, at 9.30am they’ll arrive. Two lattes and a well done teacake is the order, one regular latte, and one with one shot and plenty of room for the addition of some cold milk (for my mum). I know I’ll find them there, and I can just show up knowing that that is where they’ll be at that time. Woe betide if I’m late, as they’ll have already ordered, and already be drinking their coffees, and by the time I’ve queued up and got my drink, they’ll be almost finished. And they won’t wait. When they’ve drunk their coffees they’ll get up to get their bits of shopping that they’ve come in for … and I’ll be left to finish my drink by myself – no mind, I’ll catch up with messages and emails and make use of the free wifi too. Off my parents go to get their fruit, milk, and packets of tongue …. They buy so much ox tongue that I’m sure this makes the sales figures rocket … they must sell significantly more of this product in this store than in all the other Booths stores put together. As an April Fools joke last year, Justin decided to prank them and said he’d managed to google the sales figures of tongue, and St Anne’s Booths was top of the leader board.
It’s such a great place to sit and people watch. I know there’s nowt so queer as folk, but my goodness I think they see it all in this café. All queuing, all with their little foibles, as to how they want their drink. “A very hot latte please”, “A latte with half a shot”, “2 extra shots please”, “A latte with the coffee at the side so I can add my own”, “Tea with a flat white cup”, “Tea in a large mug”, “Tea in a teapot, but mugs not cups please”, “Two extra teabags in the pot please”. There are so many quirky, eccentric, regular and lovely customers, and of course there are some impatient, shirty, pernickety, not so nice customers (thankfully these are in the minority), and I know you get used to people, but my goodness, some of the nonsense would try the patience of a saint. And so they’re polite, and friendly, and interested in their customers, and put a big smile on their face through it all. So from me, a big smile, and a big thank you for putting up with my fussy ordering, and making my visit to the café a rather nice one.