Venue: Costa Coffee in Waterstones’ Bookshop in Nottingham.
So here I am with my small cappuccino coffee at Costa Coffee. They have these saucers here that the indentation for the cup is off to one side, not in the middle. This makes carrying your coffee to the table pretty precarious. The tidy part of me wants to see the cup safely resting in a central position and I end up tilting the drink towards me, convinced that I am, that something is not right in the dynamics. Maybe I should have paid the young guy with my two pound coins balancing dangerously on the end of my finger-tips or on the back on my neck. Next time I could take in a mini tight rope walking kit and flip the coins whilst balancing in mid air. And back to reality…
When I was asked if I wanted chocolate on the froth I declined and somehow through juggling purse and change I managed to let loose a bus ticket which landed bang in the centre of my cup and thus sat like a paper sailing ship adrift in a sea of milky bubbles. I joked with the serving guy about bus tickets being the new ‘in thing’ to decorate one’s cappuccino. Maybe that’s what they mean when they call “One small cap to go”. Er, bus ticket = to go. Never mind.
Sitting with my off kilter coffee I had a sly look around at my coffee shop neighbours. There was a crumpled old man with long grey hair slouched in the corner by the window, the fringes of the palm tree eerily matching the fringes of his bushy eyebrows. He was wearing a bright red top and his eyes were scanning his paper. Suddenly an image of my deceased father came into my head and the title of his daily journalistic bible ‘The Sporting Chronicle’. I found myself wondering if this racing journal still existed and then tried to get the image out of my head because the two things, my dad and the paper, were now conjoined. I began to picture him sitting on the loo, trousers round his ankles, ‘picking his horses’ as my mother used to quote. Out bad picture… out!
On the table next to me a woman who looked decidedly Spanish confused me by speaking in German with her friend while her young child clutched a plastic drinks bottle containing juice of a vivid purple hue. I had momentarily looked away to observe two middle-aged sisters in conversation when the child dropped the bottle and an explosion of gooey purple rained down upon the earth, the chair legs, the cabinet of expensive cakes, and the bookshelves and the M&S clothes bag by their feet.
Supermuffin, the hero of the hour, flew from his post behind the counter and mopped away the offending drink contents faster than a tip hitting the bottom of his trouser pocket. I almost wanted to applaud. Is it a plane, is it a bird … und so weiter.
Back to observing the two middle-aged sisters, each bespectacled and uniform in their body warmers. One had a puce yellow drink of something sickeningly healthy and the other a glass of water and now I found myself hypnotised by their amazing joint mastication. Yes you read that correctly, no smut in this coffee shop. Both their jaws were chomping away on carrot cake and mirroring the other exactly. I don’t think even the bottle exploding incident had put them off their stride. They finished by simultaneously licking their lips, in a chorus of approval.
On another table further back, a large lady in a heavy black winter coat and paisley scarf was trying to devour a whole lemon drizzle muffin – three inches wide and four deep – in one fell swoop. The last time I saw a mouth open quite that wide was in a famous Spielberg film about a very dangerous fish.
The place was about half-full or half-empty dependent on one’s philosophy, and I could hear a general hubbub of noise from low-key chat. I never caught the thrust of any one conversation but noted down some random aural gems for fun.
“skipping about… smile on his face… so what did he say about that?” then “got married… took her phone number… and I can guarantee…” and “worst flat there was … literally… you’d hear about it…basically…” and finally “meine mutter… lieber Gott…”
All this chatter was interrupted by the pre-mentioned large lady having a violent sneezing fit and Mrs Jaws let loose a sudden shower of soggy cake crumbs which she tried to catch mid-air with the paisley scarf. In vain.
As she scuttled off choking in the direction of the toilets the man in the corner sucked in some more stale air to keep himself alive. It proved just enough to read the next page of his paper and then he wiped a sheen of soggy lemon drizzle muffin from his brow.
I put my pen and journal away, sipped the remnants of my coffee and haunted the bookshop for ten minutes.
Tomorrow I’ll go to Lee Rosey’s tea shop.
See you there.