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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Coffee for Phil? People watching at Starbucks.

Some days can be one of those days that come upon one when one feels the need to people watch. This day was one of those for oneself. One had fun.

I chose to go to the new Starbucks opposite the railway station in Nottingham for my people watching pleasure and a coffee. This was about 9am this morning. The refurbished building is the former home to the Bentinck Hotel and public house and was smaller inside than I ever imagined it to be. The friendly Starbucks assistant took my order and my name. The cappuccino was presented to me as “Coffee for Phil?” Now that's personalisation for you. I have been officially branded as a Starbucks' customer to be greeted by name next time and politely asked, “Your usual Phil? Cappuccino, medium?”

The coffee, almond croissant and I sat in the window and watched the world and its mobile phone go past.

There were a fair few- dodgy weasel - like characters sloping off toward the Job Centre or maybe to catch a tram. Who knows the course of destiny in this life? These weasels are easily identified with their pointed faces, jagged yellow teeth, flickering dark eyes, nervous of being spotted in the daylight and sporting pale blue and white nylon track suit ensembles last seen on documentaries about 1970s Eastern Bloc athletes. In the animal kingdom a male weasel is known as a dog, a buck, a Jack, or a hob while females are known as a Jane, a doe, or a bitch. From what I saw out in the rough and tumble of Station Street, there may have been a few Troy, Tyler and Chantelles among them as well. And a few dogs. I'm resisting further comment.

In England, groups of weasels can be seen moving around together in early summer. These are usually a mother and her young, out on a hunting expedition which can be quite large due to a good breeding year. Many of my passers-by may well have savagely hunted down a lucrative Giro and its distant cousins.

I also saw a few confused looking individuals with travel bags standing underneath the huge sign that points to the temporary ticket office and train station entrance. They seemed oblivious of its presence. In the world of pantomime someone would have been compelled to shout out “It's BEHIND YOU!” Instead I drank my coffee and nibbled the almond croissant, knowingly.

As I wet my finger to pick up the sweet almondy crumbs of my almond croissant I witnessed the blur of an older man rapidly pushing a small child in a pushchair. The adult and child both had the exact same unhappy grimace on their faces and the man, with his thick, shoulder length, dirty blonde hair, could have been a world weary Brad Pitt twenty years from today playing the lead in the film 'The Baby Pusher.'

Someone is now behind me on his mobile phone talking the talk. I hear snippets of... 'function' ...'very exciting'...'what we might do is'... 'get Clive to sort it'... 'sorry I'm in Nottingham. Starbucks'... This was followed by some warm laughter from the man and I noticed he said the word 'does' like 'das'.

Then a rat scuttled past. Not of the type Rattus norvegicus but a truncated man, all long brown straggles of greasy matted hair and a filthy looking coat. Mr Ratty reminded me of a roughish, tricolour swathed, historical character living in revolutionary France whose destiny it was to scurry about, squeaking and shrieking, claiming liberal freedoms for all mankind and rodents too! The last I saw of rat man was his bruised and battered tricorn hat falling into the bloodied basket along with his severed head. The Starbucks coffee drinkers rose in blood thirsty unison and roared their barbarous approval and then returned quietly to their beverages. One man tried to sing the French national anthem but as nobody else knew the words, I stopped short at … Aux armes, citoyens! Pity really. I was getting quite roused.

Another passing fella's gargantuan stomach heralded his arrival five minutes before the rest of him came into sight. As he turned the corner two lanes of traffic had to slam on their brakes to let him by.

As if to illumine this parade of ne'er-do-wells a beam of godly light issued from the heavens and a smartly dressed black couple in grey Sunday best coats waltzed by in a triumph of beatific smiles. If only all the people with their headphones turned up to max and those hypnotised by the world of Nokia and Samsung had stopped to look and listen they would have heard the heavenly chorus sing a mighty “Hallelujah!” But alack and alas they did not and were not blesséd among the throng.

Now comes the half human storm that is the deep purple face of anger; a man bedevilled by devils (or too much crack cocaine and Dandelion and Burdock). This torment on legs had a twisted snarl on his face where, if a smile ever did there reside, it would call itself – embittered and be damned! His name was Gareth – meaning 'gentle one' in Welsh.

Gareth stood steaming in the middle of Station Street, oblivious to the honking of the city taxi hooters and Arabic curses and wrenched off his stripy blue and red bobble hat, shouting madly to the skies “What happened to my fucking drink Bentincks!!!”

You see that's what happens when you turn a man's drinking hole into a coffee shop.

“Another cappuccino please and make it frothy.”
“Straight away Phil. Medium isn't it?”


Christopher Frost said...

Certainly some odd types lurk around that part of town. Possibly because the job centre is just down the road & not sure if there's a homeless shelter on London Road too

philip lowe said...

There is a Job Centre Plus just down the road. I know cos I used to be someone signing on there. A lot of decent unemployed folk go there to sign on and genuinely look for work. And yes, I think that there a homeless shelter further on. Saying this I have the good sense and grace not to be critical of any of the unfortunate afore-mentioned people just a small element of dodgy folk skulking around.

Karen said...

I recently wandered down to this (to me) strange part of town when I decided to visit Hopkinson's Antiques centre. It's like another world down there, nobody smiled, or even acknowledged each other, & there was an man distributing free magazines who tried 4 times to persuade me to take one - even when I waved the 2 I'd been given earlier at him, he gave me a blank look & waved more at me. You ertainly saw a great variety of human life whilst in Starbucks.If only there had been somewhere which sold decent cups of tea I might have been persuaded to 'watch the world go by' too, as I rarely drink coffee.

Jean said...

Another great story. What a joy it is, taking the time to watch the world go by, even if most of what,s going by would not win any beauty contest.

I am sitting in the Eurotunnel car park at the mo, watching the whole world and his mother flee the country in search of above-freezing temperatures. There was a cock-up on the ticket booking (might confess later) and we are lucky to still be getting across the channel today. Our crossing has been bumped to 12.00 but what the heck, it's better than having to come back tomorrow.