Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Monday morning took me to Leeds, a change from the usual routine necessitated by a training course I was booked on at Corporate HQ. In accordance with Corporate Directive #293 (approximately), I selflessly decided to wait until the first off-peak train from Stevenage at five to ten, enabling me to pay a visit to Tesco and have a thrilling time conducting an audit of the rums and spirits category (oh, if only I could communicate the sheer wonder of it in mere words).

Anyway, grocery retail excitement aside (that’s a subject for another blog, I think) what really caught my attention on this trip was something that actually took place before I got on the train, when I paid a visit to the coffee shop. Now, travelling off-peak on inter-city routes you tend to get very different passengers from the peak-rate business types with the laptops and Blackberries. In their place, you get the obligatory smattering of students, of course, but also a peculiar breed of formidable retired ladies with walking sticks and spectacular handbags. And they tend not to be cappuccino-drinkers, much less macchiato or chai fans.

So when they walk into the platform’s branch of the latest funky coffee chain, they have no truck whatsoever with the menu of improbably-named beverages, and order a straightforward cup of coffee, much to the consternation of the people who run the place. You can see them struggling not to respond, in tones of righteous indignation, “A cup of coffee? White with two sugars? What do you think this is, a Greasy Spoon? Begone from my brightly-coloured plastic retail space with its tasteful, if fake, oak floor and pine furniture, and never darken my door again. Sebastian, get me a Tall skinny mochaccino with a coconut biscotti and a scented flannel! I’m going to have to lie down!”

Of course, they never do say that. They just extend a friendly hand and rest it on the scary woman’s arm (only if you look into their eyes can you see the contempt smouldering) and gently direct their attention to the charmingly retro blackboard with its painted-but-looks-like-it-could-be-chalk menu of made-up Italian-sounding names, before slowly talking them through it, pointing out which one is the nearest equivalent to “white and two sugars” – “except for the rich intensity of the espresso beans” or something like that.

And then comes the best bit.

After looking solemnly up and down the menu for a few minutes, our scary lady fixes the barista with a serious look, and asks for a cup of tea instead.


At 7:18 AM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

Exactly what I would order a nice cup of tea or a straightforward cup of coffee, a splash of cream, sugar, depending on how sweet I was feeling at the time.
I definitely would fit in with those old ladies and all the while thinking when and if, I did order a coffee at 3 USA dollars the farmer who produced the coffee got about 3 cents.
Oak floor and pine furniture, a consentrate smell of coffee, the italian names in coloured chalks on the blackboard; hey, why not in spanish, which I guess (I don't know that much about coffee)is the dominant language among the producers of coffee and know more about coffee than the Italians do. I would imagine even the Mexicans who I guess (I doing a lot of guessing today)do most of the picking in the USA know more about coffee. Hey, I can't speak Italian or spanish so it's all the same- leave it in Italian, and make that Twining's English Breakfast tea. Hey, mister could you turn that music down a bit it's doin' me head in. There's a good chap. (song in the background)
"Gliding like a big blue cloud
From Tomkins Square to Upper Broadway
Beyond the park to Sugar Hill
Stops a minute for a latte
We know it's Morph the Cat"
Nice post. I liked it. Cheers Y:-) Paddy

At 11:36 AM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Thanks Paddy.

Coffee's been ruined for me after somebody said to me the other day that it never tastes as good as it smells, and I realised he had a point.

It's like the time my biology teacher told me that the taste buds can only identify four basic tastes, and the rest is down to the nose. Took me years to get over that - put me off my food completely.

At 12:42 AM GMT+1 , Blogger Miss Paisley said...

I always drink plain black coffee. I like it straight-up; as a bonus I don't have to navigate the insane menu. I love the way they look at me at Designer Coffee emporiums when I place my simple order.

BTW jd, You have the honor of being my very first commentor. I would like to add you to my very short list of links. Thanks for your post.

As a side-note, and I might have to expand on this on my own blog, in Minneapolis it is rare for men to use public transportation. It's as if their very manliness is dependent on holding the steering wheel in their hands, burning up fuel, and paying for parking. And don't forget the need for speed. Of course, there is the fact that our public transport isn't very well developed. We have a lot of buses but only one lite-rail train--and that just open recently. Chicago has great rail transport; I think the men there use it as much as anybody. I was in London 2 years ago and I throughly enjoyed the Tube and the trains--particularly late at night when people bring bottles of wine on board and continue their party enroute. The Chunnel was a bit freaky to me; I was very happy to emerge safely in France.

At 9:54 AM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Aw, shucks, Miss Paisley. I'm flattered.

I shall of course return the favour, link-wise, although I've been having a few issues getting my links working properly.

My cousins used to live in Minneapolis, and my other cousin has just moved to Chicago! It is, as some folks even shorter than me have observed before, a small world after all.

At 3:46 AM GMT+1 , Blogger Miss Paisley said...

I've heard that the people in Chicago are generally shorter that the people in Minneapolis. Seriously, my ex-bf, who used to live in Chicago told me that. Have you traveled to the US?

I love the small world comment....

At 8:46 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

I've had relatives living in the States ever since I was a toddler, so we used ot visit once every 3 or 4 years. They've moved around quite a bit, so I've been lucky enough to visit quite a few places - Boston (nearly went over the edge of the boat at the Tea Party), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Yosemite, Hilton Head Island and Washington DC are a few that spring to mind from years gone by.

Since I've been married we've been over twice - once to Miami to pick up a cruise ship, and to New York last October.

Miss Paisley I can't access your profile. Have you checked the box to allow people to view it?


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