Friday, 13 April 2012


Continuing with my birdwatching amongst the Coffee Shop Regulars.......*

*I overhear the conversations because the tables are so close. I'm not spying.... honestly:

A few of the visitors to the coffee shores are more seasonal and not 'regular' enough to be regulars – but regular enough to be noticed.

Here are some of the lesser-spotted sightings.

NAME: THE BORROWERS SPECIES: Middle-aged and middle-class

SIGHTING: Regular weekends                       CALL: A latte

PLUMAGE: Smart Casual Weekend wear, comfortable shoes

As the coffee shop is on the 1st floor of a book store, it can give the appearance of the reading rooms in the local library. The shop displays its wares around the sides of the tables for people to peruse whilst supping and I have actually heard one woman complain that a particular book had been moved (perhaps horrors above horrors, even sold!) when she was only half-way through reading it – turns out she had been working her way through several pages every time she came in for coffee for the past three weeks and was most miffed when it had been replaced by Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History in Time' (sorry Mr Hawking, I only got to page 4, but that's another story). It is also quite tempting for people to treat the place as more of a reference library than a money-making operation and it is not unusual for someone to take notes from the stock while they are having a latte, then just leave the book the windowsill along with the empty cup.
Take for instance, the Cookery Man. He comes up the stairs, spectacles on top of his head and laden with several over-sized cook books (food section is on the ground floor). Then he sits and copies out the recipes into an ever-bulging folder.   I haven't noticed any specific food genre – he seems to be drawn more to the actual size of the book – and the bigger the better.  Italian, Tapas or Thai, Jamie, Nigel or Prue, I just can't see any pattern to his selections. Also, he is always alone; I don't know why this should be significant - it probably isn't.  Maybe he holds a lot of dinner parties, or maybe he is tormenting his ex-wife who was always dieting, by anonymously posting recipes of really tasty dishes through her letterbox late at night....


SIGHTING: School holidays                         CALL: A latte and a croissant for the child

PLUMAGE: Head to foot Boden, Chelsea Tractor Buggy, Accessorised by a small child/baby

Each Yummy is usually accompanied by an ignored toddler who will inevitably stand right next to your chair and stare at you with wide open eyes. You inevitably give an awkward smile back – because anything more than a weak simper may result in the blessed thing sitting down next to you and engaging you in conversation for the next 20 minutes (much to your annoyance and the mother's delight). Within the bowels of the adjoining pram lies the complimentary baby which, by the sound of it's lungs, cannot be more than a few weeks old.  This tiny scrap cannot walk, talk, feed or fend for itself, but can produce the kind of sonic boom that will demolish a 12 story block of flats just by sound alone and indeed, quickly empties most of the tables surrounding it. The mother frantically scrambles through a huge, quilted Mary Poppins bag to find a baby bottle and sort out some carrot sticks for the child, who is still standing 10 inches away from your face – don't make eye contact, don't meet it's gaze, that's all they need, just the tiniest crack and the next thing you know your quiet coffee turns into unpaid child-minding and it'll be covering your fruit 'n' oat fingers in snot before you can say Nanny McPhee.

Of course, all the children get bored within 15 minutes, but the Yummies are determined to preserve a little bit of their pre-stretch mark years and 'catch up with the girls'. They are not going to be deterred by a few bored kids, oh no - they have come prepared: out comes the colouring pencils and Bob's yer uncle, Fanny's yer aunt, you've ended up in some ad hoc Mother & Toddlers-R-Us-With-Coffee-and-a-carrot-stick-Group. “Why don't you draw mummy a lovely picture while she talks to Auntie Philomena?” is the constant refrain. (NB: I've noticed most kids actually dislike colouring, especially in public places and especially when they are expected to do it for longer than 3 minutes). Consequently, very few pictures are produced, still, the Yummies are made of stronger stuff and continue with other activities such as: giving the car keys to the smallest ones as substitute rattles and: setting up “wheels on the bus” with the now empty chairs that are now surrounding them, thanks to mighty lungs in the 4x4 buggy.

Needless to say, none of it works; the children simply don't want to sit indoors at a table and watch their mums talk for an hour and a half; they crave rapid-fire activity.... and most of all, attention. Nine times out of a dozen, the Yummies end up giving the child their iPhone to play with while they chat amongst themselves about the latest hand/eye co-ordination achievements of little Fergus, Bertie, Ffion and Thomasina. And so, in a wonderful sense of missed irony, a communication device replaces communication.

Engage with your child? There's an App for that...

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