Decaf scribble

(again, long time no write here, too busy with life and trying to edit two short novels, but here’s something written today, encouraged only by a decaffeinated latte…)

THE COFFEE HOUSE

Friday morning early, a coffee house faking Italian charm in a fake seaside town, historical fame long lost with the rising tide and crumbling cliffs.

Three sit with eyes fixated on screens, fingers tapping messages to no-one and blogging viewpoints to a readership only clicked through for reciprocated likes.

A barista chatters nonsense to a line of young women, eager for quick takeaways and even quicker getaways from chat up patter outdated in an age of legal minefields.

Older gentlemen sit, beige-coated, staring at passersby, remembering themselves long gone, chances not chanced, decisions wrong decided; pretty women bring a resurgence of desires with no hope of satisfaction.

A rush retreats, the room sits quiet, each seat an island of discontented content, preferred loneliness here to sat alone in a home no longer homely. A loud voiced conversation begins, phone to ear, private exchanges made public with deliberate intent, a proof they live a life unlike the other lost souls adrift in this coffee ship. Machinery hisses and spurts, milk tops pop, dregs disappear drained, one shot, two shots, extra shots, sprinkles and caramel, a vocabulary voiced across a counter stacked with packaged snacks rated red and red and red, all sold unwarned and unwary.

Classical strings harmonise a background, ill-fitted to a clientele dressed for pubs and clubs, layering the atmosphere warm with the unseasoned heating system soft hummed.

The hour hand stretches up straight, feet shuffle from different corners, timings timed to reach platforms as trains slide home and doors slide open.

Outside hot hand held cups are carried across a precinct still quiet as offices buzz alive with phones and bright screens, elderly women drag two-wheeled trolleys to catch the market full fruited and full bloomed, children toddle coat-clung to cigarette smoking mothers, too young for schooling, too old for early morning sleeps. Retired singles wander life lost, companions lost too early or never found among the rush of chasing money and reputations, shops and malls the only workplaces for them now.

The loud-voiced barista conducts his audience, half appreciated, half detested, a last day employed doubling his volume of adrenaline. Queues ebb and flow, each wave wavered in decisions of beverage and seating, no desire to share a stranger’s life, no wish to change their routined day, for better or for worse; no risk of failure brings no risk of success.

The coffee house churns out another day, another latte, another mocha, another another.

 

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A day of new beginnings

The story I’m writing at present, the one I’m working on predominately in local coffee shops, started after a brief conversation with a sales assistant. I used our chat as the first few lines of the story. Yesterday I had three incidents, in coffee shops by coincidence, all of which could be used, and might be used, as openings for new stories or novels.

The first was a silent one. I sat with my coffee around 8.45 in the morning, trying to get my tablet computer to start up and I looked up and saw a woman staring at me. She was seated at a table across the way,  mid thirties, coat still on, coffee steaming in front of her. I recognised her from a few days previous when she had been standing in front of me in the queue for coffees. The barista had seen me and said ‘Your usual?’ The woman looked at me as if surprised someone like me (as old as me?) bought their coffee so often in this place that the assistants knew my order by memory. And there she was, looking my way a few days later. I continued battling with my tablet (see yesterday’s post) and when I glanced her way again a few minutes later she was looking my way again. Now, I know I bear an uncanny resemblance to George Clooney…(that’s humour by the way). With further comings and goings she must have exited quite soon after as the next time I peered her way the seat was empty. But…what a story could develop from this…she comes over and says hello, asks me what I’m typing, or whatever. The beginning of a romance story? A murder mystery? Could be taken anywhere.

About fifteen minutes later I’m head down tapping away now that my tablet is working properly when suddenly a woman waves her hand in front of my face saying ‘Hi, how are you? I didn’t see you there!’ I looked up. I’d never seen the woman before in my life. Once she saw me face on she quickly said ‘Oh sorry, I thought you were someone else…’ etc. A very pleasant mid thirties lady, very apologetic. Now, where might that incident go? Mistaken identities? Her way of forcing an introduction with this handsome guy working mysteriously on his computer? Could be a good start of something.

Then, in the afternoon, in a different coffee shop, actually the cafe area of a local bookshop, I’m tapping away again on the tablet (I had a free coffee on my loyalty card at this establishment) and on the next table was a very attractive young woman in her mid to late twenties, no ring on her finger, computer open, books and folders all over her table. I heard her make a phone call, something about ’10 gigabytes’ I think. Ordering internet connection? It’s a very pleasant seat I’ve got, watching this woman, close to the counter so seeing all the new customers coming in, and next to a window overlooking the inside of the small shopping mall. Suddenly the young woman gets up, comes to my table and says ‘I need to pop to the toilet. Can you keep an eye on my things while I’m gone?’ Of course I say yes. She returns a few minutes later and says ‘thanks’. We go on working until I have to leave. So what might that have led to? Suppose she hadn’t returned? I would be left with a computer. What might I find on it? Or she might come back and offer to buy me a coffee to say thanks. Our conversation would start and ..? Could be another interesting opening.

You can see that February 7th was quite a day one way or another. Considering I’d been going to these coffee shops for near three months and nothing had happened, I’m wondering how much longer I have to go before I have more interesting incidents occurring! Now, do I go back to that book shop cafe this afternoon, at the same time? Will she be there? Would I dare sit near her..?

 

Panic in coffee shop!

 

One of those days. You’ve got your coffee, found yourself a comfortable seat with a good view of outside and the counter…and your tablet won’t log onto the wifi. This means I can’t access the document with my ongoing story on. Don’t ask me why it hasn’t downloaded onto the tablet in the past but apparently it hasn’t, doesn’t, won’t. The coffee shop’s wifi wants me to set up a new account as I can’t remember my old password. So, through the process we go, then it says as I have attempted to log on too many times it will freeze me out for a while. Holy coffee beans!

Anyway, I keep cool. I load up a fresh document and rack my brains to remember where I had got up to in the story. It comes back to me and off we go, writing at last, half my coffee consumed already to steady my nerves. Fifteen minutes later I decide to try the wifi again. And of course? It logs on! I now access my original document and continue writing from where I got to on the new document. Once home I end up merging both pieces of writing and all is well. I think the issue might have been that I switched the tablet on at home then walked to the coffee shop. Maybe it didn’t like the bumping around. Maybe it’s on its last legs. Hang tight for tomorrow’s attempt…

Nice moment in the coffee shop later. A woman, early thirties, got up from one end of the room, headed out then came over and waved her hand in front of me saying ‘Hey, good to see you!’ I looked up. I’d never met her before. She realised I wasn’t who she thought I was. Lots of apologising. Sounds like a promising opening for a new story..?

 

 

Places to write

As I have explained in previous posts and on my Twitter feed I do favour writing in coffee shops. Where I was once able to write alone at home I find I now need people and noise around me.

A comfortable seat in required and ideally a table at the right height so that I can prop up my tablet and type with both hands. Stabbing with one finger with the tablet on my lap is tiring and slow. I usually get to the coffee shops early, around 8.40 a.m. and often just catch the bustle of the office and shop workers claiming their takeaways. If the queue is too long I take a hike around the shops and come back five minutes later. Most of the coffee shops hit a quiet patch around nine when the office, shop and student customers have all gone. Now its me and half a dozen similar aged men plus a few regulars who traipse in at thus time. Where they are heading for later I’ve yet to discern.

When I first began to hang around these places I made a few notes about the day ahead, I was not writing a story. Most of my time was spent watching the people walking by outside. Then I got an idea for a particular tale, just as I was getting bored with the notemaking. Now I average around 500 words in a forty minute session. I feel I can’t stay any longer, particularly if the place is beginning to fill up and I’m hogging two seats. After forty minutes my legs are crying out for movement too. Occasionally I have bought a second coffee but I usually head home or go around to another coffee house for the second cup. At least my legs get a bit of a stretch.

As I write this, the story has reached around 22,000 words. I’ve no idea how much longer it will go. It might be 23,000 or 100,000. If it’s the latter I might require a new bladder… Right now I just plough on. It’s better than working.

Here’s one of my favourite coffee haunts, in a branch of Waterstones Bookshop. You can’t beat being surrounded by books, especially new ones, the aroma is gorgeous. And the coffee’s good too.

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The best environment for writing is this one, a branch of Cafe Nero. They have a wonderful curved glass window overlooking the pedestrian precinct, great range of comfortable, if a little worn, chairs and a really friendly (and attractive) range of women baristas. It all helps… Oh, and I love their coffee too.

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Sorry for the blur – must have had too much caffeine…

 

Coffee people

(not a poem today, just a list of the people seen coming into one of my local coffee houses while I start the day there with my one shot latte…)

 

…a woman typing on her phone, not looked up once since sitting down; a man reading his book; an older man studying a newspaper, eating dunked biscuits; a woman outside reading her small screen and smoking; two men talking out there, smoking nonstop; two young female assistants chatting; a businessman buying a cappuccino, paper pad in hand with old fashioned pen clutched; an older man coughing, with two bags, with a double espresso looking like he needs it; a man on a mobile, very polite, disproving his dishevelled appearance;a  lady with a dog for takeaway coffee; a young man with skinny jeans buys a takeaway too; a woman with a child in a push buggy; two young women talking, one now on her laptop; two middle aged women taking up seats on the leather sofa; a short sleeved gentleman paying with notes from a wallet, with an American accent; each person’s order separated by ‘enjoy’; and a pigeon slaloming the chairs and tables outside…

Passing lives

(sitting in a warm coffee house today it was hard to ignore the individuals passing by or inhabiting the glassed walled room)

salt and pepper haired,
nether aged,
silent cornered,
laptop hypnotised,
mobile phone grafted to ear,
ringing cathedral loud,
answered megaphone loud,
his business now our business;

office hurried buxom girl,
shoulder strap half-masted,
sailing half-masted,
bag bedraggled,
black straightened hair a sail in full set,
coffee tight fist wrapped,
a takeaway shot to shoot away hours hard seated,
suit harassed;

coffee house female assistant,
black robed,
one word loaded,
‘enjoy’,
smile enticing fake friendship,
word widened by long earning orders,
menu list confident,
robotic repetition ricocheted,
a brained beauty awaiting freedom.

grey  regular urgent shuffles,
minutes late punished
by a different table,
routine routed,
same order caffeine coughed,
to maintain order in his unordered
lonely life;

tight jeaned,
tight topped,
black braided long locks,
fresh landed on new shores,
looking for streets paved
with gold,
finding pavements cold coated
with bronze,

young mother slow walking,
hand in hand with blonde
miniature replica,
worn boots scuffling forlorn,
wondering where dreams of everlasting love dissipated
into monotonous minutes time monopolised
by small mouth never sated;

young youth outside slumped,
cheapest coffee table rotting,
cigarette lip hung,
smoked to last pre-filtered inch,
hair waving all ways,
unloved and unloving,
parka-ed against all weathers and obstacles,
satchel strap loose,
not school life supporting,
but a life leather wrapped within,
battered and secondhand.

 

 

 

Strummed out

(Another poem written while consuming an early morning coffee, inspired by a lone guitarist on the pedestrian street)

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Grey hair bun-tied,

left leg beating the beat,

sunglasses shading eyes from cloudy skies,

strumming for a latte,

or something stronger,

interrupted by handshaking passersby,

well-wishing with zipped up wallets,

reliving teenage hopes of fame,

and one night stands,

now playing for pennies,

and one night hostel rooms,

80s Brit pop mixed with 60s simple shorties,

thinking he cuts a mean Mick Jagger in a rundown seaside town,

watching rainclouds drift,

not groupies beckoning,

crowds drifting around his island of 6 string melancholy melodies,

voice strident strong as they pass with eyes shopfront fixed,

even the seagulls have pecked the red button to exit,

raindrops fall,

but no happy cyclist with handlebar girl is he,

another rainy morning with cap waterfilled,

and coin deserted,

by dusk enough for a beer,

and dreams of what might have been,

decades lost ago.

 

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