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…

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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)

2017-09-30 09.24.02

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.

 

2017-09-30 09.24.41

 

 

It began with a coffee shop…

(Something I started writing back in 2015 after visiting a coffee shop in a nearby town. I’ve edited it a little, it’s surprising how my style has changed over the last two years. It’s still rather bland and just the opening scene but it’s better out here than gathering dust in a laptop folder…)

‘Excuse me, may I join you?’

That’s how it started.

I sat in the coffee shop, my cappuccino in front of me. Two paperbacks from the library lay on the table in a plastic shopping bag. It was my third visit here. Only 9.30 in the morning, but I liked to avoid the crowds and make certain there was a choice of seats.

Situated next to a small supermarket in a quaint Kentish town, a few shoppers drifted past with a number of middle aged women accompanying their silver-haired mothers. Around me, with their oversized cups of coffee, were a mix of retired single gentlemen and ladies, either seeking the company of the gentle hubbub of the pedestrianised passageway or stopping off for a rest before the walk home.

I usually headed back for my coffee. It seemed an unnecessary expense to buy when I could be home in five minutes and getting the same for free. But I had associated morning coffee in the lounge with my mother. It had been our time, a regular opportunity to meet up and exchange simple conversation. Now I felt the need to get out, to be surrounded by life.

I sipped from my cup. I gazed towards the shops across the paved walkway, imagining like so many others what type of life the people going by had.

Today I looked up, startled. A lady, in her forties, holding a cup in one hand and a handbag in the other, was hovering over the seat opposite me.

‘May I sit here?’

‘Er, right,  yes, of course.’

My eyes flitted around, spotting empty tables and chairs. I wondered why someone would want to sit with me.

The woman tugged the leather chair back, dropped her bag onto the floor and sat down, her cup still held above the table in her hand. Her brunette hair was stylishly cut down to an inch or two below her ears with longer strands hanging either side of her chin. She had one of those wide mouths that somehow made her instantly likeable.

‘I hate sitting by myself, and I’ve spotted you in here a couple of times, so I thought you’d be okay.’

I raised my eyebrows.

‘Er, I suppose I take that as a compliment, ‘being okay’.’

The woman placed her coffee on the table.

‘Sorry, I didn’t mean it to sound, you know, patronising or something. It’s just, it can be awkward being a woman by yourself, especially if you want to sit around for some time. There’s always some man who’ll try and chat or offer to buy you another cup.’

I sat up straighter and self-consciously tidied my bag of books. I looked directly at her for the first time. Her hazel eyes had a sparkle, just like writers would say in a corny romance. But they did. They had life in them. I could quite understand why men would offer to buy her a drink. Or two.

‘I think you’re pretty safe in this quiet little town, most men in here seem retired and maybe a little bit tired.’

I nodded towards a couple of individuals near the window who were certainly scruffy, wearing crumpled beige summer jackets with their white hair sticking out over their ears. I couldn’t imagine a caring partner letting them out like that.

The woman drank from her coffee and replaced the cup on the table. Her lips were coated with a pale shade of orangey lipstick, something I always thought looked glamorous and seductive.

‘Oh, they are the worse, they just talk and talk, it’s terrible getting away from them. Part of me feels sorry for the old so-and-so’s, the other part is itching all over and wanting to run for the door.’

Her lips spread into a wide smile. I shifted my eyes to my own coffee and lifted the cup which in my house would have passed for a soup bowl. I’ve always liked women with those wide lips, just I like do women with cherub lips. Two extremes attract me it seems.

‘You come in here often then?’

In my head I couldn’t help but think what a corny chat-up line that was, but then I wasn’t chatting her up. Was I? No, I’d been enjoying the break from home and the chance to watch people around me. Women coming up and talking like this was a novelty. I felt out of my depth.

The woman adjusted her top, sleeveless blue with white polka dots, and rested her bare arms on the table. Her skin was slightly tanned, not I thought from hours spent soaking up the sun on a beach or by a pool, but probably from just being out and around in the fresh air. Or maybe it betrayed her origin or parentage. Her accent was very English, but that could be misleading.

‘Just in the last few weeks. There are so many coffee shops in this small place, it’s unbelievable. I can’t think how they all survive out of the tourist season.’

I nodded. It was a subject of many conversations among the locals, especially when some picturesque but unprofitable shop closed and was replaced by yet another outlet which placed its tables and chairs outside on narrow pavements and offered free wifi trying to recreate the insular camaraderie of ‘Friends’ or the bustling streets of Paris.

‘Yeah, there have been rather a lot springing up over the last few years.’

I took a drink. It had been sometime since I’d had a longer conversation with a woman, I didn’t quite know what to say. I didn’t want to bore her or drive her away but I wasn’t sure what she wanted; someone to talk with or just another body sitting on the same table to keep away unwanted offers of coffee and company.

A hand popped across the table.

‘I’m Immy, by the way. Short for Imogen.’

Her hand felt warm and soft. I hoped mine didn’t feel too sweaty in return. I noticed how slender her fingers were, longer than mine. The nails were coated with an orange varnish a shade darker than her lipstick.

‘I’m… Jim.’

I stuttered over the word. Everyone in the family knew me as Jamie, all at any work as James. Why did I go for Jim here? And Jim and Immy – it sounded ridiculous. Suppose I’d said Jimmy, she might have thought I was taking the micky.

‘So, you’re an avid reader then, Jim?’

She nodded down towards the two books I’d borrowed from the library earlier. One was inside the bag, the other lay face down on top.

‘I was, not so much now. I actually borrow them to check if the authors have mentioned their agents. I want to contact a few.’

Immy’s mouth dropped open, revealing near perfect teeth.

‘Really? You’re a writer? That’s way exciting!’

I laughed. She had a nice way of making you feel relaxed with her voice and expression.

‘No, not really. I have written a novel, or rather a very long story as I call it. I thought I might as well send it off, you never know.’

‘Wow, that’s amazing. You’ve written a novel, you sit around in coffee shops, with a pile of books in front of you, that seems like a cool life to me!’

As she rocked in her seat her shoe accidentally grazed mine. I moved my foot back, hoping she didn’t notice. It was a long time too since I’d had any physical contact with a woman. Even the slightest innocent touch might cause me to misinterpret the signs. But it was nice moment, I had to admit.

‘Well, not really. I only come in here about once a week, it’s a bit expensive, I live ten minutes away and coffee’s free at home. But it’s fun watching other people, writing can be lonely at times.’

‘Oh, I’m sure, it takes great discipline too, I imagine. But you must feel proud, having written something like that.’

‘Sure, if you’d said a year ago I would write over 100,000 words on one story, I wouldn’t have believed you.’

Immy’s eyes widened.

‘A hundred thousand. God, that’s unbelievable.’

‘Well, most of it, like any book, is sort of padding, you know. You have a basic story and just fill it out in a way.’

Immy took her cup and sipped her cappuccino, flecks of foam sticking to her lips. Her tongue darted up and along, wiping the white away.

I almost turned to see if there was a movie director around somewhere, it was one of the sexiest things I’d ever seen, and it happened right in front of me.

‘What do you do, Immy?’

She looked at her cup, tipping it towards her, the remains of the coffee swirling dangerously close to the edge.

‘Me? Right now not much. I’m taking time out, enjoying life. Regrouping, you could say.’

‘Right.’

Divorce rang through my head, it seemed the obvious explanation. Or a trial separation. Maybe her husband had had an affair. Maybe she had. I couldn’t help but think any man would be mad to cheat on her. I wondered if I should say it out loud, but I didn’t. It might appear too cheesy, or even suggestive.  It was just, one moment I’d been here pleased to be out enjoying the change, the next this was happening. I wasn’t used to such things. I wasn’t used to exploiting these situations. If a woman asked me to help her change a tyre I’d do it, but I wouldn’t follow up and ask her for a drink or a meal like some men would.

I felt it better not to pry into her answer.

‘And you’ve been coming in here much?’

Immy took another gulp of her coffee.

‘A few weeks, once or twice a week, or in another coffee shop. It’s good to watch people. I bet you do that for your writing.’

‘Um, yeah, I suppose I do, although not regularly, as I said earlier. Perhaps I should do it more.’

 

And so on… I wonder where this could go from here?

 

 

 

 

All quiet on the coffee front

A visit to a neighbouring town found me taking a coffee in Mr Bean’s around 9.30 a.m. and it was remarkably quiet. It was an overcast day with drizzle but then again you thought that might have sent people scurrying into a coffee house for a drink and chat.

2017-09-25 10.05.33

There were a group of older women behind me who had come in in ones and twos so were clearly a ‘ladies who do coffee’ group of some kind. And I only just realised this establishment does two shots of coffee as the default setting, I wondered why I found today’s cup a little strong after several visits elsewhere last week specifically asking for one shot only. With a blood pressure check on Thursday I thought it wise to keep my caffeine intake lower before the pesky nurse bans me from all types of coffee. Can you stand going into a coffee house and asking for a tea?

2017-09-25 10.05.24

Just discovered in one of my laptop folders a little opening scene I wrote after coming into this coffee shop back in 2015. I was going to add it here but I better read it through first in case it sounds too banal and cliched. I’ll put it up tomorrow.

 

Round goes the gossip

(written in coffee house, one quick edit at home…)

Round goes the gossip,
north country accents machine gunning in a southern seaside town,
reshaping body shapes for coffee charged window-wishing dress buying,
Christmas decorations crisis early exhorted,
texting daughters rapid reply replayed,
head-nodded knowing,
proud envy sigh-shared;
make up base colours cross-checked,
creamier cream over beiger beige,
promised swift swap of free freebies,
vicious visits to inviting in-laws quick-chatted,
shops right rated by cross counter intercourse,
a sex of dancing words;
roads flash flooded in drenched downpours,
washing unhung as stair rods descended;
faded curtains charity shop listed,
husband’s lazy languidity sigh head-shook,
life’s quirky queries countered in ten minutes
girl-buddied word volley.

 

 

 

Market marketing

2017-09-07 09.14.51

Stallholders stalling,
watching,
waiting,
breakfast burger half devoured,
publicly chewing,
publicly watched,
eyes staring like a fisherman’s bait,
catching eyes,
a caught contact the first line of a contract;
hands back grasped,
nervous fingers counting empty,
in empty palms,
coffee cups dreg dredged,
cold liquid for comfort to a body belt lightweight in cash,
buggies one handed push by,
screen hypnotised mother’s see no market,
only messages of nothingness,
pensioners wander pleasant smiling, morning greeting,
pleased to interact in a lonely world of absent work and offspring, non-buying,
false hope to enduring stallholders,
the young work weaving,
drink and food finger-balanced on speedy sprint to waiting desks,
ignorant of table merchandise:
flowers, books, clothes, teas, breads, organic milk,
fast flying by;
the sun lifts cloudy shades,
warming bodies bring warming words,
smiles and jokes bring clicking wallets,
a sale,
a sale,
a sale from precarious futures.

 

And wow! Quite a ‘medium’ coffee in Costa’s…

2017-09-07 08.56.47