25 May 2012


I was recently planning with a keen young researcher the arrangements for setting up a psychosocial study. This led, as it inevitably and logically must, to a discussion of the merits or otherwise of different types of café.

One particular melamine topped department store café we both agreed was to be avoided. Then I realised that I was confused (it happens often and I recognise the signs) and was actually thinking of a different store, in a different chain, entirely.

Which set me thinking about melamine topped chain store cafés in general, and how I feel about them.

Regular readers will know that I am a habitual café sitter. My regular haunts are usually small, sole trader ones but I have a subterranean fondness, too, for the identikit kind and I am fairly frequently in them.

As I explained to my young colleague (and, as I now remember, I commented a few years ago from an Ikea superstore), this dates back to my fourteen year old self who saw himself as Chim Seymour or Henri Cartier Bresson. I would sit for hours in the basement café of a Bon Marché department store with my Zorki 6 (a conscious copy of Cartier Bresson's Leica), a cooling cup of watery coffee, and a cassette of Ilford HP3, watching life and surreptitiously taking photographs (like the one above left, for example).

The staff of the café were perfectly well aware of me, for all my delusions of invisibility, but left me alone. Whether the customers were aware of being stalked by a spotty and gangly young Bresson wannabe I don't know. But they were happy days, and every melamine surface I see (echoes, there, of Simon and Garfunkel's Homeword bound) is imbued with their nostalgic glow.

1 comment:

Clarissa Vincent said...

Recently Costa Coffee has attracted me back to the 'cafe in town' habit. For several years I'd ceased, for money saving and also due to having a bigger house boat with enough space to make my own coffee and enjoy it at home. The reason for regrooving this social taste is a deal I made with myself - If I take my saxophone with me, then I will easily afford the £2.45p cost of a soya latte at Costas. Another pleasure of this is a change in my morning routine. Instead of getting out of bed, drinking tea, having breakfast, washing, doing the washing up, feed the dog, clean my teeth and getting dressed, I simply get dressed and take the dog straight up to Costas to watch the street scene through sleepy eyes and occasionally chat with people. I check my phone calendar, make notes of tasks to get done and read the newspaper.
After an hour with a long soya latte I pick up my saxophone, find a decent busking spot and let the caffiene sing.
All this for £2.45p, a bargain, especially as my deal with myself (soya latte if I busk too) adds enough coins to my pocket to feel satisfied, all by noon.