I spent the morning of my day off masquerading as someone from another layer of the socio-economic sphere (a layer closer to the crust, I would say), as I made my inaugural visit to Jack Wills on George St and then, acting on a tip-off from the Admin Supremo, I tried out Burr & Co for coffee.
Trying out the toilets first – not because I judge establishments on the quality of their facilities, but because I needed to wash my hands – I found them to be very posh, and the broadness and lushness of the stairs and hallway reminded me of various American hotels of my acquaintance.
Posh because they had the two liquid-soap-dispensers-per-sink arrangement a proper posh toilet demands. Which requires you to inspect the labelling carefully so as to avoid a premature lotion application. This minefield successfully negotiated, I returned upstairs and opened today’s Guardian. Not to read it, obviously, that would only bring me up to speed with what’s not happening with Brexit. I opened it as far as page 2, which had the table of contents, to find out where the crossword was, for it was not where I would have expected it.
Nina Simone is playing, distantly.
I sit opposite the counter, and watch various people, who look more at home in a George Street establishment than I feel, some of them knee-deep in make-up, enter stage right and order their drinks.
A number of them look like they’re part of the decaf-skinny-cappuccino-no-chocolate-sprinkles-please brigade. The question which I longed to put to these people when I worked in a café was, essentially:
“Why bother?” and
“Would you like a glass of water instead?”
As a coffee-related aside, McDonalds have recently been aggressively marketing their coffee offerings here in the UK. Taking aim at what they see as pretentious purveyors of coffee, they have a series of billboards which target the flowery naming of small/medium/large by the large chains, and other aspects of the hipster coffee culture.
They also have an excellent, funny and, to be frank, very astute TV ad which debunks the mysticism surrounding the flat white. After a variety of common myths about the flat white are presented, a McDonalds server punctures the superciliousness by explaining
“It’s just a stronger latte with less milk.”
Which it is. Despite what Costa will try to tell you.
The irony is, I have never known a proper hipster coffee shop to buy into the overblown hype around flat whites. And the thing about hipster coffee is, usually, it really does taste better.
Also, McDonalds include latte art in their targeting of hipster coffee.
“We could draw fancy patterns in our milk and charge more for it. But we don’t.”
Or something like that. I take exception to this on the grounds that:
No you couldn’t, McDonalds. You don’t have baristas capable of producing latte art. Nor a proper coffee machine which would allow them to do it.
Coffee shops don’t, in my experience, charge more for producing coffee with latte art. A latte/flat white/cappuccino is £2-and-something, pretty much everywhere, whether it has a nice pattern in the milk or not.
Latte art takes real skill and practice to produce, and I appreciate people adding beauty and creativity to things.
So, McDonalds, I applaud you for your services to flat-white-demystifying, but as regards latte art, wind your neck in.
At the table next to me a lady and her daughter are having coffee. I am guessing at the relationship, but it seems likely. After a time, the daughter departs in the direction of the posh loo. The mother takes time to re-apply her lipstick.
Belatedly I realise that right behind me is a long shoulder-level mirror, which means that the mother could, in fact, have read everything I’ve been writing, provided she was sufficiently interested to make the effort to read backwards. I decide to take the risk, but furtively reduce the brightness on my screen a little.
It’s a long time since I attempted the Guardian crossword. I have recently been re-enthused in my crossword-solving attempts by re-reading Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose (8), which is one of my favourite books of all-time. Possibly number one, in fact, but definitely in the top five.
Since re-opening it, I have attempted a couple of Telegraphs, one of which was quite successful (only three clues left unsolved) but today is my first foray into Guardian territory.
Typically my attempts at the Guardian involve me managing to solve one or two clues on the first pass, and then maybe another one or two if I come back to it after a day or so. But the incentive to come back to it is not high, if I have been thwarted by 93% of the clues first time round. So today I am risking getting my day off to a bad start. But the sun is shining, so it won’t be all bad.
In other news, two weeks on from my melodramatic ski-in-the-face incident, my septum is still numb. Nicola has been parsimonious in her sympathy on the matter. I am considering changing GP practice out of protest.
Guardian crossword update: the first pass through yielded ten solutions, and the second pass another six. I am somewhat encouraged, and, fortified by my pain au chocolat and long black from Burr & Co (both of which were excellent) I stride out to meet the day.
I later found Haggis Pakora in Sainsbury’s, which I suspect may be the most perfect union of national culinary traditions ever.
I shall keep you posted.