The coffee shop culture
It’s a miserable, damp Sunday morning. Too early to be out and about, but when your teen has a job and needs transport, there’s not much you can do about that. The rain is pelting the car. The automatic lights have come on, even though it’s almost 9 a.m. It should have been bright enough by now.
But it feels like it’s been this way every Sunday, regardless of the time of year.
I’m cold, so I make my way to the coffee shop. It’s too far to bother going home for the couple of hours that my daughter is working, so although I’d rather be curled up at home under a blanket with a good book, this is the next best thing.
A cup of hot steaming coffee is the only way to go and the coffee shop is warm and welcoming. The sounds of the coffee machine penetrate the air, drowning out the chat of the sociable and punctuating the thoughts of the reflective. This is a place for everybody.
I’ve been coming here for a while now, same time every week. But I’m not a local. Not yet. I take my coffee, smiling my thanks at the barista, though I’m not sure he recognises me, and move to a nearby table. Today, I’m in the corner, near the group of older ladies who meet here every week to sit and read the papers in comfortable silence. From here, I have a good vantage point from which to watch people coming and going. It’s too interesting not to and I’m fascinated how one tiny place can bring together so many different people, all with their own stories to tell.
In comes the old boy. He must be in his 90’s, I’m guessing. Even though he struggles to walk, it doesn’t stop him from getting out and about, clearly, and he refuses any help as he makes his way back outside to smoke his cigarette. Along the way, he stops to chat to people he knows. It seems everybody here knows him and I imagine he has a story or two to tell. This is Biggin Hill. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was a war veteran. The RAF had a base here at the airport after all.
In come a group of cyclists, wet through but smiling nonetheless. They’re an animated bunch and they sit, discussing something they’ve recently been watching on TV. Close behind them is another bunch of men, younger, tattooed. They’re fighting for air time between each other. I’m not sure if any of them are actually following the conversation. I’m certainly not. I can hear the group next to me, though, chatting about football. I wonder what all these people are doing here. What brings them out so early on a Sunday morning, in this weather as well.
Whilst some come to sit and enjoy the inviting warmth of the cafe, others have popped in for a takeaway, pausing to chat with the staff, whom they seem to be on first name terms with. They catch up on holidays, work, family, the usual. One is a middle aged woman who has been to the country where the barista is from, the other is a gypsy man. There are a lot of traveller settlements in this area.
I’m supposed to be doing some work, but people watching is much more interesting. It is a writer’s job to observe after all!