Sipping in London
I left the train station and walked past the Savoy theatre, recalling memories of watching ‘Dreamboats and Petticoats’ with Mum and Dad, pre-London lockdown. I remembered, the crowd went wild for the appearance of Hank Marvin in the audience, although I was too young to know who he was; Dad educated me.
Crossing the road, a vision of a ‘flat white’ swims inside my head as I continue to the coffee shop, push the heavy door open, and walk inside. I can smell rich brown coffee, and hear familiar sounds in the place I am calling home for the next half hour. Somewhere to switch off from the daily rituals, rather, I feel aware of the stimulating sights and sounds around me. Perhaps this was exactly the point of being here, to take that in, and use it as a writing prompt.
My coffee and I take our place at the tall bench, which is situated directly by the window, and watch people walking past. Many walk fast, often with tightened eyebrows, and some with a disposable cup in their hand. Why was this our self-soothing ritual these days? Did we love the feeling of the warmth in our hands, the status of the cup, or the caffeine boost? A myriad of thoughts carousel my head as I take a sip, before I bring my Moleskine notebook out of my backpack and place it on the bench in front of me.
Drinking-in London all around me, I am encouraged by her embrace, to create a piece of reflection from my senses. I want to write. My purple pen rocks back and forth in a fast, fidgeted motion, between my fingers, as I gather my thoughts of what I see through the window. Nothing flows. I wonder if this should be a moment to watch and think, rather than feel and write. I close my eyes, breathe and listen. Beyond my ringing tinnitus is a plethora of sound. I am thankful for that, since the surgery. Eyes down, pen connected to the paper, I begin. Hearing, listening, writing.
The coffee shop manager has a dominant voice with a strong London accent. ‘Nah, ya can’t eat your food and sit there,’ she finishes off with, ‘nah.’
The seat next to me is pulled back audibly. I wonder who is going to be my temporary neighbour. I decide not to look; that feels rude, and overly familiar. I use my imagination, and senses, to picture him. A bunch of keys land in symphony next to me.
“Oops, sorry,” the owner mumbles to me as his hand reaches within sight of my right eye. Oh, a clue, damn. I want to imagine all of the physicality of him, just for fun. I nod, without looking up, to let him know it’s ok and continue back with my pen. I focus back on my writing and my senses.
I hear the steamer, which gives the milk its froth, hissing above the other sounds. The bang of the stainless steel fridge door, which opens and closes more times than it is designed to do, disrupts the roar of disordered voices. My neighbour begins to talk on the phone. An English, Surrey accent, possibly private education; he sounds confident and competent. I like that, and remember how strange it is that we create judgements so quickly within our heads.
The white paper holds my focus as I enjoy the writing prompt of the café, and London itself, the glory of life, and all those around me who continue with their own business. Within a shorter time than I would like, my white cup and saucer contain only froth. I know I need to leave soon for the appointment I have in the city. While I finish my last paragraph, the man from Surrey picks up his keys. His chair moves; goodbye handsome stranger. He walks past the window in front of me, I think. Who knows? There is a sea of faces. He doesn’t look as I imagined him.
That was when we had the beauty of seeing faces.
Now In 2021, we read eyes and foreheads while the lower half of the face remains covered with a mask.
The coffee shop is closed now. I miss that. The escape, the variation of the cup, the eclectic atmosphere, the different prompts; all adding to the creation of the words on the page. A writers’ retreat, which only writers will understand.
It won’t be long now. Will it?