Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Monday, 13 March 2017
I have just snitched this photo from Joanne without her permission, but at least it comes with a self-built credit. Over on her place I commented that this was exactly what H.I. does to me silently with her eyes every morning. I don't need a paddle waved at me.
I have never been issued with a refill sign like this one whenever I have had breakfast in an American cafe. Usually a waitress came round unbidden with a pot and refilled without my asking. The coffee was almost nothing but brown, burnt-tasting water when I was there, and the waitress marvelled at how many cups I could sink - in one case a whole pot - just to get the caffeine-hit which would have been provided by one cup of Italian coffee. It was the same with beer, but I hear that there are many craft breweries there these days which make much stronger stuff than the tasteless and watery Budweiser.
It was H.I. who introduced me to real coffee, about 45 years ago when she still lived with her husband. I was brought up on instant and 'Camp', but was deeply impressed with the mysterious and intoxicating smell borne on the billows of blue smoke shooting from the grilles of the coffee-roasters in London whenever we visited. Whenever I smell roasting coffee beans (which is very infrequently these days) I am brought straight back to childhood.
London to me was purely exotic - African men with skin so dark that they looked green; specialist and ancient shops and suppliers like establishments from Diagon Alley; the Christmas shop windows with moving scenery; the Oxford Street lights seen through thick fog and whole streets permeated with thin blue coffee smoke which you smelled before you saw.
As soon as she was able, H.I. left Sheffield and came down to London. Not just any old part of London, but the heart of Soho, where she was surrounded by film producers, sex clubs and - most importantly - Italian coffee shops.
Every morning she would have coffee in Valerie's (where she became good friends with the owner - Celeste - an Italian man with a French name running a French cafe) and every afternoon have coffee in the Bar Italia, surrounded by some very Italian-looking men who were doubled in the small room by mirror-lined walls.
When she wanted to buy coffee to take and make at home, she went into the marvelous Algerian Coffee Shop. Take it from me - by the time she came to Bath she knew all about coffee. Mocha was the staple, but High Mountain Jamaica when she was feeling rich.
Bath had its own coffee roasters and importers called Gillards, and I would quite often stand right next to the exhaust of the roaster just to remind myself of childhood visits to London. Gillards still has an outlet in the Guildhall Market, but these days the roasting is done miles out of town on an industrial estate.
There can be no better way of selling your goods than to blast out tantalisngly delicious coffee-smoke into the street and let the wind do your advertising, but in smoke-free Bath this is no longer allowed, so Eastern European men walk around with billboards telling of pizza deals, using the same technology as that coffee-paddle up there in Joanne's photo.
Going into a coffee-roasters was the savoury equivalent of going into a florist, but these days most flowers are brought in by the ton from Holland and have virtually no perfume at all.
Is it any wonder that older people are always banging on about the old days to kids who have never experienced these simple delights?