I’ve been in denial for a while but it’s time to come clean: I spend £2000 a year on coffee.
A crack cocaine habit would probably be cheaper.
I’m the person who enters Caffe Nero and before I can even say, ‘regular one shot, extra hot, skinny, wet latte – in a paper cup’, the barista is already cranking up the temperature gauge on the milk frother, with a knowing nod and an inward sigh.
But it’s not the coffee that I’m addicted to – it’s the coffee shop culture that I’m really hooked on. There’s something about sitting back, sipping on my latte and watching the world go by that keeps me coming back for more.
Who wouldn’t want to eavesdrop on these two woman (I call them ‘The Miserleys’) putting to world to rights each morning?
These po-faced pensioners actually put their fingers in their ears when a crying baby is in earshot. I’ve started hoping that an unsuspecting new mum will pop a screaming newborn right next to them, just to see their horrified faces.
The Miserleys would have a field day if they ever got chatting to SuDick.
But my favourite coffee shop character is Peter – a kindly widow, who drives from his house near Harrogate every morning for his regular cappuccino and a seat in the window.
The first time I met Peter was when he sat himself in the seat opposite me. I was about to get up and leave, and thought I’d throw a friendly, ‘What are you up to today?’ his way.
An hour later, he was still talking, dabbing his wet eyes with a handkerchief, as he described scattering his wife’s ashes under her favourite tree en Provence.
His beloved Brenda, it transpired, had passed away a year and four months ago. Life wasn’t the same anymore, he said, as I waded through the 140 pictures of Brenda, he was eager to show me.
In the space of an hour, I heard all about his love of Italy, his glory days as a body builder, running a car garage in North Leeds – and the fact that his son and his brother never come to visit him, and his daughter lives in Australia.
But his saddest statement was this: ‘It doesn’t matter how many days out you plan or how many friends you see, when you turn that key in the door at the end of the day, it’s just you in an empty house’.
I was almost in tears myself.
The next time I saw Peter, I told him I was off to do some decorating.
‘Brenda loved decorating…’ he said, wistfully. ‘It’s a year and four months since I lost Brenda now…’
And off he went again.
A week later, I told him I had him I was going to the gym.
‘Brenda loved the gym…’ he said. ‘She was such a beautiful woman…’
Last week, I did something bad. I saw Peter ambling across the car park towards Caffe Nero – and I’m afraid to say, I hid behind my car. I just hadn’t got 30 minutes to spare to chat about Brenda.
Still, I told the husband about my new friend Peter and one Saturday, as the barista was busy burning my milk, there he was.
‘Look, it’s my friend Peter!’ I said to the husband, pointing proudly.
Peter waved and began to head over… but then something extraordinary happened: he walked straight past me!
Instead, he shook hands with the lady next to me, and then ventured on to greet the person on the table after that.
At that moment, I realised Peter knew everyone in Caffe Nero – even the The Miserleys.
My coffee shop friend didn’t just want to cry on my shoulder; he wanted to cry about Brenda on everyone’s shoulders.
Peter might be special but I felt a little less so.