Five Cafes, Some Market Research and A Story: Part 2: Part 5

Cafe 5: 15.28 – Belle and Herb’s, Heaton (no website)
Harlequin Cake: £2.70
Mug of Latte:£1.90
Coffee and cakeStrangest thing I’ve seen today: 3 old people (60+ at least) sitting serenely in Belle and Herb’s through System of a Down being played at ear splitting volume as they ate their meal.  Maybe that’s why they come here.  Maybe they were just passing and saw that the queue wasn’t stretching round the block…

A Story: Part 2 – My One True Love

My one true love

I promised you last night we could talk about her, although Heaven knows why you want to bring her up – you always get so upset and you know that does you no good at all.
All right, I’ll tell you our story – again!
Don’t look at me like that!

You were everything I’d ever dreamed of:  Beautiful, intelligent, comfortable with silence, you got on with my friends – but not too well, you loved to cook – but were happy to order pizza from time to time, you made me as complete and as happy as any man had any right to wish.  You know that.  For some reason you felt the same way about me.
When I told you that one of my best friends from before we met was desperately ill and looking for somewhere to stay and be looked after  for her final few days, it was you who suggested (out of the blue) that we convert your study and the pair of us take a couple of weeks off work to take care of her.  It was a beautiful thing to suggest – I always loved you for far more than your looks, you know.

Maybe, if I’d told you the full truth then you would have said something different and all this could have been avoided, but the truth of the matter is that I’d forgotten nearly all about her and that you, being you, would have brought her into our house with open arms – and probably would again.

Go to sleep, my beautiful one and we’ll talk some more tomorrow.

Five Cafes, Some Market Research and A Story: Part 2: Part 4

Cafe 4: 12.45(ish) Tyneside Coffee Rooms
Pot of Old Java: £2.20        Cheese Burger: £2.70         Pot of Assam: £1.55     2 Mint Imperials: Gratis
                                                Chips: £1.85
java potburger & chipscuppamintsLunch!
I’ve been coming here for years.  They’re about to start redeveloping to add another floor.  There are flyers (fliers?) advertising: “CHANGE!” Change is bad.  (Central Library’s closing for two years for change – a disaster!)  It was enough of a shock when they replaced the wobbly death-trap-waiting-to-happen ceiling fans with fans that actually moved air around and didn’t look as if they were considering letting go of the ceiling for a giggle – part of the Coffee Rooms’ charm died that day.
But the coffee and food continue to match the service – pretty good and reasonably priced too.  So, I shall continue to provide my patronage.  (What a poncey way of saying, “I’ll still go.”!)
Not all change is bad – the happy, giggly, smoochy couple who were sitting just out of the corner of my eye have payed their bill and left.  All is quiet and normal cafe-murmuring again.
And they’re playing the theme from “From Russia, With Love.”

Five Cafes, Some Market Research and A Story: Part 2: Part 3

Cafe 3: 11.45am Starbucks, Grainger Street, Newcastle
1 large mug of production-line joy: £1.99
Starbucks Coffee
At least a pint of pleasant, if somewhat unspectacular, americano goodness.  I could pretend that I was just going to ask for a “cup of coffee” and then lost my nerve – for comic effect but I’m as brainwashed as the next man/victim and I know my place – plus I think by now they’ve got their staff trained to either shoot wannabe comics on site on sight or just give us a mug of espresso topped up with hot water.  Still, anything’s better than two spoonfuls of instant in hot tap water, right?  Especially when one’s just killing on the way to lunch at somewhere more distinctive.

Today is being taken as a kind-of-Sabbath.  By which I mean, not that I’m forcing it to wear black, mumble in a Brummie accent and sing proto-metal songs about Wizards, War Pigs and Fairies in Boots (which could have been cool), but that – after the meeting this morning (which had been planned for weeks) – the aim was to do as little of routine as possible (i.e., no work, no dealing with bills, no tidying etc.).  So, I turned off my mobiles and headed for the nearest cafe in the hope of being able to while away the day sitting, drinking coffee, praying, reading the Bible and maybe writing a bit.  (I resisted the urge to bring a novel with me just in case I couldn’t hack it with the Good Book, but I did bring Michael Lloyd’s ‘Cafe Theology’ {provide link} which I’m also reading.)

So far, there’s been precious little praying but I have read the whole book of Daniel and finished the chapter I was working through of Cafe Theology.

Reviews (& Synopses)

A bunch of Israelites are beaten in battle and taken off, captive, to Babylon (Chaldea).  Daniel and three friends are chosen for a three year course in King’s Advisorship.  Awkward from the start, they:
– refuse to eat the food provided (probably sacrificed to idols or porcine or both) and request vegetables and water instead.
Result: they become healthier that the other students, who routinely stuff themselves with ‘rich food’, and thus stand out for promotion.
– refuse to worship fantastic golden statues.
Result: they get thrown in a hot furnace where God saves them, and the king then passes a decree prohibiting speaking against God.
– refuse to stop praying to God.
Result: thrown to the lions, God saves, king passes decree ordaining ‘trembling before’ of Danny’s god.

Other notable achievements:
interpretation of various dreams, telling a king he was going to live like a donkey for the next seven years and not getting head cut off, and seeing visions detailing the military history of the next few hundred years.

Pretty action packed for a short book – especially since the second half is all dreams and prophecy.  I didn’t have any commentaries to hand, but I imagine they’d claim that authorship was dated somewhat after the events prophesied took place – which, to my mind, smacks of cynicism.

Cafe Theology:
An introduction to ‘basic’ Christian thought.  Working from ‘Creation’ through ‘Fall’, ‘Providence’, ‘Incarnation’, ‘Atonement’, Resurrection & Ascension’, ‘Spirit’, ‘Trinity’ – the chapter I just finished – ‘The Final Victory of God’, and ‘The Church’.
Every chapter has prompted me to go, ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought about it like that.’ at least a couple of times, and ‘Trinity’ was no exception – mainly the idea that since God is eternally in a loving relationship with the other persons in the trinity and we’re created in his image, then, even though we’ve become creatures born of conflict that’s not our ultimate beginning and there is a hope and a possibility of restoration – as opposed to a simple rise and fall from and back into chaos.
Any book that can make me see things in a new way has been worth reading – even if it is published by Alpha.

At least Starbucks pay somebody to press the buttons for you…

Five Cafes, Some Market Research and A Story: Part 2: Part 2

Cafe 2: 9.58am – Cloister Cafe, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle
Cup Coffee: £1.25                    Cup Coffee: £1.25
                                                    Scone: £1.05
1st coffeeCoffee and SconeNo bottomless pot.  Almost deserted, paper cloths clipped to tables.  DHL man with a parcel being told, “They[the bookshop]’re closed on Mondays.  They know they shouldn’t have deliveries on Mondays!” and then making them sign anyway.
“That’s emotional blackmail!” through from the kitchen, two customers walking in and saying, “Hello!” as they pass my table, a third comes in, gets his coffee and sits and glares at me.  I start to read:
Daniel 1:8-15 – proof that a vegetarian diet is better for you than ‘rich foods’ even if they are provided by the king.
10v3 – All that time [three weeks] I tasted neither wine nor meat, and, of course, I went without desserts – Three weeks without pudding!  Unthinkable!  Seems he abandoned the the vegetarian diet too.

Hmmm, tasty buttered scone: They were sat there in a basket on the counter, full of raisins and glazed on top – looking for all the world like genuine Eccles Cakes.  The ladies at the counter were much offended but very good natured and I ended up buying one since it was almost eleven and time for a mid-morning snack.  Had it heated up on their suggestion and it was very tasty, if slightly dry, but don’t tell them I said that or I’ll be in trouble.

Dan 11v24 – first inspiration for Robin Hood?

Anyway, the coffee was pretty good here – made from beans ground and measured out into an espresso filter by an impressive clicky thing and arriving (at the counter for me to carry back to the table – at least I didn’t have to pick my own polystyrene cup and press a button this time) in a white procelain mug with a dinky jug of milk.


Five Cafes, Some Market Research and A Story: Part 2: Part 1

Cafe 1: 9.10am – Treveylnn Building Cafeteria, Rye Hill Campus, Newcastle College
1 cup coffee:         65p [I had to clear my own table which is why there’s a picture of a bin instead of the coffee in the cup.]

Rubbish BinOn Friday, I left my diary at work.  This morning I had an appointment at nine, for which the diary required.  I got up very early, for me, paid over-the-odds for a Metro to take me to work, picked up the diary and was pleasantly surprised – first, by a personal card in a package I’d ordered and then by bumping into an old aquaintance at the station on the way back.  We squashed ourselves into the carriage and once I hit town I rushed to college for my appointment.

Now, I’m sitting in the cafeteria, listening to a dodgy 80s compilation from the staff’s stereo and having just finished an equally dodgy cup of coffee from a polystyrene cup which could be tasted through the coffee.  There was also a weird scummy gloop at the bottom of the coffee and all I taste now is the cup.
My tutor had had extra lessons ‘thrust upon’ him and hadn’t emailed or called to rearrange.  I keep overhearing snatches of students’ conversations – these alternate between inducing: despair, feelings of superiority and of guilt, and frightening me in swift succession and equal measure.  There’s a spark of anger about the meeting, but only a spark.  It hasn’t thrown me into the pit which would have wasted at least a day – which is progress – and a spark is better than nothing.

I feel tired, but alive.

I can still taste the polystyrene.

A Story : Part 1 – My Beautiful Wife

My beautiful wife

No, not the other one – you.  We have plenty of time to talk about her later, my one true love.

Darling, the stars were out tonight.  The street lights got in the way and there was no way I could get out into the country to see them properly which is probably a good thing.  Even the poor show on display took me back:

We’d met the week before at a mutual friend’s and after bumping into each other by chance in some local dive we ended up holding each other, lying in a field miles from anywhere, and watching the night sky.  The Milky Way was stretched out like some galactic sash around Miss Universe, the constellations jumped out and we re-christened them one by one, taking it in turns to wish as we saw star after star fall and shoot across the sky.  I wished for the same thing every time, which would have annoyed you – you said afterwards that you’d taken the chance to make as many wishes as possible and anybody who didn’t was a fool, I coughed and looked away.  So, we held hands, looked at the skies and lay there, waiting for some great revelation as we told each other the kind of secrets you can only share with comfortable strangers.  The skies told us nothing.  We drifted into sleep and never dreamed of what was beginning.

Yes, that was a long time ago.  It was clear and warm then too.  I never did tell you what I wished for, it can’t do any harm now.  I wished that you’d be mine for ever, and I yours.  I don’t know about forever, but we’ve made a pretty good go of it.  You never did realise how perfect and beautiful you were.

Sleep now, I’ll be back tomorrow.

I have to improve my interview technique

Today I took several hours out of the office to attend four job interviews, it should have been five but the first one was cancelled.
I performed stunningly all day and I’m still stuck in the same old job I had at the start of the morning.
It’s nice to have something to fall back on.

Especially if you suck at being on an interview panel.

That’s right! Yours, truly was interviewing other people for jobs. Less than two years since I was on the other side of the table myself and here I am, being all bossly and in charge.
I even wore a tie.

I was so glad that the first person had cancelled since it gave me some time to prepare – I’d just got back from a holiday and the short-list had been drawn up in my absence so I knew nothing about the candidates, nothing about the questions we would be asking and nothing about how to go about being an interviewer.

I was at least as terrifed as when I applied to work here back at the end of 2004. More so – this time around how I behaved and acted would be deciding other people’s future’s and not just my own. Disregard that last sentence, it’s bull-shit (should that be hyphenated?). All that was going through my mind was: “I hope I don’t fuck things up entirely and leave the other two [members of the panel] in the shit.” (Excuse my potty mouth.) That, and: “I hope there’s a totally employable hot single girl who’ll be great at her job and after the pre-requisit settling in period of, oh say, two weeks, days, hours, minutes will realise what a fantastic guy I am, that she loves me and wants to ahre the rest of her life with me. Not to mention her dad’s fortune.”

She must have the one who cancelled.

We sorted out the questions – mostly the same as the questions I’d been asked, who would ask which – I get to ask all the complicated procedural questions, e.g., “When the computer dies and children start eating the books, and your trousers are on fire, and you have seven customers wanting mutually exclusive assistance, who do you ask to help you change the light bulb?” All fairly commonplace really, by the end of the fourth interview I was really hitting my stride. I’ve never seen anybody’s head explode before.

The hardest thing was having to turn my compassion off and think what was best for the company, not who needed the break most or had been looking for work longest, but that wasn’t too difficult – more of a twinge of conscience or empathy or sympathy or something because of all the job interviews I didn’t get when I was looking for work (admittedly this was a long time ago before I came back North, since then I’ve walked into every job I’ve had more or less off the street – it’s keeping the buggers that’s the problem).

Eh well, it’ll hopefully be a while before I have to go through all that again.