Monday, 30 April 2012


Continuing with my birdwatching amongst the Coffee Shop Regulars.......*

*I overhear the conversations because the tables are so close. I'm not spying.... honestly:

Here are some of the lesser-spotted sightings.

NAME: THE BUDGIES                       SPECIES: Ladies who latte

SIGHTING: Regular Friday morning                CALL: They do indeed like to latte

PLUMAGE: Joules; Crew Clothing. Particularly fond of body warmers. Dislike make-up. Scruffy hair. Equestrian boots all year round, except in really hot weather when the Merrell sandals come into their own.

I used to be Sandi Toksvig
This flock of clones could possibly be the result of a failed BBC experiment to cross Caroline Quinn with Sandi Toksvig. They are the mature yummy mummies. Fenella and Aloysius et al have left the nest to attend prep school and now these ladies have the freedom to talk as much as they want. I'm under the impression that they don't actually speak much at home, because once they are released out into the wild they make up for it at 3000 words a minute and often at an octave that rests just slightly above annoying. The noise level is constant and often to the point where you cannot hear individual words – it's just a wall of sound – punctuated with the occasional vibration of a loud, piercing horsey laugh.

I'm afraid it's the dog.....
One thing I have noticed though is they never eat - they are all as sinewy as Madonna cracking walnuts in her sleep. On the one hand of course, they've probably all been out jogging with the de rigeur gundog in the early morning mists whilst I've been dripping Cocopops down my housecoat as I slob out in front of 'It's me or the Dog' on PICK TV. On the other hand, they also don't stop chattering long enough to savour so much as a raspberry and almond bake. Rather like 'Me or the Dog', it's a pleasure I fear they will never know.
Got any Cocopops?

Thus this aviary of lean, fit chirrupers happily chirrup away without the need for breath. My late nan used to put a cover over her budgie's cage at night to shut him up and encourage him to sleep. I am currently investigating where I can get a really large sheet.....

NAME: THE SUITS                                   SPECIES: Salesmen/women

SIGHTING: Various weekday mornings (early) 
CALL: Flat White (in takeaway cups, even though they are drinking in – it's cheaper).                                     Multiple sugar sachets spread over the table

PLUMAGE: Men: Sharpish Suits, flashy watch
Women: Sharpish Suits, flashy shoes
Both: Netbooks except the flashier ones who have an Ipad;
Excess of hair products (particularly the men)
Folders (card or faux leather)
Occasional lanyard

Bunty, we really need to
talk about Donald
The suits can usually be found in groups of 2 or 3, but rarely more than 4. They always, without fail, open the mating call with the: 'how was your journey to Bury St Edmunds?” routine (they all drive so it's usually M11-A11-A14) and the subsequent follow-up:  'where have you parked?'  Then it's on to serious work matters. I have noticed that the women of the flock tend to stick to talking shop (fear of the glass ceiling mayhaps?) whilst the men get easily distracted and chat about other things: expensive watches, expensive gadgets, expensive footballers (especially European), expensive cars and how expensive the fuel is to put into expensive cars these days.

Interestingly, the women rarely join in with these diversions, they just smile, force out little laughs or concentrate on their netbooks/folders until they can bring the meeting back to the subject in hand. I have often wondered if perhaps they're really the big bosses and are secretly making notes.......

Note to self: Donald = short attention span & large ego. Absolute boor, guilty of overpowering aftershave and unnecessarily loud socks – Suggest urgent relocation to the Outer Tunbridge Wells office (East) asap. Also, make sure he returns keys to stationary cupboard before he leaves, noticed abundance of acetate sheets & treasury tags in briefcase.

Simon = complete arse, prone to exaggeration, signs of small penis syndrome, probably cheating on wife with Cindy from Finance – Suggest talk to Bunty in HR and see if we can't send him on immediate 3 month tour of the Home Counties in the Fiat Punto with Dennis from IT.

Each meeting seems to be of absolute vital importance to the world of commerce (although I have rarely been able to ascertain what it is that they are actually selling). The intensity of the conversation is usually matched by the stereotypical sales-speak which in turn matches the intensity of my cringing........

***[I am sad to say that the following are all direct quotes - I have actually heard these shockers being spoken out loud]

Sharp suit Man the Younger: 'You know we are playing with a straight bat here' (knee clench)

Sharp suit Man The Elder: 'Well, it is an offer you can't refuse.....' (head hits the table)

Sharp suit Woman awash in Elnett and CK One: 'I'm happy I know all the answers to any of the Qs and As that will come up in the training session' (slowly slides off the chair into a puddle on the floor).

No, it's the M11, A11 THEN the A14
Do they ever plan or come to a conclusion? I'm not so sure they do. It all seems to be a matter of networking and playing a game of 'whose got the biggest cufflinks, coolest phone or pushiest-uppiest-bra-beneath-a-workshirt/blouse-combination. But I love the fact that these Gordon Gekko wannabes keep right on going even though they are trapped between a couple of Iceland shopping bags in Bury St Edmunds instead of a pair of million dollar portfolios on Wall Street. In any case, they all march off with purpose to their various car parks and back  down the A14-A11-M11 they go never to be seen again. Not until the next lot fly in that is..........

Next Sighting: Last in the series – Laptop Lady

Friday, 13 April 2012


Continuing with my birdwatching amongst the Coffee Shop Regulars.......*

*I overhear the conversations because the tables are so close. I'm not spying.... honestly:

A few of the visitors to the coffee shores are more seasonal and not 'regular' enough to be regulars – but regular enough to be noticed.

Here are some of the lesser-spotted sightings.

NAME: THE BORROWERS SPECIES: Middle-aged and middle-class

SIGHTING: Regular weekends                       CALL: A latte

PLUMAGE: Smart Casual Weekend wear, comfortable shoes

As the coffee shop is on the 1st floor of a book store, it can give the appearance of the reading rooms in the local library. The shop displays its wares around the sides of the tables for people to peruse whilst supping and I have actually heard one woman complain that a particular book had been moved (perhaps horrors above horrors, even sold!) when she was only half-way through reading it – turns out she had been working her way through several pages every time she came in for coffee for the past three weeks and was most miffed when it had been replaced by Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History in Time' (sorry Mr Hawking, I only got to page 4, but that's another story). It is also quite tempting for people to treat the place as more of a reference library than a money-making operation and it is not unusual for someone to take notes from the stock while they are having a latte, then just leave the book the windowsill along with the empty cup.
Take for instance, the Cookery Man. He comes up the stairs, spectacles on top of his head and laden with several over-sized cook books (food section is on the ground floor). Then he sits and copies out the recipes into an ever-bulging folder.   I haven't noticed any specific food genre – he seems to be drawn more to the actual size of the book – and the bigger the better.  Italian, Tapas or Thai, Jamie, Nigel or Prue, I just can't see any pattern to his selections. Also, he is always alone; I don't know why this should be significant - it probably isn't.  Maybe he holds a lot of dinner parties, or maybe he is tormenting his ex-wife who was always dieting, by anonymously posting recipes of really tasty dishes through her letterbox late at night....


SIGHTING: School holidays                         CALL: A latte and a croissant for the child

PLUMAGE: Head to foot Boden, Chelsea Tractor Buggy, Accessorised by a small child/baby

Each Yummy is usually accompanied by an ignored toddler who will inevitably stand right next to your chair and stare at you with wide open eyes. You inevitably give an awkward smile back – because anything more than a weak simper may result in the blessed thing sitting down next to you and engaging you in conversation for the next 20 minutes (much to your annoyance and the mother's delight). Within the bowels of the adjoining pram lies the complimentary baby which, by the sound of it's lungs, cannot be more than a few weeks old.  This tiny scrap cannot walk, talk, feed or fend for itself, but can produce the kind of sonic boom that will demolish a 12 story block of flats just by sound alone and indeed, quickly empties most of the tables surrounding it. The mother frantically scrambles through a huge, quilted Mary Poppins bag to find a baby bottle and sort out some carrot sticks for the child, who is still standing 10 inches away from your face – don't make eye contact, don't meet it's gaze, that's all they need, just the tiniest crack and the next thing you know your quiet coffee turns into unpaid child-minding and it'll be covering your fruit 'n' oat fingers in snot before you can say Nanny McPhee.

Of course, all the children get bored within 15 minutes, but the Yummies are determined to preserve a little bit of their pre-stretch mark years and 'catch up with the girls'. They are not going to be deterred by a few bored kids, oh no - they have come prepared: out comes the colouring pencils and Bob's yer uncle, Fanny's yer aunt, you've ended up in some ad hoc Mother & Toddlers-R-Us-With-Coffee-and-a-carrot-stick-Group. “Why don't you draw mummy a lovely picture while she talks to Auntie Philomena?” is the constant refrain. (NB: I've noticed most kids actually dislike colouring, especially in public places and especially when they are expected to do it for longer than 3 minutes). Consequently, very few pictures are produced, still, the Yummies are made of stronger stuff and continue with other activities such as: giving the car keys to the smallest ones as substitute rattles and: setting up “wheels on the bus” with the now empty chairs that are now surrounding them, thanks to mighty lungs in the 4x4 buggy.

Needless to say, none of it works; the children simply don't want to sit indoors at a table and watch their mums talk for an hour and a half; they crave rapid-fire activity.... and most of all, attention. Nine times out of a dozen, the Yummies end up giving the child their iPhone to play with while they chat amongst themselves about the latest hand/eye co-ordination achievements of little Fergus, Bertie, Ffion and Thomasina. And so, in a wonderful sense of missed irony, a communication device replaces communication.

Engage with your child? There's an App for that...