I walked up to the counter of a small branch of a famous coffee shop (better not start naming names) this morning and asked for an espresso. Simple enough. Or so you'd think...
I'd been to this place before and last time the woman behind the counter had kindly shown me the tiny cup and explained that it was very strong, clearly expecting me to realise what a silly mistake I'd made and that I'd instead ask for a nice fluffy girly drink in an oversized mug with choc sprinkles or marshmallows. "No just an espresso please," I replied, "in one of those tiny cups". I declined the offer of milk, frothy and otherwise, and smiled sweetly to reassure her as she handed over my little cup of pure evil, still unsure as to whether she was giving me the right thing.
This second time I could feel, as I approached her, that it was going to be a similar battle. Today I was very tired, I really needed the caffeine fix, I had an important appointment to get to and a lot to do, I was soaked to the skin after half an hour walking in driving rain. I wasn't really in the mood to have to explain what I wanted, considering I was using the exact word which was printed on the large menu hanging above the counter, which should surely be easy enough with such a limited menu? But I was out of luck.
"Can I have an espresso please?" I asked wearily - weary from my journey and with anticipation of the confused exchange which was about to happen. "Just plain?" she asked, "Or do you want it skinny?"... I was rather taken aback by the skinny option being offered for an espresso. I'm not really sure what skinny means. To be brutally honest I'm not sure she did either. Maybe it means with-milk? I decided to avoid the word completely, "Yes I'd like it plain please". No Milk, I thought, good. I started to get the feeling that she'd not really been listening to me when she started crashing around with milk cartons. Some people think they know best, like those hairdressers who give you the cut which they think suits you and not the one you've asked for. As if I don't know my own hair or my own palette, I've lived with them both for 33 years - I know what I like and I'd really rather like to have what I want. It's misplaced benelovence I suppose, thinking they know best, but what happened to the customer always being right?
"Do you want skimmed?" she chirped over the buzzing coffee machine. "I don't want milk thanks, just plain." This caused some confusion and a palpable air of incredulity from behind the counter, "But you asked for it skinny!!". Trying to remain as polite as I'd been brought up to be, although in my mind I was beating her around the head with a very small cup, I replied "No I didn't, I asked for it plain."
How am I supposed to know what the coffee-speak is for without-all-the-fancy-stuff-you’re-trying-to-make-me-have? And what hope was there for me if she didn't know the coffee-speak for a rather popular type of coffee?
I continued very patiently to explain that I would like a strong black coffee in a small cup. This had to make sense surely? Maybe she would even shake her head at me and ask me if I wanted an espresso then... that would be progress. But, no, the connection was lost. I was handed a normal (regular) sized black coffee and begrudgingly paid for it, mumbling that if I'd wanted an Americano I'd have asked for one - I know that much coffee-speak!
Now with literally two minutes for my coffee break and a very hot coffee to drink I was rather despondent. How lovely it would have been to have had a strong sweet shot instead of some coffee flavoured water! So I took a few sips, roughly an espresso's worth, and carefully returned my cup and saucer back to the counter on my way out, secretly hoping that she might be left wondering to herself, if all I wanted was a few sips, why didn't I just ask for one of those strange miniature coffees instead?
Here's the full version of the sculpture I pictured below - it's called the Mud Maid. I think it's so beautiful because she's at one with nature and her appearance changes with the seasons. Her hair is grass and she's clad in plants, so she has more or less of this depending on the season and she's weathered so she could have been there for eternity. I'm sure she could inspire some more verse...
The earth mother awakes and Snuffles in the dirt for her baby. She can feel his weight in her arms, She can smell his honey hair Touched to her face as she whispered Her soothing love into his crown. She remembers staring into him, Seeing his need mirroring her own in his wide eyes, rarely blinking. But he is gone. And she is desperate. The forest echoes with her cries Guttural sobs rising from empty womb Refracting through trunks and branches Converging into one mournful wail. With swollen eyes raised to the canopy She pleads to her god with rasping implore To return her to her whole again, for He is gone. And she would go too.
Another post to the Guardian Poster poems. It's becoming an obsession, but hopefully a learning curve too. This one I've tried not to rhyme...
The Moon spills its milky light From its small pocket in vast denim sky, Intermittently crossed by translucent clouds Obscuring its blank marble face. Extending its spindly pale fingers It snatches into depths of darkness Reaching wherever it is allowed By the blaring man-made globes below. They pierce the gloom, but remain silent Unwilling witnesses to harsh scenes Illuminating the noisy streets Mute as the moon drifting hopelessly above. Darkness swells around artificial shields Under which the revellers clash, Shining bright peacocks in vivid clothes Sucking lurid potions through pugilist lips. Men in checked shirts and sunday shoes, With cigarattes dripping from loose fists, Women with brassy bangles and glassy jewels, They meet to fight, the night their battleground. . .