Monthly Archives: September 2012

Coffee and TV

Last week was supposed to be my first full week working in Glasgow and my first full week actually making a TV show for the first time in 7 months. There’s nothing like a week of firsts to shake things up a bit. Here’s what happened.

Day 1 – Monday

I’M IN LOVE! I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. You see, he has made me coffee in the past, a couple of times, but I had never noticed the eyes until today.
I’m pleased to say Glasgow has not faded in my estimations and it continues to remind me of New York for many reasons, one of which is that it is full of independent coffee shops. Yes, my new-found love is a barista, and boy, is he good at it. I haven’t been there for a couple of weeks, but he remembered my coffee order and asked me how the weekend was. I told him I’d been sailing and we laughed about the fact that he never got a day off because he was too busy running the café… I melted into his eyes as I handed over my £1.50 (really? He must be under-charging me because of the chemistry) and our fingers brushed against each other gently. Tomorrow I’m going to wear the nicest outfit I have with me, I must get this man.

Day 2 – Tuesday

There is a certain spring in my step as I march down the rain-splattered streets to get my morning coffee, wearing the nicest outfit I have with me. In fact it’s the same dress I am wearing in my headshot on theconversation.tv so maybe he’ll recognise me from that and admit he’s actually my biggest fan and how refreshing it has been to get an insight into a modern woman through my musings, especially one so beautiful… As I enter the coffee shop, a woman turns around to help me. That throws me. I order my coffee, she’s nice but the chemistry just isn’t the same as it is with him. She charges me £1.50 and I leave hastily.

Day 3 – Wednesday

Time to pull out my second best outfit, and freshen up with some dry shampoo since I overslept. But it’s ok as I’m going to see my destiny this morning – he doesn’t care about clean hair, although I’ll still wear a hat. There he is, my heart skips a beat. He is a little bit skinnier and paler than I had remembered from Monday, but that’s ok – after all, we are in Glasgow. He asks me if I’m late this morning – he even knows what time I normally come in! For some reason I find myself lying and telling him I walked to work. But it was the right move. He asks me where I stay. ‘Dennistoun’ I reply. I don’t know if Glasgow has the same East/West End divide as London but I hope it makes me sound edgy as if Dennistoun is Glasgow’s answer to Hackney. I don’t mention that I’m staying with my Mum. Or that the entire area smells of hops from the Tennents brewery next door. He smiles, his sweet honest smile. £1.50. This love affair is going to cost me a fortune. As he hands me my change I see a marked difference in his expression… I only notice when I step outside that my second favourite outfit is gapping open at the breast, a lot. Damn, I wasn’t planning on using that one so soon.

Day 4 – Thursday

Another morning, although no more lovely outfits, I do manage to wash my hair…not that it matters as it’s raining anyway and I have to wear an anorak. When I get to the counter he remembers my coffee order again and I smile my best smile, although there is something missing from our interaction. He goes on to say how all of his regulars seem to have a cappuccino in the morning so it makes it easy to remember – although he does remember that I have one sugar. But something has definitely changed. The spark that was so strong on Monday has faded, he’s just making my coffee, and I’m just one of his regulars. I spot a lemon meringue cupcake on the side and try out my favourite joke on him: (in a Glaswegian accent) “Is that a cupcake or a meringue?” He replies, “No you’re right, it’s a cupcake!” Bedumdum…Only he doesn’t, instead he gets distracted by another customer, chucks the cake I don’t want into a bag, I pay for it and scuttle away without saying goodbye.

Day 5 – Friday

Everyone’s happier on a Friday so the spring in my step has returned. I am hopeful that the previous day was just a glitch in our universe – after all, every couple have their off days. I enter the shop and stare directly into those eyes. NOTHING! I feel nothing. I feel cheated. Where has it gone? He smiles at me in the same way but whereas four days earlier that smile had made me mentally design my wedding dress, today, at best, it makes me want to smile back. I ask for my coffee with no sugar (which is actually how I take it) and hurry out of the shop, in the knowledge that the next time I enter it will just be a coffee shop and not where I met the love of my life.

How fickle be the human heart. Or rather, how mental be the world my thoughts inhabit about 30% of the time? As you may have guessed, this tele programme I’m working on is taking a while to get going, allowing time for daydreaming. Idle daydreaming can be wonderful but it can be dangerous, I reckon I fall in love once a week. I suppose there is a chance I’m too quick to dismiss every spark as just a daydream –  as being all in my mind, could I have missed the ‘real thing’ somewhere along the way? Hmmm, unlikely but as a hopeless romantic I know there are going to be more coffee shop romances to come and maybe one day I’ll stop shallowly taking away and actually commit to sitting in – who knows what might follow…

 

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The Olympics and Our Natural State

It’s Friday night and I have turned down two party invitations to stay in and watch sport on TV, the rules of which I hardly understand. Yep, Olympic fever has become unavoidable and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have lived in London for nearly fifteen years and have been trying to live elsewhere for the past two years but in the last two weeks I have seen potential in this city which I had previously thought was beyond hope. Wait for it – people are smiling at each other, offering their seats to others, engaging in lengthy, friendly discussions. The other day a trader, a tramp, an old women and a schoolgirl chatted for half an hour on the bus with each other, without a cross word – true story.

There is a school of thought which suggests a human being’s natural state is to be selfish and out for oneself, survival of the fittest and all others be damned. There are theories that this is why capitalism ‘works’ and communism doesn’t, that we thrive in small family units but we don’t fare so well when we try to make our neighbours into family too. But I disagree. I think that our natural state is one of kindness and community. In the words of the BBC’s wonderful twentytwelve sustainability minister, Kay Hope, ‘I really think that.’ (if you haven’t seen it, check it out). Even the athletes, despite being probably the most competitive people on the planet, seem to have an inclusive and respectful attitude.

I’ll admit I was extremely sceptical and non-plussed about the whole thing in the lead up. The Queen’s Golden Jubilee earlier this summer had brought some sense of community to the city but celebrating a monarch’s long reign is not exactly inclusive.  In fact right up until I watched the weird and wonderful quintessentially British opening ceremony on my mum’s tiny TV in Glasgow, I didn’t give a monkeys about the Olympics. But suddenly, in the blink of an eye, here was something that I had barely witnessed in this country before, real community spirit. Even the Queen had joined in with her amazing James Bond sketch. The next day I got off the train at Euston station and was handed a free Olympic ice cream. Then someone asked me for directions, which I provided and they helped me down the stairs with my bag. Something had changed. London had become, even if only for 17 days, the greatest city on Earth. My new favourite game is pretending (in my own head) that I can understand what is being said in the 250 languages which are being spoken on the tube every day…of course I am imagining they are saying how wonderful London is, and not how many stops they have and how they need a pee.

Before I get carried away…what next? How can this new found enthusiasm and passion for our city, and the sense of community, ever last? And how can we avoid this national pride turning into hubris? I met a friend in the park for lunch the other day and there were people doing circuit training who had clearly never even run for a bus before. Inspire a generation is the slogan, right now more than one generation or one demographic has been inspired – even me. Confession time: I can’t ride a bike. I had a bike when I was about 8 and I posed for photos with it, but I’m not sure it went further than that. Either way, nowadays when I attempt to get in the saddle I invariably fall off or look like a fool. But I spent 2 hours early on Saturday morning with the lovely FREE council cycling trainer, slowly learning the moves. I don’t think I’m on track to be the next Pendleton quite yet – but I never expected to even bother trying. The power, joy and diversity which these games have brought to London need to inspire us to be humble and make us work towards being better people within ourselves and then we can give back to our community.

I don’t think this is merely a case of long lost patriotism or desperation for some good news in the midst of an extremely depressing era. Some of the stories which have come out of the Olympics – the sacrifices many of the athletes have gone through to be here can’t help but make you come together and wonder at the power of the human spirit and in turn, community spirit. I’m not being naïve, and I fully expect the London to return to the doldrums as soon as the Paralympics end, but the last 2 weeks have proved that with a bit of organisation human beings love being nice to each other, we have a great capacity for kindness and respect – for inspiration and inclusion – we need a little push once in a while and then it’s just like riding a bike, apparently.