Wednesday, 16 June 2010
The Problem with Cafes
My search for a viable workspace goes on.
Café one: The Reservoir Café in Green Lanes. Free parking. View of open water. Nice cup of tea. I am the only person here.
All good so far. But a scratchy radio is blaring out the Black Eyed Peas, and I cannot write with music playing.
‘Perhaps you might switch off the radio,’ I suggest to the man behind the counter.
He pauses, considers, eyes scanning the empty tables.
‘Can’t do that,’ he says, ‘It’ll be like a morgue in here.’
‘I like morgues.’
He turns it down a smidgeon, and disappears into the kitchen. I try and write, but silently communicating irritation in an empty - but noisy - room is as distracting as Capital Radio.
Café one - fail.
Café Two. A beautiful sunny day. I decide to work outside at the café at Kenwood, Hampstead Heath. I make the mistake of telling my husband. ‘Tell you what,’ he says. ‘You work for a couple of hours and then I’ll come and meet you and we can go for a walk.’
I arrive at Kenwood, find a table, work for an hour. It’s sunny, quiet and incredibly pleasant. The only problem is that every time I need to go to the loo I have to pack up my laptop and take it with me. But that’s OK. It's annoying, but I can manage.
‘Hello Keren! I haven’t seen you for ages!’
Coming out of the loo, I bump into an old colleague. Chat, chat and catch up for fifteen minutes. Walk back to table. There’s a woman sitting at the next table…looks vaguely familiar….
Husband turns up at 12.30. I have written 500 words and talked to three old friends. Café two - fail.
Café Three. I have lunch with my friends Emma and Gillian. I tell them about my search for a place to work. They unanimously recommend a little place in East Finchley. ‘There’s a massive room at the back of the café,’ says Emma. ‘Completely quiet, loads of space. I don’t think anyone even knows it’s there.’
‘It’ll be perfect,’ says Gillian.
I arrive at little café, 10.30am. Lots of chatting people in the front, total peace and quiet at the back. Six empty tables to choose from. A friendly waitress brings me tea in a mug. I focus on chapter 9. I write three paragraphs.
Three people arrive and start having a meeting at the next table. Two old deaf men sit down, shouting at each other. Two women…a man and a woman… a man with a laptop.
Every table but one is occupied. I grit my teeth and write on.
A dad plonks his toddler in a highchair, right behind me. He heads for the counter. The child swivels in alarm. ‘DADDY!’ she yells. ‘WHERE ARE YOU GOING?’
I give a three-year-old child a nasty glare. Feel a bit guilty.
Friendly waitress starts crashing crockery. Wailing baby arrives. Laptop man is joined by another man with his own laptop. They show each other graphs and figures on their laptops. ‘Jolly interesting,’ says one. ‘Just wait till Ted sees these. He’ll be ecstatic.’
Two women at next table are comparing local schools. 'All those parents,' says one, 'Saying things like "It reminds me of my own prep school, all the beautiful playing fields." I mean there's just a cultural gap there.'
'Yes, I know what you mean,' said the other woman, 'Although, mind you, it did remind me of my old prep school.'
Nosiy family are preparing to leave. ‘NO!’ shrieks the child. ‘I DON’T WANT MY DUCKET.’ Wonder what a ducket can possibly be. A new piece of baby equipment, invented since my time? A soft toy, the Duckette? Hmmm… ‘If we’re going to the playground then you need your jacket,’ says the dad.
The three people having a meeting are trying to think of the plural of moose. Mice? Mooses? I stare at the computer, trying not to shout. ‘It’s moose actually! Can we wrap this up now?’
Shut down chapter 9 and open a new word document. ‘The problem with cafes…’ I write…
Café Three: Fail.