A mid afternoon meeting is scheduled in the city centre, meaning a mad bike ride to be there on time, followed by a mad ride back to work for the last hour of the day, before a final mad bike ride back to the station. It seems crazy, but I have plenty to do and can’t really justify not returning to the office. And then, joyously, the meeting overruns, and the pendulum swings decisively in favour of staying put. All of a sudden, I have a full hour to myself, with nowhere that I should be!
In the olden days, this would have a meant a visit to the pub and an impromptu pint. And how I miss those magical lost afternoons! A quiet bar, perhaps with a fire and a ticking clock, the sun streaming in through the coloured window panes. But those days are (mostly) gone. Responsibility weighs heavy and, instead, I find myself heading to a café tucked away in quiet corner of the city centre, for this old city still has its remote twittens and hidden nooks. This place has all the attributes of the boozer, whilst dishing out pots of tea and hefty slices of flapjack.
The café sits on the edge of a small courtyard beside a fourteenth century church (which itself dates back to Saxon times and lays claim to having a several bits of masonry that remain from the original church) and two bookshops – one haunted and expensive, the other not. To my surprise, I find the café empty and take my tea upstairs to sit in splendid isolation, choosing the window seat and its view over the street below.
The upstairs room is small and has been painted indigo – the floor is bare wood, as are the hotchpotch tables and chairs, no two the same. The soft colours suit the quiet afternoon light – even the music drifting out of the speakers, gentle piano, seems complimentary rather than intrusive. If I had chosen the sofa by the back wall, I suspect sleep wouldn’t be far away. The church and its foursquare tower dominate the view outside – the solid slab of yellow stone diluted by a tree in blossom. The scene, unlike the mellow interior tones, is one of contrasts – the sun is bright against the top of the tower, which is dark in the shade.
The blossom is a brilliant creamy white, and has attracted a number of pigeons who are presumably eating the buds. They are certainly eating something and in doing so, flap and bluster, disturbing the fragile flowers which fall in clouds onto the tourists and passers-by, all to the great amusement of a drinker, one of the alkies that occupy the churchyard. He basks in the unseasonably balmy February weather (the hottest February day on record!) watching the blossom tumble, and laughs with sheer joy at the spectacle of it all. And to think that a year ago to the day, we were being blasted by the Beast from the East.
Photograph by Erich Kesse