One of the joys of being retired is that I can loiter in coffee shops. I had this image in my head that it was what all ‘wannabe’ writers did. If I was going to write a bestseller, I needed to find a good coffee shop. It worked for JK Rowling, why shouldn’t it work for me?
It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally settled on my favourite place. Today I knew I’d been accepted when the young lady behind the counter smiled and said, “Same as usual?” I couldn’t help but smile as I settled down in my usual spot, a nice comfy sofa by the window, and took out my iPad. All I need to do now is write that blockbuster!
I didn’t realise that coffee houses have been around for so long. Apparently the first one in Britain opened in 1650 in Oxford. During the 17th & 18th centuries there were more coffee shops in London than there are today. Did you know that ‘tipping’ started in these coffee houses? If people wanted better service and a good seat they would put money in a jar labelled ‘To Insure Prompt Service’. They were used a lot by artists, intellectuals, merchants, bankers and political activists. They were often called ‘penny universities’ – it was said that, in a coffee-house, a man could ‘pick up more useful knowledge than by applying himself to his books for a whole month’. A penny was the price of a coffee.
I’m not sure how many political activists or intellectuals are frequenting my coffee shop. While I am enjoying the activity I do get a little nervous in there. I’m not sure what the etiquette is for coffee shops and ‘would be writers’? How long should I stay before I buy another coffee? Should I be taking up the whole sofa? Should I explain to the owner what I’m doing?
I find more and more that if I’ve got a question I can often find an answer through google! You would be surprised, or maybe not, just how many blogs and websites there are covering the thorny issue of ‘coffee shop etiquette’. Here are just a few of the suggested rules that I came across:
- Remember it is a business, it is someone’s livelihood, so buy something at least every hour.
- Tip well.
- Try not to be noisy – put your mobile on vibrate & cut out the start-up noise on your computer.
- Take up only one chair (not the whole sofa!) and try & sit at the smallest table.
In other words try to be as inconspicuous as possible in the hope that no one will notice you are there. Not like the 18th century coffee houses which were often crowded, smelly, noisy, feisty, smoke-filled places of creativity.