Saturday, 13 October 2012

Just a coffee

For once, the traffic flows smoothly, and I get there far earlier than I’d expected.

So, with half an hour to kill, I park the car and head for the canal, taking the path past the gasometer and along by the hut where the sea cadets meet. I'm not sure I know what a sea cadet is, nor why they'd want to meet in a hut by the gasometer; it seems an awfully long way from the sea.

I side-step a cyclist, who’s pedalling head-down fast towards me, just before I shout out indignantly, I realise that I've strayed onto his designated half of the path. With a quick “sorry” I step back to my side of the lines and follow the route into the centre of town. Then, just like all the other people who find themselves too early for a meeting, I head for the nearest coffee shop.

I hadn't expected it to be quite this busy – it's not just time-whittlers like me, or workers grabbing a take-away on their journey into the office, there are people sitting down with breakfast and the papers, reading a book, glaring at the hard surface of a kindle while they sip at their coffee, or bite into jam-spread croissants. I wonder whether these people have jobs to get to, whether this is a regular stop on their way, or if this is the start of a different sort of day altogether – a prelude maybe to strolling round the shops, a pause to gather their thoughts before a big interview or a dreaded appointment, maybe even a venue for a secret assignation.

As I sit with my coffee, a woman comes in with a young child in a pushchair. What brings them out this early when they could be snuggled up at home? Perhaps this is a regular ritual before nursery, some time together before Mum goes to work. I think back, to when Megan was still at play-school;  I'd just started working in a Chartered Accountants' office, four mornings a week, five minutes from home. The time would fly past as I typed and filed, added up time-sheets and made cups of tea. I'd finish a few minutes before lunch and dash across the square to collect her. Even now, I can almost feel her small hand in mine, tugging at my arm as we’d head for home, saying “hot sossidge roll Mummy?” Then I’d nod and smile and we’d go to the bakers; it was never the healthiest lunch, but always the loveliest ritual.

Now, sitting in Starbucks, I wonder what it would be like to go somewhere for breakfast on a weekday. I know there’s nothing at all to stop me, I could do it any day if I really wanted to. But I don't. Instead, when I set off for work, my only thought is to get there as fast as I can. Everything else is just a distraction - the motorway congestion, the stop-start jams caused by school drop-offs,  I mark the journey in miles and minutes, calculating and re-calculating what time I'll arrive, what I'll do first when I get there. 

Thoughts of work send me reaching instinctively for my phone, and when I flip open the cover I realise it's almost time for my meeting, so I pull on my coat, tighten my scarf and sling my bag over my shoulder. I know that the day will still fly past; lost in a blur of meetings and decisions, e-mails and reports, I know it won't seem any time at all until I'm back in the car and heading for home. But as I manoeuvre my way past the pushchair and out of the coffee shop, I think I'd give almost anything to know my working day would end with a little girl holding my hand asking for a "hot sossidge roll." 

18 comments:

"As We Speak" said...

Really loved this post. You always allow the reader to see exactly what you see...always, great visuals and, the last sentence tied it all up in a neat little bow.

OpinionsToGo

Gabi BK said...

Lovely told Sharon...
I could almost smell the coffee and the warm rolls.
It's already evening here in The Netherlands, saturday is almost gone...

Come tomorrow morning our sunday ritual awaits us with coffe and rolls but in the safe and quiet of our own home without the rush of the city. I always love that in a sunday.

Have nice weekend,

Gabi

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Hold it in your memory...you can revisit as often as you like.

Mary-Colleen said...

Ah, you've gotten me teary-eyed thinking of my Megan, who is now out of the "hot sossidge roll" stage and made her first mom-free foray to the shopping mall with her friends yesterday.

Young at Heart said...

lovely.........funny how quickly time disapears our memories......good to take time for coffee and to remember!!

Mrs Smith said...

Heartbreaker. I miss those sausage roll days already and they haven't even quite finished for me yet. I resent the time that work takes from holding hands with my children. But we do what we must. Time is speeding along, I don't want to get distracted by other things and miss it.

Matt said...

You always manage to retell the unextraordinary in such a delicate way, with moments of pathos, truth and beauty, all balanced as they might be in many of our lives, but in yours they seem never to be missed or misunderstood. I suppose then what I love so much in your writing is that you have an idea of the things which are important in life; that you write so well about believable moments of contentment and wonder.

Bill Dameron said...

Before I moved into the city, I would peak into the window of the restaurant/bar next to my office building on my way to the car before the hour and half commute. I thought once I moved into the city, I would stop by that bar and have a drink before heading home on the T. I have never done it and it is now three years. How quickly time goes by and we don't realize it until a well told story such as yours reminds us that it has.

Nessa Roo said...

Me too. I'd love to have some of those little moments back.

Anonymous said...

I couldnt have said it any better to be honest! keep up the awesome work. You are very talented & I only wish I could write as good as you do :) …

Dicky Carter said...

Brilliant observation as always.

Jennifer said...

I love your writing style so much. I just can't get enough, honestly.

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Chantel said...

The sounds of the neighbor's children playing outside receded. I find your writing leaves me to "wake" at its finish, returning from your world to mine.

I can still smell coffee...and I've decided to take my youngest to breakfast before school on Monday. If you ever wonder if your musings alter something...across the ocean, this did.

Jacksquatch Detangled said...

Loved how this ended and the line "I mark the journey in miles and minutes..."

Ariel said...

I love this post.

My mom and I use to have our own rituals, but they've fallen through now that I've moved out. I hope she still thinks of them this fondly.

Thanks for following my blog!

Zahir Shah said...

Wonderful post. What I conceived from the post and I believe too that we have too much time at our disposal to do little things to make each moment and day colorful. But the very idea of a routine and busy job kills it. I wish my life misses no chance on availing the 'wow moments' amid a set routine.