Tuesday, 18 May 2004

Au Café

Long ago, in a life far away, the Frootbat and I hatched a plan for the establishment of Café Society. We both harboured a Romantic vision of those days at the beginning of the last century when poets, writers and artists would hang out in the pavement cafés of Paris, discussing matters Cultural. Political and Philosophical. In the rosy days following our escape from the Office, we intended the coffee-houses of Newcastle to be the stage where we would put the world to rights over cups of good strong black coffee, Gauloises staining our fingers.

Except he would take cream with his coffee and neither of us would smoke.

The plan got off to a good enough start, with a session or two at Boskoops, at the time the only real coffee shop in town. On the first floor we could drink our coffee and look out over Old Eldon Square, where the Punks, Goths and Layabouts drink cider and throw beer-cans at the pigeons round the War Memorial. But things fell apart, the Heat Death of the Universe and that sort of thing, and once I started my University course, coffee days receded once more into the realm of Plans for the Future.

There came a point one summer when I felt we’d got back on track. We had a good two-hour long, two 4-cup cafetière conversation in the new upstairs lounge of Costa, on the corner of Grey Street (where the Peaches & Cream fancy underwear shop used to be). As the sound of pneumatic drills rattled in through the open window, we talked about whatever came to mind. Music: the latest tape-loop had just arrived from Buddy K that morning. Literature: the Frootbat had just finished The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists and I was part way into The Songlines. The Internet: neither of us connected, neither of us convinced of its current usefulness as opposed to its potential. Greg Dyke’s plans for the BBC: sacking middle management to save money to make programmes seemed a good idea; making dumbed-down “popular” programmes for BBC1 and ghettoising more demanding programmes on BBC2 (where they could be dropped because they didn't achieve good viewing figures), more worrying.

Like all good days, of course, it couldn't last and when the conversation descended to the construction and state of our trouser pockets it was clearly time to go. The Frootbat set off to collect his wife from her IT course and I went to the Grainger Market to buy the last few items for the gumbo I was concocting that night. Sadly, that was the last highly caffeinated afternoon of the year. By the time holidays were out of the way, I was due back at University.

A lot of things have changed since then. We're both on-line and devoted to the miracle of broadband. Greg Dyke is fading into history. I've graduated and am now a full-time artist. The Frootbat's time is increasingly taken up with more pressing matters, including grandfatherly duties.

But I still believe the world may hear of Café Society again.

No comments: