Coffee Houses: Kitsch, Cute and Comfortable Corners.

I read a post on ‘Freshly Pressed’ that made me think: It was about coffee houses, little unique coffee shops, that are as individual as the coffee blends themselves. Now I’m not talking Starbucks or costa, cafe Nero or wherever else you choose to frequent. I’m talking, family run, homemade, kitsch little gems that are hidden off the main streets, and have that, bohemian, individual, ‘totally comfortable at home’  feel.

If you don’t know of one, then I’m afraid to say, you’re missing out. Start poking around the back streets where you live, the cobbled rows of old houses, get off the walk or the high street and start exploring. Find all the little shops that are totally unique, the shop that is everything just cakes, the hippy clothes, full of incense and glorious handmade jewellery, scarves of every colour and pattern…

For me, a cup of coffee, or more specifically a mug, a heavy, broad handled steaming mug full – is an experience. Its an actual moment, a pleasure. To sit back in a comfy chair, with a book, on my own in my mind, with friends or watching passers-by, an experience I cherish. The mix of coffee beans and milk, of that bitter and rich taste, that smooth and warm feeling as you sip, warming your hands on the mug. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of winter or now, ask anyone, everyone fancies an ice-cold beer or a pimms, both of which I am not adverse to, but nine times out of ten. I want a coffee.

Now lets clarify what I mean by coffee. If you’re talking about Tesco’s finest instant, then you mistake what I mean by coffee. If you’re a coffee hater and have drunk that rubbish, then there is your first problem. Lets set it straight, I’m talking proper ground coffee, fresh coffee, from a cafetière. I don’t need a fancy coffee maker, that makes me a cappuccino, or an espresso, or a mocha with all its percolating, steaming and shaking. I mean just simple, push down and filter coffee.

Now back to the place. If you are to sit and enjoy anything it’s not just about the activity, it’s the environment. Reading  a book is blissful on your bed with the sun streaming in, surrounded by cushions and quilt; on a beach, with the sun dancing off the pages, the wind ruffling them gently, sunning yourself at the same time; in a hammock, wrapped up, swaying gently, with a pillow under your head and the wind in the trees… it’s the whole experience not just the what.

I’m lucky to have two fabulous coffee shops in my home towns. I say home towns because as a student, I class myself to have two, the home where I grew up, the city I spent my youth, finding myself, exploring, feeling every bit the adult in my naivety; and my new home. The place I chose, the city I live on my own, spend my days walking about, studying, frequenting book shops and cafe’s alike. Norwich, and Lincoln, if you wanted a name.

First there’s Morellos, Norwich. Family run, quirky, girly, homemade and kitsch – This place is straight out of Cath Kitsons catalogue, before she even became a household name. With cute little momentos, signs, vintage pictures, flowery teapots, hand-made cotton flowers, hooks with straw hats and ribbons, and mismatched chairs, its perfect in its own way.  They serve fresh coffee, homemade lunches, handmade cakes and treats, and all with a friendly hug for anyone who stops through the door. It truly is a beautiful place to spend your time. For me is the place I went with my mum, girly and cute,  lunches sat after a hard days shopping, surrounded by floral prints and lace, it was like a little girls heaven, and to be honest, it’s still one of my favourite places in this world.

The second is the award-winning, rated one of the top ten coffee shops in the country, Cafe Aroma, Lincoln. Its got that charm of a proper Italian coffee shop. Coffee served on a board, with a glass of water as it should be. No fuss, no pretence, the coffee speaks for itself. The upstairs is like a bohemian dream, full of little corners to snuggle into and enjoy. One one is mismatched with large tables, odd chairs, window seats covered in cushions of every pattern, and the walls covered in music sheets, making the most interesting wall paper. There is artwork from local artists, all abstract and obscure, bright and colourful, much like the shop itself. Next through an arch and curtain is the den. Stacked wall to wall with a bookcase full of every novel and story you could ever hope to read, big comfy leather sofas, and coffee tables, the windows draped with rich fabrics and curtains… its like being in your own den, the sort as a child you’d have died to make, attempted to in your bedroom under a quilt.

Both offer an experience, a sense of belonging, a real atmosphere of calm, tranquility, of enjoyment and individualism. There the sort of places you frequent with friends for a quick drink and six hours, 7 coffee’s and a few shortbreads later, your still there, curled up in a big chair, or perched at a table, chatting away, hopelessly happy to stay there all day. If you live in either of these places, you must visit, absolutely without fail.

And if you don’t, isn’t it about time you found your own place? That special little corner of a room, a room that gives you a hug as you come in and a smile, to sit, to think, to muse, to dwell, to drink coffee, to socialize, to have a meeting, to read… to be you. What are you waiting for?

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Firsts, Experiences and that ‘New’ Feeling.

“I’m giving up on girls, I’m giving up on the heartache, whats the point in it all, in setting yourself up for heartache or disappointment, who wants that?”

I do. This is a question posed to me by a friend the other day. I couldn’t quite understand, as for me. It’s always worth it. There is nothing more exciting or brilliant as getting to know someone. Talking to them, getting to know them as a person, being interested in them, what they have to say, involved in stories and experiences. Getting to know how they react to stuff, what they’re like deep down, not just the superficial, but under the façade.

Having all those debates on subjects, hearing their points of view, learning their voice and the way they think. Having that buzz of excitement when they text, that ridiculous smile on your face around them, the incessant grin. Laughing uncontrollably at what they say, as though your hearing humour for the first time…

And then there are the first times. The first time they touch you, your arm, hold your hand, the first time they make you laugh, your first play fight, the first kiss, the first fumble, the first encounter, the first experience, first dates, first meal out, first cinema trip, first walk, first words… Everything is so new, so refreshing. The world suddenly becomes more interesting as you see the world from someone else’s perspective…

To me – that’s all worth it. Whatever happens after, whether it all goes tits up, whether it ends in love, lust or heartache, whether you find you aren’t as well matched as you thought, or they turn out not to be the person you thought, that feeling, all of that, I wouldn’t pass that up. The giddiness, the happiness, the excitement, the expectation, the anticipation. It’s a feeling that s unique. Whatever comes to pass, you always have that, you always remember those first days, and the way they made you feel. When you feel unique, special, appreciated. You’re at your best.

“I smile a lot these days, and everyone knows. Everybody knows it’s because of you, everybody knows except you”

I would never pass up on an experience that made me happy, that gave me that feeling, that made everything  a little bit better. If you live your life thinking about the consequences, you’d never do anything. You have to live life for the moment and maybe a step or two ahead, but only positively.

I love people in general, I love getting to know people, I love talking to people I don’t know, when you just get talking to people, on trains, at a coffee shop, in a queue. People are interesting, other people’s lives are interesting. This morning I shared a table in a coffee shop with a woman, and we spoke for nearly an hour about everything, her life, her kids, her plastic surgery, life, people, from the personal to the political to the philosophical and back again. And I loved it, it made me smile. It made today better. It made her day better. It was friendly, and kind, and open.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to get to know someone, to be with someone, to talk to someone, because of the what ifs. What if they turn out to be your best mate, your future boss, the love of your life? That person that you can’t imagine not having in your life? Live for the experience, the feelings, live life, for the now.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”  – Dale Carnegie.