Friday, 27 November 2009


Return To Latte Wall

Its Saturday lunch time and we are meeting in the latte wall place again, at noon. But I need to park first. The only option that isn't going to ruin my day is the 24 hours for a fiver, but at this time of year, whatever weeks from Christmas everyone else is thinking the same thing. We drive around in circles. some people forgetting traffic goes both ways, some people making dreadful manoeuvres an one can't help but wait for a dreadful accident to happen. It’s hitting one in one out levels, and I patiently let a few people out, letting the people that got there first from the other side take the space. My turn will come, and it does, soon enough. Even if the van I have to let out first nearly makes me lose it and the guy behind is determined to drive through me.

I walk from the car park to the latte wall. A five minute walk, more or less. And on every street and every stretch and every corner, I see traffic wardens. Out in force. They walk from car to car. Checking every single one of them for parking violations. I’m glad I got that 24 hour parking covered, ticket guaranteed other wise on a day like this. I make it to the cafe, only two of the guys here so far, so i order brunch. Lily from the other night is the only member of staff from the previous night. She is still wearing too much make up, that light brown hair tied back again, that glint of a stud in her upper lip. This time there is a new girl and lily is telling her what to do at every stage. Skinny girl, short blonde hair, really bleached, a white ribbon bow tagged on side of her head. She has a nose ring, skinny plain black shirt, with no sleeves that some how makes her stronger and more capable, blue jeans, trainers, much more casual than lily.

Perhaps more boyish, but probably more interesting in the end, for all that. You put the pie in the oven. You wash the plate like this. A steady stream of instruction. The girl is easy and gets on with it, not got the same competitive edge lily seemed to have.

A family come in. Maybe 3 generations. Sit round a table. Wait for a little while to get everything and they are gone in no time. Replaced by two Scandinavian girls, tall thin, blonde, chattering in their language. The taller stands and stares at me for a moment, while she takes her jacket off. Maybe trying to read my shirt? Though, the latte wall is above my head, so maybe it’s not me at all? A dark haired girl comes in, sits at the table between us and the Scandinavians. Something about her suggests to me that she is a dancer, though the lines on her face suggest that she looks a little older than she is, certainly she is dressed younger. Umbrella, puffy jacket. Jeans, shoes with thick soles, a cardigan and blue t-shirt. A hair band, thick and black holding her hair in place. As she goes back to the bar to collect her coffee i spot the number of piercings in her ears, the bolt through the back of her neck – been a while since I saw one of those.

There is a couple at the other end of the bench i am sitting on. She goes off somewhere, he is shaven headed, well wrapped for the weather, even though they've been sitting inside for a while. I’m wearing my “breath deep and let go of things” t-shirt which just arrived in the post yesterday. The shaven headed man leans forward and asks where I got it, so I try and explain the whole history of t-shirt of Adam Greenfield doing his version based on the previous versions. He asks whether he is a Buddhist, talks about the wheel of dharma on the t-shirt, asks if i am a Buddhist, admits that he is. We talk about science, a bit about religion, about how those fit into Buddhism. Then he smiles, tells me he'll let me get back to my writing, with the warning that I can expect these types of conversations wearing this kind of t-shirt. I can take that, I tell him.

Saturday is obviously busy. There are more staff all the time. Soon there are abut 8 of them. Maybe it’s a shift change? An older woman, a red lanyard round her neck suggests that she is a manager, she is in a flap, wandering around, clutching paper, presumably making sure everything is ship shape. There is a floppy haired 20 something; the hair dyed a kind of burgundy. When they come in I am sure it is a skinny floppy haired guy, a customer, but jacket shucked, behind the bar, serving people, clearly a member of staff. Tattoos in a circle round the neck line, round the collar, glimpsed, stars, the usual 5 pointed ones, and the sci fi flare ones. From the manner, the voice calling out orders being delivered, I start to realise it’s actually a girl.

The Scandinavian girls are replaced by a couple. He sits on the bench, in the corner, she sits balanced on the wooden chair, and they drink coffee, and read the Saturday paper and don't talk to each other. He sits back, his arms spread, flat out along the back of the chair, sitting there like he is king of the world. His stubbled shaven head, the hint of Saturday casual shirt collar beneath the smart casual jumper, with its little breast motif for brand. She sits in brown greys, layers that are different colours, but of such similar shades they all blend together. Dirty blonde hair, pearls round her wrist, those ugly brown ugg boots which seems too popular. He stares over her head, before shrugging going back to reading supplements and she decides to call someone, sitting side on to him, her phone held to her ear.

It’s funny how things work. There is a father and daughter come in. and they were here before, the first time i was in here this year, over a week ago. Now there is a girl and her friend at the bar. She has an olive skinned face, her hair in a certain style, a quick pretty smile. This is third version of her i have seen today. The hair lengths have just been slightly different, a little lock of hair here or there. but other than that, they were nearly identical, enough that I’ve had to double take the people just arriving who look like people i haven’t seen leave. I look up after another while, ok, this one is skinnier, more drawn and older, but certainly stamped from the same mould, children clinging to her coat tails.

Lily comes back from her tea break, the androgynous kid with tattoos by her side, lily spouting forth “well that’s what i think” and i can imagine her being opinionated and not afraid to make sure people know it. A couple have taken the table where the “dancer” was sitting; she arrived first, got herself tea. He arrives and phones her to find out where she is sitting. She can't understand why they can't see each other, after all these are the first seats you come to when you enter, but they are kind of tucked under the stairs to the mezzanine level. After an extended conversation they work it out and he comes over to join her. They exchange enthusiastic pleasantries, the kind of friends, but not lovers, the tone and phrasing says this. Then they both get out pocket note pads. He is scribbling rectangles on the page; they compare notes and drink tea. There is the university just round the corner, one of the colleges a bit further along. There are weekend classes, and the like, my boss having spent last weekend in this very uni for his night classes. Fragments of conversation drift over, we'll make this one red, a strong red, this bit we'll have in black and white, see I really like your bit, its got that kind of shouty feel to it. There is a church, i try and visualise, right next door, I suspect, which has been converted into the Ramshorn theatre, which is run by Strathclyde University. I saw a student production of “of mice and men” in their once. He stands up, goes for more drinks, and I get a better look at the jars that have been sitting on the table, they have one each – one of blackberry jam, the other looks like chocolate. and something in my head clicks, getting a better look at the scribbles, and realise that they have drawn jars, the lines show squares within rectangles as a label, the line across the top is the lid. They must be doing some kind of business project, come up
with the perfect slogan for selling jam.

Someone asks the new girl where the toilets are, typically British, “excuse me, where are the loos?” they are upstairs, she tells the woman, who turns and goes upstairs, then she thinks and says to one of the guys she is working with “the loos are upstairs aren't they?” he nods.

Maybe we should start with a close up of the jar? Just like the label? Then it’s about set up, about where to buy labels. funny how voices carry differently, he is sitting closer but i can't hear a word he says, but her voice is higher, cuts cleaner through the low playing music, the hum of other chatter. While with the new couple who have taken the table from A and C who have gone to watch the rugby, I can hear his voice but not hers.

Lily leaves, her shift done. Funny how clothes make a person. How every member of staff is pretty much in casual black, with maybe jeans or black trousers. But that I'm going home now layer says so much more. The hooded top, the handbag, coupled with the make up she has been wearing marks her as being more trendy than the other girls. the jam couple leave soon after, he makes a comment, she says sorry, but her parking ticket will run out. he heads upstairs for the toilet after they've had a hug, her having to stand on tip toes to reach round his neck. she returned the jam to her bag, had to prompt him to take his jar, him nearly having walked away without it.

A while after lily's departure new girl's shift is finished, she reappears with a cool jacket and a scarf, and a big loose bag. she potters about, asking about shifts, getting some change, a coffee, taking her time to leave. she talks to the girl who was on the first night we were in here, the tall one with the pony tail, who asks her if she has any friends who might want a job as well. in the doorway, she pulls up her hood, takes a mouthful of coffee, then out into the dark, into the rain, shift done.

I’m getting to that point I’ve been writing too long, getting restless, but too early for the theatre tonight. people have come and gone in the group. a pair of Thai girls arrive, they order coffees and cakes. and the first thing they do on sitting down is take pictures with their brightly coloured and flowery camera phones. I can't help but smile, and say how much I just love being part of a generation where the first thing they do with food is take a picture of it. changed times.

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Thursday, 19 November 2009


The Latte Wall

I am waiting for my sandwich to be toasted, when the guy who served me comes to the delivery end of the bar where a girl is making a latte. He is tall, floppy haired, looks incredibly young, though as he gives the girl advice it is clear he is a veteran of this establishment, and she has yet to conquer the latte wall. She is probably only a few years older than him, hair tied back, nose stud, smart/generic black blouse. She does the coffee and prepares to add the milk, no, hold it at this angle, he tells her, down low, touch the surface, that’s how you get it. She follows his instruction carefully, and gets the desired results, see, told you it was easy. She stands there and looks at it and grins, I’d been holding it too high, and that’s how someone else told me how to do it. As she straightens up and does a little victory stretch, her blouse rides up at her waist, providing a flash of colour on her hip, a flower, a lily on a pad, the kind of tattoo you expect her to have a matching one on the other side. She prepares to tip the coffee out, you should take a photo, she shakes her head, its not quite perfect, but a start. You should at least drink it, he tells her, she shakes her, you could add sugar, he suggests. Do you want it, she asks, he doesn't. I’m tempted to say I’ll take it, but don't, and it gets tipped away. He goes back to the toasting machine, takes the next customer's sandwich and puts it in the toaster. Brings mine over on a plate, shouts out that it’s ready, despite the fact I’m standing right in front of him, he looks through me. That’s mine, I say, ok, he replies, you have your drink, he asks, no, it’s on the counter behind you. He grabs it, puts them both on a tray and I go back to join my friends. Sitting down I spot the latte wall, a series of photographs of lattes, each with someone's name penned beneath it. The new girl wanders around, clearing tables, chunky boots, skin tight trousers, no doubt waiting till she is ready to get her latte up there.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009



“YOU” the makeshift envelopes say. Every time. I’ve found 3 so far. I wonder how many I’ve missed. The last couple have been little brown paper bags, kind you’d maybe get with buying a postcard. The lip folded over, stapled shut. A stamp over it “YOU”, and this latest one the picture of a bird, a swallow or something. I think the last one had something, but can’t remember what. Each time I’ve found them its been in Mono – the vegan café bar, along the shelf with flyers and booklets, along that front edge between the Mono bar part and the Monorail record shop part. I had to push by the table football table, with its glass top, and its cigarette burns from years before. We sit at the table all night, the brown paper envelope sitting under the book I was reading before A arrived, with the others after him. When I get home, I tear it open, and it starts like all the other “Dear You”. It’s a letter, hand written, with scribbles, and scores, and spelling mistakes, just as it was intended, an A4 lined sheet of paper, torn out, and photocopied once done. Folded, a pile of them, and slipped into the bag. She talks about various things, though they are never signed, I am sure it is a she, just from the context. Before she talked about hitting a certain age, and where she and her friends were with their lives. Then about her zine, and how someone ripped off one of her texts without credit, and how upset she was by this. This one talks about how she does her zine, how important it is to her, even if it isn’t to anyone else. I wonder about her zine, since there is no evidence of a physical magazine, or a link to an electronic one. But then, it does offer the answer, this is the zine, these pieces of paper released into the world for random people to read, unsigned and uncredited. At one point, as I go back and forth to the bar, there is a girl at a table, sitting by herself, long light brown hair, writing, little bits of paper, piles of bits and pieces. I wonder, is that her? Writing her latest? But without a photocopier to mass produce them right now? I check for more after she has gone, but only that first one I already picked up still sits there. Its that kind of place though, people in corners, with laptops, with art pads, with books, people coming in alone, or in groups. The acoustics are funny in here, so you get fragments of conversations – the girl that has to take photos for her scrap book, and then explain beside them why she took the picture. Two guys talk about unsigned bands and demos, about a gig here and there, the grizzled words of veterans who have been there done that, on the small scale you understand. How are You? Where are You? I wonder.

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