They were sitting in the garden, Clara and Andrew, enjoying some time together while the young kids were down at the river. They had spent all day entertaining the youngsters, it was fun, exhausting, not something they were used. Somehow they had managed to get the kids to go swimming, without them, and now was a time for them to catch up after nearly a year apart. It was beautiful under the willow trees, they could talk without fear of being overheard. Both had been to the city, pursuing studies that neither was convinced of, they were dreamers.
“How’s the city treating you? ” asked Clara, to which Andrew responded: “It’s ok, different, you know. Too many people for my liking; it’s the city, I guess”.
“Yes, so many people, so little love, I sometimes think. Everybody just rushing around, ants, head down and go. Nobody has time – I miss that!”
“Yes, the countryside is different, we’re not all bumpkins out here.”
“Your studies going ok?”
“Yes”, says Andrew, “I am getting good grades though not really enjoying the course. What’s wrong with farming as a career? But no, dad thinks I need a profession. I need a Law degree like a hole in the head! How about you?”
“I’m ok, also miss the great outdoors, too much concrete for me. No flowers, no bees, no butterflies. I really miss the butterflies!”
“Oh yes, the butterflies! Remember last summer? Us two, chasing butterflies across the hay fields?” Andrew and Clara both smiled, two dreamers, sitting there, staring into the pale blue sky. Sometimes they did not need to talk, their presence was enough.
“Andrew?” He looks down, his dreamy eyes focusing on Clara and she then continues: “What would you like to do? You know, everything else removed, what do you dream about?”
“Sometimes I dream about having an old-fashioned coffee shop, you know, not a franchise, one where people can come and loiter, spend the whole day there if they want to. A social place, where a condition of entry is not money, it is a smile!”
“Andrew, you are such a dreamer!”, she says laughingly, “Go on, tell me more! Skip the rules, what is it you would like to do?”
“Ok,” responds Andrew, “let me get my thoughts together, give me a few minutes. You’re not allowed to laugh at my silly ideas, Clara! I know what you are like, ” he smiles, “and usually you are right. You do have a habit of trying to make me blush!”
“You’re just being silly, Andrew! Would ‘moi’ do that!” she responds with that cheeky grin that is so infectious and makes Andrew go weak at the knees. Some things you just cannot fight and he accepts her humour in good grace.
Clara smiles and fidgets with some flowers she had picked earlier in the fields. After a few minutes, Andrew starts speaking: “Clara, imagine this, ok? An old brick building, a former school or brewery, something along those lines. Bricks and wood, big wooden beams running from wall to wall. A fairly big cavern, lots of space. On each side of the room a log fire with rugs and comfy chairs, we could even have dogs lying there!”
“Oh yes, liking this already! Our dogs?”, responds Clara.
“Of course our dogs! Anybody’s, the whole village can bring their dogs! Cats, birds, goldfish, whatever, as long as they clear the poop, I really don’t mind! Pets and their owners will be advised to hit the chill zone as soon as they enter the place, no nonsense. You’ll be in charge of that! You know, being nice to the folks in your mildly flirtatious manner!”
“I really don’t know what you mean, Andrew”, Clara responds, fluttering her eyelids while laughing quietly.
“Oh yes, you do,” Andrew responds and starts to tickle her. Clara shrieked with laughter and wriggled away, out of his reach. “Ok, ok, carry on, I do like this idea.”
“Why don’t we head into town and go check out the coffee shops? Have a look, see what we like, don’t like.. have some coffee tasters. Hmmm, how about finding a favourite cake?”
“I like your thinking, handsome, “Clara says smilingly, “you want to take a nice lady on a coffee date?”
“I will need to find a lady first,” Andrew responds straight faced, “though I guess you will do.”
Clara slaps Andrew on the butt: “Let’s go!”
“Charley! Jack!”, shouts Andrew, calling their dogs. Jack is an adopted greyhound, a bundle of energy that adores Clara with a passion, while Charley is a chocolate Labrador who gets fed too much and exercised too little by Andrew, a real bundle of cuddles. They say that dogs often reflect their owners, this is the case here, an extrovert and introvert.
A 10 minute walk down the dusty lane, the dogs tumbling ahead, and they get to the tarmac road on the edge of town. The first coffee shop, a well-known franchise, is at the edge of town where the commuter traffic can pull off and get a coffee before heading home, alternatively on the way to work. “Charley, Jack, heel”, Andrew is worried about the car traffic, the dogs are used to roaming freely on quiet country lanes.
“Are dogs allowed in,” asks Andrew, the little worrier, to which Clara responds: “Who will deny these two bundles of joy?” Andrew laughs quietly and opens the door for Clara and the dogs, the latter walking up to all-and-sundry for a sniff, tail wagging and hopefully a cuddle. Not everyone is pleased with the dogs, Clara smiles at them innocently and calm is restored.
“What does ‘extra wet’ mean?”, asks Andrew, “one would think a coffee is wet enough, is it not?”
Clara, laughing quietly: “It’s for the yummy mummies! Less milk and foam, more hot water; reduces the amount of lactose by one trillionth percent and a topic of conversation around the halo tables, where the fake tans glow.” Andrew frowns at Clara, who responds with a “Yes, really!” Andrew can only smile and shake his head, Clara is an astute and humorous people watcher.
“Deary me, I think we can skip this! No fake nothing in our coffee shop, let’s go.” Andrew heads for the door, lets the dogs and Clara exit, does a right turn and crosses the street to another coffee shop. There are possibly too many coffee shops in this town, though this one looks more interesting, at least from the outside. A good start here, they get a friendly greeting from the attendant behind the counter: “Hi, I’m Pete, what can I get you?” This time the offerings are not quite as vast, Andrew can understand the terminology now, he knows what a cappuccino is, though he is still lost by the idea of a ‘flat white’.
“Hi,” he says, “could I please get a regular cappuccino?” Turning to Clara: “What would you like?”
“Same, please, skinny, soy.” The cheeky grin says it all, so Andrew orders two cappuccinos.
Pete directs them to the collection counter. “We have extra seating upstairs, it’s nice and cosy up there”, says Pete, directing a knowing glance at Andrew. If only, thought Andrew, if only; Clara was out of his league and he was not quite ready for a steady relationship, not after the last one! As they head towards the stairs, Pete shouts: “There’s rugs for the dogs. Enjoy!”
They collect their drinks and head upstairs, the dogs scampering ahead enjoying the novel surroundings, a nice cosy room, bright colours, paintings on the walls, shelves filled with books. Coffee drinking clients sitting in comfy chairs, the type of chair that one sinks into, old-fashioned, leather, marked with use. Andrew whispers to Clara: “I like this! What do you think?”
Clara looks at him: “Love it, Andrew, but can we find a seat first, then spin the philosophical?” There you go, no arguing with those instructions, thinks Andrew, heading towards two seats in the corner. Ideal, Jack and Charley lie down on the rug next to them, within easy reach of a head scratching, though they both tend to nod off after a while, snoring loudly.
“So, tell me about this dream, your coffee shop dream,” says Clara.
“Where to start,” responds Andrew, “I guess this place is a good starting point. A little bohemian, definitely not run of the mill, not for the yummy mummies or the yoggies”.
“Yes, those yoga types. The hmmmm brigade.”
“Aha, you want the arty farties? Ok, what else?” Andrew laughs at her choice of words and continues: “I like the old brick and wood concept, a building that smells a little of smoke and seems to be alive. Old and alive! Yip, like that concept.”
“So, arty types, bricks, wood, fire, animals; what else would one want?”
“You’re missing one key ingredient here: music! We definitely need music, not just any old background crap, the good stuff, tunes that our customers want to listen to! So, I have a few ideas.”
“Go, I’m all ears, pun intended!”
“Ok, here goes. Every drink comes with a song selected by the coffee buyer. We’ll have a playlist, more quiet, relaxed tunes, no boom boom boom; quiet music in the background, people singing or humming along, quietly, everyone in their own space. We could have a weekly top-ten countdown, do a radio station mock up. Then, on Sundays, in the late afternoon into early evening, we will have a free-for-all jamming session! What do you think?”
“Love the idea, but, and this is a big but, how will you make money? You know, those coins that make the world go round. Not your favourite topic, I know, the old evil money!”
“Well, I have thought about that a bit, not much, to be honest. I was thinking of also having a food kitchen, very simple, sandwiches and stuff, all made there-and-then. Sunday roast each week, going around in turns, chicken, roast beef, lamb. What about some regional specialities; means we would have to go on a food tour, not exactly torturous, is it?”
“Nope, that sounds like fun! When can we start on this food tour?”
Andrew laughs: “Clara, where do you put all this food? I only have to look at a fried breakfast and my belt buckle moves a notch.”
“Don’t mention food, it makes me hungry, you know that,” replies Clara with a wicked little grin.
“Ok, moving away from food, we could have a hobby corner, you know, where people can do pottery, paint, make a mess, have fun. The kids playing with their grandparents, while the parents go off and deal with their reality. Also, we could sell art works on commission, try to corner the tourist market? Though, come to think of it, that probably goes against the homegrown market. I prefer the playful granny to the loaded tourist.”
“Yes, I’m with you on that one, I’m all for glamorous grannies! Ok, time to drink up, dreamer boy, we better head home before the folks get antsy and send out a search-and rescue squad.”
“Ah realities,” responds Andrew and looks down at the snoring dogs, “Fart bags, time to go!” Charley rolls onto his back: “I’m not going anywhere without a belly rub”, he seems to say, while Jack is on his feet in a flash, chasing his own tail in his excitement, running ahead.
Clara looks at Andrew as he’s watching the dogs waddle ahead. He’s a good guy she thinks, the sort of guy who doesn’t ask too many questions and yet still seems to understand her. “I really enjoyed that healthy no caffeine, low fat cappuccino,” she said. Andrew is confused for a split second,, but then realises her game. He puts his hand on tummy and says: “Yes, between the cabbage tea and the celery cake, I don’t feel too full.”
They both laugh out loud and continue their walk home while people glance and smile at these two happy kids in their own little world.
Inspiration and collaboration with “mustang” Sally 🙂