Tag Archives: Coffee

Coffee Shop Tales: Hannah


(This and my next post comprise two stories I wrote while in a coffee shop, observing people around me, and waiting for inspiration.  No real names are used.)

She walked in with her mother and they looked around the room for an empty table.  She was about eight and still in her primary school uniform.  She pointed to the stairs and they climbed to the top.  They sat at one of the tables that overlook the customers eating their lunch below.  She was clearly excited.  This would be a special time with her mom.

A waitress followed them up the stairs and took their order: a milkshake for her and coffee for Mom.  She looked around the walls fascinated by the pictures of Nguni cattle, while her mother sent an SMS on her cell phone.  Mom put away her cell phone and said, “So, Hannah, what happened today.”

Hannah thought for a moment.  “Mrs Lightgood was cross with Stephen,” she said.

“What did Stephen do?” asked her mom.

“He forgot his costume.  Again!”

“Oh dear.”

Hannah drew her chair closer to her mom.
“He had to stay inside when we went to break.  And he had to tidy all the books during swimming.”

The waitress brought their order and there was silence for a while as Hannah sipped her milkshake and her mom stirred her coffee.

A man walked up the stairs and stopped at their table.  He had been talking with other customers around the shop.  He greeted Hannah’s mom like an old friend and soon they were chatting away.

Hannah finished her milkshake and looked at her mom.  She glanced at the man and back to her mom.

“No, we moved,” her mom was saying.  “We now live in Jack’s old house.   You remember Jack?”

Hannah slipped off her chair and looked over the rail at the customers below.  She slumped to the floor still scanning the shop and stealing a glance at her mom every now and again.

“We struggled to find a buyer at first.  The garage was the problem.”  The conversation went on.

Hannah got up and wandered over to the pictures on the wall.  The Nguni cattle seemed just as bored as Hannah and she turned away.  She sat on the top step, leaning against the rail.

“It was nice to see you again.”

“Likewise.”

The conversation ended and the man moved off to his office.  Hannah’s mother got up from the table and walked to the stairs.  She followed Hannah who walked down with heavy feet.  Hannah waited by the front door while her mother paid for their order, before they walked off together.

I sat there wondering whether the mother realised what had just happened.

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Finding a voice in the African bush


DSCN0589Aspirant writers are told to find their ‘voice’. One of the ways to do this, one is told, is to read widely. Discover the way other people write; find styles that resonate, ways of writing that appeal to you. Try different styles and eventually you will find your own.

Jen and I are spending a week in the dune forests on the northern shore of Lake St Lucia. I picked up a delightful book about the quirky travel experiences of a couple of intrepid wildlife explorers. Chris and Jo Meintjes met on a trip to the Amazon which culminated in a visit to the fabulous Galapagos Islands of Darwinian fame. I call it a “trip”; for you and me it would be an expedition, an adventure. For them, simply a trip, like you and I might take to the shopping mall. The book is called, The Borneo Head Hunters Cuckoo-Clock: Travails in Transit. The cuckoo-clock refers to a visit to a long hut in the middle of an Indonesian rain forest. In the night a clock struck midnight. It wasn’t an ordinary clock; there in darkest Indonesia, where human skulls, if not still harvested, are still used in decorative hanging baskets around the home, a cuckoo called the time.

Chris’s writing style appeals to me no end. He has a deliciously dry humour (without any effort) and an ability to share the bare bones of a story while enabling one to imagine all the wonders and scary bits in between. That’s my preferred style. I would love to write as he does and write about the wonderful places they have seen. There is a minor difficulty. I haven’t been anywhere. It is a bit of a disadvantage for an aspirant travel writer not to have travelled much—well, not much beyond the local mall and the coffee shops of the more secure locations of the world. Hot chocolate in Christchurch, anyone? Milkshake in Montana? Coffee in Cape Town, London, Edinburgh?

DSCN0613Having started writing so late in life, I have the disadvantage of trying to catch up. To travel enough, to read enough, to experience enough, to have enough to write about. To have lived a safe, secluded, boring life has its advantages, such as arriving alive at the end of it, but not when you want to plumb its depths for writing material. Fiction writers have an advantage here. They can travel in their minds, experience places vicariously, and write great stories set in places they have never visited. For now at least I’m not drawn to fiction; I don’t have a story in me.

DSCN0676At least I can say that I read Chris Meintjes’ stories of ‘travails in transit’ while sitting in the middle of the African bush with, for the most part, no other human in sight. But that’s about as wild as it gets. Other humans did wander down the boardwalk to the main lodge with its bar, TV lounge and restaurant. We could also hear guests by the swimming pool 100 metres or so below us. But for the rest we were ensconced in a delightful thatched cabin with views into and over the surrounding bush with Lake St Lucia in the far distance. The lake is not meant to be in the far distance. The end of the jetty was just a few hundred metres below us but the drought is so severe that the lake is a strip of blue on the far horizon with dry sand between us. There is an abandoned boat wedged in the sand. It’s been there since 2004, with the additional insult of grass growing around it.

Perhaps the boat is a metaphor for writing.  But I’ll leave that to you.

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Ladies, Confused Males, and Coffee


Spar Ladies Race 2010

From the sublime to the, well, other extreme.

The start: looking forward The start: looking back

Last Sunday, after attending the opening and dedication of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary the day before, we went to the Pietermaritzburg Spar/Weekend Witness Ladies race.

Jen & Kath: Before

Something between three and four thousand ladies and “Confused Males” (their  official race-day title) took part in a five or ten kilometre run or walk. Jen and Kath return each year for the ten kilometre run. It’s their one formal race per year, and it keeps them pounding (or gently patting?) the streets week Jen & Kath: After!after week. I don’t know whether it is the fun of running, or the “goodie bag” supplied by the sponsors at registration, or the breakfast pack supplied at the finish? Perhaps they like mixing it with the confused males?

And me? Well someone has to carry the coffee and take pictures. It’s a tough job………

All in all it’s a fun day and the camaraderie is  great. Oh yes, and the coffee is good.

A confused male There was fun for all A pretty pair of confused males

Some more confused than others

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