Today I went to London’s Tin Pan Alley to buy a plectrum. I met my trusty plectrum hunting comrade, Summer, had a salami sandwhich and went to peruse some guitar shops. The first had a welcoming young man – ‘Hello!’ he said, ‘feel free to play anything you like.’ A ukulele was as adventurous as we got. The next shop had a walking talking stereotype running it: long hair but balding, jean jacket and man-jewellery. He pulls a guitar off the wall, extends a leg onto a chair, and retunes the strings at a rapid pace, talking to us all the while: ‘Today mate, second hand electrics, hundred-ten pounds; ‘cept these, eighty-nine, and the Squires, ninety-nine. Now if you’re willing to push out for a more top-notch high-grade instrument, I could direct you to the…’
On we went to Caffè Vergnano. Strictly speaking it’s a small coffee chain, and so it is written about with some hesitance. You can’t locate the specificity of a certain style or aura when the same place is reproduced in a whole variety of locations, but Vergnano isn’t yet global, and does have something that makes it distinctive. I would say, however, that the chainness of this café is exemplified by the vacancy in the eyes of the women who work here. They’re happiest when talking to each other, which they continue to do while they robotically take my order.
I get a mocha. It’s brutally thick, such is their trademark. They have a very nice silver coffee machine on the bar. It looks like a Dalek, after a good scrub, reprogrammed to work in Wonka’s chocolate factory. Summer has a hot chocolate which is too sweet for her. They think they can handle it, but rarely can in my experience. I remember how the chocolate beat Alex from Singapore a few months back. But for every person beaten there is a convert. A few months ago, I converted a sceptical James to the ways of the mocha. ‘You people with your art seminars, pseudo-revolutionary ideals and cappachapchini coffees,’ he would say with disgust. Not after he met the Caffè Vergnano mocha. There was no going back for James, who is now in a sanatorium in Poland hoping to combat his mocha addiction. We all wish him the best.
Summer and I sit in the corner, sharing a ham and cheese croissant flattened by a toaster into a 2D version of its previous, plump self. We practice Chinese and talk about our misgivings and anxieties about dating humans. Outside, the unceasing passage of endless people continues. They’re undeterred by the greyness of the clouds of the futility of their condition: Londoners powering through the absurd, with stiff upper lips at the ready.
Vergnano is nice but lacking any meaningful character. It’s clean-cut, black n wood, very dignified. I like the cups. They sprinkle an 1886 on your coffee in chocolate. Do I like that? ‘What you’re doing there is you’re drinking an advert, ain’t ya, shithead,’ as Super Hans eloquently put it.