It is fitting that this is my last coffee shop stop before leaving the UK tomorrow. Back in the day this place was called Yoma. This was, say, 2 or 3 years ago when we were sprightly young lads, recent graduates or graduates soon-to-be with nothing but confidence and health and optimism for the wide world that awaited us.
Yoma became the first real café hangout for Chris and I. We’d go there alone or as a metrosexual couple (Chris embracing this image slightly more than me), buy a coffee and sit there for three or four hours. Our repeated visits must have meant that our lacklustre approach to spending money was tolerated. Plus, sitting there in the window as we were, chatting, writing, or reading intelligent-sounding books, must have been good for the image of the café, drawing more people in. Right?
Looking back now, unemployed to the point of emigration, as socially insecure as ever, I realise that not only were those rosy days seen through rosy lenses, but the memory was a rosy fabrication and life was generally horrible in the past too. We often joke that we go to parties, into the kitchen (where everyone tends to be) which promptly evacuates, and are left alone with our self-esteems wounded, to be saved only by stealing the vodka of the exodees. Sitting in the window of Yoma, generating an effective soft sell beckon to those passing by… no chance! And true, looking back now, and we were mostly in there alone. Kitchen exodus syndrome had followed us to the café.
Still, for all our woes, Yoma served us well. It became a place to hone our skills of self-deprecation (something we have now simultaneously perfected and yet remain totally rubbish at, just like everything else (that’s one for the meta-self-deprecation enthusiasts)). Local friends would stop by and gradually Steve, Dave and James became regular Yoma fiends too. We became acquainted with Giles, the barista par excellence, a righteously attractive man with the civilities of an etiquette Saint, learned and engaging, generous with unsold cakes at the end of the day. Ah, Giles, where are you now? A few weeks after Yoma got rid of him (this may not be accurate) for taking too many liberties – he wrote charming things on the blackboard, the bastard! – the café shut down. What went wrong? People will have there ideas, their reasons and speculations, but I have two words for you – no Giles.
Today I am back. Yoma has since become Mozzo Store, for a brief few weeks apparently, and now Café Monde. It’s pretty good, better than Yoma, layout-wise. Better use of the space. The chap is more than nice but I won’t do anyone the disservice of comparing him to Giles. I got here alone, lingered for Steve, stepped back outside to see Steve bounding up the road, satchel hanging the longest it possibly can, wispy beard hanging like a cedilla off his chin. We talk of the general instability of life, the merits of language exchange websites and dating websites, and how easy it is to find public showers when you are ‘of no abode’.
I depart briefly to get vaccinations. The vaccination place is coincidentally about 4 doors down. With two new holes in my arms I struggle to walk and am pathetically compelled to sit in the waiting room and drink some water. I sense that a cupcake is really what I need, so I head back to see Steve, who tells me I’m looking ‘white’ and gets me a medicinal cupcake which does the job nicely. I finish the green tea while Steve works on his second latte, and we amble off towards new lives.