The Moon Under Counter – or the Ideal Coffee Shop

Here’s an affectionate tribute to one of the more light-hearted pieces penned by the great George Orwell. His original piece ‘The Moon Under Water’ was first published in the Evening Standard, in 1946. It describes Orwell’s ideal pub.

Unlike the great George Orwell, the master essayist of the last century, I am not and never have been, a regular pub-goer.

I am however a great lover of coffee shops of all shapes and sizes from the high-street chains to the tiny independent ones secreted down the side-streets of our towns and cities.

I’m no coffee connoisseur, far less a coffee snob – there’s enough of them online and elsewhere spouting drivel about how cool they and their latte-swilling mates are.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t know a good coffee shop when I see one – so in the spirit of Orwell let’s have a look at what the ideal coffee hang-out should be like. Here we go.

  1. It should be spacious inside. I don’t mean airport-sized, I just mean big enough so you’re not having to elbow your way past the other punters when it comes to getting served. There is a happy middle ground somewhere between cluttered and the horrid soulless minimalism you get in modern office lobbies. Wherever that middle ground is to be found, so is our ideal coffee shop.
  2. The décor should be restful. People are coming into our ideal coffee shop to unwind, chat and share ideas. They can’t do that if the colour scheme looks like it’s been done by a hyperactive toddler on acid. Nice wood paneling, gentle lighting and soft furnishings, that’s what we’re after.
  3. The clientele would be mostly regulars. They would be a mixed bag of folk from different walks of life but the staff would know them all by name.
  4. The staff would be friendly, knowledgeable and have a near-clairvoyant ability to tell when you are after conversation or just want to be left the hell alone. If it’s the latter, refills will be poured periodically, no questions asked.
  5. Seating would be booths, similar to an American-style diner. These would be spacious, not rammed together so closely that the punters risked bashing their skull against the person sitting behind them.
  6. Music would be inconspicuous if at all. There would be no rap, no hip-hop, no r ‘n ‘b and in fact nothing done after the year 1999. Ideally it would be tasteful singer-songwriter fare, Nina Simone, Bob Marley that kind of thing. Or some cool jazz.
  7. There would be a decent range of tea, coffee, hot and cold drinks and nibbles as well as milkshakes. All reasonably-priced and delicious. Of course.
  8. The atmosphere would always be relaxing regardless of what time of day you went. And you would always get a good seat.
  9. The temperatures inside would be the Goldilocks ideal – neither too warm nor too cold, making it ideal for use as a base for bloggers, writers and so on. Full wi-fi would be available, naturally.
  10. It would be open seven days a week and have more than enough staff to make this possible. Not a handful of miserable staff struggling to cope. And they would all be well-paid and given decent working conditions.
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