Wednesday 20 November 2013

Barnaby thinks about coffee.

Barnaby enjoys a good cup of coffee, as do the characters in his books, especially D.C.I. Flowers in the Mercedes Drew Mysteries. Flowers is particularly partial to Costa Rican coffee and tends to drink his black. Barnaby is less fussy about the origin, though he does prefer the stronger flavours, and he usually takes his with some milk. Neither of them spoil the coffee taste by adding sugar.
Once, it was only possible in the UK to have a single type of coffee. It was whatever instant coffee the establishment served. The only choice was whether to have it with or without milk. Now, there is a bewildering array of choices, confusingly identified by Italian names.
A few years back, Barnaby wrote the following verse to acknowledge the change.

Arty Farty, Caffy Larty

The chip van in our layby has gone all arty farty.
Instead of selling mugs of tea, he now sells caffy larty.
It used to be quite simple, instant coffee or strong tea.
Either way you got a mug.  The price was forty pee.
But now if you just want to buy black coffee and a sarnie,
He’s asking is that expresso, or is it merry karnie?

I said, “Make it quite expresso, ‘cos I haven’t got much time”,
And I put a fifty pee down on the counter in the grime.
I waited while he made it and lit myself a smoke,
But when he put it down I thought he’d made another joke.
Instead of the enamelled mugs he’d used ‘til yesterday,
He’s put a dolly’s teacup down, filled only up half way.

“That’s two pound twenty, mate”, he said.  He didn’t even blink.
That’s one pound ten a gulp, I thought.  Too bloody dear to drink.
I said, “Your prices have gone up a bit.  Are you having a laugh?”
He said, “It’s elf and safety, mate.  You just can’t get the staff.
Sugar’s on the end there”.  Well, some things stay the same,
Still the one bent teaspoon then, left swinging on a chain.

I said, “I can’t afford to drink it, mate.  How about some tea?”
He said, “Make your bloody mind up, John.  It’s all the same to me.
D’you want
White tea?  Green Tea?  Black or Iced?
Fruit tea? Herbal?  Blended?  Spiced?
Earl Grey?  Jasmine?  Lapsang souchong?
Camomile?  Roibos?  Or Oolong?
How about a nice Assam?
Or, bit more spicy, Mangalam?
Chinese?  Indian?  Ceylon?
Or, why not try a Rose Pouchong?

I think he knew he’d lost me as I backed towards my car.
I said, “Keep the fifty pee, mate, and I left it on the bar.
He called out, “D’you need water?”, as I opened up the door.
“I’ve got thirty two varieties, ... or is it thirty four?”
I pulled into the traffic and rejoined the endless snake.
I guess I wasn’t thirsty.  Still, ... it was good to have the break.

 (July 2010)
If you liked this poem, Barnaby would love to hear from you. You can find more about his quirky verse at  available in both e-book and print.

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