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.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Barnaby thinks about topless sunbathing and bare knees.

Today, Barnaby walked along a pebbled Devon beach in glorious autumn sunshine with his partner and her dog. Although the beach was uncrowded, a few others were also taking advantage of the weather and the exercise.
Now, Barnaby has a theory that people like beaches not only for the bracing air, but because they allow behaviour that would be deemed antisocial, improper or childish in other places.
For example, on the beach one is allowed to play with mud (or sand) whether adult or child. It is also acceptable to throw stones, (towards the sea of course and only when safe to do so), douse other people with cold water and to remove one's clothes down to whatever is the locally acceptable minimum. In some places, to nothing at all. Curiously, folk who would die of embarrassment to be seen strolling around in their underpants, or bra and knickers, are totally unphased by doing pretty much the same thing on the beach.
Barnaby was reminded of a time he was at Lake Geneva at Evian les Bains. At this point the Route Nationale hugs the shore of the lake. At various points, however, there are narrow strips of shingly beach, which are heavily utilised by sunbathers and swimmers. There is a low wall, no more than eighteen inches high separating the busy road from the small beach. On the beach, topless sunbathing is quite acceptable, though the practitioners are clearly visible to pedestrians and vehicle drivers alike. It would be entirely unacceptable, however, to step over the dividing wall from the beach onto the street unless fully clothed. Barnaby is somewhat at a loss to understand how an eighteen inch wall can make this difference, or is it the presence or absence of water that is the determining factor?
None of which, of course, has anything to do with publishing e-books, though Barnaby is disconcerted to find that his volumes of short stories are still not being listed on the Kobo website. Could it be the bare knees on the covers that are the problem? Luckily, all Barnaby's books, in e-book or paperback format, can be found on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble and many other bookstores. More information about the books and where they can be bought at