I write a lot in coffee shops. I like the noise around me, the way I can look up in a break and see an expression on someone's face or the something in the way someone walks past outside that inspires me. And most of all, I like the caffeine, preferably with a long shot of skimmed milk and a little dash of hazelnut syrup.
But there was one coffee shop experience I had last summer that I don't think I'll ever forget. Whenever I recall it, it makes me smile like Wordsworth's daffodils.
I was sitting on one of the comfy chairs in Starbucks writing an early chapter in my last book when a woman in her late fifties came to sit near me. It was a hot day and she had a white floaty knee length skirt, some kind of cheesecloth fabric, and a matching blouse teamed with strappy sandals. Her hair was long and loose and a mousey brown which looked over-dyed and badly in need of conditioning. When she sat down, her skirt exposed a lot of dimpled, veiny knees. She was a big woman with plain face and so the overall effect was... incongruous. But hey, she walked in there like she felt great so good luck to her, I thought.
And then her husband came over, finally having got served. He put a large mug of coffee and a muffin down in front of her and smiled. 'There you are, gorgeous,' he said and from his face you knew he meant every word of it. Now he wasn't a good looking man either but she looked up at him like he was.
They sat there eating and drinking in companionable silence, giving off the most 'together' vibe of any couple I've seen. Any time I need to write about love, I remember those two. When all the Valentine's cards and flowers and chocolates and the nervous jitters and excitement of early love are gone, if you're lucky that's what you get - what they have.
Of course, Shakespeare tried telling us years ago that:
"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind:"
But whenever I'm minded to forget that, I think of that couple and it makes me unaccountably happy.