Cafe Squatting

So I’m sitting in the corner of a hipster little café in Hampstead. I have a flat white, complete with swan art, to my left, and a finished plate of smashed avocado to my right. I am wearing a big swishing scarf, and bright red lipstick, in the hope that I may scream some sort of sophistication in this place, that is definitely far too cool for me. On the overhead speakers, some husky man is murmuring meaningful lyrics, accompanied by a guitar and the chatter of the people dining in this small space. Of course, everything is wooden, mismatched in the way that looks put together, if you know what I mean. Even the staff are all co-ordinating in their dark shirts, pierced noses and waxed moustaches.

I love going to places like this, it’s a prime spot for people watching, and so let my totally inaccurate observations begin…

Sitting opposite me, are the ladies that lunch. Two middle-aged women who definitely do Pilates on the weekends. They are munching down on their gluten-free salad option, because they are trying to watch what they eat. They sip on their extra hot cappuccinos, but of course, no sprinkles, thankyou very much. Their double denim attire, completed with a beret and boots oozes luxury. As their second round of coffee arrive, they completely ignore the young server, as they are too busy gossiping to acknowledge anyone around them. A dismissive wave of the hand as the guy offer’s two cappuccinos, but oh no, they have sprinkles! A slightly curt suggestion that he should’ve known what they ordered before he served them is said, and they continue their loud catch-up as two new ones are made.

Next, are the cool guys. Two youngish boys dressed in an effortless sweater and denim combo. Pulled up socks cover the area of their shins that their too-short jeans don’t, and the white trainers tie the look together. One guy has his hair tied up in low buns behind his head, accentuating the three gold hoops in his ear that he and his mates pierced themselves. The other has a beige cap on to cover his mop of curly hair, and a strong beard to match. They are only drinking water, because they don’t actually like the taste of coffee, but that’s okay because coffee is probably to mainstream these days anyway. They are looking at a laptop, and discussing ideas together, maybe for the next start-up business venture in east London.

On the opposite side of the table, is the first-time mum. Hair tied-up in a fuss-free ponytail and a knit thrown on, that definitely has a stain from this morning’s breakfast. She clutches her latte for moral support while her baby cries in its pram, for no particular reason. As she pulls her little one out, and balances him on her knee, you can see her tired eyes wishing for some sort of magical cure for crying toddlers. She shares her portion of plain toast, out of love but also in the hope of a moment of silence. As she folds him in a hug, you can see the bond of love between them, despite the sleepless nights.

Finally, the coffee guy. He has short brown hair, and is dressed in vintage chic that only waiters in cool coffee shops do. He is shy, not wanting to interrupt his customers as he carries over coffee after coffee. He has been working all day, but still wears a smile on his face as he welcomes new people into the café, a smile that his masking how bored and tired he really is.

As I sit in the corner of the coffee shop, I notice each group of people, sipping their coffee and enjoying their afternoon chat. They flow in and out, but I am that one weirdo who has been here all afternoon. After all of the judgements I make on other people, which are definitely in jest, the staff are probably making the same on me:

There is a girl sitting in the back corner of the shop, who has only had one coffee all afternoon, but keeps asking for water, probably because she is too stingy to buy anything else, but wants to sap our free wifi. She has been furiously typing away on her laptop, probably writing some essay about the arts, judging by the colour of her hair, and her bright clothing, not to mention the nose ring.

If only they knew, that if café squatting was a sport, I would be the champion….

Balance

Being in my final year of university, there is a figure, a shadow even, standing two feet behind me at all times. It follows me around to remind me about dissertation, money, and life after graduation. Sometimes, my vision is so focused, and I am momentarily distracted by day-to-day life that I forget the figure is still standing there. But, it never fails to sneak into my peripheral vision at the first chance it gets. It is a constant worry that the figure is going to catch up with me, bringing with it deadlines and overdrafts. I try my best to keep that two feet separation, but something I am trying to teach myself, at the moment, is balance. Sometimes, it is okay to buy that dress and treat myself, but sometimes I do need to save every penny I can. Some days, I eat bowls of kale and chicken, and other days I demolish a packet of custard creams because they were on offer at Sainsburys! I so often beat myself up for not doing what I should be doing, but I think that there comes a point where you need to focus on things you need to do instead.

This weekend was such a perfect example of me letting that two-feet distance shorten just a little bit, but in exchange, I gave myself the time I needed with friends, enjoying myself and having fun.

My slightly obsessive nature for organisation and lists saw a drafted out version of my weekend in my head, planned days in advance. My list told me I was going to relax, be productive and study for most of my time, and get a good night’s rest to catch up on the long week. I was excited to have a productive and refreshingly quiet weekend. And then… Life kicked in! I saw my friend’s show on Saturday night, and one drink afterwards turned into drinking luxurious pints in Chelsea that we definitely could not afford, to downing coconut tequila shots in our friends bedroom in Kilburn. Fast-forward to six am Sunday morning, and I was finally stumbling home, feeling warm and fuzzy from booze and drunken chats despite the freezing morning I had walked out to. This was not part of the plan! The rest of Sunday was spent in a hungover, sleepy haze, with my bed comforting me until the late afternoon. All the things I had planned to do got thrown out the window, and instead, I watched Blue Planet and cooked my mums amazing minestrone soup.

I wanted to beat myself up for going out so late, and not getting essay work and research done. But, as I look back on my weekend now, I realise that actually, that was what I needed. Working long hours and studying this term has meant that I haven’t been able to spend much time with my friends, and this weekend was the chance to try and make up for all the pints we should have been having at the SU bar every week.

We all lead such busy lives these days, so for me, it is important to learn to not be so strict on myself. If I want to eat half a chocolate bar in one sitting, then I bloody will, and I will try not to beat myself up about it, because I know that I had a healthy and nutritious dinner!  Balancing out those should’s and needs will stop that shadow catching up, so let’s all learn to read the scales.