Starbucks, Highbury Corner

by Tim Bradford on November 20, 2010

As usual on a Saturday late morning I’ve dropped 7 year old off at football then rushed to grab a coffee and continue my ongoing Great Lincolnshire Novel. But I can’t get a seat anywhere. It’s Arsenal v Spurs today , starting early at 12.45. So everywhere round here is packed, even the coffee bars. How did I not know this? There was a time, not that long ago, when the first page I turned to in the papers was the Sport. Then the news, then international news, then the sport again to check if there’s anything I’d missed (not motor racing, horse racing or tennis, though, of course – but proper sport like football, rugby, boxing, cricket).

But now I have to read the Review section first, find out about the latest short story collections, history books, kids’ stories. This morning, rather than checking to see what the opinion was about the North London derby, or talk about the upcoming Ashes series, I’d turned first to Maggie O’Farrell’s short piece about the late poet Michael Donaghy in The Guardian. Sport isn’t like ‘’Finance’ or ‘Work’ sections – it doesn’t get used for cleaning boys’ football boots or clearing out the ashes. It’s also still not on a par with ‘Travel’ or ‘Family’, which are put in a ‘saved’ pile to read on a rainy day. But when the rainy day comes, we’ll cook soups, watch a film or look for pianos on Ebay or just stare out of the window.

I queue up for ages at Starbucks behind noisy  fans buying skinny lattes then edge my way down the back where the fans disappear and it’s just mums and dads with prams and Guardians or students with laptops.

It’s a latte with an extra shot, with a BLT. It’s obviously not a proper bacon sandwich. For a start, the bacon is cold. How could it be otherwise when it’s covered in tomato and lettuce.  They should have a big pan of bacon on the go at all times. The bread is good – tastes like granary Hovis. Too much mayonnaise on it though. And of course there’s no brown sauce. The coffee? It’s OK, but there’s just too much of it, and even with the extra shot it’s drowned in gloopy hot milk.

Is that Frank and Nancy Sinatra singing “I Love You’ on the speakers? No, it’s the rubbish Nicole Kidman and Robbie Williams version. The sound of muzak, jetplane woosh of the coffee machine and general hubbub makes me hear an extra layer of tinnitus, like a water rushing through a weir in my eardums. Brown sauce might have made it go away.

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Noo Noo & Bebo’s, Kentish Town Road, London NW5

by Tim Bradford on November 15, 2010

I was passing this when I saw the chalkboard sign “The best coffee in London”.  There was no mention about who had bestowed this accolade – possibly the owner – but it certainly made me curious.

Noo Noo and Bebo’s (Even though I double checked, I’m sure I’ve got the name wrong) is a tiny café, about the size of a big school store cupboard. At one stage there were about eight people in there, some ordering, others just chatting or listening to the French rap music that was playing on the speakers.

For my sandwich I was asked “white or brown bread, love?” I asked for brown and so, a short while later, a neat little white bread bacon sarnie appeared. The brown sauce was a bit sweet – Daddy’s rather than HP perhaps – and the bacon was a little stiff and not quite fatty enough.

But the coffee really was very good. I had a latte with an extra shot. This is my current crush as I try to wean myself off Americanos.  Admittedly latte with an extra shot is the alcopop of the caffeine world but Americanos after lunch give me a headache as well as flashbacks to a rugby tour to Paris in the mid 1980s. But this lovely little latte – which was like a kind and gentle, hair strokey version of an espresso – reminded me of sitting in an apartment in Mamers, France with my pen friend and his cousin, staring at flowered wallpaper and discussing the works of Laurent Voulzy.

Afterwards I walked up Highgate Road to pick my daughter up from school. On the way I passed The HMV Forum (formerly the Town and Country Club) which I last went to in 1991 to see a Throwing Muses gig. Even though I’ve been in London for over twenty years I’ve never walked the stretch from The Forum up to the railway bridge (which I’ve previously approached from the  north). Another little piece of London is now joined up in my mind.

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Poppies and Fighting

November 11, 2010

On 11/11 I always think of my grandad, who fought in the First World War. He volunteered in 1914 and was invalided out a few months before the Battle of the Somme two years later. But then I think of the two minutes silence and our contemplation of  “the fallen”. Except they didn’t ‘fall’, they […]

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“It’s the half term holiday!”

October 23, 2010

I had a dream last night that I was in the west of Ireland and had left a pub to go in search of a mandolin so I could join the session. (This is dream bravado, of course – I’ve had three lessons and can play two and a half tunes at walking pace). I […]

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I’ve got wheels and a full tank of gas

October 22, 2010

I’ve got wheels and a full tank of gas. To be more specific, it’s a full tank of high performance  unleaded petrol. I drove out of the garage on Hornsey Road thinking to myself “I could go anywhere, do anything. Just drive and see where the road takes me.” But rather than head up Scotland […]

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Replica Kit Heartbreak

May 26, 2010

My son no longer loves Leeds United

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The Westbury, Turnpike Lane

May 13, 2010

I went to the Westbury for a pint.

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Cheese sandwiches in the fairy fields

April 9, 2010

 A walk down to the fairy fields at the end of the Cahermacrusheen boreen where we have a grand picnic of cheese sandwiches and Tayto crisps and a flask of tea. The sea is still and the Aran Isles look very close. Most of the land around North Doolin is parched and the grass dry […]

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Forgotten Small Towns of the Midlands

April 7, 2010

Driving across Ireland from Dublin to Co. Clare at high speed yesterday I thought, as we flashed by yet another turn-off to a small town, how the Irish driving experience has changed for the worse. No longer is it a slowish procession through interesting main streets with bars, hardware shops and town halls. No longer […]

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The View Down To Highbury Vale/St John’s Church

February 11, 2010

My late neighbour, Edna Crome, seemed to know more about Highbury then anyone I know. She was always telling me stories about some aspect of local history, often relating to architecture, football and schools. One afternoon, as we chatted over the garden fence, she started to tell me about St John's Church. I didn't know anything […]

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