Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Yogurt and cappuccino at Little Tree

November 27, 2019

Wednesday four weeks ago, end of October, I was intending to climb Hill of the Muses, last warm day before the weather changes.

Last warm day end of October before the weather changes to cooler weather. I got as far as Little Tree, and no further.

AirBnB causing major problems in Athens and other major cities. In Athens dirty Turkish, Russian and Chinese money buying apartment blocks, local residents forced out creating ghettos.

Graffiti most apt.

Synchronicity: Passing by the derelict mansion behind the Acropolis Museum a lady stopped and spoke to me, asked was I interested in buying as she had similar properties for sale. I learnt such properties were protected, could not be demolished, expensive to buy and would cost as much again to renovate. She was on her way to an appointment, could not stop and chat.

I regret I did not ask how much to buy?

Derelict mansion featured in Walking in Athens, a collection of essays by Nikos Vatopoulos, in an essay A forgotten staircase beside The Acropolis.

Yogurt and cappuccino at Little Tree bohemian bookshop cum coffee shop located behind Acropolis Museum.

I made a mistake ordering a freddo cappuccino not a cappuccino. Waiter brought me a freddo cappuccino before I could correct my mistake. I said a mistake, he took away freddo cappuccino, brought a cappuccino, billed me for both.

A chat with a young lady who had a white e-scooter, her own not a rented e-scooter. She agreed the dumping of e-scooters everywhere is a menace.

I mentioned Mallorca was now taking action on e-scooters. We agreed long overdue Athens did the same.

Then a very long chat with a young guy, H G Wells, democracy, AirBnB, Greek financial crisis.

By then it was dark and turning cool.

Little Tree

November 22, 2019

Coffee at Little Tree. Saturday it was packed.

Note to self: Avoid Little Tree on a Saturday.

Walking to Little Tree passed a derelict mansion.

Flipping through a book in little tree, it fell open at an essay about the very same house. Walking in Athens, a collection of essays by Nikos Vatopoulis, A forgotten staircase beside The Acropolis.

Little Tree a bohemian bookshop cum coffee shop is tucked behind the Acropolis Museum.

Blue Bear Bookshop opening launch party

November 16, 2019

Serendipity I was in Farnham passing by Blue Bear Bookshop during their opening launch party.

For the last week or more, dreadful weather, cold, raining, never sure what the weather will do as check the day before then within less than twelve hours the weather has changed again.

I have gone out when it looks like it is not about to rain.

This week and last week, I have popped into Farnham midweek, thus no need to visit today, but on the spur of the moment, I changed my mind, even though no need to visit Farnham.

Usually I alight from the bus and walk into Farnham along the River Wey and up Downing Street. I also cut through alleyways, avoiding The Borough.

The Borough is unpleasant, heavily congested, narrow pavement jostled-into the road, very heavily polluted.

Today though I was walking through The Borough.

I noted Oxfam had swapped shops, the bookshop now in The Borough. A very professional job, remove the Oxfam sign and would never know it was an Oxfam shop.

Past WHSmith, a dreadful store, a huge mistake relocating tho Post Office into WHSmith.

I then noticed a new bookshop, Blue Bear Bookshop, a new bookshop packed with people.

I looked in and happened upon the launch party of the Blue Bear Bookshop.

Food, cakes, flutes of Champagne or at least fizzy wine. In a corner a young lad knocking out poetry on demand on an old typewriter.

I went in search of the Big Issue seller, could not find her, by the time I got back, the food had all but gone.

Whoever did the catering did an excellent job the food and cakes excellent.

People, kids, dogs. Barely able to move.

The books aesthetically arranged on the shelves, though means fewer books.

Very much work in progress.

Currently a wider selection in the Oxfam Bookshop.

And therein lies the dilemma, stock best sellers which are the bread and butter, but in doing so will be undercut by Waterstone’s and the supermarkets, or stock more interesting titles which may not sell.

Worth a visit to P & G Wells in the backstreets of Winchester behind Winchester Cathedral, the bookshop Jane Austin used. Always interesting titles in the window, how bookshops used to be, books tempted to buy, not the best selling hyped rubbish the publishers dump on Waterstone’s.

Blue Bear Bookshop not only a bookshop, also a coffee shop. The coffee shop side very much unfinished business.

I ordered a cappuccino. My expectations were not high. To my surprise drinkable, on a par with Krema in Downing Street, thus now have two excellent coffee shops in Farnham.

The coffee Wogan Coffee I have never heard of, nor has anyone I have spoken to, a coffee roastery in Bristol.

The image on a box resembled a 1960s Soho gangster.

Coffee served in takeaway coffee cups not good. But I was assured a temporary measure for the opening and they will be serving coffee in ceramic.

The staff trained, but training a barista does not make, learn by employing a skilled head barista, who acts a mentor. Small changes make all the difference.

I did though note the coffee freshly ground, coffee carefully weighed.

The girl who served me had worked in a coffee shop in Finland.

I know not of Finland, but Sweden has a high reputation for coffee, as does the Baltic States.

Currently only from the espresso machine. Future maybe pour over. I strongly recommend source from Coffee Gems as local to Farnham and very high quality coffee.

I am reminded of Little Tree, a bohemian bookshop come coffee shop where sit drinking coffee under the shade of the trees, later in the evening craft beer.

At Little Tree, a far greater choice of books, philosophy, poetry, literature, politics. Not that I have ever seen anyone buy a book. Though I am told people buy books in the morning.

Having said that, I recently bought Walking in Athens, a collection of essays, little vignettes of Athens. And in the past have bought music.

Something Blue Bear Bookshop may wish to copy from Little Tree, bookmarks featuring writers, writers of literature not best sellers, the bill for the coffee, always brought with a glass of water, attached to the bookmark with a paper clip.

On the coffee counter by the cakes was a pile of a magazine I have never heard of, Chapter Catcher.

Chapter Catcher launched in June by John Bird, the guy behind Big Issue, a selection of reading, samplers to encourage people to read if not buy books. It cannot have gone beyond the launch issue as it was the launch issue on the counter.

But who is going to pay a fiver for a magazine never heard of that is sealed in an envelope and cannot browse the content?

I suggested they may wish to sell high end magazines, Standart, Drift, Ambrosia, Cereal, or at least dot around for people to browse.

In the centre a large communal table. Good for discussions, poetry reading, and they are planning events.

Possible future events Dhan Tamang UK latter art champion on latte art, a talk on The Alchemist.

A must for the large communal table, The World Atlas of Coffee.

Down wooden stairs a cellar. Appearance of a store room. More work in progress.

Opening an indie bookshop or even a coffee shop, is a risky business, especially in today’s failing High Street.

The location not good, a very polluted street which is best avoided, but may have been all that was available.

We hear much of the failing High Street, of towns turning into ghost towns, each week of another corporation chain gone into liquidation.

But chains have brought it upon themselves. They focused on expansion, not on profitability, paid ludicrous rents, and in doing so drove up rents for everyone and put local businesses out of businesses and are now paying the cost of their unsustainable businesses practices.

When chains collapse, we should welcomes the news, as it provides the opportunity for local small business.

I have seen too many good bookshops close, Thorpe’s in Guildford, Readers Rest in Lincoln, to name but two.

To see a new bookshop open is good news, and a double reason for celebration, a coffee shop too serving speciality coffee.

It is now for local people to support. If you see a book in Waterstone’s not discounted then buy from Blue Bear Bookshop. And unless you really enjoy drinking disgusting undrinkable coffee from tax dodging chains that have to be doused in syrups to make palatable, there are now two coffee shops serving excellent coffee in Farnham, Krema and Blue Bear Books.

A Strange Attractor

May 16, 2019

There are many second hand book stores in Exarchia. A Strange Attractor is one of them. Also a record store.

Cappuccino al fresco at Little Tree

May 15, 2019

Located beind The Acropolis Museum, little tree is a bookshop cum coffee shop. I have though yet to see anyone buy a book.

Great place to relax with a coffee or later a craft beer. They do food too.

Something though needs to done about the near continous convoy of noisy pollution belching tour buses, like close and pedestrianise the roads.

A break in the pollution belching bus convoy, it is lovely and peacefull and quiet under the shade of the trees, then along comes the next pollution belching bus convoy.

Excellent cappuccino, coffee supplied by Taf.

Pleasant and friendly staff. Nice comment when one said you are one of us. In other words an Athenian.

Last time I visited, there was music I fancied, and I regretted that I did not buy. I did not know what it was, neither did they when asked.

I took a chance and picked up the sole remaining copy of Amorgos by Ada Pitsou.

Crystal merchant atop a hill

January 24, 2019

The crystal merchant knew all there was to know about crystal, from where to buy, the quality, at what price to sell.

He used to be busy, but times had changed, few people climbed the hill, the crystal on display was collecting dust, but after 30 years it was too late to change, crystal was all he knew.

One day, just as he was about to shut up shop to go for his lunch, he saw a boy looking at his display. He had sufficient experience to appraise the boy to know he had no money and was not going to buy anything. He nevertheless delayed closing his shop until the boy walked on.

The boy walked in, offered to clean the dusty crystal on display if the merchant bought his lunch.

The merchant agreed, as the boy was cleaning the crystal two customers walked in.

Over lunch, the merchant told the boy he had no need to clean the crystal, he would have taken him for lunch, it was an obligation in the Koran.

The merchant seeing that he has already sold crystal that day, saw the arrival of the boy as a good omen and asked the boy if he wished to work for him.

The boy agreed, he would work for the day as he wished to raise enough money to travel to the Pyramids in Egypt.

The boy was crestfallen to learn the Pyramids were far away and he would have to work for at least a year to raise the money to travel that far.

He abandoned his dream.

He would work long enough to buy a ticket back home and buy sheep, he was a shepherd and sheep was all he knew.

The boy cleaned the stock, was good with the customers, and businesses once again picked up.

 

Two months on, the boy asked could he build a cabinet at the bottom of the hill to display the crystal, as this would tempt visitors to climb the hill to the shop.

The merchant was reluctant, business was picking up, the crystal would get broken, and anyway he did not like change.

But he saw the boy was correct and agreed.

One day the boy overheard from those who climbed the hill how tired and thirsty they were and would it not be a nice idea a drink of tea.

The boy suggested to the merchant they should serve tea in crystal.

The merchant was reluctant, more change, and what did he know about tea, but he agreed.

Business again picked up, word got around, tea was being served in crystal. Many of the men said how their wives would love to serve tea in crystal and bought crystal as a gift for their wives.

In less than a year, the boy bid farewell to the crystal merchant, he had saved enough money to buy a ticket, buy 120 sheep, knew about crystal, could speak Arabic, obtain an import licence for Spain.

The crystal merchant reminded him of his dream, that a caravan was about to depart, that he should follow his dream, that was his destiny.

Steep Hill follows the route of an old Roman Road, it used to be lined with shops, many people walking up the hill to the Castle and Cathedral, stopping part way en route to visit one of the many tea shops.

Now there are few visitors, a bus carries visitors to the top of the hill, many shops have closed, when there are holidays the tea and coffee shops are closed, we too deserve a break they say, then reopen when few visitors are around and bemoan their lack of customers.

There are few businesses of quality, little to draw people back.

At the top of the hill there used to be a tea shop, it closed, premises gutted. Now a cheese shop and coffee shop, the cheese shop selling plastic-wrapped adulterated fake cheddar cheese, the coffee shop serving undrinkable coffee.

The story of the crystal merchant and the boy is taken from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The boy is the shepherd boy Santiago who follows his dreams.

The illustration by Jesús Cisneros from the illustrated Folio Society edition of The Alchemist.

Steep Hill is the tale of a real street in terminal decline.

 

V60 and Om Nom at Outpost Coffee

December 27, 2018

In indie coffee shops, not only excellent coffee very often interesting reading material.

I came across Om Nom in Magazine Brighton. Then when I came across again later in the day in Infinity Foods I decided to pick up a copy, On Nom issue 3.

Issue no 2, long sold out.

The day after the longest day, the Saturday before Christmas, I decided to try my luck in Ideas on Paper in Nottingham, as always keeps back issues. I was out of luck, issue 3 but no earlier issues.

They did though have latest issue of Standart and Ambrosia.

Then another idea, Outpost Coffee. I had seen Om Nom on display on a previous visit. I may be in luck. And I would have as always an excellent V60 from one of their single origin coffees.

At first I thought I was out of luck, not on display, then I noticed more reading material tucked away on a shelf. I was in luck, not only a copy, they kindly gave me their copy.

As always an excellent V60 served in ceramic.

The ceramic cup, Åoomi dust ceramic coffee mug, is on sale at Outpost Coffee.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss

December 3, 2018

Why 111 coffee shops, why not 100, why not 120?

That is what I hate about these series of books, an artificial list, someone hired to fill the list, rather than someone writes and publishes a guide to London coffee shops.

Having said that, 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss exceeds expectations, excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Each coffee shop occupies two pages, a page of text, a picture.  What to expect, the coffee, roaster used.

At the back, a couple of pages of maps. The largest concentration of coffee shops Soho, north of Oxford Street second. Strange therefore Bar Italia, located in Soho, one of the oldest, if not the oldest coffee shop in London, a Soho icon, Soho as once was, does not merit a mention.  Nor Monmouth Coffee in nearby Covent Garden, one of the first artisan coffee shops in London, well before they became trendy places to be.

A couple of coffee shops I am familiar with, if not visited. Pufrock I am told I should visit, but have not, Taylor Street Baristas I have not visited in London, I have the one in Brighton, which sadly closed a couple of years ago, the excellent Curio Cabal the only coffee shop listed that I have visited.

I would have liked to see as with The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, telephone number, web address, twitter and facebook.

I like the hot tips. A place of interest nearby worth a visit.

How to get there, nearest station.

Coffee roasteries are not included, and no guide is complete without. All the more surprising when often mentioned in the description of the coffee shops.

Noticeable by their absence, Bar Italia, Ethiopian Coffee Roasters on the South Bank street food market, little coffee kiosk at foot of Hungerford Bridge on London South Bank, Monmouth Coffee.

At the back, a useful glossary of coffee terms. One term that was new to me, espresso flight, a single-shot espresso,  a single shot cappuccino, served side by side. Only one coffee shop have I been served this though not given a name and not side by side, in a line, was Coffee Aroma, an espresso, a cappuccino and a glass of water, served in a line on a hollowed out wooden board.

A QR code to pull up an interactive map. At least I assume it was, but is not. At least can see where the coffee shops are. It would though have been better if each pin had pulled up information on Google Maps. There is a menu, which takes through to a list of all 111 coffee shops. Click on any entry, and that does take through to Google Maps. A somewhat indirect route.

The problem with any guide, even on-line, is dated as soon as writ, if not before.

Taylor St Baristas no longer use Union-Hand Roasted, they roast their own beans at Taylor St Roasted and their excellent Brighton coffee shop has closed.

An indication of how things date, as I wrote this review, I learnt Taylor St Baristas were returning to Brighton. I miss the one that closed, I will look forward to their new coffee shop.  Or at least that was what I initially thought. Actually they will be supplying the coffee. Maybe one day.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss puts to shame the utterly useless Where to Drink Coffee.

An excellent well researched guide, a must if visiting London and appreciate good coffee.

I prefer to wander and discover, if not, reservations aside 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss is an excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Although I prefer to wander and take me where my feet take me, I have to admit, several of the coffee shops intrigue me and I am tempted to visit next time I am in London.

Also check out London Coffee, an account of London coffee culture rather than a guide to coffee shops.

Book in hand, I did attempt to visit one cold misty day in London at least a couple of the listed coffee shops. I managed all of one, Algerian Coffee Stores, and that only because my lovely Russian friend Tatyana told me it was a must to visit if I ever found myself in London.

I was not that I did not visit any other coffee shops, it is that I tend to go where my feet take me.

I found Four Corners a kiosk outside Waterloo Station. They told me they have a coffee shop in Lower Marsh. Beany a kiosk at the foot of Hungerford Bridge, excellent coffee but no time to stop. Grind in Covent Garden I looked in did not like and walked out. The Espresso Room, a tiny coffee shop in Covent Garden serving excellent coffee. I looked in Bar Italia in Soho, excellent coffee, but no time to stop. Jacob the Angel an English Coffee House, a new coffee shop in Neal’s Yard, serving Square Mile which is a good sign, but about to close. Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden I stopped for a cappuccino.

Dark Mountain Terra book launch at Baldwin Gallery

November 22, 2018

Dark Mountain Terra book launch at Baldwin Gallery, a trek out to south east London, a nightmare to find.

Before setting off, I ask of the Baldwin Gallery, a fee, need to book, how to find?

Sadly clueless on the use of social media. No reply, by the time I do eventually receive a reply, too late, but they did have the courtesy to apologise.

  • broadcast —> one to many
  • social —> interaction
  • network – many to many

Social media is not broadcast, the clue is in the name, social network.

Train from Charing Cross to Dartford, alight at Lee.

Can I find Baldwin Gallery, no.

When in the vicinity and unable to find, I ask a passing local. No he has never heard of.

I pass by and find myself in Greenwich. I retrace my steps.

I find the venue, Baldwin Gallery, eventually.

I expect to find no one there, I am surprised to find quite a few have turned up, maybe twenty or more.

The original concept of Dark Mountain, thought provoking essays and short stories, art and poetry, was excellent. I was happy to support. But the reality, incomprehensible writing badly written, very little worth reading, the art badly reproduced. And then to be insulted with a poor quality paperback when had subscribed to what Dark Mountain describe as ‘Each issue takes the form of a beautifully-produced hardback.’

The evening was reading from Terra.

Nothing more boring than reading what has been written, I can do that myself. Public reading of poetry a different matter, it is meant to be read out loud. Far more interesting is for the contributors to talk about the subject they have written about.

Reading of a short story, a postman posted to back of beyond, I must have missed something, as the end was back at the beginning.

Reading of two essays, a native Indian massacre, the struggle of Palestinians, deserved deeper exploration, which would have been been possible had the contributors discussed their contribution not read from it. Worse still, it was a waste of there being present.

One of the criticisms of Dark Mountain, apart from too much pretentious badly written incomprehensible drivel, is the typeface, too small, not easy to read.

What was Terra?

I thought next volume, but when I saw a tiny slim volume, I thought no, must be a supplementary book, especially when I learnt this was the second book launch.

The topic was travel, a sense of place, how we interact with the landscape, how the landscape interacts with us.

Terra is the next volume, the typeface microscopic, needing a magnifying glass to read.

Copies of Terra were on sale. I did not see any sold. Nor did I see early volumes of Dark Mountain on sale.

At £20 for a slim volume, too pricey, especially when paid for by subscription, unlike most publications which go from publication to remainder to pulp.

It was only later when I checked the Dark Mountain website I learnt why no other volumes on sale, all sold out. Only available as a pdf file. I would recommend upload to leanpub and have in an e-format that flows as is more suited to reading on a tablet or e-reader or smartphone than pdf, though pdf would still be a format to select from.

Interesting exhibits at the Baldwin Gallery, strong Mexican influence, or at least Cenrtral America.

Failure of British bookstore chains to display or stock Hippie

November 2, 2018

Hippie, a major international best seller by Paulo Coelho, yet noticeable by its absence in WHSmith or Waterstone’ s, two British bookstore chains.

I checked in Guildford High Street, a few weeks after publication.

WHSmith. No Hippie. Not on display, not in stock. Talking to a helpful guy he said he cannot recall ever seeing in the store let alone on display.

Waterstone’s across the street no better. Hippie not on display. I did eventually find, spine only, on the bottom shelf next to the floor with new books. A little direct action. When I left,  on display on table by the entrance.

I inquired the week published. No one knew what I was talking about. WHSmith not only not in stock, not even shown on their system.

I had hoped to find at Gatwick Airport. Not there either.

Contrast with Athens, Hippie in window display of all major bookstores, one even had a display poster on the door.