Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Mark Zuckerberg leave our kids alone

May 5, 2021

Not satisfied with being complicit in teen and pre-teen self-harm and suicides reinforcing narcissistic syndrome with selfies, Zuckerberg now plans to launch Instagram for Kids, aimed at pre-teens.

Just when you thought Facebook couldn’t get worse, could not sink any lower, it invents a fresh kind of hell — Instagram for Kids.

Leaked documents show Facebook is developing a photo-sharing app for under-13s — hoping to get them hooked early on likes and comments about their appearance, and harvest their data for profit.

There is growing opposition to expansion of the evil that is Instagram and Facebook.

Reasons not to use Instagram:

  • owned by facebook
  • theft and abuse of personal data
  • claim ownership rights over images posted
  • images do not appear on twitter
  • complicit in teen and pre-teen self-harm and suicide
  • reinforces narcissistic syndrome through encouragement to post selfie

Instagram is already a nightmare for children, with teenagers getting harassed and abused on a constant basis — 59% of teens have been bullied online, and surveys show Instagram is the worst offender.

Talking to Primary schoolchildren, they tell me of bullying at a Secondary school, to which the school turns a blind eye, of a rape culture, of their friend who jumped to her death off a bridge in front of a train.

This is the world that Facebook has created.

Psychologists say it would be even more harmful for younger children, who are at a crucial stage of development and  cannot cope with the relentless pressure of social media.

Facebook claims it’s doing this to make kids safer — because it can’t keep them off Instagram. But that’s like saying let’s promote child porn to keep kids away from adult porn.

Since when has Facebook cared about the harm it causes?

Please sign and share the petition calling on Zuckerberg to Leave Our Kids Alone.

Big Tech must be broken up. Facebook must be broken up, stripped of WhatsApp and Instagram.

Big Tech must be hit with a windfall tax and a revenue tax,

Coffee and slavery

April 16, 2021

The dark colonial past of coffee that changed coffee from a luxury few could afford to the commodity we know today.

The negroe is that creature that we are forced to keep in his natural state of thraldom to obtain from him the requisite services; because … under a different condition he would not labour. — coffee grower P J Laborie, The Coffee Planter of Saint Domingo, 1798

How much would you pay for a cup of coffee? Ten dollars, thirty-six dollars?

A conversation I have occasionally had in a coffee shop. Buy in high quality coffee, serve as a guest coffee at five dollars a cup. Would the clientele be willing to pay for something special?

A couple of years ago, Taf Coffee, a pour over five euros for two cups of coffee, for coffee from the estate of Ninety Plus.

Stewart Lee Allen, The Devil’s Cup:

In the late 1600s, Louis XV reportedly spent the equivalent of fifteen thousand dollars a year to feed his daughter’s coffee habit. By 1740 the price had fallen to 15 cents a cup, and even the lowliest lumpens could afford a buzz.

It was only a matter of time before coffee spread from Arabia into the Ottoman Empire, and from there into Europe.

The first recorded coffee in Europe, was in Venice, one of the great city-state trading nations, the estate of a murdered Turkish businessman in 1575 included coffee making equipment.  The first coffee shop opened in 1683, by 1759 the Venice City authorities placed a limit of 204 coffee shops, breached within four years.

Coffee used to be a luxury few could afford. It was colonisation and slavery that turned coffee into a commodity.

Coffee seedlings or beans were smuggled to India; from India, the Dutch established plantations in Java. The Dutch kept the local elite in power,  tribute was paid in coffee, subsistence farmers on Java were forced to work the plantations to the neglect of their own crops.

The French established coffee on the island of Bourbon, now Réunion, also in their Caribbean territories starting with Martinique.

Stewart Lee Allen in The Devil’s Cup discusses in some detail, French naval officer Gabriel de Clieu, smuggling plants stolen from the King, given to the King by the Mayor of Amsterdam, taking seedlings to Martinique, his heroic efforts to keep the plants alive when water was rationed on the ship.

The British established coffee on Ceylon. Ceylon is now known for tea, when the British established coffee, using Tamils shipped in from India, by the late 1860s Ceylon had overtaken Java as the world’s leading exporter of coffee. Coffee leaf rust then struck.

Trees over a hundred yeas old have been found in Sri Lanka, the remnants of the old coffee plantations established by the British, the best coffee cherries selected, seedlings grown, new plantations established. I have tasted the coffee from these trees, I have a few coffee beans roasted in Sri Lanka, are hoping to ship over green beans and roast in England.

Africans captured and traded African slaves, British-made goods offloaded, slaves loaded onto the slave ships.

The conditions were atrocious. On the two lower decks barrels, the deck between and below the main deck, slaves lined up in shackles. If a slave fell sick tossed overboard as of little value.

The slaves were shipped to the Caribbean, for sugar and coffee plantations. Sugar plantations on the low lying coastal plains, inland small coffee plantations in the mountains.

A guide to growing coffee on Saint Dominique The Coffee Planter of Saint Domingo by the coffee grower P J Laborie in 1798 describes all stages of coffee growing, from clearing the land to bagging the beans. He even describes the process for washed processing of the coffee cherries, ‘West Indian process’, using water channels then pass through a series of graters. The dark side of the guide, what to look for when buying slaves, how to treat the slaves.

The negroe is that creature that we are forced to keep in his natural state of thraldom to obtain from him the requisite services; because … under a different condition he would not labour.

P J Laborie gives advice on what to look for when buying slaves, features such as an open clear countenance, a clean and lively eye, sound teeth, sinewy arms, dry and large hands, strong loins and haunches and an easy and free movement of the limbs. On purchase the slaves had to be purged of any diseases, forced to drink ‘ sudorific potions’, usually sea water, to rid them of disease, and the ‘unpleasant but necessary’ act of branding.

New slaves had to be ‘seasoned’, introduced slowly to the work, light labour, weeding and gardening, before working sunrise to sunset on the plantations. Laborie preferred young slaves as could be formed to ‘the Master’s own ideas’. Discipline was maintained with a whip wielded by a trusted slave. Laborie details the knots on the whips and advises keeping the whips clean to avoid spread of disease from one slave to another.

The Dutch acquired Suriname from the British, they did a swap with New York. The Dutch had acquired what was then known as  manaháhtaan in 1624 from its inhabitants Lenape Native Indians in exchange for beads, knives, trinkets and guilders.

In Java, the Dutch used forced labour of local sustenance farmers, in Suriname they imported slaves.

Suriname is where man’s inhumanity to man reached its zenith.

In 1738, a slave ship sailing up river in Suriname hit a storm, around 700 slaves on board, the captain told the crew to lock the hold to stop the slaves escaping whilst the crew took to the lifeboats, 664 died when the ship, went down. the crew survived.

1735

  • Yemen $13-41 / lb
  • Java $9-24 / lb
  • Suriname $8-26 / lb

1760

  • Yemen $12-80 / lb
  • Suriname $5-01 / lb

Fast forward another 100 years to around the middle of the 1800s and coffee from the Suriname slave plantation has fallen to around $2 a pound.

If we look at the price of coffee on exchanges we see how the price fell from a luxury to a commodity, the impact of colonisation and cheap labour.

If we look at the impact of lower coffee prices on consumption we can see within a hundred years coffee drunk by the elite in opulent surroundings to a peasant woman hawking takeaway coffee on the street.

Café Procope established in 1686 by Italian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli lays claim to be the oldest and one of the most famous Parisian restaurant or cafés. It was the original European ‘Literary Café’ prototype. Located in the 6th arrondissement on Paris’ Left Bank, and steps from Boulevard Saint-Germain, it retains its former glory and original charm. It was here the literati and men of letters drank coffee, Rousseau, Denis Diderot and Voltaire are just a few of those who frequented the café and heightened its image, that of an authentic opulent oriental coffee house

Café Procope became the model across 18th century Europe for the grand café, Florian’s in Venice, Caffé Greco in Rome.

The Grand Café in Oxford, a Grade II listed building, lays claim to be on the site of the oldest coffee shop in England, 1650 according to Samuel Pepys’ Diary,

According to a number of; sources, including Samuel Pepys, a Jewish entrepreneur named Jacob established the first English coffee house in 1650.The Life and Times of Anthony Wood, Antiquary of Oxford 1632-1695:

This year [1651] Jacob the Jew opened a coffey house at the Angel in the parish of S. Peter, in the East Oxon; and there it was by some, who delighted in noveltie, drank. When he left Oxon, he sold it in Old Southampton buildings in Holborne neare London, and was living in 1671.

Across the road from The Grand Café a greasy spoon cafe lays claim to be the oldest coffee shop, Queen’s Lane Coffee House Oxford, established 1654.

The Queens Lane Coffee House is reputed to be the oldest continually working coffee house – not only in Oxford but the whole of Europe. It first opened its doors in 1654, in the turmoil following the English Civil War, just before the Great Fire of London. It has been serving Oxford without a break ever since.

A century on from the establishment of Café Procope we have a woman hawking coffee in the street to passers-by.

The arrival of coffee shops in England coincided with the English  Civil War and the rise of Protestantism across Europe.  Water was not safe to drink, the people drank beer, were probably not sober from breakfast onwards. Nutrition was beer and bread, in Germany beer soup.

Coffee was seen by Puritans as The Great Soberer.

When the sweet Poison of the Treacherous Grape,
Had Acted on the world a General Rape;
Drowning our very Reason and our Souls
In such deep Seas of large o’reflowing Bowls,
That New Philosophers Swore they could feel
The Earth to Stagger, as her Sons did Reel:
When Foggy Ale, leavying up mighty Trains
Of muddy Vapours, had besieg’d our Brains;
And Drink, Rebellion, and Religion too,
Made Men so Mad, they knew not what to do;
Then Heaven in Pity, to Effect our Cure,
And stop the Ragings of that Calenture,
First sent amongst us this All-healing-Berry,
At once to make us both Sober and Merry.
Arabian Coffee, a Rich Cordial
To Purse and Person Beneficial,
Which of so many Vertues doth partake,
Its Country’s called Felix for its sake.
From the Rich Chambers of the Rising Sun,
Where Arts, and all good Fashions first begun,
Where Earth with Choicest Rarities is blest,
And dying Phoenix builds Her wondrous Nest:
COFFEE arrives, that Grave and wholesome Liquor,
That heals the Stomach, makes the Genius quicker,
Relieve, the Memory, Revives the Sad,
And chears the Spirits, without making Mad;  …

Coffee houses in England were places to meet, penny universities.

Edward Lloyd opened Lloyd’s Coffee House in London in 1687 or 1688, a meeting place for those in maritime occupations, shipping agents, seamen, insurers, bankers. People went to Lloyd’s to hear the latest news.  Lloyd published a newssheet ‘Lloyd’s News’. From this coffee house evolved Lloyd’s of London.

Tattler was founded in a coffee house. The editor Richard Steele gave his address as the coffeehouse Grecian.

 

Documents c 1700 cite the existence of some three thousand coffee houses in London. [see Tastes of Paradise]

One pound of coffee on the Amsterdam Coffee Exchange  in 1735 would have cost $13-41. Today the cost of green beans around a dollar a pound.  In three hundred years, the price of coffee has fallen thirteen fold.

Liverpool, Bristol, Amsterdam, their wealth was built on sugar, coffee and slavery.  When you grab a takeaway coffee from a corporate chain, a bag of cheap commodity coffee off the supermarket shelf, pick up a bar of industrial chocolate at the checkout, you are supporting the post-colonial legacy of slavery.

Please sit and relax in an indie coffee shop with a coffee served in glass or ceramic, buy coffee from a reputable roastery, chocolate from a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, people who care, who treat coffee and chocolate with the respect it deserves.

A History of Coffee a collaboration between James Harper of  Filter Stories podcast and Jonathan Morris, Professor of History and author of Coffee: A Global History.

Parody of the American tourist in Athens?

April 14, 2021

Is this meant to be a parody of American tourists in Athens? If yes, then at best mildly amusing.

Or is it meant to be taken seriously? If yes, then dire as displays an appalling lack of understanding of coffee culture in Athens.

Mokka is an excellent coffee shop, outside Athens Central Market. A wide variety of coffee on offer. One of the few coffee shops brewing Greek coffee on a bed of hot sand.

Mokka also has an adjacent shop selling coffee.

Across the road, the fruit and veg market worth exploring.

More usual to find Greek coffee over a flame, as will find at Just Made 33 (just off Ermou).

A few years ago then barista at Just Made 33 won the world championship for Ibrik coffee. The coffee used on sale at Just Made 33.

Coffee Island is the Greek Starbucks, to be avoided if care about coffee.

Spoilt for choice with excellent coffee shops in New York. Why therefore would anyone wish for Coffee Island in New York when already have Starbucks serving bad coffee? [see Drift Manhattan edition]

Frappé is not a Greek drink. It is an example of cultural colonisation by a global corporation. An unpleasant cold frothy coffee made with Nescafe.

And no, do not walk down the street drinking out of plastic, even worse bragging about it.

Coffee sit and relax outside a coffee shop with coffee served in glass or ceramic and watch the world go by.

Frappé

April 5, 2021

Frappé is an example of cultural colonisation and bastardisation of culture by global corporations.

Frappé a disgusting coffee served in Greece and Cyprus, an ice cold frothy coffee made with Nescafe.

Frappé is not a Greek drink.

Frappé was introduced by Nestle at a trade fair in Thessaloniki in 1957. Nescafe mixed with cold water in a cocoa shaker to create the foam then poured over ice.

Following its introduction in Thessaloniki in 1957, frappé was heavily promoted by Nestlé.

DiEM TV: Another Now with Yanis Varoufakis

December 4, 2020

Putting one of the ideas in Another Now into action, last week Black Friday, one day of action against Amazon, buy nothing from Amazon,  do not visit their website, Make Amazon Pay.

During the pandemic Jeff Bezos has increased his wealth by $85 billion. Wealth begets wealth. Jeff Bezos can afford to take risks, have a long range vison, fund loss making projects, within Amazon can leverage projects to benefit all aspects of the business, we see this with artificial intelligence, when Amazon recommends a book it will be possible worth reading.

Facebook abuses its position, as we saw with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook knows more about us than we know ourselves, we are commodities to be used and abused and sold, it can target and manipulate us.

On reading Another Now I thought when do we fight back, when do we start the guerrilla tech war against the tech giants, against the banks, against dirty industries?

We need financial engineers, software engineers, leading researchers in artificial intelligence, who know where to hit vulnerable fragile systems with coordinated attacks.

The fight has begun with Make Amazon Pay, one day of targeted action against Amazon, buy nothing on Black Friday do not even visit their website on that day.

One week on from Black Friday, over 400 parliamentarians from across the world including Yanis Varoufakis and Jeremy Corbyn join in the call to Make Amazon Pay.

A tweet by Mark Dodds suggests a target for the UK, pubcos, a day when we do not drink in any tied pub or corporate pub chains.

Pubcos are zombie companies mired in debt. When they tire of relieving fools of their money they sell off their pubs for redevelopment.

There is action we can all take.

Support local indy businesses, buy coffee from a speciality coffee shop where they care about coffee, you will quite literally taste the difference.

During the first lockdown, I visited little independent shops, the local butcher, baker, fishmonger, fruit and vegetable market stall,  not once did I visit a supermarket. And it was safer to shop in these  little shops, limited numbers, I was in and out within a couple of minutes.

We do not have to use WhatsApp or Instagram, there are alternatives, post pictures to twitter not Instagram, use Skype not WhatsApp.

Facebook must be broken up, stripped of WhatsApp and Instagram.

We should overwrite all personal information on Facebook with false information, allow a couple of days to propagate through the system then delete. Never ever quiz, game or survey on Facebook,  these are scams to harvest your data, as Cambridge Analytica used very effectively. Never tag friends.

There are alternatives to using Amazon if wish to buy books on-line. But better still, pay a visit to your local bookshop.

Amazon provides a platform for third party vendors and these account for around half the sales through Amazon. A somewhat crappy website Bookshop.org does the same, except demands a larger discount from indie publishers than they give Amazon and for bookshops they make less on a book sale than if you walked through their door and bought a book and the sale is not fulfilled by the bookshop.

Writers can do their bit, stop directing to Amazon, support local bookshops, ask your publisher to offer Amazon discounts to local bookshops, at the very least as special offer when books are published.

Tech giants should be taxed on revenue where that revenue is generated. The same should also apply to tax dodging corporations for example Starbucks.

Our lives are controlled by algorithms, Big Tech owns the algorithms. The world of We, a world controlled by numbers.

Amazons suggests what I may wish to read, YouTube what I may wish to watch.

Big Tech has monopolised research on AI. To whose benefit, who has oversight?

Those who speak out are fired.

The treatment of employees by Big Tech who dare challenge their lack of ethics is not restricted to Amazon, as we see with the treatment of Timnit Gebru by Google.

Google fired the technical co-lead of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team Timnit Gebru for raising issues of ethics.

Please sign the statement in support of Timnit Gebru.

A day of action against Google in support of Timnit Gebru. What form should it take? For example a coordinated walk out by Google staff on the same day of no use of Google Chrome or YouTube.

Support and use open source software.

Download and install Brave, a faster alternative to Chrome that cuts out the crap.

Brave is a free open-source web browser.  It blocks ads and website trackers, and provides a way for users to send cryptocurrency contributions in the form of Basic Attention Tokens to websites and content creators.

If coffee commercials were honest

August 21, 2020

Brilliant spoof of promotion of crap undrinkable commodity coffee.

I like coffee, I enjoy coffee, but I am not addicted.

Coffee contains a psychoactive substance, caffeine.

The coffee plant is closely related to qat (there are many variations of spelling for example khat) often referred to as coffee’s evil sister. Qat is highly addictive and as a more profitable crop has replaced coffee in Yemen where for generations coffee grew on terraces and the port of Mokka grew rich on the export of coffee beans. WHO has a separate category for qat, US classifies as dangerous as heroin. Qat contains the alkaloid cathinone. The leaves are chewed or used as an infusion to produce qat tea.

Unlike it’s evil sister qat, coffee is a legal psychoactive drug.

I am bombarded every day with offers of coffee and coffee equipment I do not want.

No, I do not want Nespresso. Coffee from a Nespresso machines is vile undrinkable coffee. That is not to say the machine cannot make decent coffee, it can, just do not use Nespresso pods. A €60 Nespresso machine will make excellent espresso, but only if use third party pods.

I used to be bombarded daily by CoffeeJack, but since highlighting the many flaws, gone very quiet. They blocked me and deleted my critical questions. Er, blocked me, it was they trolling me with their promotions.

Nor do I wish to buy coffee from roasteries I have never heard of, that not once have I ever encountered in a coffee shop as guest coffee.

For me coffee is a drink to be enjoyed as would a good wine.  To be enjoyed at leisure served in glass or ceramic.

Good coffee does not need sugar or syrups or to be carpet bombed with chocolate. The over-roasted cheap commodity coffee served up by corporate chains does require to mask the vile taste of what would otherwise be undrinkable.

Fair Trade is a marketing scam to make middle class feel good and to never delve deeper into the exploitation surrounding coffee.

Fair Trade pays a tiny premium above the commodity price. There is no incentive for farmers to improve as they will not get a higher price for quality.

Talk to your barista, buy coffee that is Direct Trade, where farmers get a higher price for quality, where there is traceability back to origin.

And of course we never mention tax dodging that we structure our company across borders to avoid paying tax where we make money.

Imagine honest advertising for what masquerades as a bar of ‘chocolate’.

‘Chocolate’, a bar of fat and sugar, it would not be every palatable, nor sound too good in our marketing, so we add a little cocoa powder, though if we wish to be real cheapskates it will be flavouring, then we add palm oil or soy but keep quiet about the environmental damage, may be listed as emulsifiers, added to improve the texture, we could use coca butter but the alternatives are far cheaper and we have to have margins to pay for the advertising for you suckers, then additives as it kinda does not taste too good a bar of fat and sugar.

Next time you buy what you think is a bar of ‘chocolate’ please check the list of ingredients. If it ain’t cocoa solids, sugar, cocoa butter, maybe vanilla, but nothing else, then it ain’t chocolate.

A journey by river through the Balkans

August 16, 2020

A journey through the Balkans via a river, starting in Slovenia where the Sava River has its source at a waterfall.

Slovenia is roughly the size of Wales, with roughly the same population, but there the comparison ends.

The per capita income in Slovenia is higher than Wales. Slovenia is green, forested, the rivers are teeming with fish, the centre of the capital Ljubljana is traffic free, for those who need it, free transport via electric cart. Slovenia attracts quality tourists.

Other countries need to learn from Slovenia, move away from mass tourism that is trashing the planet, destroying local culture, pedestrianise cities, make traffic free, tables in the streets, develop post-pandemic doughnut economic recovery plans.

Cyprus has seen its tourist sector collapse. Dependency on tour companies, mass tourism is not the way forward as it brought little benefit to the local economy. Cyprus must seize the opportunity granted by coronavirus, attract direct bookings, longer stay, end the stranglehold tour companies have on the sector, outlaw all-inclusive hotels, attract quality tourists.

England has seen the hospitality sector not recover from lockdown, nor should we lump all hospitality together. Pubs, bars, binge drinking bars, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, are not all the same and should not be all lumped together. It was a mistake to open pubs and the very least the binge drinking bars attracting drunken yobs should be closed and remain closed. Anecdotal evidence is that the Eat Out to Help Out, 50% discount if dine Monday Tuesday and Wednesday, has simply moved eating out to these three days at a massive cost to the taxpayer, the money could have been put to better use. We could have helped indie restaurants and coffee shops by closing streets, pedestrianise, tables in the streets, as they have successfully done in Soho and Covent Garden.

How to reply to spam e-mail

July 26, 2020

The nuisance of spam e-mail.

My standard response is don’t reply, don’t even open, mark as spam or better still phishing, then delete.

But sometimes, if feeling mean, may wish to gave fun.

Leonard Cohen on Hydra

July 20, 2020

In 1960 Leonard Cohen bought a house on the Greek Island of Hydra.

Once you’ve lived on Hydra you can’t live anywhere else, including Hydra. — Kenneth Koch

Leonard Cohen wished for somewhere quiet to write. He left Montreal on his first trip outside North America with a Canadian Arts Council Grant of $2,000 and one published book of poetry. He was writing a novel or trying to, blackening the pages three pages a day. Hydra seemed the ideal place, warm and sunny, especially compared with cold and grey and damp London. He arrived on Hydra with his green Olivetti. He had taken up an offer of Barbara Rothschild to stay on the island, only when he arrived at the house and mentioned her name, he was turned away by the housekeeper ‘we don’t need any more Jews here’. Leonard Cohen put a curse on the house and within six months it had burnt to the ground.

Prior to the purchase of his house, Charmian Clift and George Johnston offered a room in their house. He would sit writing on their terrace.

It was on Hydra he met Marianne and where he wrote ‘So Long Marianne’ and ‘Bird on the Wire’.

In a letter to his mother:

It has a huge terrace with a view of dramatic mountain and shining white houses. The rooms are large and cool with deep windows set in thick walls. I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of sea-.men must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion… I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical… I get up around 7 generally and work till about noon. Early morning is coolest and therefore best, but I love the heat anyhow, especially when the Aegean Sea is 10 minutes from my door.

What more could an unknown writer ask for?

He was part of a group of writers and artist and poets who used to meet at Κατσικάς Katsikas.

One of his friends Charmian Clift wrote Peel Me A Lotus her account of living on Hydra in the late 1950s.

They were all cursed. Charmian Clift killed herself after leaving Hydra, George died a year later.

His first concert in Australia was dedicated to the couple and he opened with ‘Bird on the Wire’.

We have photographer James Burke to thank for a series of photographs of these days in 1960 on Hydra.

A Theatre for Dreamers a fictional account by Polly Samson seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old girl, who with a thousand pounds left to her by her mother escapes from an abusive father. She reads a book Peel Me A Lotus by Charmian Clift, sent to her mother by the author a close friend of her mother, of life on Hydra. She remembers the friend of her mother from when she was a child and writes to her asking if she can find her a room to rent.

We start in 2016, Leonard Cohen has recently died, a very sad loss, and Trump has won the US Presidential elections. Word reaches Hydra ‘and spread rapidly like a stench along the agora. There were horrified groans, even from the donkeys, disbelieving splutters from every table, passer-by and boat. For a moment it was a comfort to think at least Leonard had been spared this.’

Covid-19 indie coffee shops

June 12, 2020

Will indie coffee shops survive covid-19 pandemic?

I will roughly divide thoughts, observations and conversations before lockdown, during lockdown and what will happen next.

Maybe ten days before lockdown, a visit to Nottingham a large city, not deserted but few people about. One coffee shop closing early few customers. Next coffee shop, few customers, less than half their usual number of customers,  numbers dropping daily.

A couple of days before lockdown, visiting Sheffield a large city, station deserted, a kiosk on my way into the city centre told me I would find the city centre deserted, few people about, little open, restaurants I passed by, the few that were open, the few that had customers maybe a couple of diners. I ate and had coffee at Marmadukes, a coffee shop usually very busy, I was the only person there. Business down by at least 80%. Coffee shops were closing at three. In part no customers, in part to let staff home before rush hour, not that there was a rush hour. Talking to the owner of another coffee shop, the question on his mind, how was he to survive?

Before lockdown, measures were already in place, hand sanitiser by the entrance, compostable coffee cups, contactless cards, no reusable cups.

The kiosk in Sheffield I passed by earlier, after I talked to them, a sign no reusable cups.

Lockdown a mixed blessing, at least cost of staff covered by furlough, rents deferred.

Lincoln a city during lockdown. The chains stayed open for a few days then closed. Indie coffee shops closed immediately. A few weeks ago, one large coffee shop a small chain opened for takeaway. A slow trickle of customers but I doubt it will cover the cost of two staff. The only advantage, they are open before the corporate chains, maybe they will attract and retain some of their clientele.

Many coffee shops have no future. Too small to manage social distancing. A kiosk can survive on takeaway only, a coffee shop with higher overheads cannot. The large coffee shop, once rents and business rates kick back in, would not survive.

We had sunniest May on record, Mediterranean climate. The tragedy indie coffee shops and restaurants not able to spread their tables into the street. Win win for everyone. Kick starts the local economy, maintains social distancing, helps local businesses back on their feet, improves city centre ambience.

One coffee shop asked. They received an emphatic no. They currently employ eight staff on furlough. When furlough ends six will lose their jobs leaving two for takeaway coffee, but not a viable businesses.

Unfortunately we will not agree to you increasing the number of tables and chairs you use or the size of the area that you have at the current time (your enclosure needs to still be only outside the frontage of your premises).

Not even the courtesy of an explanation.

Looking at Guildford, the corporate coffee chains that litter our town centres, cafes pretending to be coffee shops, three coffee shops. Of the three I cannot see Canopy Coffee or Surrey Hills surviving as they do not have the option to expand into the street. Krema yes, if allowed to expand into Tunsgate, if not no. When first open, Krema did have its tables in the street and was ordered to remove them.

It is not only coffee shops at risk it is the entire supply chain. There are the coffee roasteries that supply the coffee shops, the growers who supply the coffee beans.

We can hear bird song, streets are traffic free, cities pollution free. We have been jolted into another now. There can be no going back to normal as normal was not normal.

We have to reclaim the streets.

In Athens in the evening the streets turn into restaurants. Athens is expanding its network of pedestrianised streets.

Sheffield has plans to expand pedestrianised streets.

North Laine in Brighton the restaurants, coffee shops and other shops are in the street. There are plans to expand the pedestrianised streets.

Soho has plans to pedestrianise the area, turn into one large open air coffee shop and restaurant. Currently awaiting approval from Westminster Council.

We all have to act. If not, we lose our coffee shops.

Talk to local councils and councillors, change the mindset that allows traffic into city centres, pedestrianise the city centre, allow indie coffee shops and restaurants to spread their tables into the street, no chains no pubs No Smoking.

Find and locate your local indie coffee shops. Support them.

If anyone wishes to follow me on social media, I will try and post every day indie coffee shops worth visiting and supporting. No guarantee they are open or when they will open.

Buy coffee. If not from a local coffee shop, from a coffee roastery.

Buy bean-to-bar craft chocolate.

Support local businesses.

Government has to extend furlough for local businesses if they are unable to open. Reducing social distancing from two metres to one metre does not help as it greatly increases the risk for staff and customers.


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