A cup of tea, a breakfast… and I wonder who they are and what they’re talking about?

We were sitting in a café in a writerly huddle, talking about writerly things and general gossip and chit-chat, and I couldn’t help but observe the people sitting on other tables. There were a lot of customers for a Tuesday morning, many people including the poet among us having a mighty breakfast. There were four breakfasts on offer, which all included  a slice of granary or white toast and a regular tea or coffee, The Boater – bacon, sausage, free range egg, ½ grilled tomato, mushrooms, sauté potatoes and baked beans, The  Lifeboat –  2 slices of  bacon, 2 sausages, 2 free range eggs, grilled tomato, mushrooms, sauté potatoes and baked beans, The Sailor – vegetarian sausage, free range egg, ½ grilled tomato, sauté potatoes, mushrooms and baked beans, and The Marina – 2 vegetarian sausages, 2 free range eggs, grilled tomato, sauté potatoes, mushrooms and baked beans… Good grief you might say, it certainly was a generous breakfast – and you could have a slice of black pudding too!

Sitting in the farther reaches of the café were three men, three big men. One with a fair curly beard had a bandanna and very blue eyes; the men  were at the counter when I arrived and I couldn’t help but notice what unusual eyes he had.  Another, the biggest of them (not fat, just big) could have been auditioning as a pirate; he had a handsome but fearsome face, black curling beard, long dark hair pulled back in a pony tail. The third man had a quieter closed expression. He had rather a long, calm face, clean-shaven and a shaved head, he looked like  a monk in a contemplative order –  he had that quality of stillness, but there was also a sense of power, of strength which could be unleashed in a second. The quiet man just had a bacon sandwich and tea, the other two had the mightiest of breakfasts. They were actually just ordinary men, probably workmen, come in for breakfast, but in my imagination they might become completely different characters!

The owner of the cafe is an ex-policeman, and he has that air of watchfulness, always aware of what is going on but giving nothing away, an impassive, inexpressive face. He sat with two other men, obviously friends because he was unusually animated. They sat having hot drinks and cake, chatting away, but I noticed when one of them got up to go to the counter, his face had the same still, watchfulness that the café owner has and something about the way he looked about impassively made me think that maybe he too was an ex-cop… and when I looked at the third man, I imagined that he too had been on the force even though he was cheerfully telling some story. The three of them were probably retired and again my imagination began to create personas for them, and imagine story-lines – were they the goodies? … or were they the baddies?

There were many other people in the café, friends getting together, walkers stopping for refreshments, dog owners and their dogs, bird watchers with their equipment, mostly older people, but some younger people too. There were dogs of every sort you could imagine, mostly quiet but one which was treated like a human baby by it owners did nothing but yap… poor thing! I guess it wanted to be on the floor with the other canines doing canine things quietly!

And us, supposing someone had been looking at us, talking intently, very animated as we drank our coffee and tea, one with a big breakfast and one with warm cake and ice-cream? It’s difficult to imagine how others see us… I know I’m always surprised at photos of me!!


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