What makes a good writing cafe?
Well, the one I’m sat in at the moment. Quiet, stylish, refined. Has a touch of class about it, which suits my status as a professional internationally acclaimed author. In fact, I should have worn my new watch, a Christmas present that sits on my wrist like something built by Thomas Telford. A watch that says ‘this wearer has arrived.’
Except I’m not wearing it because I’ve been volunteering today, up to my armpits in rose clippings and sluch, and in my current opulent surroundings I look like the tramp blown in by inclement weather. But you don’t judge a book by it’s cover, as I said I feel at home here.
It’s the perfect place to write. The teapot doesn’t pour tea all over the table, the background music is subdued, and most important of all, there are comfy chairs.
For me, chairs and the price of the coffee are the two essentials for a decent writing cafe. There are lots of comfy chairs here. Unlike my other favourite cafe which only has two comfy chair areas making it vulnerable to ‘chair hoggers,’ the people who operate in pairs; one bags a chair while the other clears off to order the grub. A practice which should be outlawed.
(One detail found where I am at the moment that you don’t find anywhere else is the clientele; they do look like people from the Apprentice, but so long as they don’t try to sell me a prototype vegetable dicer I’ll be okay.)
The last thing you want when you’re writing in public is people hassling you, although I do make an exception for autograph hunters. Occasionally I get asked what I’m doing, and I stop at ‘writing a novel.’ Sitting in a grden centre cafe writing about vampires and Satanists is a detail too far. Unecessary if you’re out buying bedding plants. The only time I elaborated was when I was surrounded by hundreds of raucous mourners coming from a funeral. I mentioned rock music and vampires and the kind lady said she’d look out for the novels. She was in her nineties and may or may not have grasped the concept of what I was about, but looking back I probably missed out on a lucrative sales opportunity there.
The place I’m in, if you were wondering, is the bar grill of a local hotel. It’s a huge hotel with a huge bar and the chicken on flatbread has been served up on what looks like a frosted window pane. I don’t normally eat when I’m writing, but the occasional cake is fine if the coffee is cheap, 99p refills for example. Although too many refills leave me feeling like I’ve been electrocuted.
In a world of noise and pointless music it’s always a surprise to find anywhere that doesn’t have some background jabber. Pubs tend to be the worst for this and I’ve been in some places that sounded, at two in the afternoon, like a nightclub at two in the morning.
One final overlooked detail that I think is essential in choosing a writing venue is lack of crime. The ability to go to the toilet knowing your rucksack will, a) still be where you left it and b) won’t have been blown up by the bomb squad. And it’s those little details that one needs to think about when choosing a good writing cafe, and incidentally, the same attention to detail that makes an internationally acclaimed author.
Find the place, (don’t forget the watch) and wait for greatness to come to you. . . .
Here’s my shortlist of decent places:
Golden Days Garden Centre – comfy chairs, 99p coffee refills, no bomb squad.
Booths Supermarket cafe, Hesketh Bank – free coffee with food purchase eg. Kit-Kat, no music.
Swan Hotel, Sawley – superb olde worlde atmosphere, good coffee, wide range of comfy chairs.
Calf’s Head Inn, Worston – lots of comfy chairs, Pendle witch embellishments (the inn is in the shadow of Pendle Hill).
Samlesbury Hotel, Lancashire – befitting of internationally acclaimed authors, comfy chairs, good food. Crossed off the list after they raised the price of a pot of tea to £3.50.
Pimbo Garden Centre cafe – chairs, coffee, quiet, quick to get to.
Badger Bar, Rydal, Cumbria – selection of real ale, food served on pieces of Cumbrian slate, toilets hewn out of the rocky hillside!