Café del Miri – Wake up and smell the coffee…

Most people that I love and who love me back know that I adore a great coffee.  I’m not talking a pint cup of monstrous woppa-mocca-frappa-coco-choccoccino whose one shot of coffee tastes like burnt wood chippings, costs you way too much and whose calorific value probably equates to a quarter of an adult woman’s recommended daily intake.

No my friends.  What I mean is the fantasy coffee that you would be sipping whilst people-watching in Monaco, Milan or Miami.   The ‘James Bond’ of coffees, the one that you would ideally be supping as Miss or Mister OMG is also drinking in the same establishment.  I think I watch too many films but back to the point.

Coffee is a passion in most European countries except GB.  The Viennese Coffee House is an art form, taken extremely seriously (Vienna is actually my favourite European city).  In Italy, the daily espresso is a way of life much like the baguette in France.  Coffee IS life.

Coffee drinking is not about high blood pressure or ‘this is bad for you’.  It is about living, socialising, engaging, taking in what is around you.  And reading newspapers.  It is not about going to a coffee house because it has a WIFI connection.  Technology moves you away from your connection with life.  The more you connect your charger or laptop, the less you look up and smell the coffee (literally and allegorically).

Coffee is by all accounts actually good for you.  Caffeine can be prescribed to migraine sufferers in Spain.  Many skin products contain it to ‘tighten the skin’ and it hasn’t killed off the Italian race just yet.  It is one of life’s pleasures.  It is one of my life pleasures anyway.  And whilst I am not a fan of booze, I don’t smoke (although I love a cigar) or do drugs, some people will try and make me feel bad about drinking coffee.

The problem is as follows.  Firstly instant granules, that should only be used when making the Greek style of iced coffee (I have the recipe if anyone wants it).  They are generally used with chemicals and would insult most coffee aficionados at first whiff.  The first whiff is actually injected into the jars anyway.

Secondly, George Clooney and the Nespresso advertisements.  OK, he sells machines for them.  But then the company tries to be clever and creates 82 million blends of coffee that no one really understands.  All we want is a decent cup of genuine blend.  Either with caffeine or without.

And on that subject, coffee will only affect your ability to sleep if you are not used to drinking it.  I would be more worried about the chemicals in the instant coffee than to a feast-of-the-senses type of coffee experience that can only be found in a few select parts of the world.  I have probably had a handful of decent coffees in London in 44 years.

Thirdly, most people will have never tasted decent coffee.  If they frequent the global chains that sometimes forget to pay their taxes, this will not train their taste buds to appreciate the real deal.  Most restaurants and cafés also don’t clean their coffee machines enough.  If the blend tastes bitter, it is either crap coffee or the machine needs cleaning.

Coffee, like tea and alcohol, also depends on the vessel used to drink it from.  A mug from Tesco’s is not quite the same as a traditional Italian espresso cup.  My late father, whom I blame for my extreme coffee fetish, would give me a Rombout’s one cup filter coffee in a traditional Rombout cup and saucer.  And we would often venture out where he lived in Antwerp for the same.   I loved this bond and ritual we had.  Coffee was associated with pleasure not with being tired, hungover or rushing for a train.

I have tried every make of cafetière and they always break.  So I have gone back to the traditional staple of a hob coffee maker.  As preferred by the French and the Italians.  Whilst this takes a bit longer to make, the end result it masterful.  Precious and enjoyed.  I am also a fan of soya milk to make the froth for a cappuccino.  The end result is astounding, much richer and creamier and you would never know it is soya milk.  Add your cinnamon on top and ‘way to go’…

You might think I am a lunatic talking about coffee is this way.  But that is part of the Western mindset (particularly in the UK or the US).  Food and drink is about ‘on the go’ and speed rather than ‘take your time’.  Enjoy your food and drink.  Then it will become part of your day rather than seeing coffee as a treat or something equally ridiculous.  Without guilt or regret that is more likely to make you ill than the coffee itself.

Quality food and drink should be relished and savoured.  Yes, I agree, don’t drink too much coffee as it could affect your heart etc.  But this could be said for any sort of visceral pleasure: from meat eating to whisky or head-banging.  The pleasure is in the experience.  A bit like Café del Mar.  Overlooking the sunset as Miss or Mister OMG sits down beside you…happy coffee trails my friends.

Modern living: the rise of social Fame and unsocial Media…

Back in the day of grainy photos, taking a film to be developed at Boots and desperately waiting for holiday snaps to be returned, my personal vision of ‘being famous’ equated to one of five things (aged 4+): either being crowned ‘Miss World’; appearing on ‘Top Of The Pops’ or as a guest on ‘The Muppets’; becoming a Tiller Girl (it’s true, I was obsessed although my little legs didn’t agree) or marrying Donny Osmond (or Dougal from ‘The Magic Roundabout’).

Today, with the advent of social media, anyone can become famous, even if they don’t have a Simon Cowell contract.  The more ludicrous or bizarre the case for fame, the better.  Instead of retreating to a faraway resort in Montenegro as was the case with screen sirens such as Cary Grant or Sophia Loren (check out Sveti Stefan, mindblowing) where photographers couldn’t find them, the modern day celebrity wants their various publics to know everything about them.  The mystery and allure of the untouchable celebrity is no more.  So when did ‘Fame’ become so social and how has this impacted on our socio-cultural values?

Up until the launch of MTV in the 80’s, most of us Brits were limited to four terrestrial TV channels.  There were mobile phones but you needed to be The World’s Strongest Man to actually pick the thing up.  The cinema was a vehicle of communication, as was radio and print media.  The library was still a valid source of information and people talked to one another.  On a landline.

There was no such thing as reality TV.  Comedians were television and radio heroes, courtesy of excellent script-writing, timing and delivery.  Music was enjoyed and actually celebrated via the medium of TV, radio, record (Single or LP) and then CD.  Celebrated, as the word ‘celebrity’ reminds us to.  Being number one in the charts actually meant something and the release of a new video was deemed ‘newsworthy’ – eg the ‘Thriller’ video or George Michael’s ‘Outside’ hit national news agendas.

In short, our five senses were still intact.  As attention spans shortened, so did the medium of communication.  From phone messaging to Youtube, the images, sounds and words brought to us, had to work harder to exist or mean anything.  The internet and email changed our world beyond measure.  Record companies didn’t have the clout they used to.  We became exposed to far more and yet de-sensitised at the same time.

By default, the number of personalities and celebrities increased many-fold, from the ‘A’ to ‘Z’ list (the latter, too, have agents).  Competition has become more fierce yet evermore accessible.  Success stories happen overnight with the advent of ‘X Factor’ and the like and dreams really do come true.  Television personalities have become famous for being television personalities in reality shows – KUWTK is a fine example of achieving celebrity status without being a celebrity.

Taking this one step further, social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and Youtube have allowed us to see into the private world of our heroes: from selfies, belfies (noun: self-taken photo of bottom) and belfie stylists to love spats, depression and baby births.  We all feel like we know modern day celebrities.  I remember being at a charity dinner with ‘The Dragons’ a few years ago.  They were all tweeting throughout dinner and loving it.  They loved being loved just as much as the next mere mortal.  Probably more so as the higher up the ladder you go, the more lonely it often becomes.  You never know who your real allies are.

Yet these modern day vehicles of communication and manipulation are not without flaws.  They often create a voice for the wrong people, driven from ignorance and ego and not for the greater good.  Getting a million hits on Youtube is financially recompensed.  Buying Twitter followers is accepted as OK and the lines between celebrity and Joe Public become fused.  Ri-Ri and Kim K are as famed for their belfies as they are for the talent that brought them into our lives in the first place (I am catching up ladies so watch out on the belfie status, LOL).  We spend more time on social media being anti-social than social.

There is a danger that social media will take over reality and that we won’t actually need to look into the whites of someone’s micro-chipped eye or ever need to experience that gut-wrenching feeling of desire, one on one.  Mystery seems to have disappeared altogether in our lives other than in relation to acts of terror or tragedy: the why.  The old fashioned notion of a woman being mysterious, alluring and pursued by the Prince on the white charger seems less relevant than it was in fairy tales.

All this disappoints me.  I still believe in connection, in the true sense of the word, not just when my phone needs charging.  Don’t get me wrong, I love social media (and of course this is written as a blog, with the hope that it will positively impact upon someone’s day) and the fact that people can achieve their dreams.  But I also love ‘looking up’ and appreciating G-d’s gifts, reality as well as the power of magic.  I don’t know what my modern day view of ‘Fame’ looks like but I still believe in the ‘Pretty Woman’ tale.  I guess the film’s storyline is truer today than ever: we can all create our own literal and allegorical status.  Social media grants us this wish more than at any other time.  If the online algorithm genie is reading, maybe Dougal is single and we can hook up?  Donny is a bit busy.  And smiles way too much.  I like a man with a dark, less social side.  But that is a blog for another day.  I need to practise my belfies.