I’m a big fan of coffee. The first sip of my perfectly ordinary Nescafe Azera in the morning is a jolt to my mood. I’m the mummy needs coffee cliche.
Yesterday, I met some of the friends I’ve made through blogging in Bristol for coffee at Tincan on Clare Street. Great coffee. Really great. Last week I met another friend at Mockingbird up in Clifton which is a place I adore. More great coffee. Love them both.
However, sometimes, I need an ordinary cafe for my very ordinary life and my totally ordinary, rather pedestrian parenting. In a city where really very nice coffee shops are springing up and staying up each week, I can often be found in the ones which are, well, normal. Sometimes even the ones people campaign against opening on high streets. Why? Because it’s not always the coffee that matters. It’s you and the other punters.
On Monday, me and the kids nestled into a sofa at our local Costa and played with six tiny coloured unicorn toys until it was time for tea. All of life surrounded us. We just did our thing. In a place where simply everybody goes, it’s easier to be normal, isn’t it? Not that I feel I have to be someone else in a more unique place, of course, but, if you’re a destination coffee place, then people who make the pilgrimage all deserve a fair sip of the flat white and me and my shouty kids probably shouldn’t overstay our welcome.
I’ve been the perplexed wannabe hipster, peering over my Mac at the mums and the crayons. I’ve been the hungover mess wanting to press pause on the family on the next table so I could finish my sourdough in peace. I’ve been the one who has to whisper the rude words in a conversation with my mate about the latest date and the what happened next, so that the kids next to me don’t hear. So, I know that, although we might rule the pavements, the parks and the pizza restaurants at lunchtime, us parents can’t envelop every coffee shop. We can’t be disappointed that there are many steps to the door, or that there’s no changing table, or that there’s nowhere to park three travel systems. Not everywhere is designed with children in mind, and thank god for that!
I’ve tried to contravene my own rules. I really have. I learned to say babycino in a way that doesn’t make me want to spew rainbow smuggery. I’ve had to get used to wrangling my own boobs in public again, perched on an artisan milk crate without embarrassment and, indeed, with skill. I’ve had to change my children on the toilet floor. I’ve paid a fiver for a chocolate cake the size of my head and swallowed 75% of it in ‘Mummy’s bite’ because there were no Ella’s pouches or juice boxes to buy instead to appease Tibbs. If I can do all that in pursuit of a very nice coffee, I can take one for the team and choose the ordinary cafe more than once in a while and leave the experience joints to other folk, rolling through the door with a less risky crew of lairy punters than mine.
Much as I know a lot about places to go in Bristol with kids, I’m equally knowledgeable about places that don’t fit so well for parents, because that’s where I go when I really want to relax, and so do other people!
I think lots of you will take the view that good coffee is a basic human right, and, to deny yourself entry to our amazing range of places, on the proviso that you are potentially spoiling someone else’s drink with your presence, is ridiculous. I’m not saying don’t go into good coffee shops with kids. Do. Do it. Just don’t be surprised when they are not centred around what we need as parents. Because my view is that everybody needs good coffee, not just parents.
If you’re looking for an ordinary coffee place, I’m a big fan of:
Whitehall Garden Centre, Marks and Spencer at Imperial Park, Coffee#1 on North Street, Costa in Midsomer Norton, and Starbucks in Temple Quarter.