Red Away

24HourCoffeePeople is a bustling coffee shop on the outskirts of London: this blog shares moments where caffeine isn’t the main event but the people who visit or work there really are.

It’s very red inside 24hour. Russet-red tiled floors and screaming scarlet walls that are anything but womb-like and soothing. In fact, 24 should carry a health warning for angry people because if there’s anything guaranteed to make someone angrier it’s being inside that furiously decorated coffee shop. Interspersed with the menu boards and newspaper racks (packed rather hopefully with broadsheets) are huge pictures of the founder of 24, who, depending upon one’s mood looks either like a benign Italian grandfather or a newly released paedophile.

Nobody knows the name of the ‘silent lady’ – she’s big faced with a large bouff of grey hair thats been tortured into some kind of chingnon arrangement. She wears a heavy, dark coat and always orders a frappe with crushed ice – even in mid-winter. She favours the front seats with the picture window and she never speaks to anyone. If someone is sitting in the seat she wants, she’ll stand behind them, utterly immobile, until they move. In fact, she stands so close, bereft of a sense of personal space, that people shift very quickly, uneasily rearranging themselves elsewhere or leaving altogether.

Mad Susan and I both think Xena should ‘have a word’. Xena though is actually a bit scared of her, and can’t even remember how it is they know what she wants to drink, but she must have spoken at some point because all the staff know its a mocha frappe. Xena doesn’t feel up to taking on a mental health issue; generally she is too busy wrangling with the Albanians who like to treat 24 as a ‘secret’ meeting place and huddle in large groups whispering of who knows what – as its all in Albanian. If there aren’t enough chairs, they’ll sit on the floor and can’t understand why this isn’t acceptable. Xena has told them she is concerned they’ll be run over by a buggy and for health and safety reasons could they please use chairs. She has only just managed to stop them smoking inside.

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