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Feargal-7-Dogs

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.

Somehow, Feargal has simply gathered dogs. What started as one refugee from his past life as a war photographer has grown into a brood of seven. And, it’s no stretch to say that a mangier group of animals would be hard to find. Mad Susan’s bullish Pomperanian looks a positive beauty along side Feargal’s pack of misfits. He roams the nearby park wearing a weather resistant trilby style hat and red Hunter wellington boots, with a fat, damp cigar dangling precariously from his lips. But the odd septet leap to his every command, and despite their fierce appearance are docile as lambs. The same can’t be said of Feargal who bellows at cyclists not following the path and positively roars at picnic makers for baiting his hounds. The park is a bad place to embark on an outdoor eating experience if Feargal is about and none of this is helped by his insistence that a four-shot expresso is the very thing to calm his nerves.

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Fabian In Charge

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.

While Xena is on holiday (a strangely lavish tour for a coffee shop manager; unless of course she has shares..), Fabian has for the first time risen fully to the challenge of taking charge. He’s often seen at the corner table overseeing the others making coffee, with a stack of figure laden spread sheets and order forms in front of him. He’s getting very picky about profit. Guy, who has always managed to wangle a second cup of coffee free, is the first victim of Fabian’s regime. Guy has a perfectly adequete income by all accounts, but every morning he makes a big show of clearing cups that aren’t his, arranging them tidily in the sink, then proffering his own empty cup up for a refill. It’s annoyed all the staff for ages, but they haven’t had the heart to refuse him – even Xena, whose feisty nature keeps an order of sorts at 24, won’t tell him it’s not acceptable. Fabian, deeply immersed in the world of profit and loss, has calculated that its costing 24 about £500 a year for Guy’s free top up and is determined that he won’t have it any more. Guy also has a habit of going behind the counter to fetch a clean cup or get a glass of water, and he automatically goes to the front of any queue that may have formed. He’s made himself so at home that he has forgotten that he doesn’t actually live there. It’s hit him hard; I’m almost sorry for him. In one fell swoop, he is no longer enjoying free coffee, queue jumping rights or the freedom to roam around behind the counter. Fabian, on the other hand, is jubilant. Reigning in Guy has been his finest hour.

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Fabian The Fashionist

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.

Fabian is mad for Gucci. The acquisition of a new belt or shirt is a big event; if any of us are traveling, his first interest isn’t why, but do they have a Gucci at our destination. So, it is an endless annoyance to him when groups of teenagers arrive at 24 for giggly lattes dressed in velvet tracksuits. ‘We’ve ‘ad another chavelanche of Juicy,’ he sighs. ‘It was ‘orrible.’  Ex-24 barista, Bobson (his Malaysian parents broke with tradition and turned to using the patronymic Icelandic system of naming their firstborn) has now gone to work for Burberry. This is a thrill for Fabe, and just one step short of working for Gucci. Ignoring all cultural and fashion signals that lead Burberry straight to Chav county, when Bobson visits, coffee making grinds to an abrupt halt while a style assessment is made of Bobson’s clothes.

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Where Able Went

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.

Able appeared out of nowhere; a rotund little fellow with a loud, resonant voice and a permanent grey stubble. The coffeemates were immediately curious and he integrated himself into our morning huddle with immediate ease. We never did find out where he lived, but we knew he had a wife, some grown up children and a pair of odious little dogs who barked and barked while tied to a lamp post outside 24. As time went on, he confided that he was an opera singer, a writer and a voice-over artist. As more time passed, he confided even more. Mainly that he’d just completed a long stretch with Her Majesty (15 years) for the biggest ever cannabis importation the UK has ever known.

He was in 24 every single day, with those yappy little dogs of his, and always so jolly. With such a huge presence, the coffeemates naturally noticed his absence; and as it grew longer and longer, we decided it couldn’t be a holiday, unlikely to be an illness and another prison spell? We didn’t think so. We rang his agent who had no idea where he was; Guy set to work tracking him on Facebook only to discover Able’s entire page has gone – just gone – and I’ve done a million Google searches. Nothing. Nobody knows if he is alive or dead.

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Up In The Air

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.

Fabian is completely fascinated by a not-so regular customer, whose height at roughly 6ft 8ins makes him stand out from the crowd. In his early fifties, he’s known locally as Mr Von Castles In Germany as its rumoured he invested heavily in schloss(es?). I’ve not yet told Fabian that I know one set of Mr Von’s neighbours who are in turn mesmerised and alarmed at his habit of trampolining naked in his garden for 17 minutes at 7am precisely. It was a horrible shock for the elderly neighbour on the other side whose bathroom overlooks Mr Von’s garden; she inadvertently spat her toothpaste foam all down her Vyella dressing gown.

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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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Elizabeth Misses Again

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.

Just before Christmas, Elizabeth’s brother was down in the dumps. As Warren, Elizabeth’s husband, was preparing a new family nest in Hong Kong thanks to a promotion at work, Elizabeth suggested her brother, Ian, go out there and join him for a week. She felt it would do them both good. If you ask Mad Susan to describe Warren, she says, ‘pussy’ – not as in cat, but as in puss-filled. When Elizabeth’s sombre brother arrived at the airport, he was met by Warren weilding a bag of condoms, some lubricant and a full packet of Viagra. ‘What happens in Hong Kong stays in Hong Kong’, he warned Ian, obviously having watched a movie too many. Slightly bewildered, Ian accompanied Warren on what can only be described as a hard-fest through Hong Kong’s red light district, only to be even more aghast that Warren is clearly a regular as the girls were calling him by name to have some fun.

Naturally, on Ian’s return, he tells all to Elizabeth. She enlists Mad Susan, who in turn tears Warren’s character to shreds while bolstering Elizabeth’s shattered ego. ‘You can do so much better,’ she said. And, indeed she could. As one of life’s pleasers, Elizabeth is never happier than when making someone else happy. When I bumped into Mad Susan in the understaffed pet shop, she told me Elizabeth had gone out to Hong Kong to join Warren, having forgiven him and looking forward to redecorating the new nest. I didn’t know there were women like that any more. Mad Susan’s take is, ‘I’d rather have dogs for company and if Feargal slept with a prostitute, I’d have to blind him.’  It’s a shame that Elizabeth has gone; but at least we know where she is, which is more than we can say for Able.

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