I've also reached a natural break in my chapter and don't feel (today at least) like striking out in a new mental direction, so I am going to wait until the post is delivered - I'm expecting a copy of The Travels of John Mandeville from the Book Depository - and then take a trip into town to find a suitable coffee shop to sit and read it.
I am a great fan of coffee shops, and enjoy the sense of pseudo-community that they engender. This has been late coming to British shores and really has only arisen since the appearance of Starbucks, Nero and Costa on the high street. When I was doing my OU studies, I used to go to the Cafe Nero in the centre of town when smoking was still allowed upstairs. the ambiance was slightly bohemian and it was not unusual to see people jotting in notebooks or working on papers. When smoking became a no-no, there was not much to keep me going there - it was a bit grotty really, so I decamped to the Starbucks situated upstairs in the large (now defunct) Borders store, and that became my regular haunt. This was slightly more upmarket: men in suits held informal meetings there and smart ladies with laptops availed themselves of the free wi-fi. I got to know the staff reasonably well and quite often preferred to work there, amidst people, rather than at home alone. When I travelled to Leeds University on the train, my penchant for arriving early meant that I could call in at the Nero en route, and one of my most enduring memories of this time is the day when I'd gone extra-extra-early (it was exam time and I was paranoid about being late) and watched the morning sun gradually turn the building opposite white-gold as I sat entranced, latte and croissant to hand, my revision notes laid out in front of me.
Since the demise of Borders and its Starbucks, a new Nero has opened and has recently become the place where, if I feel the need of caffeine, I end up. I can never understand women who won't go for a cup of coffee on their own. I was surprised by a survey done recently (by Woman's Hour, I think) that revealed just how many women feel uncomfortable on their own in public, which seems to me a shocking indictment of their autonomy. Why would you NOT go for a cup of coffee if you wanted one? Why would being on your own make you feel awkward? Are you so self-obsessed that you imagine that you are constantly being scrutinised, or judged as lonely or on the pull? Oh, get over it! I actively enjoy having the time to myself, to sit down, read, people-watch, eavesdrop...it's one of life's pleasures. And one I think that I am going to indulge in later, I think.