The art of conversation

Tierra VerdeI think I have found my perfect cafe to work in – here in East Dulwich, at least. It’s called Tierra Verde – sells Monmouth Coffee and mainly Spanish food – a Spanish woman just walked in an looked around and pronounced it a perfect Spanish cafe.

There are bottles of olive oil in the display cupboards, bare brick work and stone floors. The people serving were quick off the mark to tell me that they had wifi and gave me the password. It has colourful glass hangings at the windows and a skylight, so it’s ideal for winter, and they said they don’t mind people coming in and working.

I find it a good place to write because it’s not too noisy, but also not too quiet – the buzz of conversation is ideal for zoning out – and occasionally there are conversations that I can’t quite help tune into.

There was a younger woman with a baby in here earlier who got talking to a man who was talking about his wife’s breast cancer – quite touchingly, because he was obviously concerned about her and was unable to be with her at work. It made me think about a dear friend who died over three years ago, and it was nice listening to the younger woman’s concern and expressions of sympathy.

Now I’m sitting on a shared table – trying to tune out the conversation of three women who started to talk about Gone Girl – and failing because, to their surprise, I think, I told them they should try and see it – and to persevere with the book.

Now they are talking about coffee shops vs libraries for working in – and I find myself wanting to join in. It’s interesting, as I am beginning this project, to think about the implications of sharing space – it’s not always easy to navigate today, as we create private/public spaces. People engaging in private activity in public spaces is what Starbucks represents. Are there cafes where talking to others is usual, encouraged?

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