Sheffield City Council, I drink to your good health, long may you serve decent coffee at just £1 a throw.
I’d arranged to meet a friend in the Steel City, we were going to do the culture thing and hang around the Graves Gallery and peruse the Fay Godwin Remains of Element exhibition. Her photography features many of the familiar Yorkshire landscapes, though bleaker and darker than anything I’ve ever seen, maybe it’s because she was mates with Ted Hughes who, let’s face it, was hardly Mr Chuckletrousers. Some of his poetry stands alongside the black-and-white images of the Pennines’ windswept gritstone – from whence come the foundations of the north’s Dark Satanic Mills, tha knows.
I needed a coffee to lift my spirits after the gallery tour, and there, in the entrance, was a little oasis of caffeinated delightfulness. Sheffield Council, which has always subsidised good things, such as public transport, until the government stepped in and told them they couldn’t spend hard-earned cash on providing affordable travel so they could actually get to work, not only provides refreshment in its public buildings, it’s good and it’s cheap.
Forget the £2.25 for a tall, skinny latte, in Sheffield, all hot drinks are £1. Now that’s what I like in a council. Leeds – take note! The coffee was fine, not the so-called God Shot – an espresso so fantastic that the drinker exclaims the name of the deity in sheer ecstasy after tasting – but good enough, especially when eaten with cake.
But even Leeds’ £2.25 coffees are a bargain compared to the espresso offering at Cafe Grumpy in New York City. Even taking into account the rubbish exchange rate, $12 for a top-of-the-range espresso, ground from beans which have never touched the earth, each branch suspended from a silver thread, polished with fine ostrich feathers, plucked at midnight on midsummer’s day when the year ends in 3 or 6, and roasted one at a time on an open fire to the chanting of virginal barristas, is a tad too dear for my nearly-empty pocket.
Noel put it another way. ‘Cafe Grumpy?’ he chuntered, ‘I’d be grumpy if I’d paid $12 for a coffee.’ He has a point