Tuesday, May 04, 2010

4. At the Avenue Road Cafe

I go to the Avenue Road Café once a week, and write notes and ideas using coloured markers. For my new series, about the Kingdom of Cello, I am using many different colours, and I’m reading a book on Isaac Newton. I have fresh mint tea, at the Avenue Road Café, and orange-apple-and-pineapple juice, and pain au chocolat. The pastry is warm and the chocolate melts across the plate when I tear it in half.

Once, last year, at the Avenue Road Café, the waitress came to my table, looking stricken, and pale, and said that they had burnt my pain au chocolat. It was the last one, she said. She knew how important it was to me. She was sad and apologetic, and suggested a few other treats. I chose some kind of apple tart, but this was when I was working on the ending of Dreaming of Amelia/Ghosts of Ashbury High, and, in my heart, I knew I could not plot those final pages without melting chocolate.

Then the waitress came back and said that James had an idea. Would I mind trying this idea? James is the manager of the Avenue Road Café. And James’s idea was to take a plain croissant, and fill it with Belgian chocolate, and warm it in the oven. Would I mind, she pleaded, just trying it to see how it goes?

Ah, so funny that she thought she had to plead with me.
I plotted those final pages in an exquisite, melting chocolate trance, and it is for this reason that I acknowledge the Avenue Road Café, and thank them for the chocolate, in Dreaming of Amelia/The Ghosts of Ashbury High, and it is for this reason that, ever since, I have been deeply in love with that James. He calls all his customers ‘darling’, not just me, but never mind.


Yesterday, I was sitting at an outside table at the Avenue Road Café. At the table on my right were two older women, elegantly dressed. One of these women was talking energetically into her mobile phone. Her friend sat opposite and gazed around.

On my left, a mother sat with a little boy, and a baby in a pram. The little boy noticed my coloured markers, so I gave him a handful and some blank pieces of paper.

I read about Isaac, and wrote notes in different colours. The elegant woman on my right continued her animated phone conversation. ‘What?’ she cried, ‘does he think I should make a play for him? Him and his steel wool hair! A fine thing that would be, wouldn’t it?’

The young mother and her little boy drew pictures together, and wrote numbers, and letters of the alphabet. After a while, they returned the markers to me, and both mother and child thanked me effusively, and they left.

‘Anyway,’ said the woman on my right, into her phone, ‘the food’s here now so I’ll let you go.’ I looked quickly across at her companion, but her face was blank. The woman started up a similarly animated conversation with her patient friend.

Then it was time for me to go. ‘You wish to pay your bill?’ said the waiter, with a flourish. ‘It has already been taken care of ..’ and he pointed to the table where the mother had drawn pictures with her child.

‘Oh, no!’ I said. It was too much! She had paid my bill! All I had done was hand over a few coloured markers! And I’d got them back! It was nothing!

There was a sudden silence at the table on my right. ‘Well,’ said the animated woman, ‘isn’t that nice?’ She sounded complicated, almost hostile.

Actually, it was nice. It was lovely. What a thing. I decided just to be glad, and keep an eye out for the woman, to say thanks.

Good things happen at the Avenue Road Café.