Tag Archives: food

The life of a kitchen table

 Hello and welcome to the world that I occupy.

In fact I never really move out of this small space that is mine.

I don’t mind, everybody comes to me constantly, I am the centre of my family’s life. I sit there in the kitchen quietly waiting for the family to wake.

Dad is always the first up, he comes in and sits down to eat his breakfast slowly waking up with every mouthful of what ever he is eating. Even as he approaches 40 he still likes the cereal of his youth, . Mind you toast is just as popular, along with the first cup of coffee.

Then the children are next along with mum always arms full of the detritus that the kids seem to shed between waking up and walking down to me for food. It seems like a well polished routine for the outsider that I imagine is looking in.

Yet here I am every day hearing all the secrets and anxieties that affect them all. I know that between getting out of bed and walking down to me, tempers have been frayed one child has already upset another, some important piece of clothing or school work is lost. It is always at this time that something last-minute is remembered. Normally the eldest, she is the perfect ditzy blonde, so clever in academic life, a straight A student, it’s just the simple things in life she struggles with.

Then there is the boy, there is only one so no need to get confused, he is laid back with most things in his life that effect him. Sweet to the bone easy-going and slightly freaky. He lives in a world in his own head and every now and then let’s us in. Counselling is probably imminent either that or world domination.

Mum easily holds the family together. Or should I say it is easy to see that mum holds the family together, I know it’s not easy to do. The way she sits down after the school run that doesn’t involve 4 different sets of PE kit three lots of homework one major project, and a bill that has suddenly been thrust through the door that wasn’t expected till this time next week. She has her cup of coffee and you can actually feel the stress exude from her. That’s before the endless rounds of housekeeping that she does with varying levels of enthusiasm.

Next are what everyone refers to as ‘the girls’ one being five the other six. They are easily indistinguishable from each other,…it’s just I can’t. They are inseparable from each other always laughing at some private joke or talking at high-speed and a pitch that would drive dogs crazy. As long as it is pink they are happy, be it clothes, toys and even food.

Dad is probably the quietest of the family, well at breakfast he is. Always deep in thought about something or other, normally something to do with one of the things, that constantly worry him, Family, or work. He is always coming up with some new hair brained idea for making life easier.

Breakfast is over quickly. Dishes are put in the sink ready for long-suffering mum to get to. Plates are replaced by shoes, bags the girls have shoes put on quickly. Dad then always has to empty everything as he looks for his ever lost keys or wallet or his poor mobile phone.

Then silence as the front door closes, and the family is of to their places of work or school. Soon mum comes back in normally loaded down with some shopping to replace the bit of food that is already running out that the children devour with ravenous appetites. Or another new item of clothing that has been destroyed or grown out of. She puts them on me with a sigh as she takes in the carnage that has replaced the kitchen she spent ages cleaning just twelve hours before hand.

It all waits for the cup of coffee. In another new cup to replace the one that got broken in one of the boys experiments. Mum soon returns to the never-ending task of housework. 3 floors 4 bedrooms 2 reception rooms, a study, and the small utility room that is forever full of half repaired bikes, boots that are coated with layers of mud, coats steaming constantly from the never-ending rain showers, and the poor washing machine that is constantly churning away, along side is the tumble dryer with its door held shut with the broom propped up,against a pile of boxes that still sit unpacked from the move seven years ago.

After a quick respite cup of coffee, mum dashes out the door to collect the kids from school. Then I am alone again until the family returns at varying times.

The noise signals who comes first. The girls and boy return home with mum behind, with arms full of empty lunch boxes, coats and another letter asking for some money or a tin for some event at the school.

The oldest girl is next, both tired from big school and full of life from time spent with friends. She slowly empties the fridge of fruit as she shares the latest gossip of her school friends with Mum, who listens for no other reason than to hear a human voice that can string a sentence together.

It’s a little while until dad comes through the door shattered and a little frail after work, he puts some coffee on and slowly sinks into the chair. The girls climb onto his lap both talking at high-speed and holding three different conversations, then a few minutes quiet, and chat with mum about the latest bill or broken item, as the children return to their previous employ.

Then, the mayhem begins, home work of 4 different types are being discussed and another papier-mâché lighthouse is slowly taking over everything, dinner is being cooked by Dad while he also slowly repairs the dishwasher, Mum folds the laundry on me in a small space amongst a socket set, reams of paper and half full glasses of juice and cups of coffee. As homework is finished the family comes and goes and each individual brings their own piece of life to the melee. Then the call goes out that food is almost ready. Everything is cleared from me, and down go place mats, cutlery, glasses. Drinks and food are set down, and ten seconds of absolute stillness is experienced by all, no words are spoken for the first five minutes as food is savoured, and consumed sometimes a little escapes of the plates and makes its dash for freedom as it gets pushed around until it’s scooped back up or drops to the floor.

As the eating slows down the volume rises again as the days exploits are played out for everyone to share, several conversations happen at once, laughter is shared by all, some times tears. Then everything is cleared away the last of the spills cleaned. The Girls go up to bed, the boy and the eldest disappear to their own rooms, cups of coffee are made a newspaper is spread out on me ready to be read but mostly forgotten or doodled on, as lunch-boxes are made and set out ready for tomorrow. Another load of laundry folded another lost toy found. And finally just before the lights are switched of dad puts his keys and wallet on me so not to lose them the next morning. Then darkness and the beeping of the distant washing machine telling nobody that it has finished its final load for the day.

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Machiatto Anthropology (part two)

So yet again I am sitting in my favourite coffee shop. This time I was alone and had my pen poised ready to write something amazingly intellectual about spatial economics. But life was unfolding before me across three tables, the other side of the room.

 

Each table had four women around it. The first was surrounded by ladies all in their 30’s-40’s. From their clothing it looked like a business meeting and there was definitely a more dominate leader of this group who done most of the talking. Second table held four younger girls who seemed to be students, they were more vibrantly dressed and their talk was punctuated with laughter. The final table held four ladies in their late sixties early seventies. A tableau of life was there for all to see. Three stages of a woman’s life, sipping coffee.

 

The table with the younger girls, conversation was quick and followed no particular order, each participant vying for attention. While in one hand they had their coffee of choice, the other was clasped around their mobile phones. Half way through conversations the phones were brought into play. Photos were shared with the others, texts, tweets or messages in general were answered while still in mid flow. Hand bags were delved in for items unknown, and the only time others in the coffee shop were noticed was if they walked past them and knocked into their shopping bags.

 

The table holding the business meeting, was surrounded by concentration. Real or fained  I do not know. The imparter of information seemed to be animated while referring to a diagram and those whose interest she commanded sat upright and nodded sagely as if indicating complete understanding. There was a small break as the women who had lead the discussion left the table for five minuets. Shoulders dropped from the three remaining and heads bowed together checking watches, and their mobiles in the brief respite.

 

The final table was interesting to observe, as all its occupants had to talk a little louder to make themselves heard over the general hubbub of the coffee shop. I spied at least one tea pot on this table and the remains of more than one pastry. Of all the three tables the clothing worn around this table seemed the most colourful. There was a definite grey black theme in the suits of the business table, while the student table definitely, had a lot more fake tan than the branch of boots two hundred yards away.

But a little closer inspection of this older table and again you could see the uniform of their generation. Floral dresses, sensible flat shoes, warm winter coats (still being worn even inside). The handbags were much larger, and the contents that I saw emerge from these was bewildering at least. Small umbrellas, and plastic hair nets. Cotton hankies, bottles of pills and medicines. Mobile phones were also present on this table, although not the snazzy modern ones of the other two. A conversation was had on one of these, very clear basic commands were pronounced eloquently while the user seemed confused in which direction to face.

 

My second cup of coffee heralded the breaking of this scene before me as the business meeting came to its conclusion and the alpha female parted company. The student group had finally decided that their time had come to an end, and continued chatting and text while leaving the detritus of their visit behind. The older ladies ensured their table was neat and all cups and plates were stacked neatly on the tray. Bags and walking sticks were gathered and they shuffled out of view. A quick wipe down by the ever busy barista, and a new customer sat down by himself with his paper spread out before him.

 

For twenty minutes, a brief moment in time eternal, I was enthralled by the occupants of three small tables in a coffee shop. How many meetings had taken place around coffee shop tables, throughout the country in that time? What news passed between sippers of coffee. Was it business ideas that would revolutionise, or revitalise a company? Maybe friends, that have not seen each other for a long time, passing on news of old colleges. Was there news, that changed their outlook on life for ever. Maybe there was a wife telling her husband that she was finally pregnant after years of trying. Or was there meetings that imparted the sad news of the death of a loved one. Were there meetings that had been scheduled to say goodbye, parents saying goodbye to their children as they went of to college. Or maybe, a weekly meeting between two friends?

 

As I sit and watch life go on around me, I like to stop sometimes and just enjoy being able to breath slowly, eyes closed and for a few minutes just have the knowledge that at that time, for one peaceful moment. I can relax, control my immediate future if only for a few brief minutes, shut out the sights and sounds that vie for our attention amongst a haphazard world. I feel the warmth from the mug in my hands and the comforting smell of freshly poured coffee and for that infinitely short amount of time just slowdown, stop and relax.