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English Caff Condiment Norms

London: this morning's office

Today’s office starts early ends late.

When we walk in at half five in the morning – the only other punters are a couple of road sweepers their hands wrapped around hot and heavily sugared tea. Our orders arrive – my Korean eating companion being introduced to the culinary tomfoolery of bubble and squeak, and we spend the next 90 minutes working through breakfast and a presentation that in an perfect parallel universe would have been finished days ago. A few hours from now we’ll be standing and delivering to 6-score journalists from around the world, invited to a ‘behind the scenes look at our new London design studio. No pressure then.

It occurs to me that time travel is made for moments like this to either rewind back a day or two and work on the presentation or fast forward to the muted post-delivery applause.

London: caff condiment norms

Bringing work conversations into this place of full-English worship is passable when most of the seats are empty, but grows increasingly unacceptable to this author as the tables fill. That’s not strictly true – its not the conversation that’s an issue as much as the presence of an opened laptop.

I’m reminded of an interview with a cafe manager in Brighton who talked about the different ways that laptop wielding customers would be ‘encouraged’ to leave – through repeated cleaning of the table around the customer, asking whether they wanted to order anything else, then under the customer’s plate, then (jokingly) that he would clean the table with bleach. From tutting to bleaching. Part of the issue with laptops being perceived as anti-social is that it is a black box – you could be engaged in a task that takes 5 minutes or 5 hours, an uncertainty that creates tension. What is it that makes using a mobile phone or reading a newspaper acceptable, but using a laptop not?

London: tea by the mug

Back out on the street we realise we have no idea where our new London design studio is. In the rain and in a hurry is not the time to piss around with a newly installed map application. The GPS equipped phone is parked in the back pocket and we ask a friendly cabbie for directions.

Some days are bigger than others, apparently.

Luckily we both pack a decent supply of adrenaline.