Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Starbucks, Leicester Square, London

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Service: * *
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * * 1/2
Babe Count: * * * * 1/2

So, okay, this is London. But you know, the only thing this Starbucks has that any Seattle Coffee Company in Joburg doesn’t have is the extraordinary mix of nationalities.

“What would you like?” says the blonde behind the counter. She could be Polish. Maybe Bulgarian? Slovakian?

In this entire place, I’ve heard about twenty foreign accents for every British accent. Which might not be all that relevant, seeing as this is a tourist haven.

“May I have a tall harmless latte?” I ask.

“Almond?” she asks.

“Oh,” I say, “uh... harmless... meaning, decaffeinated, skinny.” I’m thinking in Seattle Coffee Company terms. I would have thought Seattle would have stolen their terminology from Starbucks. Apparently not.

I’ve been wandering around on foot, popping into electronics shops, bookshops, coffee-shops, and I have to say that the ratio appears to be consistent. London seems not to have terribly many Londoners in it.

What it does have is a serious dedication to babeage. This is outstanding. But I’d say that Cape Town edges this place out on the babe front. See, in Cape Town, the gals understand skirts and dresses. They understand that makeup does NOT make the woman. Here, probably cos of the weather (which is slightly chilly, mid-spring), jeans and chunky, clunky things seem popular. And makeup probably covers blackheads caused by smog.

Another foreign Starbucks employee babe calls out in a thick accent, “Tall skinny decaff latte?”

I take it and sit down.

It’s only my second day here. So I may still see many things.

This morning I popped into SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies at the London University. They’re the folks who paid for my airfare. I’ll be talking tomorrow afternoon about “Why South Africans Read their Poetry on Tablecloths Instead of Books”. This refers to my Barefoot Press initiative.

I’m the first person in the world to have released poetry anthologies hand-printed on cloth. Tablecloths. Napkins. Cushion covers.

And I’ve got a whole bunch of cloths with me to sell to the academics at the conference.

This afternoon I took a stroll down to Liberty, a high-end decor shop. I went there to get a realistic price to charge for the cloths. Looks like forty to sixty quid is about right. Which is similar to what they’ve been selling for in South Africa. So my instinct was right.

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