Thursday, April 4, 2013

A cheery note on which to sign off before I leave for China again

I just have time to sign off for a couple of weeks with a slightly more frivolous blog.  As part of my never-ending search for new coffee houses in which to do my writing and reading, I have discovered in one week two contrasting places at opposite ends of the wide spectrum of those available all over London.  One is a very modest café in the Pentonville Road, the other, a very luxurious coffee house (the old-fashioned word “posh” comes to mind) in Regent Street.  However different they are from one another in price they have in common a warm atmosphere, pleasant service and good coffee.

First to Islington, to the Amana Café, at 110 Pentonville Road, where I had a peaceful espresso (my favourite drink, as much for its smell as for its taste) in a tiny little café with a few tables and some welcoming armchairs and with, I gather, its own bookshop upstairs.  And then, not long after this, I searched out the Café Royal at 68 Regent Street, part of the 5-star luxury hotel complex they have just opened there.  I was drawn to it before it opened by the beautiful display of Gugelhupf cakes lining the windows.  This is a cake which my Austrian mother always baked for us, and whose battered, much-used cake tin, with its curving sides and hole in the middle, I have only just handed over to a daughter-in-law, cake-making being one of the cooking skills I now feel I can at last discard with relief.

The version of the Gugelhupf we baked was made half of plain and half of chocolate cake mixture, so that it came out of the oven in a beautiful marbled pattern with its characteristic hole in the middle.  I shared with the Austrian manager of the café a few nostalgic memories of Viennese Kaffeehaüser (coffee houses), with their Stammtische (tables reserved for regular guests) and newspapers on wooden poles, which entranced me when I visited Vienna for the first time in my late teens.  It was my first encounter with one of these which bred in me my curious delight in such places which I indulge in now to my heart’s content in London.

I will include these two cafés in the new blog I have talked about writing for a long time, but never quite got round to actually doing anything about, except, recently, finding a name for it, LondoncoffeeshopsIhave known.  When I get back from China, I have arranged for Emily Benet to help me set the blog up properly.  Emily ran an excellent Blogging for Beginners workshop I went to (see her website for details). I feel I now need a further push to expand my blogging skills, particularly as I am not quite sure how to include pictures in the blog, such as the row of succulent Gugelhupfs you can see if you look on Google.  I hope this new blog will give both my readers and me an extra spice of light relief from my five element blogs.

So off I fly again to China to a group of 60 students, of whom 40 are some of my old students and 20 are completely new to me.  It will be good to have Guy as well as Mei to share the teaching load, and also to share the joy I always feel when I am with my Chinese students, such is their enthusiasm.  I will resurface here after 21 April, warmed in body and soul, emotionally by the welcome I always receive and physically by the climate.  It is 29°C in Nanning today! 

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