Thursday, October 1, 2015

Two laments for the end of an era and one happy thing

I start this blog with my laments.  The little café, Stefano’s, which I would pop into daily on my way to the clinic, and which I wrote about in my blog of 29th March, has now closed and been taken over by what looks like a very much more upmarket place.  I think I can no longer call it a café, but would describe it more as a small patisserie.  And my favourite espresso has nearly doubled in price.  Stefano and his Italian family seem to have been the last survivors around here of a time when small family-owned businesses ran a one-shop enterprise.  Now the coffee chains, such as Starbucks, with their standardized fare, are taking over everywhere, perhaps understandably in view of the rents charged.  Even this new little patisserie has other branches elsewhere in the up-and-coming areas of London.

My second lament is for the puzzling substitution in train announcements of the good old-fashioned word “passenger” by the word “customer”.  I wonder who decided that this change was necessary.  Did a group of railway executives with nothing better to do solemnly sit around a table to discuss the merits of the one word against the other?  And why change it at all?  When I hear “passengers” I always thrill slightly to the thought of all those large ocean liners, like the Queen Mary, or indeed the Titanic, or people climbing aboard The Great Western  or the Orient Express.  When discussing the Titanic disaster, is anybody likely to ask, “How many customers were lost?”  The word now only reminds me of the money I paid today for my rail ticket to a much less exotic destination, Sussex.

But to relieve the slight gloom of writing about these two rather sad things, I tried to think of something good that has happened to me, and came up with quite a few examples, none more heartwarming than a little incident that occurred in the street a few days ago.  There was a different Big Issue seller from the usual one outside my local supermarket, and I thought I recognized him from seeing him somewhere else.  He smiled at me, and said, “You may not remember me, but you’re the lady who called to me to come across the street in Bond Street some time ago, so that you could buy a copy from me.”  Now I recalled that this must have been over a year ago.  So he had remembered this small act of kindness from all those months back.  Perhaps too many people treat Big Issue sellers as nuisances, and walk on by, and too few as people, trying hard to put their lives together.  We smiled at each other like old friends, and I walked on with my heart a little warmer. 

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