I’m delighted to report that I appear in a poetry book alongside the recently passed and much missed Sue Vincent, Robbie Cheadle and others.
This is the link to the eversion; a paperback version will appear in due course.
If anyone would like a copy to review, I’d be delighted to supply one.
To tempt you to go further, here is one of my contributions. By way of background, when I joined the city law firm of Freshfields in 1981, the quantum of beverages available to staff were strictly limited; IV lines of strong coffee were neither available nor encouraged. To achieve this enforced caffeine abstinence, the powers that be dictated that every morning a coffee trolley would visit every room and one of the tea ladies would supply you with a china cup of a milky version of coffee; no choice (beyond a ubiquitous ‘take it or leave it’ – no plant milk, decaf, or some steamed Italianate version). That was it. In theory you could visit the tea room on the eighth floor to make yourself another brew but said room was home to the collection of tea ladies and I haven’t visited many places where instant male humiliation was guaranteed. If you desperately needed a second cup you could run the gauntlet of having your buttocks compared with the ‘pert little tyke’ on floor two or leave the building to find a local coffee bar and run the equally intimidating gauntlet of the receptionist who had to double as a Stasi informer, given the way she could intimidate with an eyebrow. In the afternoon the same tea lady would visit again with tea and a choice of biscuit (custard cream, chocolate bourbon or Lincoln cream). You were addressed by your Christian name and it was compulsory to return the flirt if offered. If, in later years you were elevated to the partnership (which happened to me in 1987) you became ‘Mr’ and were offered a morning biscuit and something chocolate covered in the afternoon (ah me, what it was to be a member of such an élite group). By then, I’d developed a thicker hide and happily visited the tea room to collect the best source of gossip. When we moved into the glassy and chrome newness of our Fleet Street offices in 1989, the tea ladies went the way of the telex and golf ball typewriters. We lost more than just that china cup….
The Coffee Machine
(a homage to the office tea ladies)
Where once the cups would rattle and clink
Announcing the moment for a pause to drink
We now have freedom to hover at leisure
And choose which beverage will be our pleasure.
But the change that’s reduced the trolley to scrap
And brought us instead mochas on tap
Hasn’t changed the need to gather and sip,
To gossip and moan, to joke and quip.
We herd as one inside the door;
Our mugs, as Oliver’s, poised for more.
Our chat, desultory, our focus keen
As we bow before the dispensing machine.
It bubbles, it fizzes, all spit and froth
Robotically delivers our chosen broth.
But I’m sad all the same as I take my fill;
Is this really better than when Emmy or Lil
Would visit each room with a twinkly grin
And knock to make sure it was right to come in.
For me, I preferred that clock-fixing cup,
When their cheery asides accompanied my sup,
And those ladies teased the nervous young man
That I was, back then, when my career began.
When I was green as the tea I drink
When I had it all to learn and time to think.