All I have to do is pick a place to do my writing, go there fairly regularly, and it’ll be closed before the year is out. I’ve even killed a café in Barbados, and I’ve only been here since last December.
Here is a partial list of London cafés I have killed:
- Pick More Daisies (Crouch End)
- Figo’s Cafe (Crouch End)
- Messy Mug (Crouch End)
- Dudley’s Pancake House (Finsbury Park)
- Dragonfly (Highgate)
- S&M Cafe (Islington)
- World Cafe (Crouch End)
It’s a partial list because I haven’t kept track of them. I’m not some kind of CSI-type psycho who pins newspaper clippings to his bedroom wall. I know there have been others, but I can’t remember the details.
Why I do it
I may be a killer, but I do show remorse. The one I just killed in Barbados was particularly upsetting for me. It was a fairly new, family-run place, with the father as cook, the daughter as waitress and the mother as host. It was friendly and had good, inexpensive food, and I didn’t want to kill it, really I didn’t. But unfortunately it had a bad location, in the arse-end of a mall, with bad signage and several other more established cafes nearby. It was almost empty every time I went in. It never stood a chance.
And that’s why I have this unfortunate record, you see. The very qualities I look for in a writing location are the very qualities that guarantee a café’s speedy demise. I want somewhere quiet and spacious, where I can sit for hours in comfort. More customers mean more distractions, more noise, more pressure, more people standing over me waiting for my table. The places I like are the ones with a slow, dreamy atmosphere, where the owner’s slumped over the counter and you can sit there all afternoon hearing nothing but the ticking of the clock. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a good business model.
Who’s next in line?
Since the demise of Ozara’s (the family-run place), I have found a new writing location in a drab, windowless mall in Bridgetown. It’s a food court, really, with a variety of junk-food outlets at one end. But it’s rare in two ways: it doesn’t pipe out the usual junk-music, and it has hardly any customers (again, bad location). So this one may work, for now. But if you’re the owner of one of those junk-food outlets, you may want to consider getting out while you still can…