When I lived in London and things got a bit too much for me, I used to take myself off to Selfridges and cruise the store from top to bottom. Often I wouldn’t buy anything … that takes a different mood, but the simple act of looking at so much beauty. Which asked nothing in return, used to act as a balm to my soul. I used to end off my visit with a cup of coffee at the in-house Starbucks (back when their coffee was good), read their complementary paper and buy an armful of magazines off their rack to take home.
New York department stores never grabbed me in the same way. But Manhattan offered cheap and cheerful mani/pedis – provided by grumpy Korean women who were excellent at their jobs. I think they hated all of us spoiled-upper-West-Side-bitches with our ugly toes and huge western feet. At least that’s what it sounded like they were saying to each other. They never talked to their clients – and that suited me perfectly. Toes painted, oiled and wrapped in cling film – I would head out into the weekend. Ready for a nap.
I found my sanctum in Cape Town within a few weeks of moving here. Seattle Coffee at Cavendish shopping mall. It is 10 mins from my house, makes the best “Tall Extra Hot Black Americannno!”, has smart, stylish, feisty and deadly-efficient staff and, perhaps best of all – is adjacent to the finest bookstore in SA – Exclusive Books. Who allow Seattle’s customers to browse their contents, whilst we sip our coffee.
My favourite perch is on the leather sofa – I reserve it with my shopping bags. Place my order, collect a couple of magazines – listen for my coffee … “Sue Special UP” and then spend a blissful hour escaping. There are other regulars – we know each other to nod and exchange a few pleasantries. But all understand that we are there for the same purpose – to regain our sanity. So no chat lasts longer than a minute or two. When I am finished, I return the magazine. Take my cup to the sink. Greet the barristas and head out into the day. Saited, sorted and serene. A simple pleasure indeed.