Cof­fee cul­ture

Our new colum­nist, co­me­dian spends his week­days tour­ing Guild­ford’s cof­fee shops and the things he over­hears as he works his way through the caf­feinated drinks menus pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion for all man­ner of es­capades...

Surrey Life - - Overheard In Surrey - Paul Kerensa,

I “can’t be­lieve those Mac­book­wield­ing free­lancers who work in cof­fee shops, mak­ing one latte last three hours,” thought the woman op­po­site me, prob­a­bly, as she looked over at me and my near­lyempty cof­fee mug.

This was to­day’s of­fice: one of Guild­ford High Street’s many fine caf­feine em­po­ri­ums. I’ve found it’s here that I write best, while try­ing to not out­stay my wel­come and buy­ing lunch to show will­ing. A few months ago, in this very café, I wrote my first chil­dren’s book, Noah’s Car Park Ark – and here I found my­self again, pon­der­ing what to do with it.

The woman op­po­site was greeted by a friend with bev­er­ages and they spoke about schools. “...just left Val­ley End,” I heard one say. My old school! I grew up in Windle­sham and Chob­ham, so Val­ley End C of E was my lo­cal. My head­mas­ter was the ever-benev­o­lent Mr Turner, and by chance I’d re­cently met the cur­rent head, Mr Mead, at a com­edy show in Cam­ber­ley. So with eaves­drop­ping be­com­ing in­spi­ra­tion, I won­dered if Mr Mead might wel­come a read­ing of my new book. Or bet­ter still, his pupils might. I emailed Val­ley End, then sipped my latte. By the time of my next sip, 90 min­utes later, they had replied pos­i­tively.

The day came, and while it’s a cliché to say the school seemed smaller, there’s a chance – just a chance – that it’s me that got big­ger. The mem­o­ries re­turned: slip­ping over on bub­ble liq­uid dur­ing the school pan­tomime, lis­ten­ing to Greensleeves on vinyl ev­ery assem­bly... and miss­ing the first term of school be­cause I was stuck in Great Or­mond Street Hospi­tal. By the time I joined in Jan­uary 1983, my class­mates knew each other, so I ar­rived know­ing no­body. A bit like to­day then.

I sat and read them my book. They liked it (or at least pre­tended to – you never know if they’re just tak­ing pity on the new boy). Here I was, mak­ing up for lost ed­u­ca­tion. Hospi­tal some­times kept me from school, but the time off made me read lots, then made me want to write lots.

Three and a half decades later, I’m still writ­ing, and still ar­riv­ing at the same school not know­ing any­one. Then again I don’t know the peo­ple in my of­fice ei­ther – by which I mean, that cof­fee shop on Guild­ford High Street...sip.

Paul Kerensa is an award­win­ning stand-up comic, a reg­u­lar voice on BBC Ra­dio 2 and writer for BBC’S Mi­randa, Not Go­ing Out, Top Gear, ITV’S Royal Va­ri­ety Per­for­mance and Chan­nel 4’s TFI Fri­day. His books in­clude Hark! The Bi­og­ra­phy of Christ­mas and the chil­dren’s book Noah’s Car Park.

Twit­ter @ paulk­erensa In­sta­gram @ paulk­erensa Face­book. com/paul. kerensa

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