A welcome cliché.
Tourists mingle with the eclectic mix of locals; students revel in their dishevelment, bleary eyed passers-by, shoppers planning their raids, hipsters hiding behind headphones and signal red socks.
The air is every sense. Rich bitter coffee, sweet cakes and savoury pastries, reflections from the pavement puddles and the cloud scrolled light, Sound upon winding sound; the gentle rolling chatter, the little black boxes providing the melody of a slow acoustic guitar song, the occasional clink of cup on saucer, the sudden punctuation of an unexpected laugh.
Large glass panes frame the rest of the universe, far outside this cosy place. Cars drive by in their own cocoons, people with bags walking to the next shop, a curious dog enjoys an incident free daytime.
Each movement of the door adds and detracts, subtle changes to the air, to the sound, to the culture, to the mood. A constant flow, ebbs, tides.
There are groups and couples here, enjoying their own company, discussing the world in over heard snippets. Pieced together they offer an image of a bizarre land, a fabulous place of nonsense, where weekends are sautéed mushroom, new books are made from purple sand, and television is nothing but a wipe-able surface.
A few of us sit alone. A woman sitting on a stool at the window, gym bag at her feet, idly swings her legs as she watches the couple across the road dreaming into an Estate Agent window. Beside me a younger man addresses his laptop with a glare and a sigh before resuming his furious pecking.
I sit in these places from time to time but never feel part of them. I guess that’s the point. Transitory places, strangers thrown together, a ragtag crew that will drift away like wood on the tide.
The door opens and in from the rain more faces appear. A mother and daughter laugh at a shared moment and both clear their suddenly steamy spectacles. An elderly couple guide each other with a familiar love to the vacant seats within.
I order another coffee and wait for the scene to change once more, wondering what sense will fill the air before I too float away into the pavement tides.