It’s All Material

IMG00665-20121019-0948Ailsa suggested circles as a theme for this week, and I thought of this photo I took a month or so ago.  It’s probably a little bit odd to take a photograph of other people’s detritus in the first place, and then to post it and relate it to the rather lovely shots of fountains, flowers and architecture published by other people, is even odder.  Maybe it’s because Costa is in the news this week, largely on the basis that’s not Starbucks which is currently the subject of attention because of its tax affairs. (I can feel my fingers itching to write something on that topic whenever I read one of the more confused and under informed articles that are everywhere at the moment, but I’m not sure you’d be as interested in that as I am.)  But for whatever reason, that’s the way it is this week.

The cup of coffee’s mine, but the empty sugar sachets and cigarette butts were already there when I got to the table.  It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed, since the introduction of the ban on smoking inside any public building: the area outside, and any tables there, are dominated and occupied by people smoking.  I understand why, but it’s a topsy turvy kind of thing that the atmosphere can smell cleaner inside a coffee shop than outside.

But I suppose I was more interested in what the little pile of rubbish could tell me about the characters who left it there.  It’s one of the things that story tellers have in common, probably, that they look at things, ordinary as well as peculiar, and wonder what narrative led there, and what manner of people have left their traces behind.

So, who takes that much sugar in their coffee?  Did they try to arrange the empty packets in a pile which has been disturbed by the wind? Or were they untidy and left the paper where it fell?  Were they the types who shake the sugar sachets vigorously before tearing the ends off and then stir their coffee for longer than is really necessary?  Or were they simply slapdash?  How many people were there?One with a bad cold, perhaps, who tried to leave everything tidy, but who was foiled by his companions?

Was the smoker one of those who stubs out their cigarettes with little stabbing actions, or a deliberate twisting and pressing grinding into the ashtray?  Stub ends always look like they’ve been subjected to violence, but then, without the smoking, the techniques they tried to teach him at the anger management course are even more useless and ineffective.

Or maybe the table should have been cleared hours ago, but the shop was just a bit short staffed because a member of staff hasn’t arrived yet because of the black eye he sustained when he walked into a door by accident last night.  Or at least he’s going to tell them it was an accident.

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  1. Write the starbucks thing, please. you’d be surprised how many people are interested in tax avoidance issues and the manipulations of big business.


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