The Loop: Cafe loitering and acute accents
Welcome to The Loop, the Magazine's letters column, including the best of your thoughts from Twitter and Facebook.
Maybe you're reading this in a coffee shop on your computer or tablet - perhaps you've been there for hours already?
This week, we asked how long is too long to hang out in this way. Our Stop/Start video on Wednesday told the tale of trendy East London cafe where customers pay by the minute rather than for what they consume. Developing the theme on Thursday, restaurant critic Giles Coren told us he approved: "If I owned a coffee shop and people were loitering [without buying] I would throw them out and take great pleasure in doing so." They should go to libraries instead, he said.
Ruth from Bucks emailed to say: "Libraries practically don't exist any more. I used to use my local library quite a bit if I had to work out of the office. Now it has restricted opening hours and wi-fi is only free for 30 minutes a day, after which it is a lot more expensive than a drink in a nearby cafe."
But more people seemed to side with Coren. "I go to cafes to drink coffee and eat not to sit in an office environment that cafes are fast becoming with lap tops and iPads. Plus interviews and Skype conference calls. Why can't the UK be more like cafes in Italy and Spain where one goes to relax and meet friends?" wrote Robert Jones from London.
"Using coffee shops as a waiting room or office is fine if the cafe is empty but when it fills up, surely the owners have a right to ask people to move on," says Arabella, Oxford. And Steve, from Norfolk, doesn't think coffee shops should provide wi-fi at all.
On Twitter, potentially sent from a coffee shop, Michael Dembinski liked the sound of the pay-as-you-go coffee shop. "3p per minute? Great! I'll have a large coffee, down it in 5 mins and be off. Here's yer 15p, Mister!" And Dolphin Dave added: "A cup of coffee from most chains is enough to pay for their wi-fi and electricity for a week, so a few hours is fine."
The Magazine was in mourning this week for our longstanding regular columnist Paper Monitor who finally tired of having inky fingers, donned an overcoat and stomped out of the office leaving only a crossword clue as a parting gesture: Halt! King harpoons strand! We shall off, unexpectedly (2,4,3,6,3,3,3,4,4).
"Please don't go," pleaded Pete from Bury St Edmunds. Polly Saxon of Lichfield let out a yawp: "Whaaaat!!??!!! You're leaving us? Why? While there is news there is room for a bon mot or 20 from PM, surely?... Workday lunchtimes will never be the same again." Heather Simmons feels there is unfinished business and that Paper Monitor's anonymity should be ended. Writing on our Magazine Facebook page she said: "Don't send PM away until you answer the gender/age/nationality... question."
And it was down to Iain M Barker on Facebook and Ashley Pearson from Hull, who emailed, to solve the cryptic clue:
"'So long and thanks for all the fish wrap'? I like the cryptic clue and the sideways reference to the Hitchhiker's Guide," wrote Ashley, "but I do hope that's not an actual permanent valediction. Paper Monitor is our friend, and we need him/her/it/them."
Sadly it seems to be true.
Paper Monitor may have decided to slack off but it hasn't stopped us thinking about how hard other people work. The French Embassy in London mounted a defence of French productivity, and Agnes Poirier (French but living in London) told us that in her experience, employees in France's private sector work as hard as their British neighbours, if not more. "Not longer hours but just harder when they do," she wrote.
Karin from Eymoutiers, France, wrote: "My experience, living in central France, is that the French do not work any harder than the British. Artisans here will clock off at 12 noon and return to work at 2 pm. I have had English artisans working for me being ticked off by French people for working in the lunch hours. This is for some reason seen as 'unfair competition'."
Bob Parry of St Albans offers a bit of finessing: "About 20 years ago, I was working on a pan-European project for deployment in various countries and led by a German director. His comment to me was that the most efficient country in terms of work done per capita was France. But, like their trains, it was unreliable and inflexible. When working they were very fast and efficient, but they could down tools at any moment. Conversely the German office was ultra reliable but bureaucratic and inefficient. The Brits on the other hand were flexible. So if it is not time dependent, get the French to do it. If it is and you have the resources, get the Germans to do it. If you are pushed for both time and resources and it is a one-off, get the Brits to do it."
The French way of loving has also been the topic of conversation this week, aided in no small measure by Hugh Schofield's glossary of terms used the tale of The President and the Actress.
F. Robert of Milan laments our accent-less house style (see cafe, above). "Aïe aïe aïe les accents!," he or she laments, pointing out it should be "Valérie Trierweiler, Elysée Palace, pied à terre, garçonnière, escapades discrètes scooter à trois roues."
Tres bon, merci.