Monday, July 23, 2007

Two lattes and a cappuccino, please

"If we, as citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams."
Yann Martel, Life of Pi

It's my first day as a volunteer at the Peace Cafe, and I must confess to some nerves. I couldn't sleep last night for recurring fears of milk that wasn't frothy enough and seven lattes ordered on the trot.

By midday, I am presiding over an empty cafe. James, the owner, has been brave enough to leave me here alone while he goes to run some chores, and I've already made several herbal teas and two espressos. You can call me Barista Girl, who in my mind is a new sort of superhero, putting the world to rights, one cafe au lait at a time.

The ambience of the cafe is lovely, and when I've quit being so nervous of screwing up, I think I'm going to love it here. There are a lot of things to remember, and a lot of washing up to do, but the potential for zen activity is high and I think it could be the perfect balancer for my other job (the volunteering has brought my job count up to three now) working for the local authority.

A few regulars come in, but the weather is unfriendly and word of Monday openings haven't spread yet. It still manages to be an eventful day, where I am propositioned by a cross-dressing fetishist (that's a story in itself, but I'm saving it for dinner party anecdotes), learn to make espresso with foam and listen to the rapport of a couple who are occupying two separate computers:

Him: "Are you still looking for jobs on there?"

Her: "Yes. Why, are you bored?"

Him: "Yeah."

Her: "Have a look for a dog then. You know, check out different brands."

Him: "I think they're called breeds."

In the quiet moments, I pick up Yann Martel's Life of Pi - James has a whole library of reads out in the back room, specialising in the spiritual - which I have at home but have never read. I'm captivated within the first few pages, which is always a sign of great writing. In the first few pages of the novel, he mentions the beatific smile of the three-toed sloth, who decorates the top of today's post. I can see what he means.

Apparently, it's very hard to disturb a sloth - not that I'm recommending you try.

If you come upon a sleeping three-toed sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should suffice to awaken it; it will look sleepily in every direction but yours. Why it should look about is uncertain since the sloth sees everything in a Mr Magoo-like blur. As for hearing, the sloth is not so much deaf as uninterested in sound. (It has been) reported that firing guns next to sleeping or feeding sloths elicited little reaction. And the sloth's slightly better sense of smell should not be overestimated. They are said to be able to sniff and avoid decayed branches, but (it has been) reported that sloths fall to the ground clinging to deacyed branches "often".

Now that's my kind of animal. A sloth would be at home in the Peace Cafe, where the ambience would support their intrinsic sense of peace. He wouldn't be as good a volunteer as me, though. I've got better breasts.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hot Shot

I have recently discovered that my pool skills have gone to pot (do you see what I did there - to pot - ah, the hilarity). Two weekends in a row I've ended my Saturday night by playing drunken pool (same as the normal kind, but you tend to stagger round the table more and pot the white often enough to justify the use of the phrase 'playing like a girl') in Havana, and both times I've astounded myself at how entirely inept I've become at it.

Don't get me wrong, I won both weekends, so I'm doing something right. But pool is a game where you can pot the most tricksy shots and miss the obvious ones, which makes you look a bit like a flukey twat. I've got to practise. I want to be the Queen of Pool, the Top Dog at the Table, the Lady of the Cue - actually, scrap that, I think the last one might be a porn film.

Last night, myself, Lainee, Dr Dan and his beautiful girlfriend Hannah decided to attend not one, but two of the Oberon Project's gigs around Southsea. The first was at the Black Bar, where we caught two bands playing back to back (by which I mean one after the other, not sharing a stage in a bizarre and probably musically unsound way). The bar was packed and one solitary barmaid was buzzing around it attempting to serve everyone - though not simultaneously, of course, you'd have to be Rainman to keep track of the bar bill.

We knew we had come to the right place when two men next to us shot past us at great speed, hit the floor and were rolling around. We all tensed, anticipating a fight, when suddenly it became apparent that the two guys were actually hugging, and had, in fact, hugged so overzealously they had fallen over.

"That's a lot of bonding," said Dr Dan, eyebrows raised.

We stayed to watch the two bands (and, for me, to people-watch a lot - there were some great outfits in the Black Bar last night, but full points for effort to the Dermot O'Leary lookee likee in faded jeans, white shirt, black tie and grey cardigan), before heading down to Havana as Dan was desperate for some heavy metal.

Unfortunately, we missed the bands, but did arrive in time for Lainee and I to catch a couple of games of pool. We caught up with Clarkie, of the Oberon Project there, who was kind enough to act as my Critical Friend and provide a running commentary on my game.

"Sarah, that was rubbish," he helpfully observed, as I messed up an obvious shot on the black.

"No, seriously, it's not funny any more," he pointed out as I missed it again.

So, I've decided I need to get back into the game. I'm going to practise my pool skills until I've earned the nickname Golden Cue.

Ok, well maybe not Golden Cue, it sounds too phallic. But something else that's impressive. Any ideas?