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The Scrivener: Coffee Ceramic

…The hospital has recently undergone another round of refurbishment. The small coffee shop has changed hands and is now run by a foreign franchise operation. The ambient aroma is certainly very persuasive…

On a visit to his neighbourhood hospital Brian Barratt becomes acquainted with Coffee Ceramic.

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Cars parked on both sides of our quiet leafy crescent really are a nuisance. There's a private hospital on the corner of the 6-lane main road at one end. At the other end, on the corner of a busy 4-lane road, there's a clinic. The hospital's car-park isn't roomy enough, so visitors and perhaps staff park on both sides of the crescent every weekday, leaving enough space for only one vehicle to squeeze through. The situation is not helped by the fact that drivers in too much of a hurry use the crescent as a short cut, hurtling along at above the speed limit in order to avoid the traffic lights where the adjacent roads intersect.

On the other hand, it's useful having a hospital in the crescent. For minor procedures, you simply walk round the corner and back home again. For more complex procedures which involve invasive treatment and perhaps an overnight stay, you can still walk round the corner. If you finish up groggy and sore, a good neighbour will come along and drive you home the next day.

The hospital has recently undergone another round of refurbishment. The small coffee shop has changed hands and is now run by a foreign franchise operation. The ambient aroma is certainly very persuasive.

When you've had to fast for 10 hours before your visit to the pathological needle-jabbers, and Nature decrees that you wake up very early in the morning, there's an awful long wait until you can have your first cup of coffee. However, that tempting little shop might well give rise to despair when you notice that they use polystyrene cups. Some of us refuse to drink from polystyrene cups. They spoil the taste of coffee. Heaven only knows what they do to the more subtle taste of tea, particularly Darjeeling.

You can breathe a sigh of relief — they also have real cups and saucers. And it's rather intriguing to see, when the young lady rings up your payment, the little window on the front of the cash till tells you that you have bought "Coffee Ceramic". Perhaps other franchise outlets could follow suit and have their little windows inform you that you have bought "Coffee Cardboard".

You can enjoy your Coffee Ceramic at one of the tables provided, and read the newspaper you bought at the shop, too. If you're a people-watcher, you'll have plenty to distract you. The foyer is like that of an up-market hotel with a constant flow of humanity. There are the people of both genders dressed in identical smart blue overall covering and wearing identical colourful cloth bands to keep their hair in place. They're the attendants and aides. Their morning task involves carrying or wheeling some gadget or other from one place to another. You find yourself wondering who is going to be attached to which gadget and why.

Women in normal attire come and go. It's difficult to work out if they are office workers, cleaners, or perhaps even early visitors. Middle-aged men in tailor-made grey suits and matching hair, immaculate white shirts and fashionable but not ostentatious ties, with important looking brief-cases, leave you in no doubt. They're doctors. They've left their cars in an undercover reserved area near the main entrance. Read those posh labels: BMW, Lexus, Audi, Mercedes Benz. Well, they work long hours for their money, so why not?

All in all, I don't think I'll wait for my next medical tests in order to buy a Coffee Ceramic and the morning paper. I'll do it again, for its own sake. I might even take a friend. It'll be a new social experience to meet at a coffee bar franchised by the Emirates Leisure Retail Group of Dubai, right here at a hospital on our doorstep.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2010


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