Drove across the heathered, gorse-addled moors to a market town gripped around by hills this golden morning. I arrived early for a meeting so parked the car and ambled up to a cafe perched on a steep slope for a coffee. Could not get the door open. "Half day closing" the woman appeared to be mouthing at me through the glass. I think that is what she was saying. She could have been saying: "I am being held hostage by a stalker who has just smothered the other waitress with a giant buttered teacake". I nodded and turned away. A mistake bearing in mind where I ended up. I mooched down the slope into a shop and bought my mother a scarf I thought she might like which had caught my eye in the window. I said to the assistant behind the counter who was wearing the most startling green eyeshadow I have seen outside the seventies: "I want to get a coffee - where should I go?" "Try the place next to the undertakers," she advised. Never trust a woman with green eyeshadow.
I edged into an unpreposessing little cafe with a small window, cheap wallpaper and those varnished chairs you only see in cafes like this one. I said to the girl behind the counter: "Could I have a bacon sandwich?" She said she would see and disappeared into the kitchen. I am pretty sure the woman in the kitchen's words were "I suppose so." I should have left at that point but you do not want to rush into over-hasty judgment. I ordered a cappuccino. I really must stop doing that. In my defence, there was a machine with its back to customers with a whole list of coffees and what they consisted off - frothed milk, a shot of espresso etc. I took the cup over to a table and sat down with it - it smelled of the boiled milk I used to have to drink as a child when I was sick. It was also sweet. It was without doubt the worst coffee I have drunk in Northumberland so far - frankly, that is saying something. Despite the fact I did indeed get my bacon sandwich complete with crisps and spread, I went back to the counter, waiting patiently for the pensioner customers in front of me to be served. They shuffled off with their scones and tea and I lowered my voice; God forbid you are overheard making a complaint. I said to the very pretty girl serving: "Do you think I could have a filter coffee instead, this coffee is terrible. I've got to know how you make it." She handed me a little silver packet which I examined. It had to have real coffee in it - not a lot but a bit, and I imagine a little plastic tap thingy. I said: "Well there is probably coffee in there. What about the milk?" I was genuinely intrigued. She said: "It's granules." Why do people do that? Why not just save yourself the cost of a machine and stick to tea? I handed her the money for the filter coffee and she took it.