It has been such a long time since I posted anything on this site (2017!), and so much has happened since to disrupt not only my life but everybody’s – and to the extent that many of us couldn’t go out anywhere for over a year since March 2019 when lockdowns started. The safest place was ideally in open spaces outside, well away from anyone else. This is great when it is summer – and sunny and warm – and we were very lucky with that in Summer 2019.
However winter 2019, up until March 2020, was not so easy. Even churches were no sanctuary from the invisible microbes known collectively as CoVid-19. I think the resulting isolation has made all of us come to appreciate the value of socialising.
So much happened to change the way we live our lives around not being able to go out and readily meet family and friends. It was worse for hospitality and travel businesses, and anything involving people coming into contact with one another, who had to temporarily shut down or find other ways to trade.
Then there was furloughing of staff, who might otherwise have been in the frontline operations to reduce the numbers in the workplace to ensure satisfactory social distancing (and not to mention making sure PPE for all) – and that’s not even factoring in the personal cost and stress to those who caught the virus, or had loved ones who did, and so somehow had to continue on with the trauma of having had all that in their lives.
So I guess I counted myself amongst the lucky ones who have been able to work remotely, and so “keep calm, and carry on” (as it were), while all around us a new “Quiet Earth” came into being – with the closest physical contact increasingly limited to those you met on your street, or over the back fence. If you hadn’t got to know your neighbours before 2019/20, then you certainly did during that time!
If working remotely, like I was (and largely still am), then you become very conscious of what is living and socialising space, from what is work space in your own home. To the point that if you don’t live in a big house, there is a need to carefully separate work-time and space from (er) “life time” spaces – and you become increasingly aware of the spaces you can work undisturbed (including have a discrete online call or meeting) – and particularly times you can do that if the space cannot be reserved for work.
My wife and I realised then, amongst many other awkward factors with the crowded area we lived in too (where those, who lacked social responsibility at the best of times, were even less responsible then) that we needed a bigger place to both live and work in, and ideally in a less populated area “away from the madding crowd”. Especially if working remotely is going to become the norm, rather than the exception to the rule – or at least what is now known as hybrid working. So we put our little upstairs Warner flat in Walthamstow up for sale, also taking advantage of the Stamp Duty holiday in the UK in the process
We were lucky to find a bigger place in a much less crowded area not too far away, complete with a lot of wide open green spaces around it. The townhouse we bought has not only one, but two small rooms in it. We realised that the two small rooms could become exclusive workspaces for both of us, if needs be – as well as having ample separate living space too, along with the luxury of a small garden all to itself too. It is literally only 2 minutes’ walk in either direction to beautiful green spaces – one being Epping Forest, near Woodford Green golf course, and the other being Woodford Green itself. Eventually I will add photos to a post on this or my Matt’s Tale blog-site (although the latter in itself has been in a bit of a hiatus too, as that is meant to be about discovering oneself through travel, and stories of people you meet along the way who enrich your own journey – and that’s difficult to do if can’t go anywhere!)
Since finally moving into our new home in April of this year (2021), hospitality business have thankfully started to open up again for inhouse custom. Although many of us are probably still nervous about this latest variant of the virus (Omicron), and what it might mean for our ability to dine in crowded places, let alone comfortably enjoy socialising in public.
That’s why I have enjoyed discovering a few places in our new neighbourhood over the last 6 months where I can not only get good takeaway coffee, as well as cake or breakfast / brunch / lunch, but also dine in without sitting too close to others.
However few are set up to be fully socially distanced from others. This is why Lemon Seed Cafe in Woodford Green has been a joy to discover, as not only does it have a unique atmosphere which combines a deli-style cafe with a country-style tearooms atmosphere, but it also has a lot of knick-knacks for sale – such as cards, kid’s games, scented candles and herbal fragrances and all the home made preserves which might otherwise find in a farm store. There is a lot to stimulate the senses, in addition to good food and great coffee, tea or chai.
Above all, they have a secret corner where you can sit on your own, or with a group of friends, and enjoy a good chat over a great breakfast or lunch.
Or, like me, sit and write a blog post like this when it is not too busy, and muse about where life is at or where you would like to be as well as ponder on what dream may come (and hope that they are a good one!).
I think finding such cafes are going to be the new thing, where you can sit and enjoy a Full English breakfast and a good coffee like I did – and not feel too uncomfortable about others being too close. Plus perhaps even do a little shopping for small gifts to send to your loved ones, to show that you still care – even if you can’t be there.
***** Footnote: There is now an email address you can reach me on to share any good cafe near you, and the people you might have met there, as well as thoughts from cafe society generally. Please feek free to email me anything like that to: matt (at) cafe-quest.com