Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Card-less in the Cash-free Toon

It's Professional Development Day for me, so I went to see my Spiritual Director. This was the first time I had been by for over four months, thanks to the lockdown. It wasn't as simple as getting on the bus, for on Sunday I lost my bank card on another bus and had to cancel it pronto. Thus, this morning I emptied out jars of change looking for pound coins, 50 pence pieces and, indeed, 20 p pieces to make up bus fares with.  I also had two lottery tickets worth £5 in my pocket, for the McLeans enjoy their little flutter and occasionally win something. 

Out I went into our (almost) cash-free society with my pocket of coins and lottery tickets.  Oh, and my mask. The front part of my mask is denim, so it matches my new indestructible maxi-skirt of feminine traddery. 

My journey through the town was like this: I walked to a bus stop and took the bus (£1.80) to the West End. Then I walked through the pouring rain to my Spiritual Director's house, arriving 20 minutes early. Next I had a long chat with my Spiritual Director before deciding to walk in the now-gentle rain towards Waterstone's bookshop on Princes Street. On the way I noticed that various cafes I might have stopped in were not accepting cash, so I didn't stop in any. 

Waterstone's had a sign saying that it would take only cash payments. After ascertaining that they don't have Assimil Italian (is Assimil ever in shops?), I continued on. I caught a bus to the Bridges (£1.80) and cashed my lottery tickets at Sainsbury's. Then I had a look at my favourite cafe which, unfortunately, is not only still shut, there is a large wooden board over the doorway. This bodes ill. Next I stopped by Central Library, whose ornate gates are still shut, and so proceeded to the Bow, past Walker Slater to La Barantine, a cafe-bakery on my "Acceptable Croissants" shortlist. 

There were a few tourists about, obvious from their cameras and need to photograph "The Elephant House: Birthplace of Harry Potter", but for once there were tables free at the Bow's La Barantine. The waitress did not want me to pay with cash, however, so we came to a compromise where I bought a croissant with exact change (£1.80) and toddled off. Munching my croissant, I examined the tweed-filled shop windows of Walker Slater and then went to Blackwell's Books. 

Blackwell's had more staff around than customers. A masked young salesman in the foyer greeted me and explained the shopping protocol: gel for hands, mask on face, one-way system: the now-usual. I had hoped to find a nice comfy chair in an isolated corner in which to discreetly read more of Kwasniewski's Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright, but it soon clear that chairs are now hard, obvious and few. I had a distinct feeling that using  reading a non-Blackwell's book would not be smiled upon.  Thus, after some melancholy wandering upstairs and downstairs, I went back upstairs, picked up the Dummies Guide to Polish and had a skim. (It's quite good, and it would serve as an expanded phrasebook for the studious/committed.) 

After that I got on a bus and went home (£1.80). My trip to and about the ancestral city cost £7.20, and I never dipped into our lottery winnings. I wasn't much tempted to, either, thanks to social disapproval of cash and also the doleful closures. The was a "For Sale" sign on "Mother India", which is a terrible shame, as that was our favourite Indian restaurant.  

I'm feeling rather low about my favourite cafe. It was the scene of so many of my Polish conversations and last-minute bouts of Polish homework doing. I even wrote Polish letters while sitting in one or the other of the big red leather chairs and deciphered Polish Pretend Son's letters by copying them out by hand, word by word. 

Months ago I wrote to the cafe ask what I could do to support them, and the respondent suggested I support the coffee company that now owns the joint. I signed up for the company's coffee subscription, so at least I have been drinking good coffee.  I now see that my cafe is selling vouchers for future drinks. Having seen the wooden panel in the doorway, though, I'm a little nervous of doing that. But, as a matter of fact, I can't do that until I get my new bank card. 

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