Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Article excerpt

A new cafe is opening in our local park. It has been several months in construction and the excitement among our fellow middle-class exiles in the suburbs has been building. Word is, it's a sign the area is "on the up". It's not that we have been hitherto deprived of good coffee around here. Amid the plethora of nail bars and estate agents on our local high street, there is a great little Algerian place that does excellent coffee for Li and croissants for 50p.

But for the squeezed middles that is not enough. We need a range of outlets to cater for our every caffeine-related whim. We need flavoured syrups and babyccinos, pastries and panini, mochas and macchiatos. We need tasteful upholstery, the xx playing on loop, the wafting aroma of freshly baked sourdough. We are being starved, dammit.

On the morning of the big opening, the neighbourhood is abuzz. A steady stream of sleep-deprived young couples pushing Bugaboos is moving towards the park, with all the intensity of pilgrims en route to Mecca. Curly, the kids and I arrive at the cafe to find a crowd of people with their faces pressed up against the tastefully engraved front window. A few are literally pawing at the glass.

"Look at the coffee machine--it's a Gaggia!" a man exclaims from deep within a North Face puffa jacket, his eyes alight.

"They've got ... muffins!"

"It's a lovely space--so airy, with the skylights!"

A waitress, classily attired in a black shirt and trousers and a white, full-length apron, comes to open the door. …

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