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Instant Coffee

August 3, 2010

At our first meeting for the semester, the new tutor was surprised at something. I’d been dithering about what drink to order, and during this process admitted that I don’t drink coffee.

“That’s a first,” he said, “a writer who doesn’t drink coffee.” He looked as if the idea was, indeed, new to him.

“I guess it is unusual,” I said, while secretly not being sure about it, there must  be non coffee-drinking writers! I wasn’t telling him the complete truth however. I didn’t tell him about the instant coffee. It is better to admit nothing at all than that.

Now I know that instant coffee is inferior, possibly even embarrassing in certain company, but I like it. It’s comforting, and makes me think of my parents when I was a kid, drinking it from beige plastic mugs, of people in little fibro houses in the 1970s, looking out at the newly planted garden, thinking about what the future might be like.

And the last thing I want to be is a cliched writer. I have never sat in a café writing, for example. In fact I don’t think I’ve been to a café by myself very much at all in my life, probably about a dozen times. I don’t mind going to them with other people, but by myself I feel fidgety, I just can’t sit there, I feel like a caricature and all I can think is that I wish I was back at home with some Moccona.

My favourite places to write are: lying in bed, sitting at my desk and on trains. Cafes are not the place, with people digesting friands within close proximity, giant prams being angled in, and people catching up (or, worse, going over architectural plans at the next table, as happened to H and I last week. “They’re planning what to build after they’ve demolished my house,” I said, joking, but she looked shocked, as if I should not say such things).

Maybe I’m just wary of categories. As soon as I get called a writer I immediately think of the most distasteful aspects of that identity. Of course it’s not about what you like to drink, it’s about explaining the human condition, making people feel better about being alive, less alone. But there are a lot of other things that go on besides that that aren’t so noble or so interesting. Have you ever been to a writers’ festival?

Most of the time I try to forget about all these dreadful aspects of it. When I say I’m a writer I picture a woman in a twin set, at a desk with a typewriter, frowning earnestly, paused in the moment between one sentence and the next. She loves the world and hates the world in equal measure. What she drinks is of no consequence.

(This is my back step in the morning sun. I don’t tend to sit out here very often, as the neighbours can see me. But sometimes I do. I don’t think the chap with the Australian flag on his wall really cares about me sitting on the back step with my computer.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2010 11:06 am

    If it makes you feel any less alone, I’m a writer and I don’t drink coffee. Or tea. This latter aspect is what really spins people out. They offer coffee and I say no. I don’t explain that I don’t drink coffee at all, I just say no thanks. That’s fine, I’ve just refused coffee. So then they offer tea. That’s what you do when someone says no to coffee. Then I pretty much have to explain that it’s nothing against them or their offerings, I just don’t drink coffee. Or tea. And they say, “Or tea?”, like they’re lost at sea, like what other options are available to them now that I’ve refused both of the common hot beverages? They want to offer me a hot beverage, and they can’t grasp that it’s not because I’m nudging them towards my preferred option, I just don’t want anything at all. The really valiant will go on to “Hot chocolate?”, determined that there must be some sort of heated beverage that I am prepared to drink. I quite like hot chocolate, but it’s not something for all contexts. And it’s more of a hassle for them to make. So when I knock that back, there’s a kind of resigned sense of defeat, and of incomprehension, like I’ve stumped them with a tough quiz. Except for the occasional warrior, the kind who on a handful of occasions has ventured… “Horlicks?”

    I don’t even know what Horlicks is.

  2. August 9, 2010 5:29 pm

    I like hot water, from the kettle, in a mug – nothing else.

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