We’ll have time for coffee flavoured kisses
And a bit of conversation.

My caffeine fix was served by a rather brusque Italian woman today. For once, the language on the menu matched the accent. It’s hardly authentic though, unlike the coffee shop that has just been protected with a Grade II listing by English Heritage. Frequented in years gone by the notorious Kray brothers, Pellicci’s in the East End of London is being held up as the first step in fighting back against the spread of franchised coffee shops.

Mr Pellici says,

A lot of my original customers are dead, of course.

Which is perhaps an unfortunate choice of words considering the activities of some of his past clientele.

Adrian Maddox, author of Classic Cafes says,

These cafes started dying off in the 1980s and then came Starbucks and the other chains and they started vanishing.

But these cafes have a whole secret history; they tell a story, of the wave of Italian immigrants who came here and brought their culture with them. They incubated a whole sub-culture of music, fashion, film, sex, crime.

I didn’t see much sign of any sub-culture whilst sat in a two-a-penny franchise during my lunch today, but then I did spend most of the time hunched over a napkin with a pen.


It’s just possible I shall cause some offence with this entry.

I decided to jot down my memories of a project in Shanghai that Will Alsop announced during the lecture I attended last week. Shanghai told him that they wanted ‘something like the London Eye’. He gave them The Kiss – a ride taller than the Eiffel Tower, with individually programmable dining carriages and a ‘love hotel’ at the base. The entire thing rotates twice a day and the carriages can move past each other on the route because of the double-helix track that twists around the surface. It’s not been published officially yet, you saw it here first, hence my concern about causing offence. To double check if there are any links elsewhere and check if I really am the first, I’ve just tried Googling for shanghai+kiss+alsop and found myself on a site describing the results of the Second Annual Poetic Cross-Dressing Contest. Try it if you dare.

The other reason I might offend is because I’m doing exactly what Alsop said I shouldn’t do – the clichéd architect’s thumbnail sketch on a cafe napkin. Part of his lecture demonstrated the large scale drawings he does for projects, explaining that he could never understand the architect’s desire to produce tiny drawings when we work in a field that produces such large products.

What we need in Birmingham is an authentic Italian cafe with really big napkins.

My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away
I need a change of scenery.

Ta ta ta…

The first person to tell me the source of the opening and closing quotes in this entry gets to keep the original sketch and use it to wipe up next time they spill their coffee.