Taking time in a cafe

Cafe Life Bristol

A couple of weeks ago I had a chunk of child free time to myself on a Saturday (a rare thing). I thought I’d pop to the supermarket, then tidy up at home. Both really stupid ideas. Instead, I grabbed my camera and did a couple of things I really love; taking photos and sitting in a cafe with a magazine. I realised how much I’d missed ‘cafe’ spaces.

Pronounced caff (in a South London style) rather than café (too grand), just to clear that up.

For a while, frequenting cafes was a regular ‘thing’ for me; time on my own, time away from the domestic, a small amount of head space in the walk between the house and the cafe, gave me thinking time I relished. Somehow, taking the laptop to the cafe to get things done has slipped. Follow my instagram and it is obvious I do like a cafe. They make good places to meet friends; no one has to provide cake, just buy it. Somewhere for ‘day-time’ dates with my OH. There are a lot of cafes in Bristol which serve really good food. More relaxed than a restaurant and cheaper.  

This post was written in a cafe. Tapping at my laptop, the view from the window is a busy street and over the road, down a side street to green hills beyond the city centre. It’s a view I don’t have from home. A change of scene, everyone needs a change of scene, every now and then.

Since, I’ve got here the guy serving coffee had begun issuing instructions in a loud voice, as if he’s communicating with a deaf dachshund rather than a woman standing beside him. That is also the beauty of cafes you can’t regulate the environment, sometimes it’s a feast of overhead conversations and people watching, gentle and almost peaceful. For time on my own, I would pick a cafe over a walk in the woods. I’m drawn to busy streets, other people, close by but not distance. It’s the city girl within me; the comfort of strangers. I enjoy people watching, cafes give you a perch to peer at passers by, unnoticed.

There are the downsides, people on their phones, whose voices cut across. Someone else’s toddler repeatedly banging a toy on the table. When you have a small child, getting out to cafe, is such a welcome change of scene and warmer than the park.  With a baby, it can be the crowning triumph of the day; get dressed, leave the house, sit amongst adults. I was too tired to notice the ‘drilling’ looks from other people, when my child took his toy and banged it again and again on the table. To be honest, I didn’t notice that either, I was just grateful for cake and hot tea and a change of scene. 

Because home is within my control and the wifi reliable, I slipped into the habit of choosing home, over taking the laptop to the cafe. At home, I don’t have to worry that someone might nick my laptop while I’m in the loo #cafeproblems.

If I take the laptop to the cafe I’m more focused, I’m not alone in that. Most cafes are cluttered with people and their laptops, one drink purchased, hogging a table for 4 for hours (more #cafeproblems).  Best of all, is time on my own in cafe doing nothing. I actually do nothing. Stare into the middle distance or people watch. It is a place, I put down my phone and get lost in my own thoughts or simply gather them. Which can’t be a bad thing.

These are mine, tell me yours:

Favourite Bristol cafes for people watching: Zazu’s on North Street (BS3) corner aspect, pots of tea. The Work House Cafe, Perry Road, City Centre; bustling, great cakes. Cafe Kino, Stokes Croft; spacious, delicious vegan food.


cafe life

Cafe Life Workhouse cafe Bristol


  1. Midlife Singlemum

    Funny you should say that about pronouncing it caff. The other day I was thinking about when we were kids and went on our twice yearly big shopping trips with my mum. Once in the Easter holidays for summer clothes and once at the end of August for winter clothes. It would be a day’s outing either up to town or to Warford. And the big treat was finding a CAfe (emphasis on the first syllable, possibly even CAfee) in which to have egg and chips for lunch. It was usually The Golden Egg in Watford or the CAfe in Bourne & Hollingsworth in Oxford Street. I also say CAfe when reading The Tiger who came to Tea – a definite 1960s book. I realized that now I say caFE (CaFEY). The difference in my mind is if it’s a place to have egg and chips and a mug of milky tea, or a place for a designer coffee and a croissant.  

  2. Hatty Uwanogho

    There’s nothing better in this world than sitting in a cafe (however you pronounce it) on your own with a cup of tea, a slice of cake (or egg and chips) and a book. That for me is a highly covetable moment of peace and calm.

  3. Brigitte

    How I long to sit, stare, sip and savour proper food prepared locally in an independent cafe. I live  in an area of north Swindon devoid of great independents. I have within five minutes from home two Costas, a Starbucks, an M&S cafe and a totally soulless ASDA coffee shop. My nearest decent cafes are on the other side of town. They’re good, but I don’t want to have to traipse for miles for a proper cafe experience. When we moved here 12 years ago, the glossy brochure for the housing development we now live in promised village squares complete with little cafes. We got Tesco Express and fish and chip shops instead! I grew up in Bristol, but the only coffee shops I remember then were  Cawardines In Broadmead and Baldwin Street. Times have changed and and Bristol is teaming with wonderful cafes. We actually chose to marry in a city centre venue after popping into its cafe for a coffee break after a climb up Park Street! Enjoy your moments of peace and time to think in your local cafe and think of me popping into the cafe that never was and ordering double cod and chips! 

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