I love coffee. I have been drinking instant coffee since I was five and the real stuff since I went to Spain when I was seventeen. A delightful addiction, I like it strong and black, though when I was little my mother used to pour in lots of Carnation milk (made from the milk of contented cows) and loads of sugar. I gave up the sugar one Lent when I was about thirteen and stopped putting in any kind of milk about five years ago. But the aroma of freshly opened coffee spells a sort of grown up magic – mainly because it jolts me awake at five every morning and then again at five in the afternoon. Lovely. I did try giving it up altogether about twenty years ago, but the withdrawal symptoms for the first week were excruciating. So, no success.
When I went to Poland when I was eleven with my father I was so unhappy because no one would believe that I actually drank coffee. I think it added grist to everyone’s mill, trying to convince my father that my mother was a bad mother as she indulged this peculiar taste. But to give him his due, he never stopped me drinking it when I was with him. So – in Poland they tried to fob me off with INKA – some disgusting brew probably made from third grade acorns – the ones they wouldn’t give to pigs to eat. I don’t know.
All I remember it was dark and acrid and had milk with skin on it. Almost as bad was the cocoa they tried to give me instead. Yuck.
So coffee it is, instant, freshly ground, whatever. And so to the coffee machine. When I was still at primary school my parents acquired a beautiful Cona coffee machine, which I loved as it was a bit like a sand timer, with the black liquid pouring slowly from the top bulb to the bottom. It had a very sensuous shape, like a fat figure of eight if you looked at it head on – which I often did as it was at about my eye level. It was a bit of a palaver to use apparently and they went out of fashion for many years. Then one day I was dying for a coffee at Ealing Broadway station, and suddenly came across a tiny kiosk with a few sandwiches and cakes – and a Cona machine. I couldn’t resist, and the coffee was wonderful. And half the price of Caffe Nero or Costa or whatever the big brands are.
My husband, on the other hand, only drinks espresso ristretto, and has been craving a machine to make it with, with as much steam and noise as possible. I wouldn’t dare choose such a dragon myself, so a few Christmases ago I wrote him a lovely IOU saying that would be my present to him. He never got round to buying himself one, and I forgot all about it – then this year he gave up the chance for good. He asked if he could exchange all his IOUs – there have been a few – for a new machine that he can do some fancy woodwork with. Never have I seen a man so animated as when talking about the parts for his new machine, which he is designing and building bit by bit, and all for the price of a coffee machine or two!