When going downstairs after getting out of bed, out of the sack, I will fill the kettle with water in order to boil it for our coffee, but I will not turn the kettle on right there and then. First I will tear off a couple of sheets of kitchen roll and use them to wipe our glass top coffee table in the lounge with our Ecover Surface Cleaning Spray. Out of all the household surface cleaners that we have used over the years, from supermarket brands right up to the big boys such as Mr Muscle and Flash, I have found that the Ecover range tend to be by far the most tolerable in terms of the smell left once the wiping of the table has been done, not too chemical in other words. The reason why I wipe the coffee table is because this is where I will soon be placing the tray with our pot of fresh coffee, two mugs, jug of hot milk, sugar and long stemmed teaspoon.
The two coffee mugs and milk jug that we currently use are in various shades blue so as to imitate the sea and sky which I have to say that they do pretty well, somewhat beautifully as a matter of fact. We bought them last year when we went were on holiday in Mevagissey, an attractive fishing village not far from St. Austell on the coast of South Cornwall. The holiday itself was, it had to be said, less than successful. We went with my sister and her son who of course is my nephew. Now generally I think I am quite a nice guy but my relationship with my sister has been fractious at times over the years, due in the main, as far as I can work out, to her volatility. However I am only too well aware that stating this only represents one side of the story, there is no smoke without fire in other words, it takes two to tango and all that. Let us just say that when we were down in the South West there were just too many pinch points for things to run as smoothly as we might have hoped. Still, the mugs and milk jug are nice, we bought them from a local potter, by looking at them you would never have any idea just what a shit time we had at certain points during that week in Cornwall. Well, such is life I guess.
Once the kettle gets switched on I make myself busy by placing the tray on the kitchen worktop next to the kettle, pulling the coffee mugs and milk jug from out of the dishwasher and heating up the milk in a small pan on the gas cooker. The milk that we boil to use in our coffee is full fat organic, for a long time it has used to half-fat, semi-skimmed, but not so long ago my wife Dawa Dolkar read it really didn’t make any difference health-wise whether you use full fat or half fat. Since full fat is tastier than half fat we have therefore started to use full and I would like to say the coffee does taste all the better for it, but to be honest I can’t really tell if there is that much difference.
Whilst the kettle is boiling and the milk is heating up I get the coffee container out of the fridge and pour four heaped measures into our Bodum glass coffee jar, ready for the hot water to be soon poured on top of it. When heating the milk I always wait until it is rising up in the pan, until it is just about to boil over, before taking it off the hob, pouring it into the milk jug and putting it on the tray. This is so that the milk will be nice and frothy, also because it provides me with a couple of seconds of mild excitement by way of successfully grabbing the pan before the milk boils over and messes up the stainless steel cooker surface beneath the hob, which of course can be a bit of a bugger to wipe up.
Now the coffee which, in the main, we currently use, and that we do not anticipate changing anytime soon, is a brand of organic coffee which comes from Belgium, not that we are so up ourselves that we import it from Belgium or anything like that. No, the reason why we are able to source it, which by the way is called Cafe Organico Forte: Superior Blend, is because Dawa Dolkar visits Brussels three times each year in a work capacity and she is therefore able to pick it up whilst she is there. It was Ada, the woman who organises Dawa Dolkar’s visits to Brussels, who introduced Dawa Dolkar to it and I have to say it is so damn good we have been drinking it ever since she first brought it back.
The thing is that coffee also seems to be a lot cheaper in Belgium than it is in the UK. For a 250 gram pack of the Cafe Organico the price in Brussels is around 3 Euros which of course is under 3 quid, a lot less than what you would expect to pay for it over here. By way of contrast in the past we have bought the Cafe Direct Machu Picchu brand of organic coffee which comes in 227 gram packs and costs anything up to 4 quid. With the Cafe Organico it has now got to the point where Ada buys a supply of it in advance of Dawa Dolkar’s visits then boxes it up for her to take back on the Eurostar, with at least a dozen packs in the box. This means that we more or less have enough of it until the next visit to Brussels and it is carefully stashed away in our little storage room at the back of our garage.
If for some reason we do happen to run out we can always top up our supply when Dawa Dolkar goes to Stockholm in Sweden, a city to where she also visits three times each year. The Swedes seem to drink gallons of the stuff on a regular basis by all accounts, and there the organic stuff is known as Bio. Again the coffee is a hell of a lot cheaper in Sweden than what we have to fork out for it in the UK, cheaper in fact that what it costs in Belgium as well. Therefore Dawa Dolkar will often pick up a couple of 450 gram vacuum packed Ekologiskt Bryggkaffe Mellanrost or Ekologiskt Bryggkaffe Svenstrostat at something like 49.95 Swedish krona per pack. This works out at something like £4.70 but of course you are getting a hell of a bigger bang for your buck when it comes to quantity and quality is good as well, pretty much as would expect considering it comes from Sweden.
All in all I have to say that blend wise the Cafe Organico from Brussels is our favourite, not only that, it does not come vacuum packed, which means that opening it up is a hell of a lot easier and a lot less messy, especially when it is often done first thing in the morning. Opening the brick hard Swedish stuff can be a tricky business, with it being difficult sometimes not to end up spilling countless thousands of coffee grains all over the kitchen worktop when I attempt to pour it into the coffee container straight from the pack. On top of that, because the 450 gram packs contain quite a lot of coffee there is too much of it to all fit into our coffee container. This means I have to carefully fold over what is remaining then wrap an elastic band around it and stick it in the fridge, all of which can sometimes be surprisingly stressful.
Once the water had been poured into the Bodum glass coffee jar I might give it a quick stir before putting the plunger in to rest on the top, ready to be pushed down after the coffee has brewed. Then I take the tray with everything on it and put it on the glass topped coffee table in the lounge, the one which I had wiped earlier on with the Ecover spray. It is then just a question of sitting for a while to let the coffee brew before pressing down the plunger and pouring the coffee into our nice big mugs from Mevagissey.
Whilst I have been making all these preparations Dawa Dolkar will have hauled herself out of bed and will be sitting on one of the sofas in the lounge, usually by this stage checking her mobile phone for messages, updates, news, stuff like that. It used to be the case that I would also look at my mobile whilst waiting for the coffee to brew, usually checking on the news pages of the online editions of the BBC or The Guardian. A few months ago however I got completely and utterly sick of being lost in the world of my mobile phone each morning so I knocked it on the head. I made the simple decision to keep my mobile phone switched off, only turning it on once a day to check for any messages which might have come in, and more often than not there would be none. Since then I have more or less stuck to that and feel a whole lot better for it, as it is extremely rare there is ever any news you need to see by way of your mobile, news which is going to ever make much difference to you or fundamentally change the course of your life.
Dawa Dolkar and I share the large pot of coffee between us which means we each get a good old Cornish mug full each, and once the hot milk and brown sugar have been added to it we can sit back and enjoy our morning drink. We usually have a relaxed chat whilst slurping our coffees, about anything really, from how we slept the night before, to what dreams we might have had, to what we watched on the TV the previous evening, to what might be the news via her mobile phone. A couple of mornings ago for example we had a good old laugh talking about Quacks, a hilarious late night show on BBC2 starring Rory Kinnear, which we caught up with recently on the BBC iplayer, watching four episodes one after another. We have another two to see from the series of six and we are both very much looking forward to seeing them as they are good enough to watch again and again and still have a damn good giggle.
If there is not that much to talk about I might stick on our digital radio for us to listen to a bit of BBC World Service. More often than not the World Service is not too mind blowing by way of entertainment but all the same it can throw up some really interesting features, pieces, articles from time to time. There have been a couple recently which we just tuned into by chance which both proved to be thoroughly fascinating.
One was a history of the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, North India and reputedly the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment well over 2,000 years ago. It chronicled the decline in health of the tree over the years and the corrupt practices of the site management committee which I have to say in no way surprised me, having myself been to India many times over the last 20 years or so. The second thing we recently listened to was an account of the life of Julius Caesar; it concluded with an interesting discussion by contemporary historians and scholars over his influence on world history, which turns out to have been quite considerable. By way of coincidence when we tuned into this particular piece I was in the middle of reading Tom Holland’s Dynasty, a historical account of the rise and fall of the house of Caesar in ancient Rome. To be honest it was a bit of a relief to me that Dynasty turned out not to be a duffer, as Holland’s previous work, In the Shadow of the Sword, in which he attempts to give a history of Islam, starting with the life of Mohammed, had been really hard going and I’d had to give up on it halfway through. It had been a real disappointment, which was a pity because I had really got into his three other works – Persian Fire, Rubicon and Millenium. With In the Shadow of the Sword I was beginning to fear Tom was going off the boil but Dynasty was most definitely proving me wrong as he is back on form, even if he does take liberties all over the place when it comes to whether something was actually true or not.
So anyway, there you have it, our morning coffee. We drink down our big Cornish mugs of it, either chatting away or listening to a bit of radio, Dawa Dolkar on the sofa and me sitting on a stool next to the coffee table. We are then pretty much fit for the day, as the coffee keeps us going until later in the morning, then of course it is smoothie time.