5 days after me and my sons made our major life-change and moved into Inverness, sitting bewildered at our breakfast table in the tiny ‘dining room’ of the flat, I called Youngest to fetch my ‘happy pills’ from the bedroom. He was 11 at the time, and it had been a difficult 2 days, at the end of a very difficult week, within the context of a hugely challenging period of life which was nowhere near resolved. Bravely enough, he’d said goodbye to fellow pupils at one school on the Friday, and turned up as a new pupil in a new town-centre primary the following Monday.
It was January. The Highlands can be a godforsaken hell hole of black skies, bitter winds and sullen faces in January. Winter angst is all pervasive. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised then, when my request was like a match to a firelighter. “I can’t stand this!” he exploded from the landing. “I come from a broken home and my mum’s on drugs!” Me and Eldest listened to him stride to the bathroom with alarming resolve and flush the pills down the toilet. Ah yes. Must’ve seen it in the movies. Then he came and sat heavily at the breakfast table with a look of stony defiance on his face. I was too utterly shanghaied by life in general to react with anything but silent resignation. But Eldest – “Right,” he said decisively, throwing down the local paper and his history revision which he’d been perusing in combination, “Everybody in the car..!”
He directed us to Currys up at the Retail Park, where he proceeded to cruise 3 aisles of kitchen gadgets while me and Youngest fiddled with the computers. Eventually, he marched up with a big box and said, “Found one.”
At the Pay Point I discovered I was buying a coffee machine. I didn’t drink coffee. Weak tea was my habitual beverage of choice – hadn’t ever tasted anything but Nescafe from a jar and hated that. But “This is what you need, ” he said, when I hesitated. £70’s a lot when you have no job and you don’t like coffee, but I was in a weird place so I proffered my card.
Following morning, the fragrant mysteries of coffee production fully mastered and I’m sitting at the breakfast table on my second large, fiendishly strong cappuccino when Eldest lifts his head from his revision to tell me in a single extended sentence that he thinks he could probably sell advertising space for the local rag during his up-coming study leave, and that Bismarck had creatively interfered with letters from one european despot to another in order to get them to go to war with one another and isn’t that genius? He lifts up the book he‘s reading and flashes a black and white image of Otto, all stern teutonic eyebrows and massive handlebar moustache. The sheer incongruity, of Bismarck and advertising space, of my recent massive life-change and the habits of a sour-faced power-mad Prussian, causes an eruption in my gut like an exploding bottle of coke. I laugh. It’s loud. I can’t stop. I subside off my chair and onto the carpet. I’m halfway under the table. There are tears of mirth rolling down my face. Youngest pops his head around the door to stare down at me open-mouthed. “See?” says his brother cooly. “Told you it would work.”
How to describe what my late discovery of coffee-based therapy did for me? Well, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it changed my life. I love you Juan Valdez Premium Colina.
“I gave up coffee. It’s almost worse than giving up a lover.” Sandra Bullock