Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Chatsworth Challenge: 10 cafes, 1 road, countless poems

Reading at Blu. Photo by John Pratt
Last weekend saw the end of Chesterfield's vibrant Chatsworth Road Festival and on Friday I took part in a one-off challenge: could I read poems in every café down Chatsworth Road from town to Brampton Manor? It was a bit like doing the Brampton Mile without beer.

We started early in the morning at St Thomas' Church café and ended up back there at 3pm, high on caffeine and short on voice. The journey in between included readings at Café Aroma, Blu, Maison Mes Amis, Meringue, Koo, Nonnas, Brampton Manor and, most dauntingly, Morrisons supermarket café. I admired the food Chesterfield's cafés have on offer (from authentic Italian dishes at Café Aroma to skyscraper cakes at Meringue), drank too many coffees and met some lovely people, many of whom weren't expecting a sonnet to go with their morning cuppa. Everyone stopped what they were doing and had the courtesy and patience to listen.

Special mention is reserved for Northern Tea Merchants, our second calling point on the journey. I've been visiting the place since I was a teenager and used to go in there with my dad, breathing in the rich scent of the ground beans, wondering about the journey the coffee had been on. We were made incredibly welcome there and I had a small surprise for them too - a short poem written specially for Northern Tea Merchants. This is about visiting the shop with my good friend Richard when we were younger and being surprised by something he bought.

Northern Tea Merchants

Me and Rich, hunting
the perfumed shelves
for things to fix the day.

He chose a tea flower -
jasmine, unremarkable,
a sphere bunched in his hand

but back at the flat
with our warm talk
and warm water

it softened, became
an open palm.
Even when the cups

were drained
we knew we wouldn’t
throw the dregs away.

Thank you to Shirley Niblock, Howard Borrell, Ali Betteridge and all the staff and customers in the cafes we visited - it was a great day out.

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