I've a thing for sipping coffee in shop windows while watching the world go by, no matter where on the globe I am. I'm in another window, in another Seattle coffee shop, in another Exclusive Books, in another Christmas decoration-bedecked shopping mall.
Two years ago, roughly this time (give or take a week or two) I was frequenting coffee shop windows not unlike this one, voyeuring my way through London, Prague and Marrakesh.
I was also reading Stephen King's 'On Writing'. I'd bought it at a Waterstones just off Trafalgar Square on a deeply overcast, cold Saturday afternoon while well-heeled Londoners clipped past in their patent leather shoes, or scraggily expensive trainers, clutching over-size designer shopping bags (that piqued both my curiosity and good natured envy).
I was also reading Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Writing... a book that ironically spelt out just how nigh impossible it was to survive as a travel writer - I'm pausing to inhale the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans that's making me cross-eyed with satisfaction - so much so that I burst into tears out of sheer hopelessness. I was reading the book at dusk on the rooftop of my Marrakesh hotel, inbetween staring at the full moon above the snow-capped Atlas Mountains distantly outskirting the city. (I put the book away then and have never picked it up again.)
My favourite coffee shop so far must be the Starbucks just across from the Hampstead underground station in north London. Mere metres from another Waterstones book shop, there I've spent hours reading, writing, watching while recovering from the bone deep cold suffered while exploring Hampstead's west heath and enviously tramping her streets.
Reality check: I'm sitting here watching people watching other people, aware, too, in my peripheral vision of those curious about me. All-in-all it's an immensely satisfactory late afternoon heading for dusk. And I thank God from the bottom of my heart that it's not two years ago this time.