Sunday, 27 August 2017

An Act of Benevolence

The ritual of the pouring of the coffee is an integral part of a visit to the café opposite the church: one of the waiting staff will come over and pour a thin stream of hot water over the coffee grains in the filter paper, in a very slow circular motion so the maximum amount of coffee is infused into the cup. This doesn't happen at the village's other café round the corner where my filter coffee arrives already in its mug, nor do I get a choice of coffees there - Brazilian and Ugandan are on offer at the moment at the first establishment. But the village businesses should be supported, and so I share my patronage between the cafés.

Yesterday Maggie, one of the waitresses, came to my table with the usual filter. 'This has already been paid for,' she told me. 'There was a family seated at that table behind you, and on their way out they said they'd pick up the bill for your coffee! Shall I tell you when they next come in!?' I had no idea who they were, and didn't recognise the little boy with them as one of the Infant School pupils. I wonder whether I looked especially impoverished, although if I'd been all that impoverished I wouldn't have gone there for a coffee.

Il Rettore used to claim that offers to stand a priest a drink were an etiolated translation into a modern setting of the practice of buying indulgences, shorn of its theological underpinning. My friend Martin, another ex-resident of the parish of Lamford, commented via Liber Faciorum:

It may be uncommon for the clergy to be bought coffees in the South of England, but not so in working-class Glasgow. My pal Jimmy described to me how his enjoyment of an Aidirie v. Celtic game (in the pre crowd-segregation seventies) was spoiled by the succession of Celtic fans leaning across him to speak to the priest sitting next to him. "Can I buy you a pie, Father?"; "Can I buy you a coffee, Father?"!

Although perhaps lingering cultural memories of the doctrine of Purgatory were stronger in Catholic Glasgow in the '70s than in Agnostic Surrey some forty years later.

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