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.