March 2009


img-01445I was reading Steve Leighton’s hilarious posting – Strange Things is Coffee Sacks (Wednesday Mar 18, 2009)  where he describes some of the unusual and strange things he’s discovered in coffee sacks.

 It got me thinking about how we strive to understand what lies behind these odd occurrences. Only a few weeks ago we were meeting up with some old friends. As we settled into an enjoyable lunch, we heard that the day before, when she was unloading her washing machine our friend discovered to her amazement amongst her laundry was – a coffee bean!


There was no explanation for its presence, wracking her brains she could come up with no fathomable reason for it to be there. Then a revelation! She could only make sense as to its appearance due to the fact that she was meeting us the next day! Apparently to them as I’m closely associated with coffee –  it was a sign – a portent of our imminent meeting. I made sense of her unexplainable experience – a human bean!

As I drank my morning coffee I mused upon “How we try to read meaning into inexplicable experiences – what does it all mean? – Can a bean have meaning?”  

What strange experiences have you had that you believe have been signs?

We live in a world where we think we are in control and everything should make sense ….I looked deep into the distance and  became aware of the radio…..the news.. I could make no sense of what was happening…. I drank from my cup of coffee (Columbia Organic Cauca Tierradentro – fruit, nut and honey flavours peach nectar almond butter roast notes.)

At that point I decided to let go and just enjoy bean……


I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun”. Katharine Hepburn


We’d been running for about fifteen minutes – about halfway on our usual short route around Regents Park – and I found myself thinking about making a loaf of bread. Nigella Lawson   (I love her recipes – she writes from the perspective of somebody who loves eating not about concocting testosterone-fuelled show-off recipes that are like sporting fast cars) … anyway where was I……she writes about kneading the bread… “When you’ve kneaded enough you’ll know the difference, it suddenly feels smoother and less sticky, it’s a wonderful moment”. For the real Zen and the art of making bread I recommend “Bread Matters” by Andrew Whitley who says that only by mixing by hand will you experience the whole process of change as it occurs.


I’ve always maintained that however much I have been in training or how long I’m about to run the first 20 minutes or so are hard… bumpy and lumpy as my body starts to get in sync… It’s like the kneading of bread….after working the dough it suddenly shifts into a smooth, silken sequence…my groaning body is transformed into The Flow.


It occurred to me that I’ve found some coaching sessions are like this also… there are a number of initial probing questions to get the change under way – finding our way – clarifying the issues….. These can feel a bit “lumpy” & disjointed, however by keeping the momentum going with a respectful sense of purpose, if things go well we switch into a dialogue which flows, is focused and on track and so it is…acknowledging the process of kneading to know!



mon_galleryFriday February 27th 2009


Monmouth Coffee, Covent Garden


27 Monmouth Street

Covent Garden


tel: +44 (0)20 7379 3516

Monday to Saturday – 8.00 to 18.30
closed bank holidays


By Mac E. Arto


The date for breakfast had been in our diaries for weeks. We were looking forward to meeting up with our friend and her baby.


We generally don’t do breakfast out so when we made the date we didn’t even have to suggest where to meet, it would have to be Monmouth.


Monmouth is not so much a coffee shop as a place of worship… for followers and devotees of coffee….not the stuff you get in milky Starbuckets but Coffee. Monmouth doesn’t muck about…. it’s all about the coffee:- “In our sampling room you can try any of our single estate and single origin coffees before buying beans to take home. We have a range of pastries and cakes from Villandry and Paul  to have with your coffee, to stay or take away. We also sell the things you need to make a single cup filter coffee at home including filter cones and papers. During winter, we sell chocolate from Pralus , as well as chocolate truffles from Sally Clarke”


Basically there are only about 15 seats in the shop and that depends upon how big you are and whether you’re happy to share, which in fact most people are. The seats are set out in three booths, a six seater, a four seater, a sort of four seater corner booth and there’s even a tiny one seater booth.


We queued – happily – the mark of a true fan, not the fine weather fans that only go to the game when the team’s high in the league or the game’s at home. Several people left who were in the queue behind us, we smiled, we understood, biding our time, waiting for the call, and when it came we surrendered into our booth and waited for the mother and child to arrive.


The mother and child arrived, hugs and kisses baptised our breakfast gathering, the child was secreted away beneath a large winter coat but popped out wearing, according to doting mother, her Guantánamo Bay jump suit, and when the baby was duly presented and handed around for inspection she did indeed wear just such an orange jump suit.


We ordered Fazenda Barreiro from Brazil (sweet chocolate with full body and cherry acidity) and a cappuccino.  We had been salivating over the counter heaving with pastries as we queued and now we ordered the pear and almond tarts. Mother ordered a Nilgiris Tamil Nadu from the Balmaadi Estate India (caramel and spice notes with medium body and acidity). The baby chose not order at this point. Serenely she gave herself up to our devotion.


During our time at Monmouth we shared our booth with five others, two sets of couples and one lone worshipper. The devoted clutch of staff  were chatty and attentive, eager to serve up the dark elixirs – I had a second cup of Fazenda Barreiro… 2870437983_d6484b14b3_m


It had been a while since we’d met so the conversation was fast and free ranging, fuelled by the dark stuff. We got to talking about food and recipes; I mentioned hearing that somebody’s mother had said how your state of mind will affect your cooking, for example you need to be in a calm state to  make fresh mayonnaise otherwise it curdles. This revelation caused the mother to recall the memory of a book (and film) Como agua para chocolate  Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies. It’s about the feeling she pours into her cooking that then affects the people who eat it; the magical qualities of food when you put love into the cooking.


When we eventually left to re-enter the secular world of Covent Garden we were aglow, warm with the feeling of being loved. Monmouth Coffee. Amen.


Painting by Olha Pryymak