Town mouse on continental culture

I hurried into the Tube the other day, having discovered that I’d lost my Boris Bike key. Not only did I succeed in arriving on time for my meeting in Covent Garden, but I was an hour and a half early! (I blame the BlackBerry on which my diary is kept: it wouldn’t have happened in the days of pen and paper.)

‘You could always go shopping,’ suggested the woman I was supposed to be seeing. What a notion. It being a bright day, I instead took a seat at one of the many cafes around the Piazza. At last, I thought, I have fulfilled my destiny as a flâneur.

When we had a cottage in Northamptonshire, I remember the local authority attempting to promote a Continental-style ‘pavement culture’ in Kettering. It didn’t take off. But every street corner of London now has a cafe with tables outside.

Despite the clement weather recently, people ignore them, preferring take-away coffee in cardboard cups. Yet with a laptop, you can do the same work from a cafe table that you could in a stuffy office, yet feeling that you’re almost on holiday. Mental note to self: get to all meetings an hour and a half early. (Don’t worry it won’t happen.)