Monday, May 12, 2008

Tea And Sympathy

A few years ago I walked from Settle to Clapham via Feizor, Austwick and Norber. That’s Clapham, Yorkshire – not the South London one where BBC governors live. It rained and rained and rained. By the time I got to Clapham, I looked like the runner-up in a bog snorkelling contest. Chilled to the bone, all I wanted was a cup of tea and a slice of cake. The pub was shut, and neither of the dainty little tearooms would let me in to drip on their parquet flooring and doilies. Narked, I decided to get the bus back to Settle. It was just then that I noticed Café Anne, with its chalk-written sign inviting muddy walkers in out of the rain, whether they wanted to eat or not. I didn’t need asking twice. Anne, barefoot and squinting through her mass of black bushy hair, emerged with plates piled with cakes and ill-matched mugs of scalding tea for me and a trio of posh lads from Giggleswick school. I sat there steaming for an hour in her whitewashed little caff listening to radio four and looking at the dozens of art postcards on the walls. We visited Clapham again last weekend and I was sad to find that although Café Anne was still there, it was closed. It seems Anne herself has retired through ill health, but she outlasted the cafés that wouldn’t serve me - they've changed to an outdoor shop and a craft centre.

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