Saturday, July 20, 2002

Just remembered: Thursday, I intended to spend the day secreted in one of Hartington's two coffee shops; the Corner House. The others left mid-morning to train for the Tour de France, and I took my laptop next door and ordered a cup of tea. I said to the (grey, older woman) waitress; "I'm a writer - only a slight white lie. I mean, I like to write - would it be OK if I plug in my computer?"

She looked mightily impressed by the bijoux nature of my technology, and said of course, no problem. I had a good day; wrote 3,000 words, had endless cups of tea, cheese toasties, toasted tea-cakes and other carbohydrate-laden unhealthy snacks. I was already thinking I would leave a sizeable tip (I had figured their average order value to be around £3, as I was seated near the till).

I even chewed the cud with two (of the very, very many) white-haired older women who seem to frequent Hartington. It's like the Stepford Wives only older and without hair colour. They'd come on a day trip from Glossop. Ethel and Muriel. They didn't talk to each other much, and seemed very happy to chat to me. They talked a lot like old people do in the North - mouthing words without pronouncing them, apparently a hangover from working in the mills and talking over loud machinery for forty years - and Ethel told me Muriel was ninety two.

"You look good", I said to her, "what's your secret?"

"Caving." She replied.

"Caving? Isn't it horrible and dark?"

"Yes, and wet. But, ee, I miss it. It's tha legs. Just don't work anymore."

So folks, those of you looking for the key to longevity in Derbyshire; get thee down to the Blue John Mines.

Anyway, around four o'clock a new, previously unsighted older, white-haired woman came out of the kitchen. The place was still pretty full, and she stood over me, hands on hips, apron dirty, and said:

"You going to be much longer? Using our electricity like this? It's not right."

I was suitably embarassed, explained that her "colleague" had said it was OK, but she wasn't having any. I got my bill (£6) and left a hefty tip (£4), leaving with my tail between my legs.

Later, A was deeply unimpressed. After I'd persuaded him it wasn't really worth boycotting them as (a) we were leaving soon and (b) they apparently have the best cream tea in the village, he decided that he and the other two should have a different plan, each going in separately. One would ask, upfront, what the daily rate for using electricity to plug in a PC is. One would plug in without asking and just take over the place, implying that this is the norm now. And the third would fall into an easy and relaxed convesation with the owner, asking them "if they knew who I was" - ie me, Sasha, the, er, famous writer.

I suspect the irony may be wasted on the Hartington locals.

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