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Back Buzz - December 10, 2006

pumping heart Endcliffe Park Cafe, Endcliffe Park, Rustlings Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Ah, time. It's that stuff that whooshes by while one is carrying on the process of living. It's said that time flies like an arrow. It's also said that fruit flies like a banana; but I've found that most fruit flies, if given a choice, would prefer to dive into a glass of Chilean merlot, and that time actually flies like a bloated Airbus careering down the runway and flattening everything in its path.

That's my excuse as to why this column is so late: time is simply moving way too quickly for me and I can't slow it down. Hence the hundreds of unanswered e-mails, the piles of dirty laundry, the bags of reading, and the unticked lists of things to do cluttering my pockets. So while there's a lull between the autumn wave of visitors and the Xmas/New Year's holiday chaos, I'll quickly sneak out a coffee column while nobody's looking.

But before I start talking about cafes, I recently read about the discovery of the Grbba gene, which gives us a love of coffee. Those without this gene can taste the caffeine and are put off by its bitterness. Happily my parents didn't pass any such horror on to me.

I'd been meaning to try out the cafe in Endcliffe Park near Hunters Bar for ages, ever since I learned an acquaintance of mine was working there as a cook. I had a quick glance of the place earlier in the year when I went for a stroll through Endcliffe Park with my camera. At that time -- early spring -- flowers were starting to bloom and the Moscow State Circus was setting up on the large green by Rustlings Road.

Dating from 1885, Endcliffe Park is listed on English Heritage's National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Besides its woodland paths and its ancient oak trees, the park features a Jubilee memorial, a statue of Queen Victoria, and a memorial in remembrance of the crew of a US bomber that crashed in the park during World War II.

Recently we decided to try breakfast at Endcliffe Park Cafe. As we walked through the park on a perfect autumn Saturday, I felt both soothed and inspired by the rich oranges and yellows of the leaves against the gorgeous moss on the tree trunks, varying in hue and texture from yellow-green velvet to glossy grey lichen. And the bubbling Porter Brook roared as if it were doing its best impression of a raging river.

Inside the cafe it was noisy as well. The wood floor and tables were vibrating with the chatter and movements of local patrons, especially the rotund ginger-haired man and his partner who kept changing seats and tables. Andrew, who had been here in the past for coffee, thought that as the menu and cafe layout had changed, the management may have changed as well.

My "full vegetarian breakfast" was quite full, consisting of egg, vegetarian sausage, that inexplicable vegetarian bacon (sorry, I hate the stuff), hash browns, beans, tomato, and mushrooms, all piled precariously onto a plate too small for its load. It was quite good but enough to feed two of me, so I assume the "full full vegetarian breakfast" would feed at least a quartet of me.

Our double macchiatos were okay: a bit bland and a tad weak, suggestive of Colombian beans. But they were drinkable. And they were served in rather garish cups which reminded me of circus tents, or perhaps the cups and sauces at Disneyland in which I would regularly attempt to break the land spin record when I was young. The saucers had holes in them; for what reason I have no idea. I suppose the absence of saucer beneath the majority of the cup might make for a lighter drink. Or something like that.

Speaking of scientific conundrums reminds me of an e-mail exchange from earlier this year with my kilt-wearing industrial necropolitan uncle:

Thanks for sending me "Explaining Relativity to the Cat" [by Jennifer Gresham from Diary of a Cell]. I realise you sent it well over 2 months ago. I've got millions of e-mails in my In Box, and every time I decide to reply to one it takes me well over an hour, and then I have to do other things, and by the time I finish the incoming e-mails have increased exponentially. I haven't figured out if there are any mice I can blame on this yet.

Damn relativity -- I've run out of time again! Still trying to catch up; but in a few minutes I must walk through the pouring rain to do 3 errands, and then try to get a very late coffee column written. If I could just find this arrow of time somewhere, maybe lying outside on the pavement, I'd toss it back -- but it'd probably turn out to be a boomerang. So if I toss that little boomerang propped up on the bookshelf out the window, will time's arrow come flying back in -- and actually give me enough time to catch up on all my e-mails, write and upload a new coffee and beer column, do a few online tutorials, and clean the bathroom, all before lunch?

I suppose it's worth all try. All I risk is ending up with a sopping wet boomerang. If the Arrow of Time hit Schrödinger's Cat in the ass would it cough up the furball of the original singularity or would it just be a furball? Is that why cats like to play with strings, because they know string theory? Does the Navel of knowingness contain multiple universii or is it just lint?

And here's another scientific conundrum e-mail exchange from a year ago with my Bay Area friend:

Engineers at Cardiff University have developed a device that can drill the world's tiniest hole. At 22 microns, or 0.022mm diameter, it's smaller than a hair follicle. I'm not sure why, but does that mean it's no longer true that "now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall?"

I suppose that question now joins the ranks of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin". Which brings to mind more questions: how many holes can be drilled into a pinhead? How many holes can be drilled into an angel? How many angels does it take to fill the Albert Hall? How many angels does it take to drill a hole for a lightbulb in the Albert Hall?