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Back Buzz - May 18, 2011

pumping heartFurnace Cafe, Kelham Island Museum, Alma Street, Kelham Island, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Since I've been spending my recent time working my regular as well as extra hours at my job while attempting to get a new creative business started, I haven't had any free time to explore new espresso cafes. So this month's slightly unusual choice came about because of a staff outing. Because we'd been working so hard at the University, my group was treated to a morning at the Kelham Island Museum followed by lunch at a nearby pub.

The Kelham Island Museum features artefacts, photos, and interactive displays showing Sheffield's industrial history from the Industrial Revolution through the Victorian era and the two world wars. The growth of the city and the people who have lived and worked here is covered in a maze of rooms, galleries, and workshops. The River Don Engine, the most powerful working steam engine in Europe, is fired up at regular intervals, creating a wonderfully loud and steamy experience for me and my fellow industrial archaeology fans. Other highlights are the 10-tonne Grand Slam Bomb, one of 30 or 40 that were produced in Sheffield and used during the last year of World War II; a reconstructed Victorian lane called Little Mesters Street that features an actual hand forger and a grinder operating out of their own workshops; and the Hawley Gallery, a private collection of tools used in the works and shops of Victorian Sheffield.

The museum is located on the man-made Kelham Island, one of the oldest industrial districts in Sheffield which started life over 900 years ago. Today Kelham Island is a treasure trove of industrial archaeology, currently operating works, and cask ale pubs.

As I made my way down Green Lane and around Alma Street I had trouble finding the museum. By the time I finally figured out how to get to the entrance, my workmates and supervisor were all ensconced in the Furnace Cafe. After all, what is a staff away day without refreshments?

So I took the opportunity to find out what kind of coffee an industrial museum can muster. (Or is it mester?) Fortunately, perhaps because they're into steam power, the cafe has an espresso machine, so I ordered a single, or "standard", macchiato. The price -- £1.95 -- didn't surprise me, as museum cafes, like airports, often get away with charging higher prices than city cafes. My drink was served in a proper white macchiato cup with demitasse spoon. It was somewhat on the weak and wimpy side; but I could tell the coffee they use is decent, so it's probably just a matter of the skill and tamping power of the barista.

While most of my workmates sat at a large table discussing work, I sipped my macchiato at a side table and discussed cask ale pubs with one like-minded workmate. I'll admit that discussing cask ale while drinking espresso might be a bit confusing, but it's far more relevant than discussing the movement and shelving of library books. Besides, I do write the CoffeeBeer website.

Speaking of confusion reminds me of a recent e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend:

The night before last I dreamed I was sleeping soundly, and I finally managed to rouse myself awake. And then my mother walked in the room, and she was young and all dressed up and said she was off to Frogath Welf because she wanted to see it once before she died. I said "What? Where?" And Andrew walked in and said, "Oh yes, Frogath Welf! You've never been there, have you? Let's all go to Frogath Welf!" Yesterday at the pub I told my friends what I had dreamed, and they were all debating where Frogath Welf is located. The consensus was that it's in Wales. Yes, I suppose it would be in Wales. Wasn't it one of the roadsigns you photographed on your Welsh tour, or am I dreaming? Or maybe it's the fictional locale for the fantastic trilogy you are about to pen, which will dominate the best-seller lists for years to come, banishing the Harry Potter series from memory.

My other thought was that it's an anagram. It's certainly a fruitful set of letters, visibly displaying "frog" and "elf", while concealing "fag", "hog" and "hag." But exactly which 3-word phrases (gleaned from dozens suggested by an anagram generator) did you intend? The trilogy would have to be a story about a race of people who all look like Tom Jones and they sing instead of speak, and they're on a quest for the Platinum Record which is hidden somewhere in the X Palace of King Simon of Cowell. What shall I use as the title? The Frog Flaw? Or perhaps Hot Fart Flew?