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Back Buzz - January 10, 2011

pumping heartCaffé Nero, 1 Fargate, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Because I had to work the morning of Christmas Eve, I decided to treat myself on the way home with an espresso from the newest Caffé Nero in Sheffield. This latest addition to the rapidly expanding chain is located next to what is still known by many Sheffielders as "Cole's Corner", named after the three Cole brothers who opened a drapery business there in 1847. The business gradually expanded in both physical size and in the variety of goods sold, and in 1919 it was sold to American entrepreneur H. Gordon Selfridge, the man who coined the term "The customer is always right". Selfridge turned the business into a successful department store, and in the 1960s the Cole Brothers emporium was relocated to nearby Barkers Pool and eventually renamed John Lewis. But the designation "Cole's Corner" has stuck, helped by the fact that it was used as the title of local music legend Richard Hawley's fourth album. There is even a plaque that marks the spot.

When the Cole Brothers were operating their business in the 1800s, there was a solicitor and a confectioner doing business at Whirlow Cottage, just opposite on Fargate. This location later became a Barclay's Bank and is now Caffé Nero.

I stopped in mid-afternoon after lunching on a hangover-dissolving spicy vegetarian burrito from the Mexican stall oddly situated in the German Christmas Market. The cafe was packed with last-minute shoppers and early Christmas weekend celebration starters. It's a nice big venue, decorated in that pleasing Nero red and blue motif. The cosiest seats and sofas are by the front window, offering a great view of the 15th century Sheffield Cathedral, the oldest building in the city, its tower and crocketed spire appearing pleasingly orange and contrasty on this bright winter afternoon. Also visible from the window is Yet Another Starbucks, in the former location of Caffé Latino and situated where Cole Brothers used to be.

As all of the seats were occupied I ordered a double macchiato to take away and sip on the bus home. And I have to say that even in a paper cup it was top-notch, adding a rare zip of caffeinated excitement to my ride home. Fortunately the bus didn't slip and slide as it might have done a week or two earlier when the snow was still thick.

As I've become used to going out of my way for a decent coffee, it's good to know that there is now a Caffé Nero so conveniently situated for shopping, banking, and catching buses and trams. Now all Fargate needs is a good bagel bakery and authentic Mexican restaurant. Yes, dream on, JC...

Speaking of impossible dreams and snowy treks reminds me of a recent complete irrelevant and rambling e-mail exchange with a workmate:

By now you should have heard about the Great Inundation of 2010 at the library in which I work, when floodwaters from the burst ceiling pipes flowed through Level 3 and 2 and hundreds of books lost their lives. I shall give more details when I'm not in quite such demand. I had not heard of this. Prey, do tell; ideally with engraved plates shewing the devastation. What caused the pipes to burst? Typical university plumbing job? Levels 3 and 2... gosh. I hope the librariany stuff has survived, and more importantly the Sheffield Outrages books. Fortunately, the Sheffield Flood books should be on Level 5, I think. What runs of Dewey got hit the worst?

It makes the damp wall in your stairwell look like a damp wall by comparison, though we still occasionally get a spot of rain in the group study room (perhaps as well the Literature moved house when it did). Today at 11:00 we were given the word to put the books back on the shelves. As there were approximately 315 trolleys, 200 of those filled with individually-sorted-but-nowhere-near-collated education theory books, and as there was suddenly an inundation of staff members enlisted for the job of getting everything back on the shelves, all sensible organisation, planning, and sanity was shelved as well.

At 2:05 this afternoon our supervisor came down and cut the ribbons, re-opening the Level 3 Book Collection to the students. Sadly there was no champagne to celebrate, and the Queen was noticeably absent, as were William and Kate. But there were plenty of happily frantic students and plenty of fermenting liquid in buckets.

At approximately 4:30 I will be leaving, running to catch a bus and venture into the wilds of Ranmoor in the dark to find a hospital where I have an appointment at 5:30. I'm a little nervous about this, as I've never seen this hospital, it will be dark, and as I recall the road through Ranmoor is a dark monotonous stretch of stone walls with no landmarks of any kind. But I have packed some sandwiches, a bottle of water, a torch, a Swiss Army knife, an extra pair of socks, a space blanket, some flares, an A-Z, a small volume of inspirational poetry, a compass, a protractor, and a flask of Laphroaig for my trek. Wish me luck. Good luck on your quest. Remember, if ever you fall into peril, use the magic ring you found on Level 2. A man will bear you on his back and carry you to the Great Slard who will grant you one of three wishes. Wish wisely, recalling the advice you were given on Level 3, and all should be well. You have still got the magic ring, haven't you? Or did you give it to your supervisor to get extra hours? You could've given him the Debenhams Gift Voucher from the book on Level 5. But never mind; you could still use the voucher yourself and buy with it the Pebble of Thesanic. That will allow you to distract him while he's washing the pots, thereby allowing you to steal the ring back. To get him to wash the pots you need to pollute his mug. If you're unsure how to do that, you're going to have to find The Mad Dog. He's usually loitering around outside.

Good luck.