Maeve Binchy Made a Positive Virtue Out of Eavesdropping. Here's What I Overheard Recently - The Gloss Magazine

Maeve Binchy Made a Positive Virtue Out of Eavesdropping. Here’s What I Overheard Recently

What makes café conversations fascinating and fun? We asked writer Orna Mulcahy to tell us what she thinks …

By Orna Mulcahy

A coffee, something sweet, a friend – small things maybe, but put together they can be a recipe for happiness. Sweden, a country that gets so much right, has a name for the art of coffee and conversation – Fika. Fika, we’re told, is when you sit with friends, family or colleagues and talk things out, helped by caffeine and pastries.

Ireland doesn’t need a name for sitting and talking over a hot drink. It’s just what we do, sharing our troubles and joys at the kitchen table or on the sofa, but it’s a treat when it happens in a café. Not a restaurant (too much fuss), not a pub (too much booze), not a tea shop (too precious) but a good sound café. One that envelops you like the proverbial hug with its aromas of coffee and chocolate, warm milk and spices. You don’t want the waft of a deep fat fryer with your coffee. That is a different kind of café, one for a dedicated feed and strong tea.

At the café you will want a place to perch and it doesn’t have to be much. A stool under a plank across the window giving a ringside view of the street is perfect or an outdoor table in a shaft of sunshine; a booth is ideal for conspiring with friends; a banquette gives you automatic entry to the conversation at the next table.

There’s something intensely interesting about the airborne snippets that flutter around a crowded café, or a deadly quiet one where everyone is gazing into their screens but one person is holding court about their life. You can’t not listen. Scrolling down is the perfect camouflage for ear-wigging, one of our great national sports. Treasured story-teller Maeve Binchy made a positive virtue out of eavesdropping, weaving overheard gems into her novels.

Sitting on a café pavement recently, my Maeve antennae spun towards two men in high-vis vests, who were eating croissants. “You won’t see him back on site”, one of them said. “He’s selling NFTs now, making thousands. Seems all you have to do is sit at the computer pressing Buy, Buy, Buy.” A group of schoolgirls on the other side of me were nattering away in a mid-Atlantic drawl I could hardly catch, and then there was the guy with all the pharmacy bags at his feet talking into his phone: “I got it all, don’t worry and we talked about the injections.” There was so much love and hope wrapped up in those packages. My fingers crossed themselves for them.

Other scraps I picked up:
“That’s a very good blow-dry”
“Oh My God, That’s INSANE”
“Would you believe I lost the receipt. Typical”.

Nothing earth-shattering but for a while you feel the connection to others. No wonder so many people work from cafés. No matter how small they can show you the world.

Discover the Art of Café Conversation at Butlers Chocolate Cafés …


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