Every Friday, while Anna is at her dance class, Cilla, Alex, and I spend an hour at the nearby Morton’s café. There’s usually a sofa free near the window, with the sun baking in. I go up to the bar, and order a cappuccino, an americano and a kiddie’s hot chocolate (which varies between an espresso-size cup with baby marshmallows to a full-size mug without – you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get for your 75p), and then settle down for a leisurely chat. I pass Alex my phone, and he gets a few irate birds to take care of some pesky pigs. Once his hot chocolate cools down to the sub-luke temperatures he tolerates, he scarfs it to avoid losing play time. Cilla and I use the hour to chat and relax.
There’s something satisfying about having what the locals call a ‘local’ – a place to hang out for a drink, a chat, or just a relax. Somewhere you can start picking out the regulars and get recognised by the staff. Where you can order “The usual, please”, and get what you’re after. And while Morton’s is a pub, it’s much more of a restaurant-lounge sort of pub. A coffee shop that happens to sell beer, if you like.
We never had one of these in Cape Town, even after living there for five years. Firstly, there’s much less of a pub culture, resulting in a correspondingly lower number of these haunts. There’s also the bigger issue that with two wriggly chiddlers, babysitters are required to allow for peaceful caffeine intake.
It was strange then, that in our last week in Cape Town, we managed to find something similar. I’d finished up at CSC the previous week, and the kids were still at school. And so every morning that week, we’d drop the children off at school, and head to the Olive Branch coffee shop for one americano and one cappuccino. Sometimes, you just click with a place, and things settle down quickly into a homely feel. Like walking in on the second day, and saying “Same as yesterday, please”. Some things take a little longer – the last time we went, the owner told us that the opening time would be changing to 7:30 instead of 8 – making us privy to inside information at the very moment that we’d never be returning.
At Morton’s, it’s going a bit slower than that. It’s rather busy at 5pm on a Friday, and we’re only there once a week. And so it may well be the case that by the time the waitress knows us well enough to let us in on an imminent change in opening times, it’ll be time for us to move on.