Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Cow polishing

I had a Petit Trianon moment today. I'm still trying to talk myself down actually. By 'Petit Trianon moment', I mean a brush with my fantasy occupation, as far-fetched and impractical as Marie-Antoinette's Hameau de la Reine, with its polished cows.

My fantasy occupation is to run a cake shop and café. An English cake shop, with fairy cakes, not cup cakes, plain but appealing sponge cakes and Arse Biscuits.When I was going proper, foaming at the mouth, off the rails mad at the end of 2005, I used to try and calm myself down, lying wakefully insane in bed, by imagining the menu at my fantasy café, and the décor. It would be a cross between Treacle and Peyton & Byrne, but all my own, and BETTER. (Incidentally, I alternated these fantasies with the most bleak, brutal Scandinavian crime novels. They were the only two things gripping enough to me at that time to take my mind of going nutso).


Today Beatrice and I stopped off in a café I have walked past many times but never been in to. She knows the owner. And, oh, but it is perfect. Not the slightly chintzy, cluttered cake shop of my dreams, but a more spare and stylish Scandinavian cafe. There's a minimal menu of coffee and kanelbullar, a gigantic 1970s map of Sweden on the wall, a couple of outsized delapidated leather armchairs among the ergonomic pine seating. But it's cosy and it smells and feels GOOD. It's a place you'd want to spend time in. We had iced coffee - remember I couldn't find iced coffee anywhere in Brussels? Well you have to ask specifically, he doesn't even advertise it, but, man, it was good.


Beatrice explained more to me. The owner is stubbornly, irrationally, against marketing of all kinds, and seemingly against profit, refusing to sell anything other than his core menu of coffee and cinnamon rolls, a couple of grudging paninis. He's made no money (astonishing!) and he's had enough of working like a dog, so he wants out. Beatrice and I look at each other, two eurodrones with a crazy dream.


So now we're fantasising. There's no good coffee in Brussels! It should work! It just needs some decent advertising and an overhaul of costs, says Beatrice. Flyers at the FNAC and the European Parliament, and we'd be packed. Especially with free wifi. I could do biscuits and cakes! I say. There's only one cupcake bakery in Brussels and nothing like I'd doing... I go into a reverie of adding a little extra counter for cake, imagine the take away cake box packaging, decide already where we should put our second branch (right by the Parliament to catch all those displaced eurocrats with per diems burning a hole in their pockets). I can see us, really see us, behind the counter, the sun streaming in through the plate glass windows (it's fantasy remember), happy customers chatting quietly at every table. In my vision, realistically, Beatrice is doing the hard stuff, and I am arsing around with icing.


It's a great, delicious fantasy. I already know it's going to get me through any dark patches of late night anxiety and despair in the coming weeks. Cinnamon rolls and scones and good coffee. Now excuse me while I get into my shepherdess outfit, I have lambs to dye pink and hooves to polish to a high shine.


Tell me - what's your fantasy job change? What kind of Marie-Antoinette would you like to be?

50 comments:

Lisa-Marie said...

I'd also like a cake shop (with fairy cakes and icing - the word 'frosting' does my head in), or a restaurant, or a shop in which i sold drawing and painting and lovely things i'd made. I an going to take a step toward that last one by opening an etsy shop i think.

3limes said...

I have always wanted to take schools around museums. Maddest idea, really but I just come alive when surrounded by art and if I have eager eyed kids to explain it all to, well even better. I was in the V&A today ( pictures and a bit of nostalgic up on 3limes) and had the fantasy all over again.

Mara Rose Gaulzetti said...

I'd like to start a laundromat / cafe with soup, sandwiches, pastries and coffee. I like the smells of drying clothes and fresh bread baking. Plus, why sit around waiting for your washing when you could be enjoying a book AND a coffee? Indeed.

Lisa-Marie said...

Mara Rose, could you open it in Dundee please?

Mrs Jones said...

So why don't you and Beatrice take over the shop, then? And rope M in when she's over from Scotchland?

I'd like to open a shop that sells wool and local arty-crafty things and has good coffee and, yes, probably some cakes as well.

philb said...

You're not the first to mention this lack of quality and variety of coffee in Brussels. And I think both of you are right! It's a good idea!

So if you could just hang on until I've made my first million, I promise to invest. Which brings me nicely on to my dream job of person with so much money they don't know what to do with it and so invest in hairbrained schemes. I'd be good at that; dead good.

Annie said...

I myself would like to be a zookeeper. The ideal work environment would be not very warm, yet feature warm drinks, and have large animals, both predatory and otherwise, about.

also, there would be otters, which are my favorite, tied with basically all raptors. and also puffins.

Brody said...

I've been lurking here for quite a while (both your blogs are fucking fantastic and make me laugh maniacally on a regular basis), and I couldn't resist leaving a comment! I live right across the street from Blomqvist's (you described it to an absolute T) and love the coffee, and the stubborn-as-hell owner! I also do some baking for another cafe (in Place Lux)! If he does end up closing, count me in!

E and M said...

Do not, I repeat NOT, open a cake shop in the UK (unless it's in a really chichi area of London). To keep me out of poverty whilst I write my Future Man Booker Winner *ahem*, I work p-t in a lovely kitschy, retro cafe selling all sort of amazing cakes and treats and I can tell you that a minimum 80% of the clientele will be: mentally ill (not in a adorably eccentric way, but proper scary 'man with black teeth, in woman's blouse and mismatched shoes demanding you crumble a cake up into a filthy Wilko's bag full of raw mince' mental), idiots who demand you sell them chips or a fry-up or similar, despite it clearly not being that sort of place, sleazy old men who want to stare at you unnervingly and stroke your hand when you take their money/give change, diet freaks and neurotics who want to angrily/tearfully discuss ingredients and so on, ordinary people who turn into bellowing psychos when you don't have a flavour they have arbitrarily fixated on that day, yummy mummies letting little Titus and Emmeline smush icing and crumbs everywhere, whilst running around screaming, people who try to tell you how to do your job and worst of all, bastards who patronise you because they presume that only the worst kind of common, no-school-qualifications thicko would work in a cafe, no matter how cool or posh it is (have mastered the art of mentioning my MA via the most random of segueways).

Am sorry to trample on your dreams. Am sure it would be entirely different in Paris or similar *backs away whistling nervously*

Anonymous said...

Blomqvist provided me with a moment of cinnamon coffee comfort and serenity in a fortnight of grief last January. Wonderful.
And check out www.ilovecake.be, a virtual cupcake bakery here in Brussels. She's FANTASTIC so you'd have back-up for when you just couldn't be ARSED with the baking. (and a loyal customer in me).

Jessica said...

you know it - adorable tiny pastries, delicious candies and truffles for the world!

Cary said...

Hmm - I'd run a laundrette/coffee shop with free wifi and books.

All the machines would be high efficiency and hidden behind glass enclosures so we could listen to music in the cafe. The music would be my choice so would consist of Eddie Reader, Dessa (check her out she's awesome) and whatever else my Ipod throws out.

The books would be on the honour system. You get to take one if you bring one in.

I'd have all scent free eco laundry powders as I have eco guilt and scented laundry products give me head aches (mountain breeze my arse!).

I really hate coffee so I'd have tonnes of teas - black, green, red, white and herb. Since this is Vancouver I'd have to serve some coffee which would be the organic stuff from Salt Spring Island.

My cakes would be absolutely delicious but low fat, low sugar and mostly vegan. I'd do gluten free as well.

blackbird said...

I
am
a
runway
model.

Anonymous said...

As a human being, I wholeheartedly embrace your dream of a coffee/cake shop. I like nothing more than coffee and cake when I'm touristing, after a film, or just for wasting a bit of time with a friend or loved one. There is a worldwide shortage of proper cake shops.

Dream job: protocol consultant, and you must contract with me by the day (not the hour) and, of course, pay all my expenses.

Runner up, travel writer for horribly fancy and/or obscure magazine.

Dreams. . .

C/Kalgon

LRizzo said...

I hope you do it! I think these things come to you when you're ready for them and all you have to do to succeed is say YES! I with you all the luck in the world!

Rusty Hoe said...

That is one of the best post titles I've read in a while. It conjures up all sort of images from freaky bovine fetishes to over zealous cleaning tips. But that could just be me. Luv it.

Margaret said...

I would be a detective, but I would only solve murders where I didn't actually have to see the dead body. And they would have to be simple, nice murders, like people being shot or stabbed just once or pushed over a cliff, nothing disturbing or grisly.

What exactly is a fairy cake? I thought it was just British for cup cake, but you seem to have a certain disdain for cup cakes, so I'm thinking it's something else...

the polish chick said...

i'm already doing it, albeit for free, when i volunteer at the bookshop. i love old books and wouldn't mind being surrounded by them on a daily basis.

also, being independently stupidly wealthy, but that's not really a job, is it?

Margarita said...

I opened up a cake shop from "home" and also used an industrial kitchen to make huge wedding orders for cupcakes and wedding cakes. I dreamed of opening up a shop but when I moved everything kind of went under. I truly hope you do open this as I plan on visiting Brussels and need to find a place that sells proper fairy cakes and good coffee. Good luck!

YourZenMine said...

A bookshop! With coffee and cake! That didn't open till 10 am so I wouldn't have to get up too early!

frau antje said...

Do it. You didn't do the bleak, brutal Scandinavian crime novel, and look what happened there, some dead guy with excellent morals and no last-will-and-testament skills jumped on it. Sounds like you could even combine the two. Call me when you're ready to get rid of the armchairs.

everythings_rosie said...

Too short to be a supermodel / not talented enough to be a pop star so I would like to own a decent sandwich shop in Dubrovnik - Croatia rocks but the only sandwiches you can get there are ham or cheese or - wait for it - ham AND cheese.

paola said...

count me in as a potential customer. Make it in stockel and we would be regulars.

From Belgium said...

Dream Job: a flower shop. I can do 'the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain' to perfection. So I guess I am qualified enough...

soleils said...

do-it-do-it-do-it-do-it.
Really, do it. What holds you back?

E and M, I loved your unnerving comment. Very... evocative.

Interesting to see no-one wants to be a banker/office worker/anything sensibly boring. Good, even.

My fantasy job today... singer and dancer. Or maybe denouncer of world wrongs (the kind people actually listen to).

peevish said...

Speaking as a person who actually cooked for a living for many years, your fantasy sounds like just-barely-paid, back-breaking labor to me. Wow, that's a lot of hyphens.

Fantasy job? That's easy. Photography. Second choice? Film or book reviewer. Or maybe art gallery owner. Failing all these? Hammock tester.

Anonymous said...

there was a laundrette/cafe in Edinburgh a few years ago (at the v bottom of Broughton St, on East London St); they were 2 separate businesses i think, but had a glass wall between them. My friends and i loved the cafe, it was a novel idea; unfortunately it closed down and we lost one of our favourite and one of the best (and CHEAPEST!) coffee and food places in Edinburgh. Not sure if the closing down had anything to do with the fact that we all independently witnessed arguments between the couple who owned it...shame...we'll always miss it!

Anonymous said...

ps - it was called the Lost Sock Diner, and had wee socks clothes pegged up on the menu boards...cute...

irretrievablybroken said...

Yeah, says the Yank, what's a fairy cake? A cupcake, but magical?

magpie said...

DO IT! doitdoitdoitdoit. I will come and work for you for free. Ok, maybe that's a lie, but I do know some Belgians I could send there with their tiny adorable baby who would eat a lot of cake.
My fantasy job is much like yours, but a bit more chintzy and with pnacakes. Except I'm trying to shoehorn having a book exchange and second hand and vintage clothes shop in there too, alongside my career as a brilliantly witty columnist/fashion writer for glossy supplements who is also a photographer.

Papillon Bleu said...

blogging for my company! oh! this is already what I am doing!
I think this fantasy of yours is just sweet and completely possible.
Dreams are what make us stand.

Judy Astley said...

I'd like to perk up the undertaking business. Drag it out of the 1940s anaglypta and dark brown, the net curtains, the word "discreet" and get a good chain going that would cater more aptly for the not-long-now rock'n'roll generation. Of course I wouldn't want to be too hands-on... No thanks - that's what qualified staff are for. But there's surely a market for a chain of chic premises that absolutely didn't contain a surfeit of beige fittings and plastic flowers.

Get the cake shop. It would work.

Sewmouse said...

My Marie Antoinette fantasy is to be a writer. I'd have a lovely attic office with skylights and a massive delapidated leather sofa, and scribble madly for hours, eating sandwiches made by my longsuffering servant, Rhys, who sighs with dispair at the mountain of crumpled rejected papers surrounding the waste basket.

Nicky said...

A cafe, serving my own home cooked food, only open 10-4 and 5 days a week so I could have a life. Then my friend opened her own tea-shop, and her love of food disappeared as a result of the relentless hours of cooking that she has to do - that seemed so sad to me that I lost all interest in the idea.

Beatrice said...

If ONLY we could convince the owner... Yesterday he wrote to me something like "Thanks a lot for the offer. Nice one! Sounds interesting, but..."

Bah, pray! He's really quite stubbbbbborn.

Nellig said...

My personal fantasy is to be a lighthouse keeper with Wifi, a huge library and studio, and lots of cats. Sadly, I am not even joking.

Anyway your fantasy cafe is brilliant. Maybe you could invent and perfect it as a franchise, then sell out for millions and sod off to live a life of ease.

BTW your cafe needs to be deliberately overstaffed with large, cheerful yet no-nonsense Yorshirewomen of middle years to sort out the loons and wankers.

peevish said...

Oh, wait! I just read the other comments.
Yes, bookstore owner! That's it.

Paula said...

Hmmm..

Excellent question! I am still trying to answer the question "What will I be when I grow up?".
I'm actually grown (up) enough and I still don't know, so I guess I will keep on trying to be psychotherapist again... since I had to give it up when i moved to this 'platte land'.
Is there enough portuguese speaking people to maintain me for the next... 60 years?

And E., where on hearth is that Swedish patisserie?
I'll tell you about a portuguese one if you give me that address...

Anonymous said...

Oh... PLEASE. DO. IT.

I will come in from Leuven daily bringing all the cake-eating, coffee-drinking INTERESTING people I can find (no nasty crazies, I promise!).

I had a fantasy job -- as a journalist writing primarily on arts & entertainment (Cleo Laine was my first big deal interview) -- great for someone really nosy, very bad for one who has "time issues".
My other fantasy "job" is within reach: draw and paint, exhibit & live off my art work (OK, the last part is a real stretch, I know).

My "closet" fantasy job is to be a rock star who sings, plays a wicked lead guitar & headlines places like Glastonbury & Werchter. (Pure fantasy: I really cannot sing or play AND I'm almost as old as Grace Slick & Marianne Faithful...)

Pat (in Belgium)

Alison Cross said...

I'd like to run a little shop selling arty bits and bobs and second hand stuff. Second hand stuff that's been tidied up and given a new lease of life.

In my spare time I'd become the next Big Thing in crime-writing (or possibly erotica - haven't quite decided which would be more fun to write)

Somehow I will need to Get Famous too. So it might have to be the erotica after all....

irretrievablybroken said...

Oh, in my excitement over fairy cakes I forgot to state my dream job:

I want to be a shabbas goy.

Cassieblanca said...

In my other life, in those ever-decreasing microminutes when I'm not being a slave to academia and to a 3.5-year-old, I make prints and sew quilts and extravagant beaded skirts. My dream job would involve me, in an enormous light-filled studio, screen printing my own fabric and then sewing it into crazy creations.

spudballoo said...

Oh God, do it...Belgium NEEDS you.

In my head, I work in Benetton. Does Benetton even still exist? In my head, it's the late 80s, they are everywhere. And I work there, folding jumpers like an robot. I'm not trusted to use the till (phew, involves money and customers). I just wander around the pretties, folding and making neat piles.

It's a job, I earn money, there are people to chat to, but no stress...just folding.

Admit it, a certain appeal? Mindless, yes. But satisfying?

emily said...

hmmm, my work colleagues are obsessed about the fact that i am in the wrong job- i would love to have a little shop that sold coffee and delectable cakes ( i love baking) to the mums and dads who would be leaving their small children with me for a maximum of four hours... with my jewellery on the wall to sell....

Hopefully this will become closer once my website is set up and my etsy shop goes online.....and i have children and can home school while tey are young, i love small children and have alot of patience for teaching them crafty things...

Z said...

Cake shop with cafés do really well around here (north Suffolk/south Norfolk).

I haven't stayed in Brussels for 12 years, but the hotel (the Europa, v international) served delicious coffee, I assumed it was the water. I was foolish enough to drink too much, which made me dizzy. It was bloody cold (early December) and we warmed up at a tea shop in a square I'll have to think about to remember the name, where we each had our own different lovely pot of tea and we had rare roast beef sandwiches and we stayed for hours and then went to the cinema to warm up again.

I love cinnamon rolls. Do keep them on the menu. If you take this shop, I shall visit Brussels and overeat and drink there. I doubt you'll make much money, frankly, but you could have a lot of fun.

Z said...

Fantasy job? What, me? work? Oh darling, not bloody likely. Anything for love, but fuck all for money.

Margaret said...

irretrievablybroken: OH MY G-D, I was just telling my husband a few weeks ago that this would be an IDEAL career for me. Now I have a back-up if the Miss Marple Detective Agency gig doesn't pan out.

Nimble said...

I would be the proprietress of a book museum. It would combine the vastness of a library with the appealing whimsy and slight dustiness of the best sort of used book shop. Lots of windows with sun but also forgotten corners behind pillars with large armchairs and lamps. Only recommended individuals allowed to visit. No books checked out or sold, just perusal on the premises. An occasional cat and a parlor for tea. Oh and a rose garden.

Betty M said...

When I was 14 my dream job was the one I have but with a bit more leaping up saying "objection Your Honour" than I actually do.

In theory I'd like a restaurant/ coffee shop but they are too much like hard work and you have to deal with members of the public and I am too grouchy for that. I will come to your cafe though. If you moved it to my neck of N London even bettter as unfortunately all the really good coffee is now either in the centre or in the East. Kiwis not travelling northwards apparently.

Kelly said...

ever so unconnected with your post- but today whil ebeing tourista on bus tour in london via barcelona via australia a woman sat down next to me and when we went by the Belgian embassy she and her frend got rather animated. Strangely, my first thought on their exclamation of Belgique I thought of Waffle. Life touches complete strangers.