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Moving story of a person for whom coffee is much more than a little foam | Alex Clark


I picking up the phone of an old friend who, until a few weeks ago, had a professional life much like mine; You might call it a portfolio career, but in truth, it’s about getting into all sorts of things to make money. In his case, a Starbuck; he’s a coffee enthusiast and as we chatted a sad story came to light which saw him being relieved of his to-go latte by an unofficial concierge as he arrived at a swanky office building for a meeting. Honestly, he said, I could have cried, to which you might reply, well, go ahead and cry me a river.

Except the latte was a small manifestation of creature comfort and normalcy, a treat to propel him on a whirlwind trip to London, where he normally lives but has been largely absent from recently. These days, you can most often find him in Jaroslaw, Poland, where he went to volunteer for a newly founded charity called Poland Welcomes, whose mission is to provide shelter and amenities to Ukrainian women and children. who were forced to leave their homes. At last count, they had 500 guests at a series of hastily matched venues; they’re trying to get to 2,000.

For a while he seemed like the head of laundry – as he points out, it takes a lot of washers and dryers when people arrive with only the clothes on their backs – and now he’s added that he’s knocking on the doors of organizations to obtain funds.

Every time he calls, I’m newly impressed. He’s my ordinary buddy, who does ordinary things (plus ice skating, which isn’t ordinary but he’s terribly good at). I never really know what to ask him except how it’s going and what I can send him. So I ask about coffee. He sends a picture of a foldable portable filter that comes with him everywhere but rather sadly adds that he can’t fit a frother in his luggage.

Census consensus

No time to get up and watch the cows when there is the census to collect. Photography: Fabiano Strappazzon/Getty Images/EyeEm

I send her a picture of my new cover in a clumsy attempt at solidarity. It’s all lovely blue and yellow stripes and comes from a woolen mill here in Kilkenny. This latest production is the result of a collaboration with a young artist called Ellie Dunne, with all proceeds going to the Irish Red Cross. When I went down to the factory to pick it up, they told me that everyone had been on deck to weave the blankets in record time, but they hadn’t hesitated a second.

It’s a small detail that I might have added to the “time capsule” part of the Irish National Census, which we have all just completed. The distribution and collection of the forms is done by hand, and we had a joyful conversation with the woman who picked up ours, ranging from ethnomusicology to the wisdom of Desiderata. The weather was fine and we were on the doorstep, watching the cows. Eventually my husband noticed that at this rate, and in such a sparsely populated area, she would only manage to get about three forms safely collected in a day, so she left.

Noble in name…

Sam Waley-Cohen rides Noble Yeats en route to winning the 2022 Randox Grand National Festival in Aintree.
Sam Waley-Cohen rides Noble Yeats en route to winning the 2022 Randox Grand National Festival in Aintree. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

In other local news, The Lord Bagenal Inn in the small town of Leighlinbridge is where my mother-in-law might go for a fancy lunch with some pals. Last week, however, she might also have seen Noble Yeats, the Grand National winner who made Sam Waley-Cohen so proud in his last race before retiring; the horse had been brought home to take a lap of honor.

Had I been there, I would have given him nothing but the best carrots: stung by his literary name and provenance, I backed him at 66-1, the first and almost certainly last time I been to Aintree.

Alex Clark is an Observer columnist