Monday, July 30, 2007


Now I’m not saying it’s an addiction, or anything remotely like that, but I do like a decent cup of coffee. Several times a day. Every day.

A while back, I bought one of those Nespresso machines, which uses a little capsule containing just the right amount of coffee, so you can come down in the morning, fumble it into the machine and get a good cup of coffee, without things happening - like leaving the top off the grinder when you whizz the beans around. Yes, I have done that and yes, it even finds its way into a hermetically closed oven on the other side of the kitchen.

The whole coffee capsule thing strikes me as one of the greatest money making schemes a commercial company has ever come up with. You first find something the whole world likes, something which is legal, something that is totally addictive (not in my case, I hasten to add), works well, and is cheap to produce.

You then sell someone a machine to unlock its powers at a very low price, include a few starter capsules to hook the purchaser completely, and let the money roll in. There is nothing on God's Earth that will stop the money jumping into your Bank Account. Each capsule costs 23p, and if there’s anyone in this country who only gets through just one in a day, I’d love to meet him.

The really insidious commercial bit is that the company that makes them, Nestle, is the ONLY source of the wretched capsules. These little Apollo 11 look alike aluminium caffeine bombs are hoarded as the sole preserve of this vast Multi National. And don’t they know it.

They market it as something akin to a Bugatti car or a Girard-Perregaux watch, but there the similarity ends. Every time you get close to running out, you need to ring their telephone hot-line to re-order (I call them The Pushers) and hope that you have remembered to call them in time for the delivery to arrive before you run out.

Al this works tolerably well most of the time – we both know our place in the system, although an uncomfortable thought flashes through my mind of drug-dealers and users whenever I ring them up.

All of which ceases when you call them at the weekend to be informed most politely by a young French girl, with an alarmingly attractive voice, that “ze computer ne marche pas, and I will have to take your details down by hand”. Well, you follow her instructions and requests absolutely to the letter, and you are far too easily comforted by her at the end of the conversation that your order is unbelievably important to her, and she will “insert it into the computer” first thing tomorrow morning.

And then, of course, the days pass and nothing happens. You watch your stock of capsules dwindle, you borrow some from your son-in-law, you use them and you start to look out of the window almost hallucinating about a delivery van coming up the drive. Which of course, it doesn’t.

Then you start to plan at what precise time of each day, you will drink the remaining few fixes, mentally placing them on a timed and dated checkerboard. You do actually start to look at the watch and thoughts of “Only another hour” flit across your mind.

And then the day arrives, when you are down to the last two capsules. The first one, obviously, has to be breakfast, otherwise the day simply wouldn’t work, and the only issue to decide then, is “When do I drink the last one?”

The 2 day delivery date passed 5 days ago, and, although it’s only mind over matter, going out to buy some “Instant” starts to loom as a ghastly possibility.

I know, I’ll ring them up, and hopefully Nicole will answer the call, remember me immediately, apologise profusely, and fly them over to me in person (and Sod the Carbon Footprint!).

Jacques answered. Yes, we have your order of a couple of days ago. We had a reasonably calm discussion about how 7 days is not “a couple”, and he went quiet, before asking if he could ring me back. “Oh, Yes”. I thought. Here we go, delaying tactics. 5 minutes later, he rang back, and advised me most persuasively that the delivery would be with me today.

Grasping at this lifeline, I decided that the only thing to do was to break out the last capsule, take a chance and let the rest of life take its course. I even took a photograph of the bloody thing before feeding it into the machine.


Literally, just as I picked the steaming coffee cup from the machine, a yellow DHL van drew up outside the house. The guy who got out must have wondered from the ensuing jibbered conversation whether it was quite safe for him to deliver his parcel without back-up. I’m sure there will now be a note on my file in Head Office about the “Idiot at the Lodge”.


Anyway, sanity has returned, the coffee is delivered, and sweetness and light are all around.

And as I calmly drink my second Espresso in as many minutes, I really don’t know what the fuss was all about.



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