As a child I thought there was no such thing as a blue flower. Now my garden is full of spring blues in purple hues. Sometimes vivid childhood longings are triggered by a smell, a sound or a taste. Like peppermint tea reminding me of a burst blow-up toy in the children’s hospital ward. Or my apple blossom “perfume” factory which was perhaps my first entrepreneurial stint. Today, as I inspected the state of this year’s herbal endeavours, I caught a memory of the first time I harvested curly parsley with my Mum. She  never dissuaded me when I planted coffee grounds to grow her a coffee tree. Who cares whether she believed my curiosity would find a way, or whether she didn’t know better herself, I have that collection of scrapbook moments to harvest when the light is right.

Today I received a day-changing message, an email from Laurel, with a link to my favourite colour. Which reminded me of something I’d been neglecting…. here’s a picture of what it was and what it prompted me to do:

The To Do list grew…

– Use my yellow fountain pen more.
– Take more photos.
– Open the garden door. Venture outside. Daily.
– Breathe in deeply, the sweet thrills of spring. The sounds and sights sensations. Taste the trilling thrown tree to tree by fresh-feathered frolickers.
– Pleasure-seeking: take more photos.
– Yellow, why not?
– What other colour says smile at the candid camera quite so cheerily?
– Maybe chocolate? Like these chocolate-coloured hellebores? Or chomping on chocolate chicklets?
– Done. Full-stop. 

Did you hear the one about the Bob who stood at the pearly gates and admitted he hadn’t called before he dug? Bob also hits a fine ball on the green and knows the easy way to buy office stationary. Bob’s an expert eco-friendly investor, an authority on long-distance calls, and works part-time as an accountant. Busy guy, our palindrome friend. Or is he an acronym?  

As busy as the copywriter behind all of these radio commercials? Or are you telling me there’s some sort of secret Bob contract that ALL copywriters in every Canadian ad shop have to sign up to? Whatever their intention, by blending the name of every character in every ad, from insurance choices to the right sports brand, into a patchwork Bob, they are distracting from the product or service they are supposed to be promoting. Our Bob brand may have started as a bit of a bet around the coffee pot (highest Bob score in any given commercial break wins), but it appears the tables are turning. A few cases of inverse distraction to pay homage to your regular Bob on the street and what happens? Clients start insisting on hiring the infamous Bob to star in their 30” radio spots. 

Inevitably all the bobbing around is leaving the paying brands high and dry. Whatever will they do next to not make their marque stand out from the crowd?

As I was saying, there’s something to be said for the smoke-free environment of Starbucks in Germany, despite Janice Turner’s rather fun-to-read post. While she does have a point about great German coffee, it comes at the price of service without a smile and a fog of cloud and none of those comfy seats.

What I can’t believe about Starbucks is that they’re turning the whole experiential thing into a cheap commodity to vie for some of the lower-end market space. Is there nothing sacred? If I wanted a swig of black I could try any one of a thousand outlets and regret the $1 option.

On the subject of price, it is true that Caffé Nero in the UK offers a stronger brew for less dough, but I’d argue that was to compensate for its nicotine environment, at least until the smoking ban came into effect last year. That’s the real difference between Brits and Germans – never mind that it’s law, a ban on smoking in public places just isn’t taken seriously in Germany, where not even the police are enforcing a penalty if they catch you smoking.

After yesterday’s successful premonition of doom and gales, woke up to third power outage of the season and spent entire day wifi-hopping from one Blenz to another. Highly annoying that many of the other 190,000 or so individuals without power were also dodging 90 kph winds and falling trees on the same elbow-grinding rampage to find a vacant socket & seat, while grin and bearing the beverages and empty calorie leftovers. Even so, my email inbox was unusually quiet, with not even the double-barrelled spam’ers seeming to have much luck with the climate. Now there’s a thought: are spam’ers eligible for public holidays? Are any of us entitled to reclaim a public holiday when storms and downed electricity cables wreck havoc with our plans for the day? Do those companies that give employees the freedom to take Remembrance Day as a holiday or put it towards the year-end celebrations also allow their employees to take today as a storm day? Do BC Hydro power fixers earn holiday overtime to clear the debris, and is this all part of a bigger conspiracy? What of all those Federal public warnings to stock up on water, mini generators and spare batteries? Are we about to face a winter of more than soap opera discontent? Better grind those coffee beans…

Arriving at Düsseldorf airport earlier in the week, I was dismayed by the wall of smoke that hit me just beyond customs. The abundance of “no smoking” signs did nothing to keep the lingering clouds from neighbouring smoking areas at bay. A short course in chemistry might have clarified that clean air and smoky vapours are not, actually, immiscible! Little glass ashtrays at every café left me in no doubt – I had to find a Starbucks: surely their world-wide no-smoking policy would find no exception in Germany? Luckily, the tree-top venue of my first Starbucks experience in this marketplace turned out to be a good one. A Doppio to fend off the sleep and a lofty view over the airport comings and goings to set the mood for the rest of the day.

In Hamburg, a few hours later, I was dismayed to find not a single bar or café signed up to the August 2007 non-smoking policy (this wasn’t, after all, Baden-Württemberg or Niedersachsen). Don’t they know that smoke adulterates the coffee aroma, to say nothing of making my eyes water and my clothes stink? They didn’t think my comments funny, so – despite the jet-lag-fatigue grinding me down – I chose not to bother with their wares. Note to self: must carry more chocolate-covered espresso beans for emergencies.

So I have this friend who finds himself the recipient of Starbucks mugs from all over the world, while openly admitting about the coffee that he “can’t stand the stuff”. You proudly display a single mermaid, and – as if by magic – she multiplies every time a friend or colleague goes on holiday to some far flung destination. (That’s almost as mocking as the little town of Starbuck in Minnesota, which boasts two eateries and one speciality coffee shop, but there’s not a mermaid in sight.)

Why yes, Thomas, they do make Vancouver mugs (marketing is marketing, after all), and no, Thomas, you will not be getting one from Nikolaus – it’ll be a Rute for you, my friend!