There's a rally in Dublin today aiming to keep Bewleys open.
About a month ago, Bewleys announced that it was to close two of its landmark Dublin City Centre Cafés - the one on Grafton Street and the one on Westmoreland Street. Both date back to the 1840s, and are seen as city landmarks. They're to close from next Wednesday.
The Save Bewley's Cafés Campaign is seeking a special tax status for the site to allow the company to operate in profit, claiming that Bewley's has become part of Irish national heritage since it was established in 1840. Up there with moaning about the potato famine and suing the arse off people with no good justification. And the whole Guinness/Leprechaun/Stag Night schtick.
When I first visited Dublin in 1995, Bewleys was a highlight. A bustling coffee shop, open all hours. When I moved here in 2001, it was an embarrasment. Little more than an incredibly down-market greasy spoon in a fantastic building. It failed to move with the times. It died.
The case of Bewleys is a sad one, without a doubt. The concept remains a valid one, but in a market which has evolved over the last few years. There's competition out there, and the competition offers things that Bewleys couldn't or didn't, largely because it had become part of Irish national heritage. It's hard to update something when it's acclaimed as traditional. In part, then, the success of these cafés was also their downfall.
I find it ironic that now there is a campaign to give these places privileged tax status. Bewleys in Grafton Street is a shadow of what it was ten years ago. Buying it more time isn't going to reverse what appears to be mismanagement and complacency. I suspect that the management decision to close down was the correct one, but wonder if perhaps given some tougher decisions in the past, this latest one might have been avoided.
Disclaimer: This entry makes some assumptions about the management process of a company based on a limited range of evidence. I'm prepared to be told I'm wrong.
We own lots of nice things. On Saturday, for instance, we went out and bought two lamps. The picture here shows one of them. Anyway, the 'range' is Tolomeo, and the manufacturer is Artemide.
You'll recognise it as a design classic, of course, although in truth the design dates back only to 1987. It's part of a range of lamps, ranging from the Micro - frankly not really Micro at all, but about the size of a regular anglepoise, ranging up to this one, which I like to call the Beast, although it's actually called "Terra".
When fully erect, it reaches 2.25m in height. Fortunately, due to a complex series of hinges, it can be used to provide effective lighting at a lower and more suitable level, while maintaining its moody magnificence. Even when not fully extended, the slender shaft is a proud 1.62m in length, which is pretty impressive by anyone's standards.
Obviously, we're getting it shipped from Italy, so it should be up in our apartment by the end of June. Burglars, mark your diary.
If I was in Italy, I wouldn't be able to go to Starbucks. Yet. Same in Ireland, although sometimes I wish I could...
I treated myself to a Starbucks Coffee-Flavoured Beverage on Wednesday. On the one hand, it was very pleasant. On the other, it wasn't anything hugely exceptional. The rest of the world is catching on, and catching up.
For a while, the best cup of coffee in Dublin was to be found at Coffee Society at the bottom of Camden Street (or whatever it's called at that point of its length). Not any more. I'm sure they've not changed their blend, or anything, but they've changed the guy behind the counter.
I'm sitting drinking a rather nice cup of decaffienated coffee, made for me by a skilled Barrista. I am informed that a Barrista is an Espresso Machine Operator. It's a glamorous word for an unglamorous job.
It also reminds me of the word Barrister, which I'm sure predates it. I suspect that Barrista has been in the English language for about 5 years, since it was coined at Starbucks University. A barrister is a Legal Machine Operator.
Coke Light seems to weigh exactly the same as other coke. And it provides virtually no illumination.
If you're someone who has ony discovered the joy of seafood while you've been in Asia, and you're thinking of moving back to Europe and you want to know more about the seafood available in the UK and Eire, then you can't go far wrong with this book.
It's a good companion to the TV show, apparently, and the show was pretty good. It was probably on in the UK in 1943, but it only finished here last month. Did I mention that fish are good for you? Well, they are. Unless you're allergic to shellfish.
For most Sydney people Starbucks is easily ignored and the rest of the world can worry about what lack of culture Starbucks represents. Well, good for them.
I wish that I could agree with this. I really really want to detest Starbucks. They pervade cultures, infesting them with their homogeneity and their sickly sweet versions of coffee that taste nothing like the real thing. They drag little bits of uniformity in to cultural diversity. They shake things up.
In Singapore, they have transformed the coffee industry; there was no cafe culture there before, apparently, and the cost of a small paper cup of black tar was exorbitant. Now, good coffee is readily available. It's pleasant to drink. And most of it comes from places that have sprung up to challenge Starbucks.
In Hong Kong, the value of Starbucks is again not the coffee. It is the fact that they have adopted the same rules for layout as they apply everywhere else - and as a result they are the only comfortable places to drink coffee. By local standards they are very sophisticated, and also surprising clean and airy. They will act as a catalyst to help overcome the society's need to promote itself as cramped and uncomfortable.
In Bangkok, Starbucks are very cheap. This is a huge advantage.
I wish I could ignore Starbucks. In the same way that I wish I could ignore Dymocks. They're not good. But they're better than what we had before.
I got a new credit card today - or last night to be precise, when I rolled home in a drunken state. I now have a credit card. This means that I can pay people I don't know money I don't have for things that I don't want. This would make me strangely happy if I wasn't hung over.
What does make me happy is that I can transfer open orders on Amazon without having to re-order. That's strangely cool. Amazon has a new feature since the last time I was there. You click on your one-click thingie, and when it confirms it, it throws a bunch of recommendations at you. I rather like this in some ways, because it reminds me of the whole impulse-buying-at-the-till thing that makes real shopping a pleasure. And you can ignore the hard sell so much more easily when you can hit alt-f4 rather than having to say 'for god's sake, woman, try to stop selling me things for a minute!