Friday, April 25, 2014


Just reading a feature inThe Age about comedian Jennifer Saunders on the launch of her biography Bonkers: My Life In Laughs (which sounds like a bloody good read). In one part it says, 'Yet Saunders was a serious-looking child, enduring the well-meaning advice of adults to cheer up. "The thing that's absolutely guaranteed to make you miserable is someone saying cheer up! There's nothing worse. You can't help it. I have a face that looks serious if I'm not smiling."

Man, do I know where she's coming from. As a younger person I used to get that a lot. Cheer up - you look like your best friend just died! Or, cheer up - it can't be that bad!

I don't get it so much now, although I suspect that that's because my older serious-looking face can look a bit intimidating. During a Late Night Talk About Absolutely Everything I had a friend confide that "You do look a bit scary. I wouldn't fuck with you."

I hadn't thought about all of this until recently when chatting with a customer, and she said quickly and in passing, "Yes well the others all say but you're a bit serious and I said no he's just focused."

She quickly moved on but I was left wondering who the others were and what else they might have said about me. And bugger it if I didn't feel a bit annoyed. I wanted to tell them that when on the job, yeah, I guess I am serious and the customer was right, I am trying to focus. Customers constantly walk up to the counter and assume that if they've given you their order it's going to be the next coffee you make without realising that all those people seated at tables they've walked by? They are all expecting their orders too, and the couple sitting over at that table are also waiting for take-aways. I need to get all the orders right and roughly in the right order, and sometimes I get irrationally annoyed with how particular everyone is about which milk they want, how strong or weak or extra hot or how many sugars or fucking decaf - if you don't want coffee don't have coffee because that decaf grinder is slow and messy and...

Sometimes, you gotta concentrate. I try not to let any of these internal monologues manifest themselves physically. Often I hum or whistle to the music to maintain calmness, especially when it's busy. It's just not in my nature to smile with no reason. I can't help it if I have a naturally serious-looking face.

At another cafe I used to work at, the owner told me he was really very pleased with the work I did but could I please, please smile more. I told him I can't, I'm not the kind of person who can just wander around smiling for no apparent reason. (He later gave me a pay rise and said don't bother about the smiling thing).

Same still goes. I'm not a big smiler. I'm not a big laugher, either. Which is ironic given how much I like comedy, and how my favourite thing in the world is to make people laugh. I'm Grumpy, and I like to write silly shit.

As The Dreaded One pointed out, I've pre-empted any accusation of being overly serious in the name of the cafe. It's not called Oh-So-Happy & The Dreaded One's Little Cafe Of Awesome, is it. It's not called Cheerful & The Dreaded One's or Fluffy & The Dreaded One's.

Still, for the hell of it, as an experiment, I might try smiling more this week just to see what happens. It will probably just make everyone think I'm up to something. "Ooh - Grumpy's smiling a lot more all of a sudden - he must be on the drugs."

Perhaps I'll have to introduce my smiling to the world gradually. Occasional shy smirks at first and gradually ramp it up to friendly chuckles, then open laughter until they don't bat an eyelid when I double over, point at them and piss myself hysterically as soon as they enter the cafe.

Maybe I'm just not cut out for this.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Beginnings Of Unfinished Stories

The idea was that they would borrow the words from each other's stories. But first, they had to write their stories.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Conversations With Our Customers: The Seven Second Rule

Some of our Argentinian Shortbread & dolce de leche biscuits had crumbled under the weight of being the best biscuit on Gertrude Street, so we broke them up and offered them as samples to our customers, putting them in a little bowl on the service counter.

A customer asked what the samples are.

Grumpy: "They are broken fragments of our Argentinian shortbread filled with dolce de leche. Please, help yourself."

Customer noms in. Offers broken fragments to her friends.

As as they all start to eat and make phwoar noises...

Grumpy: "Yeah -  they all fell on the floor and broke into pieces, but rather than waste them we swept them up and thought we'd share them with our customers."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Conversations with our customers: The babyccino

A father, a big, gentle creative type with tattoos and piercings, and his son walk into the cafe. The father orders a long black and a babyccino. They sit down. I make the coffee and the babyccino and take them out to the table where the litle boy is having a conversation with their Table Identification Unit, the dinosaur. I frown in thought as I hesitate putting the drinks on the table.

"So who's having the long black and who's having the babyccino?"

The little boy doesn't get it; the dinosaur is far more interesting. But the father, he giggles like a little boy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Creative Couplings.

I have the most amazing life partner. She is the only one. I have amazing friends.

But I think in this life I missed my creative partner.

Maybe next time.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Conversations With Our Customers: Merle Thornton.

Merle Thornton is a regular customer. Months ago, shortly after we opened the cafe, she and her husband came knocking on our doorjust after we had closed for the day, wanting to come in for cold milkshakes. It was hot that day. I wanted to go home. I'm a bit appalled with myself for even thinking about not letting them in because I wanted to go home.

I said come in, of course come in. It was hot out there and we had the air-con on. Of course they should come in.

The husband, Neil, he's not well. Merle, she has a glint in her eye. You can see it in this photo. They come in for their milkshakes almost every day. Neil is extremely unwell, but this is how Merle looks most of the time.

Google Merle Thornton. I was going to give you a link, but fuck it. Do your homework.

And don't diss the old folk.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Lols In Grumpy & The Dreaded One's Little Cafe Of Awesome

I get mixed reactions when people read my old Grumpy columns in the cafe... and yes I usually disecreetly watch when I see that someone has flipped to the back of the menu and is reading. Sometimes there's just a kind of blankness about the reader, which makes me want to not be there because apparently they think whoever wrote this dribble must be an idiot. The most common reaction is smirking with an occasional chuckle. Sometimes couples will read together, and when The Dreaded One Takes their meals out, they whisper to each other and nod in her direction - that must be The Dreaded One. The other day a guy smirked his way through one column, then when he came over to the counter to pay his bill he grinned a bit more and said "Cheers, Grumpy, I'd like to pay my bill."

Recently, however, I had one of the better reactions, a real life lol. I looked over and someone was really enjoying my story about the time I was too busy being on the Amalfi Coast to make it to anything. It made me smile because, well, it was nice.

Turns out the person lolling is a touring UK performer, in town for The Melbourne International Comedy Festival. She and her partner were staying at nearby apartments and they were drawn to the cafe because of the name. Apparently a certain John Fleming had said that she uses the word awesome an awfully lot, and so she was compelled to come in.

I don't know how many other cafe owners on Gertrude Street are also performing arts writers and reviewers, but this one certainly is, so this was all a lovely bit of chance encountering.

Especially as I enjoyed the show very much, my Australian Stage review being here. And I've enjoyed seeing these people in the cafe almost every day that they have been here so far. They are lovely, lovely people.

Here is a link to the story of Juliette Burton discovering Grumpy & The Dreaded One's Little Cafe Of Awesome as it appears on John Fleming's blog. I sincerely hope that by linking to his blog, which is linked to my blog, we haven't damned some poor souls to being sucked into the eternity of a link loop.

When I Grow Up is on at Trades Hall Meeting Room, 54 Victoria Street, Carlton, 7pm daily (not playing Mondays) and 6pm Sundays. Season ends April 20. Bookings at or on 1 300 660 013