Retirement: imagination and reality

One of the images I had of being retired was sitting at a cafe in a courtyard on a Greek island, with a grapevine providing shade overhead, having literary discussions with old men wreathed in cigarette smoke and clicking their worry beads.

It was pretty unrealistic. For one thing, I don’t smoke. For another, coffee in cafes is certainly far too expensive for pensioners to drink every day. Et cetera.

But I once came quite close. A young lady called Theodora took us on a walking tour of Tirana, the capital of Albania, and we ended up at a cafe, sitting at a table in the open air, and she said that the man at the next table was the most famous novelist in Albania, Ismail Kadare. So while I didn’t have an elevated literary discussion, I was close enough to passibly inhale the smoke from his cigarette.

Albania is a small country, and so it is quite possible to bump into famous people. While we were walking around, Theodora pointed out the most famous film star in Albania, riding past on his bicycle. I forgot his name, but I remembered Ismail Kadare’s name, and when we got back home, I bought one of his novels to read, though not is best-known one, The General of the Dead Army.

Tony McGregor at the +27 Cafe in Hatfield

Tony McGregor at the +27 Cafe in Hatfield

And then last week we again came close to the vision when we had coffee with Tony McGregor at the +27 Cafe in Hatfield. It didn’t have grapevines as shade, but it was in a courtyard, which used to be the loading bay of the old Hatfield Bakery, and there were olive trees in it, which provided a Mediterranean background of sorts.

It was rather a nice cafe, and in a way reminiscent of the brewery we had visited at Nieu Bethesda a couple of years ago.

We didn’t have elevated literary discussions, but rather discussed education, and the way Bantu Education has messed up the country, so that we still haven’t recovered from its effects. If I wass a literary man like Boswell, I might have recorded our coffee shop conversations in detail, but I didn’t quite manage that.

It was, however, a very pleasant couple of hours, and something I hope we can repeat sometimes.

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