There is just one café left in Canterbury where you can sit down inside (at a certain distance from others, of course!) and drink your tea, and it saved me in more ways than one.
I’d begun Day 3 of enforced home-working determined to stay positive, even if I was anxious about my beloved wife, Yim Soon (who still has some of the symptoms of the virus) and pleading with God to keep her safe. It was a blessing that I had plenty of work to get stuck into, although I was increasingly impeded by not being able to get remote access to my office files. I needed Dan! Dan is our IT guy at the Irish Chaplaincy and I’d always assumed that he lived in London but when about a year went by after me starting at the Chaplaincy and I still hadn’t met him I was wondering if he really existed, or whether he might in fact be a virtual Dan. Well, he is very much a real person, and he lives in Budapest. And if I have issues with my laptop he can sort them out via ‘Teamviewer’, which allows for remote access. It’s an amazing business. I send him a password and then sit back and watch as the cursor runs back and forth on my computer screen and various weird and wonderful pages are opened and closed and things get clicked or unclicked, and the problem gets solved.
The trouble was, my home internet wasn’t allowing me to access Teamviewer, so I would have to get on-line somewhere else (and I’m supposed to be in self-isolation!). I cycled down to the library and found a place to sit that was the requisite amount of metres from any fellow human being and spent a pleasant few hours working whilst waiting for Dan to do his magic tricks. I got a message from him eventually to say that he’d been really busy and could we do it at 6pm. The library would be closing then (and will now be shut until further notice, I learnt to my disappointment: I really was going to be stuck at home in the weeks ahead), but surely a café would be still open. I cycled back into the centre of Canterbury in time for 6 o’clock and found, to my dismay, that one after another café was only doing takeaway drinks. But lo and behold there was one place still standing. Eleto Chocolate café is a slightly quirky (hey, quirky is good!) little place not far from the Cathedral and there are nice views of the spires rising over the rooftop of the (closed) cafes opposite. I used to go there sometimes for 1 to 1 meetings when I was at L’Arche. The young man behind the counter confirmed that yes, they were still open (till 9pm), and yes, I could sit inside, and yes, there was wifi.
I found a table all to myself and got online and sent Dan the Teamviewer password and he got to work. And I sat back, with my view of the beautiful, illuminated spires, and drank my tea, and began to write a letter to my friend Mike in Rome. And I noticed the music that was playing: Blue Monday by New Order, one of the songs I used to dance to as an 18-year-old. Wow! And it was followed by other early 80s hits by The Police, The Human League, Tears for Fears (it’s a Mad World indeed!), David Bowie. I looked at the three people behind the counter, all of them in their 20s. What was going on? Was this just for me, to lift my spirits at this anxious time? Well, lift my sprits it most certainly did. I was giving Mike (a year older than me) a running commentary of the playlist as I scribbled. And then I saw on the laptop that Dan had produced his final flourish and I was once again able to access my office files (pretty crucial with the prospect of months’ of home-working ahead). And just at that moment there began the dramatic cello intro. to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky, a song that will always bring a tingle to my spine: “sun is shining in the sky, there ain’t a cloud in sight; it’s stopped raining, everybody’s in the play, and don’t you know, it’s a beautiful new day; hey, hey, hey”.
I declared to Mike the words that have been commonly seen on posters draped from apartments in Italy:
Andrà tutto bene….All shall be well
I rose rather reluctantly to go back out onto the cold and dark and largely empty streets and to uncertain times ahead. And as I made my leave of Eleto Chocolate Café I said to the three lovely young people there: “great music, and you’ve saved me”.