Friday, 17 December 2010

A Meeting in Merrie England.



Most of my readers will never even set foot in one, more’s the pity.

There are only seven in total, five in Huddersfield, one in Halifax and the other one is to be found in our little town. In these parts they are the most widely used coffee shops around and used by all manner of customers as a meeting place and for lot’s of different reasons. To rest one’s weary feet, a place to get warm out of the way of the biting cold, a place to catch up on gossip or the latest episodes of a favourite soap, a place to rest a while and perhaps read a novel or newspaper, a place to do some business or as I often find myself doing of late, simply to sit and wile away the time waiting for K to finish her Yoga class.


You can read all about their founder and origins here and also get a feel for what makes them so special and such a favourite meeting place for both young and old, rich or poor here . We had arranged to meet up with my youngest son’s girlfriend and Merrie England was as always the chosen venue. Their Cappuccino coffee is second to none in my estimation and K swears by their hot chocolate. As we waited sat on our wooden seat, I  couldn’t help but notice four or five ladies gathered round a table across from where we were sat and who were obviously friends who met up regularly for a coffee and a natter about this and that.

I began to realise that its one thing I never do and haven’t enjoyed doing since my teen years. Meet up with a ‘gang’ of friends either as a prelude to going elsewhere or just for a coffee and a gossip or natter.  In a natural progression from that thought, memories came flooding back to me of ‘Bills’ coffee bar where anyone who was between the ages of sixteen to twenty five or so used to hang out, congregate, meet up, listen to music, play slot machines, drink endless amounts of Coca Cola and more importantly, meet the opposite sex.  It was usually in Bills where first dates were made, either through a friend or directly and where many a love story and happy marriage began.  It was the only place we had.  All the other meeting places in our small town  in those days were public houses, I don’t remember any other coffee bars except Bills. Or perhaps I just never ever noticed their existence.

It was handily placed just as you lighted from the bus. You couldn’t miss it.  The jukebox was placed right at the back next to the entrance to the other room, which I seem to remember was always dingily lit and housed the slot and pinball machines that most of the guys used to play.  The entire coffee shop wasn’t very big in size, and on a Saturday most of us used to have to stand, either propping up the counter or just stood about willy-nilly in groups.  Bill himself used to work behind the counter with his younger assistant Tony.  He must have made a fortune in that place.  It was all we had.  Every teenager in the town used it which explains how we all know each other so well even now, all these years later.  Bills has been long gone. I can’t remember its demise to be honest with you or what year it occurred but  it’s now a locksmiths shop.

As the group of ladies laughed and joked and swopped conversation with each other, I couldn’t help but feel sad.  I used to love those days in my youth. The conversations then were about the latest boyfriend or an outfit just bought.  Or often work as most of my friends in those days were also my workmates.  Gossip about who fancies who or the latest record by the Ronettes, the Beatles or the Supremes.  Today its usually about the latest TV soap or reality show, or what the grandchildren are up to. 

Eventually my nostalgic trip back in time was interrupted  by the arrival of my son’s girlfriend and I was brought sharply back to the here and now. Thank goodness we still have coffee shops  to meet up and gossip in! Long live Merrie England!



  1. Oh, how I adored this post, TG! These coffee shops, and especially Merrie England since I read the menu, would be exactly where I'd spend my time. In fact, if I ever get to visit the UK, I now would know one place for sure I'd want to see and spend some time.
    Remembering back to the "good old days" is both a happy and a sad thing, isn't it. The older I get, the more it happens, but then I thought, if I had never had these great experiences when I was young, that would be the saddest of all. Do you know, TG, there was a Bill's here, too, and it was the gathering place for decades for all the kids. No jukebox but great burgers and bbq and limeades...and the best of all was the parking lot where everyone jumped out of their cars and ran visiting to all the rest. Today if that happened, they'd all be arrested, lol. Sure was a fun time :D
    TG, I really do love when you do posts like this. Do some more!

  2. Hiya T.G. I well remember the coffee bar my friends and I frequented in our youth. It was called, somewhat exotically "The Flamingo" and was exactly the same as "Bill's". Oh, happy days!

  3. Newspaper? Novel? No WiFi? Why TG, are you going organic on us?

    Over here, it was the drive-in, but those have been replace by the likes of McDonalds now. Not at all the same.

  4. There's a good number of coffee shops around my town and I love to sit in them for hours, just reading or marking a few books. They're just the best places. I especially love the noises of the coffee machines.

  5. Jenny I will certainly consider doing some more of this type of nostalgia seeing as you enjoyed it so much.
    Penny, all of us who used to frequent Bills have never forgotten it. I was talking to someone a few weeks back and we were both reminiscing of those good old days.
    Dave, when I am out, I leave all the technology behind! You won't see me with laptop or smart phone! I stick to accessing it all at home on my desktop only.
    Fran you mean the steam as it squirts out! Same here, I love it as well.

  6. I haven't even gone to a coffee shop to just sit and take it easy for a long time. Most of my friends want to get 'er done so move pretty quickly to drink coffee and leave. There are times when I miss the slower pace of things back in the day for sure. Glad you found a place to enjoy something like that.

  7. TG, I'm going to pick your brain for a minute. You're so good with all this stuff that you might know how to do what I suggest. Here's the story: As you know, whenever someone posts an entry, people make their comments and even have some questions. But even more so, as time goes on, all of us know each other better and better and it's HARD going back and forth from our own page to the other page and so on to add new parts to the original comment or to answer a question. Whew. Hope you followed that. Anyway, here's what I was thinking. Seems to me there should be a way, almost like a chat room or area, that we could form. That way, on the moments we decided to "get together" for a chat, we could be there and when we type, whoever else was there could see it in real time. Know what I mean? The area would show who's there at any given time. I think it would be terrific and it sure would make going back and forth on conversations (other than about the post) so much easier and a lot more fun. Any ideas how that could be accomplished here in blogger? Even better would be a main chat area but LINKED to each of our pages if we wanted it that way. Then a person wouldn't even have to go somewhere else to see it all. They would see it within their own page on a tab maybe. I'm just thinking very out loud here. What do YOU think? I always look to you as the expert. :D xoxoxo

  8. Joe thanks for your comment. Jenny, I already brought this 'chat' feature about on Windows Live in the form of Messenger Chat but unfortunately that idea is now wasted because they have closed Spaces down.
    As for something like that on Blogger well, you will have to suggest it to the Blogger bods.They have been recently asking for ideas for Blogger, but I don't see how it can be done on here without their altering things.


  9. Hello Technogran, I enjoyed reading this post and following the links to learn more about the Merrie England coffee shops. Sadly, there is nothing even remotely like a dcoffee shop in this small area where we now live. The closest resemblance would be the Dunkin Donuts or Tim Horton (popular in New England states). Our favorite place to go when it's available is a Panera Bread, which features unlimited coffee refills, breads and baked goods, hot soup and sandwiches. If we ever travel to the UK, Merrie England will be a definite stop!

  10. Beatrice you must remember that they are not nation wide, nor even Yorkshire wide, they are only available here in this vicinity, i.e Huddersfield, Halifax and Brighouse. I do feel sorry for you if you don't have the equivalent where you live.

  11. Hello again Technogran,
    I found your post from a year ago on Wordpress comparing Picasa and WLPG. At the time you chose Picasa. Since both have now been updated, do you still feel the same way? Post your verdict at
    Thanks, Dave

  12. Dave, certainly Live Photo Gallery has some wonderful new features but.....I am still disappointed at their half hearted attempts at Geo tagging because they have not made use of Bing Maps so that you can place your photo. Picasa is always in front of them and they are always playing 'catch up' I'm afraid. Well, that's my opinion. Updates need to be far more frequent and they need to listen to their users and be more innovative in my opinion.


What do you think?