Today I’ve brought my mobile office to the Roman Baths Kitchen in – you guessed it – Bath. It’s a classy-looking place which overlooks the Pump Rooms and the Abbey in the centre of town, washed with plenty of Farrow and Ball type paintwork, warm woodwork and muted classical music.
It’s a friendly, comfortable place which completely suits the setting. It’s not funky, it’s traditional, but that’s exactly right for the surrounding architecture and the tourist crowd that it will serve. The surprising thing is that, each time I’ve been to Bath, this place is never quite as busy as I would have expected. Perhaps it looks too classy, so your ordinary weary traveler who just fancies a coffee and a slice of Victoria sponge might worry about high prices or stuffy atmosphere. Actually, the opposite is true: it’s a cosy, competitively-priced little gem.
So, here I am, listening to a spot of Puccini, people-watching (and wondering how many of them may secretly be murderers, kidnappers, bog-standard psychotics…) and sipping strong coffee. It brings to mind J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, looking outside at the aesthetic beauty of Bath and wondering about the people caught in its underbelly, on the edges of polite, privileged society.
It’s so tempting to see only the sandstone, or Bathstone as the taxi driver informed me earlier today, and nothing beyond. But that would be cowardly. So, one of my goals for this year is to contribute more. I don’t mean just chucking a few coins to a homeless person, or setting up a few direct debits to various large charities and considering your social duty discharged. I mean physically giving my personal time and resources where I can. I’ll be looking at local organisations to see how I can be a better part of the community, not to make myself feel altruistic, but because I believe in social engagement.
We’re all human, after all.
Apart, that is, from the killer I am crafting in my next book: Sycamore Gap. I doubt there would be much in the way of human compassion plundering those depths…
‘Til next time x