Pull up a chair… I spend a lot of my working time – thinking time, really - in cafes, and am a bit of a connoisseur of them. So I was very pleased when a branch of a new, small, chain of shops opened in the town three miles away that I walk to most mornings for the sake of some exercise and a decent coffee.

Named after two real-life characters from Samuel Pepys’ Diary (a highly-recommended diversion from our 21st-Century everyday life, and possibly a recipe for how to live a life), this place is clean, bright and modern, with cheerful and enthusiastic, good-looking young staff who appear genuinely pleased to serve you, and has a refreshingly up-market atmosphere for the area it is in.

So all in all, a pleasant find. The coffee is, of course, excellent (branded as ‘artisan’, so you know they are serious – love the ad girls and guys who know where their Thesaurus is), and, I have noticed – but not yet tried – that they serve that traditional French delicacy, the mid-morning cheese-and-tomato-filled croissant. Oh well.

I like being on my own in cafes, writing, thinking, planning and people-watching. The picture at the head of this page started life as a simple candid shot – I liked the atmosphere and composition at the time – and was quite deliberately meant to convey a sense of loneliness and sadness. But I like a half-empty café …peace to work.

Pondering on loneliness … I have been in a few very remote places, on my own, but have never been lonely. On top of a mountain, with the nearest human many miles away, I have been alone, but not lonely. But people can be very lonely in the middle of a busy city. That this can be is strange and sad, but true.

So next time you sit in a café, strike up a conversation with the sad-looking stranger. He’ll probably think you are annoying, because he only wants to be left alone, and may become agitated. Or she may treat you to a long, sad, tale of sadness and despair, lost love and disaster, addiction and over-eating/undereating and other far too much intimate information from her medical and personal life. Then again, you can just sit there, quietly observe, and speculate wildly. Much safer, and much more fun.