Thursday, 23 September 2010

Starbucks, 90-94 Old Broad Street, The City, London, EC2N 1DP

Source: MJA Smith

I am having professional coaching at present, and one of the things my coach has drummed into me is that I shouldn't hang on to the past. It's a familial trait that has oftentimes prevented me from moving forward, professionally and personally. So it seems rather out of keeping with that counsel to write about the past, but so it shall be.

Walking to a meeting from our offices along Old Broad Street, at typical full speed, I happened to glance across at the branch of Starbucks at 90 - 94 Old Broad Street, on the junction with London Wall and Wormwood Street. The building in which it's situated (I believe it’s called Boston House) is one that I have always adored, fashioned as it is from grand red brick with lighter coloured embellishments, a carved mural just above shop-front height. I've always thought it to be one of the most elegant – if slightly careworn – premises in the City, a reminder of days gone by when compared with the sleek, glass edifices now sited majestically on the immediate horizon. Only today, when I looked across, the familiar signage had been removed and dark blinds adorned the windows. And then I noticed the 'branch closed' sign on the door, and I felt thoroughly dismayed.

This branch of Starbucks has been there as long as I've worked in the City – a whisker off a decade – and has been the scene of one pivotal moment in particular. In September 2002, our department head was killed in a car crash. Coming into work on the Monday, and hearing the news, we removed ourselves from the cloying atmosphere of the office during the morning and regrouped in the below-ground seating area of that very branch of Starbucks to share some collective, mostly silent, grieving.

It was also the scene of many informal business meetings, friendly catch-ups with people who went from being clients or colleagues to good friends, mostly because of the relaxed conversations we'd have in that branch of Starbucks; it was where one of my later managers would proffer his accumulated business wisdom to me over black tea and a 'bun' (his individual, quaint way of describing the assorted pastries and muffins on sale). For a time, it was also a place I'd sneak off to occasionally during the mornings for quiet contemplation and reflection, watching City workers file past, absorbed in their own thoughts, pressures and stresses as I sat on one of the high stools in the window.

Of course, there are Starbucks ten-a-penny in the City, and there are still two branches within a two minute walk of our office; then there's the anti-capitalist lot who despise the very sight of the now-familiar round logo. But me, I'm going to miss this particular branch. London's psychogeography is built upon the ghosts of people and events from the past, accumulated and passed-down memories, blue plaques commemorating famous residents of buildings (despite often being forgotten across generations), other plaques advising of buildings that were demolished centuries ago; for all the memories I have, this branch of Starbucks will loom large in my own personal psychogeography of the City.

No comments:

Post a Comment