lazing on a sunny afternoon - or any other come to that

It's 3pm on Thursday. You're hard at work. They're loafing around in a smart cafe. Who are they?
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Loafers are a shameless breed. They are those hatefully languid people who inhabit London's cafes and restaurants, film foyers and art galleries at all hours of the day; the ones who have slipped through the 9-5 net and can smugly watch the majority who haven't. Some are students or tourists but there's a hard-core contingent who are neither. This group aspire to make lounging an art form; serious hours are devoted to doing very little except slurping cappuccinos, gossiping, and observing life from afar. But where so many of them actually find the time or money for such an occupation is one of life's abiding mysteries.

For evidence of the loafer in action, or inaction, look no further than Chelsea on a Thursday afternoon. "It's nice to watch people rushing by," says Nadia, 24, leaning back idly in her chair outside Oriel's in Sloane Square. "I feel exempt - I'm in one place and everything is moving past me," she muses, flicking back a blond fringe (she's just been next door to Toni & Guy for a "quick trim") and now she's waiting to meet her friend. Nadia is "between jobs", she tells me, living off a private income which has "nearly dried up" and working part-time in the evenings for a production company. "I'd hate to work every day," she scowls. "I value my leisure time - I either come here two or three times a week or go to Cafe Rouge in Hampstead where my boyfriend lives. He doesn't do very much either. Awful isn't it?" she giggles.

Further up the road at Blushes, an exorbitantly-priced cafe near Sloane Square with lots of pink tablecloths and glass tables, Pete, 37, like Nadia, is doing not very much at all. He spends about seven months a year decorating villas in Spain - that leaves a sizeable chunk of time to lounge. "I've been here since about midday, doing the crossword and reading. I'm not meeting my friend till about six but the time goes by pretty quickly." He drains his expresso and orders a beer - it's nearly 4.30pm. "I spend about four days a week at different cafes - it's a nice way to ease your way back into English culture; doing the crossword and watching other people stressing out." Nearby at Chelsea Kitchens, 26-year-old Mary has the best job in the world for anyone with a proclivity to loaf; she's Paula Yates's housesitter. While Paula, Hutchy and the rest of the family are currently on holiday, Mary's lounging big-time. She's met up with her boyfriend and spent the last couple of hours drinking coffee and now they've ordered wine. "My job does have very bizarre hours," admits Mary. "I do like the idea of sitting around but I'd get bored if I did it all the time. With the job I've got at the moment I'd say I'm a part-time loafer really."

The full-timers are further up the road in Picasso's, a pretentious haunt frequented by lots of leather-clad men in Ray-bans posing on Harley Davidsons. Jason, 28, is adamant that he's not part of a Chelsea cafe-scene, even though he comes here several times a week. "It's nice to sit back and watch all the pretenders and wannabe's," says Jason, in blue-silver wraparound shades and a blue shirt opened to the waist. What makes him different from crowd? "I actually live round the corner - I don't commute from Harrow or Croydon like the rest of these arseholes," he says. For Jason, loafing has been a challenging vocation: "I'm in no hurry to get a proper career. If you want to spend 20 years stressing yourself out then fine. I prefer to do building jobs for a few months and then take a rest. I work to live and not the other way round."

Although loafers are proud of their pastimes, they don't like to be viewed as lazy or scrounging. Jason's friend, Luke, 25, is living on the last of his private income. "I wouldn't feel justified doing this if I was on social security. I've worked hard before, packing furniture, and I feel I've earned the right to do nothing." For those who are jealous of this idle leisured set, even loafing can become routine after a while. "I used to enjoy sitting around doing nothing but it's all I've been doing all summer - I'm completely bored by it," moans Jason. "You see the same shallow people, the same views and the coffee's too expensive." So is he going to loaf in pastures new? He sighs heavily: "Nope, I think I'll probably get a job."

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