Harriet Walker: I think I'm dying, I tell my mum. 'You've had a coffee, haven't you?'

 

Share
Related Topics

If this columns reads a bit jittery, that's because I've discovered coffee. Not in the Marco Polo sense; more that I've only recently taken my place among the rest of the adults and been able to stomach it.

For years, my experience of coffee was a Nescafé freeze-dried decaf – "Three sugars and enough milk to turn it the colour of the hide of a fawn," I used to instruct my dad as a teenager, while he poured and stirred and carried patiently (no, I don't deserve him).

I've spent my life going into Starbucks and ordering a hot milk with vanilla syrup or a soy decaf latte – an existential void of a drink, as one friend called it – because anything stronger would bring me out in a cold sweat. I'd vibrate around the place, get all sicky-feeling and anxious, then lapse into an exhausted fugue. "I think I'm dying," I'd call my mum to let her know. "I'm worried about everything I've ever done and ever will do, and I'm scared of that man over there."

"You've had a coffee, haven't you?" She'd ask, as patient as my dad. Then she'd talk me down. She's done it in person, on email, over the phone – once as I sat on the front row of a fashion show waiting for it to start.

It has been my custom to try out a coffee once or twice a year, just to see if I can handle it yet. And until recently, I'd invariably end up crying, slumped in a corner. A friend once had to usher me out of a gallery in Barcelona on hands and knees before I fainted in there; she refers to it as "that time you had an espresso".

I've found it terribly annoying, because I genuinely like the taste of coffee – when there's loads of sugar in it (what I really mean is I like the coffee-flavour Revels) – and I'm as keen as the next idiot to be part of anything known colloquially as a "culture" that handsome men with beards like to talk about.

On the plus side, I was pleased to have found a genuine trendy intolerance. Dairy makes me itch but I love cheese, so I ignore that. I lie on planes about having a nut allergy so they give me the delicious pretzels instead. I once made up an allergy to shellfish because I was too shame-faced to admit I have the palate of a toddler and don't know what to do with all the claws. I regularly tell people that fish shuts my airways so I don't have to feel awkward about leaving it when somebody cooks me one of the little swimmy buggers.

But, intriguingly, something has kicked in this year – call it weight gain or excessive fatigue, or having eye bags big enough to store two caramel macchiatos in (each), or even eating enough bread to mop up an entire reservoir of coffee. I'm suddenly able to withstand the effect of caffeine. Sure, the perspiration is dripping off me right now and I keep looking over my shoulder, but there's no angina this time.

So out with all the 'erbal teas and the decaf Tetley (oh, the mockery I've endured for that over the years), and in with Diet Cokes before bedtime, chocolate so dark it's practically savoury, and one of those yuppie coffee machines that wheezes and squeals like a randy asthmatic when you pull its levers. I haven't actually bought one of these, partly because I like presenting myself as a coffee ingénue, a weird and rare social specimen with no cafetière and no idea whether it tastes burnt or not. And partly because I have only one area of storage in my kitchen and it's currently taken up by a juicer the size of a tractor that I used once and have become bored with.

Still, it's all terribly exciting, drinking coffee, because I'm assuming a role in a new hyperactive, trendily running-on-empty tribe. Everyone knows this is the best tribe, otherwise why do so many people go and work in the City? My drink of choice used to be a chai latte that everyone used to wrinkle their noses at (I still say YUM to all the haters). That wasn't the drink of a clammy world-conqueror! Pah, a drink for librarians! Now I take a Samoan dynamite blend served super-wet with a side of angst. And I feel like Caesar must have done when he first realised Casca wasn't about to give him a hug.

Perhaps I don't quite know what I'm talking about when it comes to coffee. The thing is, I do actually like the taste of decaffeinated Nescafé in the morning. But now I know I could just as easily have a flat white instead, I feel more myself, more of a social animal. Whatever: I just feel cooler.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas