Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

One table, one Belfast cafe and the people who sat there on one afternoon

By Kerry McKittrick

As Clements joins in the One City One Book fun, our reporter orders up a cappuccino and a chat.

People use coffee shops for all sorts of different reasons. Some run in to grab a takeaway Americano on their way to work. Others meet up with family and old friends to catch up over a hot chocolate. And then there are those who bring their laptops and headphones to take advantage of free Wi-Fi and table service.

One of the best ways to use a coffee shop, however, when you find yourself with a spare half hour is for some quiet time with your favourite book.

Which is one of the reasons the Belfast Telegraph is delighted to have teamed up with the Clements chain of coffee shops and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for this year's One City One Book event.

This Saturday, Clements, in its Royal Avenue branch opposite the Belfast Telegraph, will even play host to some of Northern Ireland's rising literary stars as they read from their work.

The six – who are each recipients of the Arts Council's Artists Careers Enhancement Scheme (ACES) – include poets Nathaniel J McAuley and Matt Kirkham.

Jan Carson, whose debut novel Malcolm Orange Disappears will be published next month, crime writer Anthony Quinn, fantasy fiction author Ken Gregory and children's writer Pauline Burgess will also be taking part at the event, which starts at 3pm. To get you in the mood for a great afternoon's entertainment in Clements, we decided to, er, grab a quick cappuccino and find out just who drops into one of their cafes on a typical afternoon.

So, pull up a chair at Clements ... in this case its Botanic Avenue premises.


1) Cathy Quinn (36) is a content assistant and lives in Belfast. She says:

"I've just finished work and I'm on my way home. This is a little stop off for me to have a coffee and a flapjack and read the paper. I've always hung out at this Clements because I love people watching and from here I can see the panorama of Botanic Avenue. It's all about the location for me.

Sometimes I bring a book and I've seen the One City One Book posters around – I've read one of the books chosen for this event in the past, Glenn Patterson's The Mill for Grinding Old People Young, and I'm looking forward to reading The Poets' Wives. I did a masters degree in creative writing at Queen's so I'm a bit of a writer and a bit of a reader."


2) Michelle Amaral (28) lives in Belfast with her husband Anderson and her daughter Victoria (1). Katia Taylor (36), who lives in Belfast with husband Jim, works as a radiographer and is expecting her first child. Michelle Andrade (32) lives in Belfast with her husband Carlos and works as a missionary.

Michelle says:

"We came here because Katia invited everyone.

There's a group of us and sometimes everyone comes and sometimes there can be just a couple of us.

We would meet up around once a week."

"We're just catching up – we're all from Brazil but we all first met here. We usually meet up in a coffee shop to catch up. I came here with my husband a couple of weeks ago and I really liked the buns – they're a big enough size for sharing instead of other places that give you tiny things. I like the coffee too – there are so many flavours."

Michelle Andrade says:

"We get together to talk about home – which is lovely."


3) Jeff Wright (62) is a Baptist pastor and lives in Glasgow with his wife Bettie (65), a retired nurse, and they are both originally from Northern Ireland. Their sons, Jonathan (33), a lecturer at Queen's University, and Nick (23), a barista, both live in Belfast.

Jeff says:

"We have come home for a week to catch up with friends and our children. It's nice to be back and, in fact, we intend to come back for good soon. We've been in Glasgow for 10 years and hope to move home in the next couple of years."

Bettie says:

"This was our favourite spot when we lived here; we would come on a Monday morning to unwind after a visit to the bookshops in the area – we both like to read.

We've seen One City One Book posters of David Park's novel The Poets' Wives everywhere and we're quite intrigued. We also timed our visit to be back for the Giro as my husband is a cycling fan. We didn't manage to get tickets but we're still hoping to catch some of the action."


4) Michelle Fiddis (20) is originally from Tipperary and Ryan Kavanagh (21), from Belfast, are both third year chemistry students at Queen's University.

Ryan says:

"We came in here today to take a break after class – we were at a revision session.

It's a really intense course but it's not our final year yet as we are all doing a four year masters course.

We came in here because we really like the coffee."

Michelle says:

"It's nice to come in here and just have a break. It really helps not to be in a classroom or in front of a screen, even for just a little while."


5) Noeline McEwen (49) is a housewife and lives in Newtownards with her husband Gordon and children Aileen (24), Breena (21) and Keelan (18). Aileen is a retail assistant and also works as an artist. Noeline says:

"I do tend to go for coffee with friends because I'm not working and we use Clements quite a lot – we like the fact that it is locally owned. We get carry-outs from Clements, too, if we've been shopping in Belfast. And I also sometimes come in just with a book; you can be part of the community but have your own space to do a spot of reading."

Aileen says:

"This was supposed to be my art day – I should be painting – but I got the chance to come in for a hair cut and mum gave me a lift. We decided to have a coffee beforehand."


6) Laurence Smith (25) works in sales and marketing with his partner Oliver Sampson (19). Laurence says:

"We just came in to talk shop – our offices are being set up on the Lisburn Road at the moment. I live round the corner so it's very easy to meet people here."

Oliver says:

"They make good tea so we like to come here. It's nice and casual, too. We don't come in to read much – for us it's all about meeting people."


7) Paddy Burns (23) is an accountant, originally from Belfast, but now living in Dublin. He says:

"I came up to Belfast for the long weekend to do a relay leg in the marathon on Monday. We were running to raise funds for Alzheimer's as my friend's dad passed away from the disease at Christmas. I came into Clements to pass time before getting the bus back to Dublin.

I studied in Belfast for four years so I know this branch very well. I like to come to coffee shops anyway. I'll read the paper, browse on my mobile or just enjoy a coffee – I'm a big coffee fan and there's good coffee here."


8) Antoinette Hillen (23) is a health and safety officer at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, and lives in Newry. She says:

"I'm always in Clements. It's where I came to when I was at uni and I don't think I ever properly left. I come here almost every day. I always drink tea and only rarely drink coffee. I used to live just round the corner and this Clements was the closest to me.

When I was at university I came with my geography buddies and now that it's just me I like to sit and read both books and comics."


9) Lorcan Healy (23) is studying economics and lives in Belfast. He says:

"I'm reading Thomas Punchon's Vineland. I come in to read by myself quite often.

Clements has the right level of noise and lighting to be able to concentrate on a book – I would study here before I would study in the library as the background noise is perfect.

You don't feel isolated but you can isolate yourself. I've seen the novel The Poet's Wives around and I've read other books by David Park, so yes I'll probably get his latest one soon."


10) Anne Murray (58) is a semi-retired counsellor and lives in Belfast with her husband Christopher. She says:

"I've just come in for a cup of tea – I choose Clements because I like their tea and their service as well as the general ambience. It's a fun spot.

They've been around for a long time now.

I was having lunch with my niece today, then I had some errands to run.

Now, I'm just having a read of the paper and some quiet time.

I would do this once or twice a week and Clements is my first choice if there is one close to where I am. Their soup is very good, too.

I do like to read and I have seen the One City One Book posters so I must find out more."


11) Kit Grier (22) works as tech crew for the Queen's Student Union and Adam Devenney (22) is a freelance sound engineer. Kit says:

"We've both brought our laptops in – we're working on two different things but it's a bit of a change from working in the house. We don't actually do this that regularly but we wanted to get out today."

Adam says:

"It also helps that Clements has free Wi-Fi and table service. It's a pleasant space and the atmosphere always has a nice buzz to it. We can put on our headphones and work away."

The long-term pals

12) Bobbi Rai (38) is an artist and mother-of-two and Ciaran Noade (29) is a front of house manager at the Lyric and lives in Antrim with his wife Fiona. Bobbi says:

"I was waiting for a friend, Ciaran, to have a cup of coffee after work. I haven't seen him in ages. I like Clements – the ones in town in particular but this one was handy. The coffee is good and I have a buy one get one free voucher.

Whenever I've been here there usually aren't too many kids around. I also come in on my own for work with my iPhone or for work meetings."

Ciaran says:

"Clements is a nice place for a coffee and a catch-up, and I often come in here just to read the paper on my own, too."


13) Danielle Watson (24) is an intern at a local church and Samuel Parker (23) is completing a masters degree in linguistics at Queen's. Danielle says:

"I studied at Queen's so I used to come here a lot. My role as an intern this year means I have to meet a lot of people for coffee and I often choose this place to do so. When I was doing my masters in theology I would have come in with my laptop to study."

Samuel says:

"We're just having a chat over a coffee today. I like Clements because it's a local chain instead of one of the global ones like Starbucks. Also, it was raining and it was close by! I often come in to read a book as it's a pleasant atmosphere."


14) John Devlin (43) is a teacher and songwriter for the band The Revolvers. He lives in Belfast. He says:

"I'm off today and had to go into town to see about getting some recordings remastered. I just wandered up to have a coffee here and chill out. I was in London for 12 years so chilling out in a coffee shop has become a habit – it de-stresses me. I just read or play with my phone."


15) Sinead Loughran (22) is originally from Tyrone but is currently studying her final year of law at Queen's University. She says:

"I was at a lecture and finished early. There are a group of us meeting up to plan a friend's hen do and I thought I would come over early to have a cup of tea and a brownie.

I don't come in that often because I normally walk past and it's really busy but today I've managed to get a whole table to myself so this is a quiet spot.

I'm loving the calm and loving the fact that there is free Wi-Fi – we've been using Pinterest to plan themes for the hen do so that helps."

A wonderfully novel idea ...

Want to join in the One City One Book fun which is taking place across Belfast this month? First, get your hands on a copy of this year's chosen title, David Park's The Poets' Wives.

In this novel, through a series of beautifully crafted novellas, Park (right) deftly explores the complex relationship between husband and wife, through three women.

They are Catherine Blake, the wife of Romantic poet and painter William Blake; Nadezhda Mandelstam, wife of Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in a transit camp en route to Siberia during Stalin's rule, and the wife of a fictional contemporary Irish poet who contemplates her husband's life during the days after his death.

"The Poets' Wives is proof if proof were still needed, that David Park is without equal as a stylist and a storyteller," is the verdict of fellow novelist Glenn Patterson.

And keep an eye on the Belfast Telegraph next week – we will have 60 SIGNED copies of The Poets' Wives to give away!

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