Out for breakfast for a holiday treat with number two child, I found myself in an upmarket(ish) eatery in central Edinburgh. Oh, the breakfasts! I watched as the waitress carried them past me to other tables. Vibrant smoothies, plates piled high with waffles and crispy bacon, all over-ridden by the heavy fragrance of the full cooked.
We ordered. “Large black coffee, please, milk on the side.”
“Would that be a long black?”
“Yes, if that’s a large black coffee. With milk on the side.”
And so to the breakfast, the thick granary toast with pristine poached eggs bursting, buttercup-yellow, onto the plate. And the coffee.
Ah, the coffee. “Excuse me, I thought I asked for a large black coffee.”
“You ordered a long black coffee madam. This is a long black coffee. It’s the largest we have.”
The coffee was black, at least. But it was half the size of a normal cup of tea (albeit slightly larger than the tiny espresso which graced the next table) and it packed a real punch, a shot of caffeine that could wake you from a coma. It was a brutal, mean-minded sergeant-major of a coffee; and I like to be eased into my mornings.
I got over it. Sort of. The rest of the breakfast was terrific but that small-minded, vicious blast of caffeine undermined the experience. It’s detail you see. Detail is a vital thing, something which can make or break a narrative or a character just as much as it can make or break a relationship or a holiday. (That view of the car park when you wanted one of the sea? It’s a detail you overlooked.)
I confess that I can be sloppy about the details in my writing. I should take more time to see my characters clearly, more time to think about what they do and why they do it - and how. But today was a revelation and one that I don’t think I’ll forget until I find somewhere that can serve me a large black coffee to caress me awake.