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By trade I am a journalist with a background in current affairs, culture, health and fitness, travel and high profile interviews. I also own and run an outdoor fitness business aimed at people that hate gyms and bootcamps (www.spartanfitnesslondon.co.uk). Most importantly though, I am on Shared Parental Leave from May 31 to October 3. Everyday from 0730 to 1800 I will be in sole charge of a real and completely awesome baby girl.

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Tuesday, 14 June 2016

DAY 14 - COFFEE SHOP CONNOISSEURS

BEFORE being a stay-at-home-look-after-the-baby Dad I saw coffee as a means to an end. I liked the stuff and I could tell the difference between a flat white and a cup of instant from the supermarket saver range but its main job was to wake me up and keep me from falling asleep while driving. Most coffee was bought at Service stations on the way to work and I had no real need to frequent a bespoke coffee boutique.

Things have changed somewhat. I've always wondered where the people with fixed impenetrable stares pushing prams were marching to and now I know. This army of mainly women are pounding the streets in search of a coffee shop. Not because they need a caffeine fix, although they probably do if their offspring is an early riser, but because they crave a different setting. Parents who are at home to care for and protect their babies can spend a mentally debilitating amount of time in their own home, possibly even in one room, filled with chattering toys – "The BABY LIKES MILK... DO YOU KNOW YOUR ABCs? I'M A SOFT, AND FLUFFY COW.." – so they bust out of their front doors and search out an establishment to sit it for a drink. It is frowned upon to hit the pubs and bars to neck beers while in charge of a small child.

I am far from bored at home, in fact I'd go as far as to say that I am as excited each day looking after A-bomb as I ever have been at work, however the hunt for coffee (sometimes iced) in surroundings that are not my house is one that I relish on an almost daily basis. I view my fellow pram-pushers not so much as parenting colleagues as co-members of a mass reviewing body ready to cast their quizzical eyes over cafes, coffee shops and eateries any time, any place.

With lots of time on my hands and a wish to stay out of my house for a good few hours, my requirements have gone far beyond the A-road caffeine stop-off. Now, armed with a baby, I demand coffee that is so delicious that I will sip and savour, rather than bolt. I would like a comfortable chair please, not too firm and certainly nothing plastic. It's a given that I need good space for a buggy to fit through – I once had my fingers burnt when a small gap between chairs led to my smashing the front wheel into a table and jolting M'Lady into awake mode. So, excellent coffee, comfy chairs, wide spaces. I'll also be looking for a relaxing ambience, access to reading material and the option of food. If the barista station is close to or part of a place that sells convenient goods such as face wipes, bin liners and surface cleanser then all the better.

Yes Starbucks, Nero and Costa, you may tick a lot of the boxes (possibly with a rating of 6-7 out of 10) but what clientele are you attracting? Does that affect my vibe? Probably. So far I have found that the non-chain and in-house coffee providers at garden centres and small department stores are winning. Of surprise today was the atmosphere and treats offered up at Dunelm – quite the sneaky treasure trove.

Goodness what have I become.
 

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