How to lose your friends – instantly!

ALL I want is a decent cup of coffee.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? I mean, it’s been around in the western world now for 500 years. It didn’t take that long for human beings to learn to boil an egg!

The only safe place I can drink coffee is at home. I daren’t ask for it at the home of friends, because you can never be sure what you’re going to get. The only safe response to “What would you like to drink?” (apart from wine, beer or spirits) is tea.

If you ask for coffee and they reach for a jar, it’s a racing certainty that it’ll be instant. How can they do that? I’m their friend! You can’t feed instant coffee to friends! There ought to be a law against feeding it to anybody. Even animals!

There used to be. Charles II banned coffee houses in England in 1675. Not because they didn’t know how to make coffee though; but because the intellectuals gathered in them and spread seditious libel. But it didn’t last. He died ten years later and they all came back.

Not that coffee remained the property of intellectuals for long. Lloyds of London started as a coffee shop and became the biggest insurance broker in the world pretty soon after. One day intellectuals; the next – insurance salesmen. After that it was all downhill.

Did you know that after oil, the most heavily traded goods in the entire world is coffee? There is more coffee traded in the world than guns – and it’s more dangerous!

Especially since it ended up as a powder that smells — and looks — like dried poo. In fact, it’s not a bad substitute. Used coffee grounds are high in nitrogen and make great fertiliser.

But that’s coffee made from beans (actually they’re not beans at all; they’re seeds). The other stuff, in the jars, wouldn’t make a substitute for anything. Not even sewage.

But there are people out there who can make a mess of real coffee. I met one last night. In a restaurant, which means that not only was I poisoned but I also paid for the privilege.

Look, I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say – okay smartypants, how do you make a decent cup of coffee?

And the answer is: I don’t know. It’s like art. I can’t paint a Van Gogh, but I appreciate one when I see it. And all right, I might not recognise a phoney Van Gogh, but I’m sure I would if someone tried to make me swallow it.

What I do know is that if you can see the bottom of the cup, and it’s not empty, you’re in the wrong restaurant. And if you’re not in a restaurant, you need to nudge the cup with your elbow and apologise to your friend for the state of their carpet.

And if you’re in your own home, you need help. Even if your wife made it. Especially if you’re wife made it!

“I don’t know what the fuss is about,” sniffed my wife. “You can’t boil an egg.”

No dear; that’s why I don’t.