I am not sure why I started out on this task but somehow or other it must have seemed important at the time.
I think it was when my purse burst open for the umpteenth
time. I didn't realise what had happened until I came to pay the Lovely Margaret on the cash desk at the local Co-op and had to scrabble about in the farthest reaches of my handbag to find £4.76 in loose change. As change goes, it was very, well, loose.
I knew exactly why it had happened, even if I couldn't specify precisely when. My purse is jammed full, not of cash (I am sorry to say) but of loyalty cards, most of them promising me a free cup of coffee on my ninth,
or more likely tenth, purchase. I'm a sucker for loyalty cards, particularly when they are Coffee Related.
So today I decided on a tidy out - and what a trip along Memory Lane opened up before me! Scattered
around me are a couple of dozen cards, each one of them a reminder of coffees quaffed, company enjoyed, special places - and, inevitably, places which might not be special but have something of interest if you just know where to look for it.
Here is my Loyalty Card for beautiful Warnham Nature Reserve, which I have visited on several occasions with my Birdy Group. "Offering excellence in foods and service" it says on the front. I only have to buy five coffees to
get one free, which makes it the best value of all my cards. In three more visits I will claim my prize! Though I'd give it up in a twinkling of an eye for just another sight of a kingfisher, posing on a branch above the water's edge looking as if he has just
hopped out of a postcard. I've had some great times there, sitting round a long table with my fellow birdwatchers, drinking coffee and watching the resident mouse scuttling about in his cage.
Here's my Loyalty
Card from the coffee shop on Chichester Railway Station - buy 10 cups, get one free. I am just three cups adrift. When I was working on the Great War Project, spending long hours in the County Records Office researching the lives of Albert the Gardener and
Ernest the Farm Boy, I just missed my train home on so many occasions. Well, okay, on precisely seven occasions - I have the evidence here in my hand.
Oh, dear, I've turned up my Loyalty Card from the health
club where I used to swim long, stately lengths in the beautiful pool, under the worried gaze of the lifeguard who couldn't quite believe anyone could swim breast-stroke so very slowly and had to keep checking I was still alive. How I used to look forward
to my medium skinny latte in the café after my swim, with the daily newspapers for company. How sad it is that I gave up my membership before claiming the free coffee to which my card tells me I am entitled.
I collected two stamps from the Mad Hatter's Tea Parlour when the Grand Old Lady broke down on the way to Choir a couple of years ago and I went to fetch Mr B and myself a warming drink while we were waiting to be rescued. I am also half way through
my stamp collection for a free drink at The Happy Teapot, where my fellow Trustees from Voluntary Action Worthing have staged several invigorating War Councils. Both the Mad Hatter's Tea Parlour and The Happy Teapot are My Kind of Coffee Shop, with their walls
festooned with interesting slogans, fancy cloths on every table and a fascinatingly delicious selection of pastries set out on the counter to tempt anyone who is Always Thinking of her Stomach.
most useful Loyalty Card is for the café in the Heene Community Centre where the Bacon Bap Brigade meets every Friday after our Singing for Pleasure choir session. I have lost count of the number of free coffees I have been able to claim from Ever Cheery
Kevin who treats all his customers like long-time friends.
I do seem to have any number of cards from coffee shops where I have evidently enjoyed a single cup of coffee but never returned. Sadly, I can't even
remember where most of them are. Is it worth keeping them, do you think, in case I happen across one of them at some time in the future? "Do you have one of our Loyalty Cards?" the barista will ask - at which I will turn out my purse there and then and shower
the counter with cards as I search for the right one, the one which will prove my loyalty.
I pack all but one or two of the cards back into my purse. These coffee shops are desperate for my custom, I feel
sure. Otherwise why would they bother to make me such generous offers?
What price loyalty? I ask myself.