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"Sixty-seven? Sixty-seven. Sixty-seven? Sixt-"

She hunts for the bearer of the ticket, the ticket stuck in the puddle of tea in the saucer, the tea that he is now drinking, freshly made and yet quintessentially not-quite-perfect. The numbers are to transmute into food, in this case, grilled sausages and crisply fried chips. Two digits into such a feast. The wonders of the café.

The café has seen a new lick of paint. Before, the café was eponymous, the personal touch welcoming you in, promising something almost (but not-quite) akin to home cooking. Now, the name is trendy, almost aping the fine eateries around it, but inside, the only change is a new set of furniture. The staff are the same, the menu unchanged, and this is a relief. The café is fixed, immutable in the streetscape around it. It does not know "modern"; it is as it does. Inside, the front had the air of a bakery, with all the homemade cakes and pastries; but the smell was café through and through. Not quite caff; definitely café. Hidden away, almost out of sight, the polyglot kitchen burbles with a variety of accents and the universal language of sizzling fat.


Eggs, chips, bacon; if it can be fried, it is. Elsewhere, a vast cauldron hides not eye-of-newt but Heinz baked beans. They are cheap, and thus are served in vast quantities, unlike the pricey meat, which is served more stingily. It is here that the magic is performed; numbers, taken from the till on a small piece of paper are fed into these grills, fryers and vats, and turned into food.

"Seexty-airt? Seexty-airt! Seexty-"

One of the kitchen staff is serving is this one. With my non-linguist ears, I can define the accent only as Mediterranean. This is the supreme creation of the kitchen; sixty-eight is revealed to be a full English breakfast - eggsbaconsausagetoastbeansmushroomsmarmalade. The lot. Splurged onto a plate, with small regard for presentation, ready to be torn into, the yolk and tomato sauce merging, everything falling into an emulsion in the base of the plate. Succulent. Sizzling. Crisp. Hangover-quenching, hunger-quashing... high-quality? Good enough. Good enough to eat, wolf down, pausing only for tea and the Times. And then off again to put the world to rights.

"Sixty-NINE! SIXTY-nine! Sixty-nine? SIX-"

Sixty-nine is downstairs. The basement. Where families hide from the upstairs bustle, where you go when the upstairs is full of tourists. Where the toilets are. I try to avoid downstairs; the natural light up here is far nicer.

The clientele is as varied as the staff. There are of course the tourists, looking for somewhere cheap to eat. This, as they say, will do. Their command of English varies, but sausageeggandchips seems to be a universally understood combination. Then there are the students, hung over, or just-woken, seeking breakfast at two in the afternoon. There are, pause to shudder, the regulars. And then the rest.

The four girls, a production team for some production, feminists all, no doubt, discussing costumes and logistics and lighting gantries and rehearsal rooms and doesntthesetalreadyhaveapianoinit and surelysarahcandoitwhenshegetsthere and butfridayisfartooearly. Tea, egg and chips (vegetarians), scarves, and multicoloured woollen pullovers and skirts. Alternative to a tee.

Over here is the guy with the notepad. Journalist? Writer? Crossword fanatic? The newspaper and two cups of coffee (to save repeated journeys to the distant till) alone keep him going. Murmurings, mutterings; he does not speak, but mouths the words as he comes up with them. They are not all written down; only the most important are noted. The rest will return in time.

"Seh-van-tee! Seh-van-tee! Seh-va-"

The most interesting are the nearest. Son, clearly. Father? Mother or Stepmother? Unclear. This is no family outing. The distance across the table is not three feet, it is leagues; the vacant, put-on expressions are the two opposite sides of a vast canyon, Wile E Coyote dangling over the precipice. This a designated place, a place specified for meeting; not a place arrived at out of choice. They talk as if they are passing through; when they leave, he will turn left, they right, and it will be weeks before they meet again. How school is. What he wants for Christmas. When theyŐll meet again. The emotions almost come, reaching out across the gap, grasping, hoping to link hands, but they never will.

The waitress comes over. She speaks with familiarity, making her own arrangements. Not an acquaintance, not regulars; ah! - she is the sister. The brother on one side of the till, the sister the other, the grown-ups miles away. It makes no sense to a casual observer. ItŐs probably all very simple, but the possibilities for fiction are endless. I must write this down, I say. The numbers of possible stories swell. How many times have I been here? What things have I seen? What meals have I eaten? There is so much to say, much of it worthless. But today is worth writing about. Today has potential. Today, the numbers are up. They steadily tick over as the days pass, repeatedly taken to that magical kitchen where they turn into fried goods and warm quiches. Cryptic little digits. Our desire, reduced to figures on paper. All we are. I look at the faces again, the faces, the numbers, the numbers that are all there is. No! I am not a number!



Write for Upsideclone

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Upsideclown is an evil cartel of seven who only write in a certain style on certain days of the week, and refuse to expand. Fah, say we! Upsideclone (this site, incase you hadn't noticed) serves to subvert the name of clown and to bring others into the fold.

If you've read Upsideclown and old articles here, you get the idea. Submissions are always welcome: We operate a strictly hands-off editorial approach (we won't even correct your spelling). Once submitted, your article goes to the vote by the seven clowns. A majority, and you're in the queue for Friday publications. Go on -- And if you want to know more, hints or clarifications: come ask us in talk.


Clare Maguire > 6dec2002 > The Face of The Future
Simon Batistoni > 15nov2002 > Ghost
Kelly Bean > 8nov2002 > The Program
Anonymous > 1nov2002 > Winning the Lottery
Ned > 25oct2002 > Calibre
Tom Massey > 4oct2002 > Roses
Simon Batistoni > 27sep2002 > Message Centre
Riana > 20sep2002 > Value Added
Giles Turnbull > 13sep2002 > A lab technician's lot
Kevan Davis > 6sep2002 > The Campaign for Real Advertising
Giles Turnbull > 30aug2002 > The old lady and the whelk
KTL > 23aug2002 > Feet
Sandy Tulloch > 16aug2002 > How the people came to stop thinking
RavenBlack > 9aug2002 > An Arm And A Leg
Nicholas Wilshere > 19jul2002 > Two full-page ads
Dustin Ruby > 12jul2002 > Family Life
Matt Jones > 14jun2002 > The end of history
Cathrine > 7jun2002 > The Eye of the Beholder
Nick > 31may2002 > I wanna shake your hand
RavenBlack > 24may2002 > Precognito Ergo Sum
Ned > 10may2002 > Spambot
Tyrethali > 26apr2002 > The Contest
Holly Gramazio > 19apr2002 > A Tale of No Watermelons
Brooke Magnanti > 12apr2002 > What The Dead Remember
Tyrethali > 5apr2002 > Superego
RavenBlack > 29mar2002 > Black Rain
james > 22mar2002 > The Atom Thief
RavenBlack > 15mar2002 > Soul Trap
matzu > 8mar2002 > Angry Elton
RavenBlack > 1mar2002 > Hell Is Other People
JT Bruce > 22feb2002 > Door Ajar
matzu > 15feb2002 > Send in the clones
Kevan Davis > 8feb2002 > Litter
RavenBlack > 1feb2002 > The Perfect Job
Tyrethali > 25jan2002 > Mystery
Giles Turnbull > 11jan2002 > The Twisted World of Advertising
Tom Armitage > 21dec2001 > Numbers
Sandy Tulloch > 14dec2001 > Killing Cats
Brooke Magnanti > 7dec2001 > The Jet Set
Giles Turnbull > 30nov2001 > Driftwood
james > 23nov2001 > with you in mind
RavenBlack > 16nov2001 > UpsideClones
Kevan Davis > 9nov2001 > Do Not Stand Forward Of This Notice
Giles Turnbull > 2nov2001 > Group Effort
Kevan Davis > 26oct2001 > Ask The Audience
RavenBlack > 19oct2001 > Don't You Just Hate Stupid People
Martin Griffiths > 12oct2001 > Your Nearest McDonalds...
RavenBlack > 5oct2001 > Life's a bureaucracy, and then you die
Kevan Davis > 28sep2001 > Work To Win
Tom Armitage > 21sep2001 > Don't Book it - Thomas Cook it.
Giles Turnbull > 14sep2001 > What happened to George
RavenBlack > 7sep2001 > Mental States
Kevan Davis > 31aug2001 > Walking Distance
Stuart and Jack > 24aug2001 > dialogue
Kevan Davis > 17aug2001 > Collector's Item

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