Pity the poor customers of Harris + Hoole, a new coffee chain, who discovered that Tesco has a 49 per cent stake in what they thought was an ‘independent’ business. One such customer told the Guardian that she felt ‘upset’ and ‘duped’, since she would never dream of patronising Tesco itself. In one way this just demonstrates the omnivorous ingenuity of capital in appropriating and selling back to us what looked like a challenge to it. The ‘independence’ of an ‘independent coffee shop’ is now quite likely to be a corporate simulacrum. The manager of Harris + Hoole’s Crouch End branch is reported to have said that head office ‘had instructed her to make the store feel as independent as possible’, which is perhaps only superficially a paradox. ‘We try to be independent,’ she said. ‘We want to be independent. We want to have that feel.’
Moving on from arsenic, we come to cyanide. Is that a kind of maturity? Like going from cheesy triangles to morbiers? What I know about cyanide comes from Agatha Christie or somesuch and is, in totality: smells like bitter almonds. So, you think, why would anyone drink it in their coffee without first wondering if their nearest and dearest were trying to kill them. Answer: because almost certainly Starbucks has an almond syrup latte that has breathed new life into the wife-poisoning industry. Then again people are always knocking back cyanide in their champagne in Christie without complaint, until their hand flies to their throat, their face contorts into a hideous mask and they fall writhing and then lifeless to the ground. Miss Marple and M. Poirot only have to bend their heads down to the lips of the corpse to get a whiff of almonds and know exactly how, why and who done the deed. I suggest you just say no if your beverage smells of bitter almonds.