Pirates of the Iron Road

(It is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I am so sorry).

I think I may have mentioned, on occasion, that when stressy, I lose the off-switch for my brain and develop insomnia (fret me not with your counsel, I have been like this since I was six weeks old and frankly, the only thing that really works is not getting stressed in the first place). So, currently, I am not sleeping. To sleep, at this time, I need perfect warmth, perfect stillness, perfect pyjamas and perfect darkness. As the bed partner has developed a cold (another cold! What in hell do they feed him at work?), I am faced with the idiotic choice between staying in the warm comfortable bed thinking: ‘Stop coughing. Stop coughing. Stop – oh, he’s stopped. Now his nose is whistling. Wake up. Wake up. Now roll over. Oh, dammit, now he’s coughing again. Oh God, he’s snoring. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it,’ ad infinitum, or moving to the spare room and thinking ‘This bed is too hard. I’m cold. I need the loo. This bed is really hard. Why’s it so quiet? I need the loo. It’s cold,’ ad infinitum.

I could always get up and read, but that rather defeats the object of being a hard-core whiner, don’t you think?

Anyway, two nights of that, and approximately three hours sleep, no, not per night, but in toto, yes, I know, not good, and no I did not fall down in a deep sleep smack in the middle of the lunch queue but believe me I wanted to, what was I talking about? [One moment please. I must just reach over there and slap her awake - Ed].

Ah yes. this morning, the one thing hauling me onwards through all the vagaries of commuting (what is it with trains? Why do they not turn up? Why do they not turn up when you’re tired? Are they allergic to yawning?) was the thought of AMT, the Best Little Coffee Stand in London. Organic milk, Fairtrade coffee, giant squishy pretzels, a scary fresh orange squeezer, and the smiliest staff. Smiley staff. On a Wednesday morning. With nothing to look at but a bazillion snarly commuters and pigeon-spattered paving. Oh, how I love that coffee stall. It can power me all the way to nearly lunch-time. Oh yes. And it’s right next to Boots, so I can top up on Rennies and aspirin while I’m at it. Ahhh, drugs.

The coffee stand is gone.

There is a square, rusty shadow on the pavement. There is no coffee stand.

Now, I knew their contract with Network Rail was up for renewal. I vaguely knew that they had been out-bid by Caffé Nero, who, while not actively sucking (Costa, I’m looking at you. Expensive and crap? I am so not transferring my loyalties), are not my lovely smiley 100% Fairtrade organic milk providers, and will not make me feel like a Good Person while I stagger woozily towards the buses.

What I did not know, is that AMT, thanks to Network Rail’s cheerfully rapacious decision-making, have now lost 40% of their retail outlets. That probably means that 40% of my amazingly smiley people, including Aziz, who was so polite and smiley he regularly made me almost tearful at the wonderful goodness of my fellow humans, have to find new jobs. I can only hope they have found new, better, jollier jobs. And I did not know that AMT were shafted by their own desire not to shaft us, their snarly commuters, by upping the coffee prices so they could out-bid Caffé Nero. See that link to Network Rail above? I linked it to their contacts page. I have already politely emailed them my displeasure. And now you can too, if you wish.

Oh, and not that this story was in the National news. Oh no. I found it on New Consumer, and Hippy Shopper. You did know that London is trying to achieve Fairtrade City status, didn’t you? Not very heart-warming, is it?

Fucking Pirates.

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6 Responses to Pirates of the Iron Road

  1. Aphra Behn says:


    The only thing that makes a trip to London bearable for me is the lure of the AMT Chai Steamer. I love AMT’s Chai Steamers. I would happily go on Station Crawls to drink AMT Chai Steamers. Nay, I would cheerfully go out of my way to drink AMT Chai Steamers.

    Bugger it.

    Thanks for the warning.

    Hope you get some sleep soon.



  2. Helen says:

    Oh man, I can’t sleep either! And for the same reason – my brain is buzzing. It’s so annoying, I lie there getting more and more stressed out – I can’t sleep! I’m going to be tired tomorrow! Then of course I can’t sleep and I’m tired the next day.

    I don’t like Caffe Nero because Kiko had this big allergic reaction in there when I was in UK last summer. Now I’m prejudiced against it for life. I’m very attached to Gloria Jean’s in Australia, I am addicted to their chai tea, if Gloria Jean’s vanished I would have massive withdrawal symptoms and be severely displeased.

  3. Charlotte says:

    Sorry about the demise of your lovely AMT and the lovely smily AMT employees. Big business, as you say, sucks. Sorry too about the no sleep thing. That also sucks.

    However I’m glad you wrote about it all, because in the middle of the woes there were laughs and that’s why I love your blog.

  4. Ed says:

    That’s really, really sad news.

    I should publish the rambling preprogrammed sermons I have heard from Starbucks/Nero employes about how, no, they don’t do a fairtrade latte as such, but they have great relationships with their farmers and it’s just as good, but by diferent criteria to the kitemark (or something more scatalogical which, interpreting generously, I think is meant to be to that effect). I have heard a decent young lady stumble over the lines while in her eyes you could see her despair as as Nero ate her soul from within, and I had an even more depressing encounter with an Edinburghian Starbucker who really believed it’s all just the same, innit? Yeah. We establish kitemarks for fun. They don’t mean anything, it’s just a Keynesian employment-for-the-sake-of-it strategy. I would have personally strangled an Ethiopian to escape that branch. I probably achieved as much by buying the coffee anyway.

    Costa offer Fairtrade if you pay more, and it’s not very good coffee. Not quite there yet, guys, although I’m very fond of the robust middle-aged Italian man at the Reading station Costa who takes the money and shouts “Avanti! Avanti!” at the younger lad who has to try to make coffee at the same rate the older guy works the till. It used to cheer up my commuter mornings no end. Maybe it will again someday, with AMT gone. Alas.

  5. Titania says:

    Ehhh…. surely not all the AMTs are gone?

    Provided their site is kept updated, there still seem to be several AMTs in London:


    Click on Locations and London Bar Locations

    And thanks for the tip – never tried AMT but will make sure to do so next time I visit London!

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