Stirring tale from one for whom coffee is so much more than a bit of froth

I pick up the phone and call an old friend who, until a few weeks ago, had a similar working life to mine; one might call it a portfolio career, but in reality, it’s a matter of dabbling in a variety of endeavours to earn a living. In his case, a Starbuck; he is a coffee devotee, and during our conversation, a sad story came to light about him being robbed of his takeaway latte by an overbearing concierge as he entered a swanky office building for a meeting. To be honest, he stated, I could have cried, to which you might respond, well, then, cry me a river.

Except that the latte was a token of creature comfort and normalcy, a treat to sustain him on a whistlestop trip to London, where he normally resides but has been largely absent in recent months. Nowadays, he is most frequently found volunteering in Jaroslaw, Poland, for a newly founded charity called Poland Welcomes, whose mission is to provide shelter and basic necessities to Ukrainian women and children who have been forced to flee their homes. They had 500 guests at the last count, spread across a series of hastily adapted sites; they’re attempting to scale up to 2,000.

For a time, he appeared to be in charge of laundry – as he points out, when people arrive with only the clothes on their backs, a large number of washers and dryers are required – and now he’s added knocking on the doors of organisations seeking funding.

Each time he calls, I am taken aback. He is an everyday friend who does everyday things (plus ice-skating, which is not ordinary but at which he is irritatingly good). I’m never sure what to ask him other than how things are going and what I can send. As a result, I enquire about the coffee. He sends a photo of a collapsible, portable filter that he carries with him wherever he goes, but adds rather dejectedly that he cannot fit a frother in his luggage.

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