Zappi’s Bike Shop

I leave Oxford in less than a week, and there is so much that I haven’t written about. Some of the experiences have been purposefully occluded. I know I won’t forget them, but I won’t share with the multitudes (i.e. the six people who read this who are thinking ‘what can she possibly be unwilling to share after debasing herself in her set of articles about why she shouldn’t ask people out?’ Well, there are some things I keep private-ish, I assure you. Although I’m generally bad at keeping my own secrets. Very good at keeping others’ – my own weigh me down.)

Mostly, though, my time writing has been spent on essays and fiction. I wish I’d utilized this place more. But regret is a pointless endeavour.

Instead, let me try to celebrate one of the places I’ve come to love best in the past few weeks. One of the friends I made here at Oxford – though I met him a long time ago, through strange other circumstances – introduced me to this place, Zappi’s Bike Shop.

The name is on the tin. It’s a bike shop, first and foremost, but the top floor is a fantastic cafe. The three women and three men who work behind the counter are all incredibly nice, each in their own ways. I’ve become a bit of a staple, a regular, and I know I’m not the only one. There are many faces here that I recognize, almost as well as I recognize the biking posters – vintage ones, framed, or newer ones taped up – and the framed t-shirts.

Once in a while, usually on the weekends, a big team of cyclists will come in, smelling of swear and rubber and wet hair. They’ll chatter loudly and clog up the space and wait patiently at the counter as, one by one, they’ll order food and drinks to replenish their energy. They’re all incredibly wiry, many of them in their forties and fifties, and all look incredibly refreshed from what has either been a race or a very intense practice. I never know.

The other kind of clientèle that fills the wooden tables, benches, chairs and stools (usually packed and shared by strangers because of the limited space) is the hipster variety. For some reason, although there can be no doubt of this cafe’s success, it is the kind of place people want to think of as a bit obscure, a bit hidden away, a bit private. Maybe the intimacy, stuck up on the second floor away from the general touristy public, helps keep it to the locals. Whatever it is, it’s not surprising to find men and women dressed androgynously here, black jeans and beanies, or stylish suits with patterned shirts and socks showing, or dresses from vintage stores that used to belong to our grandmother’s dowdy sisters. It’s a great place to people-watch.

Now that Oxford’s final term of the year is over, the place is much emptier. It’s often full of students doing their work, and some tutors, grading their students’ essays. The buzz rises and falls as the general rate of concentration changes.

One of the big pluses was that they never had wifi here. It was a good boost to concentration, since it meant less distractions. Until today. Today the wifi works. And thus, a procrastination post was born.

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