Last Saturday, we cycled to the Starbuck’s in Broadgate Square in the centre of Coventry. At one time in my life, I was so happy to have Starbuck’s around: pretty good coffee, reliably served. The shops were generally attractive, with comfy chairs. That’s not the way it is now in most outlets. The coffee is still reliable, though there are lots of independent shops doing better coffee. It’s partly the ubiquity of Starbuck’s—Coventry was late to the party, getting its first city location five or so years ago—and partly the bitter aftertaste of Starbuck’s tax dodging. Their shops often seem tired, less a respite and more a port of last resort.
I don’t boycott Starbuck’s though; I just consider my options and choose otherwise if I can. In the centre of Coventry, though, there aren’t many options, so we went there for latte and cappuccino. (I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to get a latte in Italy; in Tuscany, mostly the request confuses Italians. Latte is milk. Caffe con latte gets them on the right page, but we’ve been given a warm milk and a side of coffee there.)
Starbucks in Coventry isn’t a destination, but Broadgate Square is. Broadgate Square was created after the war out of the bombed-out centre of the city, and was renovated in 2012 with new paving and street furniture. It features two memorials to Lady Godiva, one a sculpture and the other a clock. The sculpture is a bit of post-war Victoriana, a naked woman on a horse, with a few lines from Tennyson’s poem “Godiva” (what else?):
Then she rode forth, clothed on with chastity:
The deep air listen’d round her as she rode,
And all the low wind hardly breathed for fear.
Erected in 1949, it’s a cloying creation, a reminder of a city trying to cope with the devastation of the war, and looking for an identity apart from “the city that was blitzed in 1940”.
The other memorial is the 1950’s clock, which provides a bit of entertainment on the hour. The Lady rides through the square and Peeping Tom appears; it’s a bit kitch: a themed cuckoo clock, but great fun. On the hour, tourists and coffeeneurs gather in the square to catch the show. The original tower was weakened in the blitz, but the workings, which were famously accurate, were saved. It serves as a reminder of Coventry’s history as a centre of watch and clock making.
Saturday, 15 October, from home to coffee and then home again, 6.8 miles; cycling, good; the cappuccino and latte, good; Starbucks Coventry, ok.