Good Morning! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for We Have Lost the Coffee by Paul Mathews.
Today, I have an extract from the first chapter of the book for your reading pleasure, but first, let’s check out a blurb of We Have Lost the Coffee!
London, 2045. Three months into the Coffee Wars and Britain’s caffeine supplies are at critical levels. Brits are drinking even more tea than usual, keeping a stiff upper lip and praying for an end to it all.
A secret government coffee stockpile promises to save the day … but then mysteriously disappears overnight.
One man is asked to unravel the missing-coffee mystery. Hs name is Pond. Howie Pond. And he’s in desperate need of a triple espresso. Meanwhile, his journalist wife, Britt, is hunting royal fugitive, Emma Windsor, on the streets of the capital.
Can Howie save the British Republic from caffeine-starved chaos? Will the runaway royal be found? And just what will desperate coffee drinkers do for their caffeine fix? Find out, in Paul Mathews’ latest comedy adventure set in the Britain of the future …
If this intrigues you, keep reading for an extract and for a bit about the author!
Howie sank into his synth-leather office chair, shoved a pile of newspapers to one side, and slapped a white plastic cup on his desk. As steam rose from the small opening in the top of the cup, the faint aroma of coffee entered his nostrils. Except that it wasn’t coffee. At least, not coffee as he knew it. The last real cup of coffee had been served in the Buckingham Palace canteen last week. And now he and all the other civil servants who spent Mondays to Fridays toiling away in this building for the good of the British Republic were being expected to jumpstart their days with something called ‘pseudo-caf’. It was a dumb name, Howie thought. Probably dreamt up by some hyperactive marketing trainee fresh out of college who’d never had to consume any kind of workplace stimulant in their life. And the adverts the marketeers had devised were even more annoying than the name of the product they were promoting. The thirty-second commercials had been popping up on Howie’s digi-screen all weekend, with bold promises that coffee drinkers would ‘be surprised’. But Howie didn’t want to be surprised. It was 9.00am on a Monday morning at the end of one of the toughest months in the British Republic’s sixteen-year history. He wanted the same thing he’d always wanted at the start of his working week: to jolt his body into first gear with a massive caffeine injection. This would allow him to gradually move up the gears, until his unread e-comms were only in the low hundreds. Then he could refuel at lunchtime with a pie and a pint at the Two Chairmen pub in St James’ Park. And, on his return, he would ease off the accelerator by immersing himself in the day’s press coverage, delegating journalist enquiries to his press officers, and generally making himself look busy so no one would disturb him. Yes, that was how he liked to start his working week in Westminster. But there was just one small problem with his Monday masterplan. Pseudo-caf, as its name suggested, contained no actual caffeine – just a low-grade substitute. So there was only one thing that this cheap and miserable excuse for a morning beverage was guaranteed to stimulate – a massive sense of disappointment.
As Howie picked up the cup, all the espressos, mochas and cappuccinos that had stood on his desk over the last fifteen years flashed before his eyes. He realised now that he hadn’t fully appreciated them at the time. Back then, they’d been just another part of his working day. But now they were gone, they were all he could think about. He was filled with a sickening sense of guilt when he remembered how one or two of them had sat there, going cold, and had eventually ended up being tossed in the rubbish. Then an idea came to him. Perhaps there was still a discarded coffee cup round here from last week, with traces of real coffee clinging to the bottom? Just a few drops of the real stuff might kick-start his system. But he quickly jettisoned that idea. He wasn’t that desperate. Not yet. Though he might review the situation in ten minutes’ time.
Howie reached out his right hand, picked up the plastic cup and brought it to his nose. It no longer smelt of coffee, so the chances of it tasting anything remotely like it were practically zero by now. But he’d paid ten pounds for it, so he should at least try some. He muttered a quick prayer to the caffeine gods and then jerked the cup back to his lips. A brown sludge hit his tongue like a hilltop mudslide. Before he had time to react, a cocktail of chemicals smothered his taste buds and instantly made him want to vomit. He somehow managed to slap a hand across his mouth, massage his throat and force it down. Once he was sure his mouth was sludge-free, he grimaced and released the kind of lingering groan usually only expressed by newly disturbed corpses.
Once the urge to be sick finally subsided, he stood up and marched to the waste disposal area in the corridor outside. While he was deciding which of the twenty-four different metal plates to place the cup on, a booming Irish voice interrupted his thoughts. It belonged to his chief press officer, Conor O’Brean.
‘I see you’ve already experienced the delights of pseudo-caf, sir.’
‘That’s one way of putting it,’ replied Howie, dropping the cup onto a random waste disposal plate. A hole opened up and the cup disappeared down a chute with an impressive whooshing sound.
‘I managed to drink half a cup of it by holding my nose. But I don’t feel stimulated in the slightest.’ Conor put his hand against the wall for support. ‘When do you think this coffee chaos is going to end, sir?’
‘It depends on how long these Coffee Wars drag on. Though with that idiot Ruffle in charge of global trade negotiations, I don’t hold out much hope for a swift resolution.’
Conor fumbled with his emerald-green tie. ‘You know me, sir. I never like to say a bad word about our esteemed political colleagues. But, in Vice President Ruffle’s case, I’ll make an exception.’ He took a step nearer to Howie and lowered his voice. ‘You know, I caught him stealing one of our doughnuts on his last visit to the press office.’
Howie took a moment to digest this shocking news. ‘You are joking?’
Conor shook his head. ‘Doughnut theft is no laughing matter, sir. He was as drunk as a prince, which is the only mitigating factor in his defence.’
About the Author:
Paul Mathews is a 40-something British guy who’s given up his 9-to-5 job in London to become a full-time comedy novelist. Why did he make this bold step? Well, he’d had enough of crazy managers and uncooperative printers. So one afternoon, after nearly 20 years working at the heart of the British Government, he shut down his computer, deleted all his emails and escaped the office – never to return. (Okay, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, but he is a fiction writer, so please cut him a little slack.)
His two decades working as a Government press officer gave him an invaluable insight into all the key elements of modern government: bureaucracy, bungling, buffoonery, buck-passing and other things that don’t begin with the letter ‘b’ – such as politicians with huge egos and very little talent. He’s now putting that knowledge to use by writing about a British Government of the future – where, believe it or not, the politicians are even bigger idiots than the current lot.
Before becoming a PR guy, he was an accountant. But he doesn’t like to talk about that. And going back further, he went to Cambridge University and studied philosophy. Despite thousands of hours of thoughtful contemplation, he still hasn’t worked out how that happened. The highlight of his university years was receiving a £300 travel grant to visit Prague and ‘study philosophy’. It was a trip which ignited his love of Eastern Europe where he spends a lot of time writing and drinking black beer.
Other interests include wearing sunglasses and having his photograph taken. Visit his website for more info on this (allegedly) humorous man: www.iamthe.website (less)
Be sure to check out the other stops on the We Have Lost the Coffee blog tour!