Story Starter: Hot Chocolate

A nice cup of hot chocolate Photo: Shirley Blair

A lovely mug of hot chocolate! But the dainty mug with saucer tells you this was taken in a terribly genteel establishment.

It was a very traditional Konditorei and coffee house, Cafe Reichard, in Cologne, practically in the shadow of the magnificent Kolner Dom. And I could imagine the clientele have been going there for years and years. The waitresses wore white aprons and bustled back and forth bearing plates of cream cakes. Have you seen German cream cakes? They don’t do things by halves over there, I can tell you.

The poinsettia on the table tells you we were there in December. I remember one gentleman with his cake and his glass of wine and his newspaper, looking like he was set for the afternoon. Well, it was cold outside; why not?

We were tourists, obviously, and looked the part with our backpacks. No maps. We’ve been there lots of times and know our way around, but others around us were browsing their maps and guidebooks, cameras on the tables.

Our table was facing a window which looked out on a hut selling Christmas trees – excited families gathering to choose and have it wrapped in net, and then manhandle it away.

I’m placing this in a Christmas context for you to repeat something that Helen Yendall said on Twitter this week: to note down your Christmas ideas now while you’re in the mood. You won’t remember this feeling in July!

But this doesn’t have to be a Christmassy story. Another one of my writers is in Australia just now, where spring is springing and the temperature’s rising, and has sent me pictures of her cream teas! So if I can borrow the Dogs’ Trusts excellent slogan, hot chocolate’s not just for Christmas…

Does any of that begin to coalesce into a story idea? The usual request: 2000 or 3000 words, please.

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