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I had some free time while travelling between places of work recently so I did one of my favourite things to do: coffee. Not knowing Cupar I parked in a random street in the town center and went for a wander. The Lighthouse caught my eye with its simple yet welcoming (and big) sign.

Inside I found an amazing bookshop, very well stocked, although I didn’t have time to browse – and the self-control as I would have bought something!

Go through the bookstore and you find what I think must be the second smallest café in the world, narrowly losing out toThe Bridge Coffee Shop, on Pultney Bridge in Bath. There are six tables, all of which were full when I arrived. But it became clear that this is a place that if you are alone you do not necessarily expect to sit by yourself: it is perfectly acceptable to sit at a table with strangers.

This is probably the thing that impressed me most. The community spirit within this humble coffee shop was incredible. I sat opposite an elderly couple and became friends with them within moments. Getting to know complete strangers is not a very British thing. So sitting so close to other customers provided a certain intimacy that I found both strange and wonderful. It afforded the opportunity to converse with others completely different to myself, bonded by a shared experience. This is an experience unique to Lighthouse. The Elephant House, Edinburgh, for example, has a few large tables which can and are shared by others, but they’re big enough that you don’t actually have to engage with anyone else.

But this doesn’t come from nowhere. Communities at made of people in relationships. These relationships need to be worked at, and what I saw from the manager and staff were people who lived people. Interacting with energy for everyone walking through the door. The shop has been there for 26 years, so it’s an established place. According to the manager, it is also a place of safety for many – for example pensioners who forget what they can’t eat but know that the lighthouse will give them their favourite. I sense that they don’t try to provide this,, but do so naturally as an outpouring of their genuine love for their customers.

(and, it is run by all the churches in Cupar. People who say that churches cannot see beyond their differences are quite frankly wrong).

I need to go back to try more food! All I know is that my egg roll was delicious and well priced – and done to my taste: where a restaurant asks how you like your steak, lighthouse asks how funny you like your yolk. A basic thing, maybe, but another touch of humanity. My mocha was rich and chocolatey. It also was served in a glass mug on a china saucer: a good metaphor for the lighthouse – a modern coffee shop with ancient values, proved by time as trustworthy.

with munchies, Ewan

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