Whatever happens next, let's keep the cafes open.
No it's not because I need a long black on the daily. I seem to remember I went the whole last lockdown without one. Cafes are essential services, but for many more reasons than the coffee.
Just ask a real estate agent. Having a good cafe nearby is one of the markers of a decent place to live. Cafes are places to go when you want a break, when you want to meet friends, take a meeting, do some work but not at your own desk.
They're where you can go for a chance encounter, with a friend or with a stranger. The little something to give your morning a bump, and you can make it as brief as hi and goodbye, please and thank you, or you can have an actual chat. Your choice.
You also get coffee, tea, baked treats. Quite remarkable inventions, cafes. Their promise – if they're any good – is that in return for a little of your money they will do their best to let you be in your happy place.
Cafes are a mental health service. They make us better people. Some even still have a newspaper you can read. Should be compulsory for all, of course.
Has it always been thus? In the beginning, cafes were hotbeds of subversion. In 15th century Mecca and then in the Ottoman Empire, men came together to complain about the state of the world, play chess and hopscotch, and be harangued by preachers and storytellers.
In 17th and 18th century London, at a time when you could be hung, drawn and quartered just for making counterfeit money or calling for Irish independence, the same traditions, sans hopscotch, continued. Coffee houses were the place where all the best arguments happened.
Although not everyone thinks so. In the mid-20th century the English writer Rose Macaulay proposed a revisionist history: in her view they were commercial enterprises preying on the pretentious, extorting money from the type of lazy poseur who imagines himself a great thinker, philosopher or politician.
Thank goodness that all died out before the present age.
Rather more benignly, Macaulay also noted: "Young law students would arrive at their coffee house, newspapers in hand, and saunter away their time, admiring one another's get-ups."
Thank goodness we don't have to put up with that, either. Eh?
And now what? Can the cafe in level 3 still provide us with peace of mind, social stimulation, our caffeinated community kicks? Let's say yes, even if it's only sort-of yes.
Hooray for click-and-collect takeaways. We can still walk to the cafe, socially distanced and all masked up, and get at least some of the good stuff a cafe ordinarily offers. Chat to friends, wave to neighbours, nod to strangers.
We can even admire one another's masks while we're at it.
Turn nodding acquaintances into chatty friends. Because this is life, now, or it might be, for the on-and-off foreseeable. Being friendly is the new being kind, or it could be: a sharing thing, a handful of happiness, for the good of us all.
I know, it's hard to smile behind a mask. Anyone want to invent a new handsign?
If there really is no easy end to lockdown and the threat of it, this is part of what we need to do: find ways to reconstruct how we live. If cafes can stay open, in town and in the suburbs, at least for takeaways, made safe while keeping them good, it'll help.
Well, it could.
It won't be easy. Congregating, for short periods of time at the local, at 2m distances or even more, in masks, while we wait for our flat whites and long blacks: it carries some risk, and not just from Covid-laden droplets and aerosols.
Cafes are hotbeds of subversion, remember? What if conspiracy theorists stake them out, preaching their feverish fears to the rest of us innocents?
Concerned citizens just presenting some interesting facts, as Gerry Brownlee said, interestingly, this week.
Well, he did it without any help from cafes. Nowadays there are apparently many tens of people quite happy to remain in their tinfoil-lined bedrooms, firing off conspiratorial and abusive comments all day long about their dear "Queen Cindy" and the ruin she's wreaking on the world.
Cafes, where we can greet each other, from a nice safe distance, with hellos and our new handsign smiles, are a way to fight back. Declare the world still safe for sanity. Be in this together. And, you know, get a decent coffee.