Stella Hervey Birrell : Coffee Shops

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Coffee Shops

(with apologies to Hollie McNish)


I’m listening to the radio

and a man asks a woman how she feels about coffee shops,

because she’s just had a child

so she’ll be in coffee shops all the time now, won’t she?

With her mum friends?


In response

she owns him.

Slays him, by replying:

‘I’m back at work like you!’

And that has to be true

because she’s on the radio

owning this guy

with his preconceived notions

of what motherhood is like (easy),

and what women are like (lazy),

and what coffee shops are like (full of easy, lazy woman and their babies).


But he can’t leave it.

It’s like he can’t let her tell the truth.

She must be in coffee shops.

She’s got a new baby, right?


So he goes back to her and he says

‘You told me, before the show, when we

sipped tea in the Green Room,

that you were in coffee shops

with your friends from the NCT.’


And the audience is loving it,

because now a woman is being owned. Slayed.

But I’m disappointed.

You could’ve left it.


You could’ve left it,

you could’ve let her be right:

about how hard it is having a baby

and being freelance

and everyone expecting you to go back to work straight away.


Women that want to go back to work

being made to feel guilty,

Men ripped from their new families after two poxy weeks

and put back to work, feeling guilty.


I bet you were embarrassed,

but you didn’t have to rise to it.

We get enough judgement.

We get owned enough.

We get slayed enough.

We don’t need people referring back

to conversations in the Green Room

to make their point.


And while I’m on the subject –

just to clarify,

it’s not fun to go to a coffee shop

with a new baby.

They cry

and they need changing

and you’re exhausted

but you’re lonely

and you want to see people

who are going through the same thing.

It keeps you sane.

So you go to the coffee shop,

and you’ll get half a conversation.

Maybe less.

But the perception is that we’re

all sitting about in coffee shops all day


You could’ve left it, mate.

We get enough of all that.



Stella Hervey Birrell is a writer and poet living in East Lothian, Scotland with her two children.  'Coffee Shops' is a light hearted take on how furious she can feel while listening to Radio 4.

Stella's work has been featured in numerous blogs and journals including The Dangerous Women Project, The Ogilive and The Scottish Book Trust's Nourish Project.  Stella's debut novel 'How Many Wrongs Make a Mr Right?' was published in 2016 by Crooked Cat Books and in 2017 she won the Glasgow Women's Library 'Bold Types Poetry Competition'. 

'How Many Wrongs Make a Mr Right?' is available to purchase Amazon here and you can read more of Stella's wonderful work on her blog