APPARENTLY the coffee bar culture is replacing pubs as our traditional meeting places. It’s sad, but I’m as guilty as anyone else.

When Mr F and I went to ‘see the world’, our family and friends complained that most of our emails and postcards – from Madeira to Mumbai – were about where we’d had coffees.

Nearer to home I’ve managed to drop in to two new (well, new to me) coffee bars, Maison de Soleil in Ickenham and The Coffee Lounge at Hillingdon Circus. Both were seemingly doing a good trade but still managed to be comfortable, relaxing places with a friendly buzz.

But in Uxbridge something is happening which I think is embarrassing and unfair to staff and prospective employees. It is when coffee bars are used as office annexes.

I’ve no problem with Wifi use – very useful for reporters and others on the move – and I applaud any budding JK Rowling who is trying to write the next blockbuster over a cappuccino. Also, I concede that meeting contacts out of the office has big advantages. Work colleagues won’t be interrupted by any ‘look at me, I’m networking’ displays, and there’s no danger of being chided (or worse) by an irate boss.

This would be particularly embarrassing if your contact had thought you were the boss.

So, what is my grouch? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Often, while sitting happily with an Americano, I realise that next to me some poor soul is being interviewed for a job and I become party to all their ‘previous’.

On one occasion I couldn’t decide whether a candidate’s confession, of being on a reality show, was a triumph or a tribulation.

It’s all wrong. Suddenly I am judging them too.

Worse was another occasion when someone was having a work appraisal. The battered victim was trying to look upbeat about how he would make amends for his poor qualities. I was surprised he didn’t come and apologise to us all individually for his lacklustre performance.

A coffee bar is not the place for all this, surely? Even a broom cupboard or a toilet would be preferable.

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