Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises, known in this country as Fiesta, was written, or at least I’d like to believe, in Parisian cafés and bars with its author, a voice of a Lost Generation, penning his acute post-wartime observations in a Moleskin Notebook. Similarly, I write this, with handwriting recognition software and an HP PocketPC, in a greasy spoon café at Barrow Railway Station. I’m in the glamorous North West, or at least for the next 37 minutes until my train arrives, on business and spending company money (so sue me – actually, please don’t) on breakfast.

It’s one of those cafés where if there were music playing rather than regional talk radio it would stop at my entrance. Nevertheless greasy spoons and heads dropped and turned as I walked in, holding a red leather briefcase in one hand and quickly unfastening a white flower brooch from my lapel with the other. During my brief stay in Barrow I’d met one other person of colour, who incidentally had been bottled when out the night before. (And by bottled I don’t mean scooped up lovingly and packaged for consumption.)

I felt eyes on my back as I walked to the counter and, holding a Microsoft Publisher produced menu, asked for a Big Breakfast.

“American?” The lady asked.

“Um…I spent a year in California.” I replied, wondering what she meant.

“Er no,” she sighed. “Do you want Black Pudding with that or sausage?”

“Oh right! American then.” I laughed. “I assume the sausage is American.” Then, realising that I sounded completely stupid, and as though I expected imported sausage, stopped talking, settled the bill and thought twice about asking for a Grande Café Mocha.