IT might not be Shakespeare but the verbal comings and goings of one Oxford cafe inspired an amateur historian to put pen to paper.

Computer programmer Jocelyn Ireson-Paine jotted down the conversations between the characters at the Excelsior cafe in Cowley Road.

He has now collated the snippets of everday life, recorded between 1999 and 2004, in The Excelsior Dialogues.

Mr Ireson-Paine, from Summertown, said: “The Excelsior is a special place and I used to go there every day for a cup of coffee.

“I didn’t tell anyone in the cafe that I was writing down their conversations but people could see what I was doing and I think they suspected something.

“I changed all the names to protect people’s identities but I think the conversations are quite revealing.

“Some of the people who go there have mental health problems and the cafe is somewhere they can go and relax.”

He said: “I used to call in every day but I stopped going there so much after I stopped drinking coffee.”

The cafe is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and the booklet, being sold for £4 at East Oxford farmers’ market, has won the seal of approval from owner Andrew Koumi, 77.

Mr Koumi said: “I didn’t know Mr Ireson-Paine had written a booklet about us – I think it’s an interesting idea and a nice tribute. I wouldn’t have a problem with him trying to sell it here.

“I’m sure customers wouldn’t be too bothered about him recording their conversations.”

He said: “It’s true that some of our customers have problems and they come here to try to escape for a while.

“Sometimes we let customers run up tabs but then we get a little fed up with it.

“We try to listen to people when they tell us their problems. It’s something we have been doing here year after year.”

When the Excelsior opened a cooked breakfast cost a few shillings and now costs £6 but the decor inside remains virtually unchanged.

Chef Rick Stein was a regular visitor in the 1960s when he was a student and the cafe’s moussaka was his favourite dish.

The farmers’ market is held every Saturday from 10am to 1pm at East Oxford Primary School, off Cowley Road.

LIVES OF OTHERS K: My customers, no-one wants them. They can’t afford to go anywhere else. They go elsewhere, they get chased off.

A: Yes, you are a saint. Not dead yet. In charge of sinners.

A: Kostas, I got some bad news for you.

K: Bad news? Good. What is it?

A: I left my money in my jeans and I’m wearing my tracksuit bottoms. I can’t afford the food.

A Sonia Ghandi doesn’t speak the language. How would you feel if Greece were ruled by a Turk? Anyway, I was born in Coventry, I’m from the Midlands.