I’ve come to dread working in London. Maybe I’ve fallen in love with the real England -‘London is not England’, right? – or maybe I’ve gotten used to the Southwest trains packed with the high earners reading 50 Shades discreetly on their kindle, or maybe I’ve allowed comfort to be my deadlock for far too long.
Today I had some time to kill between two probation interviews. Apparently, there was a cafe just round the corner, but no one warned me what exactly I was going to find behind that corner…
Well, if you think you’re going to find a Costa, Starbucks or Cafe Nero in the grim heart of Willesden, you’re dreaming. If you think you’ll find a place to warm up and expect not to emerge reeking of garlic and fried goat, you’re dreaming again. And why would you bother with a hot beverage and a croissant when you can have freshly baked naan, hot from the stove, at ten in the morning? You know, because kebab is just the thing you fancy with your coffee.
All I wanted was a place to sit and much on a banana and a piece of rye bread whilst reading about the principles of criminal liability, but instead I found myself staring at a modest Afghan bakery. Me and the man behind the counter observed each other in silence for a moment. I was the first to move, walking back through the monotonous December drizzle.
When I returned he had vanished in the secret room out back. Without him, the shop looked somehow ghostly, like a walking suit from where the person is missing.
I ended up in a diner, writing this at a ketchup stained table, while the solitary builders watched me between mouthfuls of crispy bacon. The girl at the bar was Romanian, though I didn’t tell her that I knew. The community is too large now to pretend we have any connection with each other. And the coffee was the worst I’ve ever tried – INSTANT- every coffee snob understands that.
I snapped a few photos and returned to the office, where the atmosphere was charged with tension, made worse by the fact that the water supply had finished.
I returned to my seat with the sickening aftertaste of sugar in my mouth. In Willesden, you’d better watch the coffee lords. They sneak sugar in your coffee before you can say ‘I like it black.’