I'll admit it, I was getting a little tired of the rush and bustle, the concrete and the mess. Then I took a little break away carting the Mindapples tree round to festivals (more shortly) and came back home to find my local shops boarded, windows broken, fires being started. Hmm. Didn't help my urges to jack in city living and join the circus...
Then something special happened and I remembered why I love it here, and why it's still home.
Incident 1: Passing Clouds, Dalston.
Passing Clouds is an artist / musician owned venue in east London and Saturday night was a glorious 8 piece African drumming band which I went to with a friend from FARM:shop that I started volunteering at this time last year. We had our faces painted by some lovely ladies wearing head-dresses made from recycled plastic bags and danced til we dropped with new friends.
It's also home to the People's Kitchen on a Sunday - food by the people, for the people - using food surplus that would otherwise go to waste. Turn up from 3pm and help chop, peel and wash. Or come for a communal dinner and film in the early evening (for a donation.) Last time I was there I was so bowled over by the feast I forgot to take photos! So you'll have to do with the one I found above. We had soup and bread, salad and veg stew, fruit and yogurt, banana milkshakes, plus an amazing plum crumble from a mirabelle glut over in the park. SCRUMMY!
Incident 2: Bethnal Green Superstore
THis is my local mini-mart on Bethnal Green road and I've been shopping there for 7 years. Hassan let me walk out with £15 of shopping when I forgot my wallet once. I went last week to check his shop was ok in the riots and he was one of only two still open in the evening. And we had a giggle on Saturday when I did my shopping at 3am on the way back from Passing Clouds still covered in swirly blue face paint.
Incident 3: Love in a Cup
So then to Sunday. I went to the FARM:shop to help at Grow Sunday, then cycled back home via Broadway Market and bumped into Christian from East London Furniture, and met Cash from Love in a Cup. This morning I popped in on my way to Mindapples HQ in town to say hi. Not only can I highly recommend the special with a curl of orange peel (which makes a flat white taste like a chocolate orange - YUM!) but the guy is a one man community making machine. He'll remember your name, your favourite coffee and your last conversation. I was there for less than 15 mins before 3 regulars dropped in to say hi and chat. "Hey Dom, double flat white with brown sugar? And did you find something for your mother's birthday present?"
And here's my point (finally!). London feels like home when you know people's names. When you walk or cycle the streets and stop to say hi. When you can join the dots. I've read 'Watching the English' by Kate Fox recently, and got rather downhearted about the analysis of the English social inadequacy and how we need props in order to talk to one another. Got me thinking what 'props' we already have we could use as an excuse. Cups of coffee? Communual meals? Buying your shopping?...