Friday, 3 March 2017

The kindness of friends

I went into Shoreditch today to work with Philippa at the painfully swanky Ace Hotel, which has a dining room which can only accessed via a flower shop. The restaurant is called Hoi Polloi, but judging by its Speak Easy vibe, it's certainly not designed to be enjoyed by the many. You have to be in the know to appreciate that place. In fact, you have to be in the know to know that the place is called Hoi Polloi! There isn't a sign in the building. Just a tasteful set of cards at the payment desk. Only in Shoreditch!

I've traditionally been a bit down on Shoreditch, largely because it becomes such a hetty hell-hole on weekend evenings, but I can't help myself from being drawn to its hipster-laden charm during the days. Of course it's all a bit try hard and industrial chic. It presents itself as a bohemian Mecca, but only the most successful artists can live in the area these days. The majority of its residents are millionaires and city slickers who whip their suits off, get their tattoos out and chow down on organic kebabs as soon as they leave the Square Mile. But I do like to sit in cafes listening to people wearing tight jeans pitching film projects and talking pretentiously about conceptual art. (I hear ya! How else are you expected to talk about conceptual art?) There's more facial hair per square metre in Hoxton than anywhere else in the world baring the Castro in the 1970s. Fact.

Philippa and I worked. We got a bit distracted catching up. And then I'd think of something else to say every time she knuckled down to work, but by lunchtime I'd finished checking the latest draft of Em.

Lunch was a delicious halloumi salad in a cafe on the Bethnal Green Road. It was another one of those Shoreditch standards: a shambolic smattering of mismatched tables and super-food dishes served by French women with nose rings who would love to be Lesbian. I asked for some vinegar to pour on my salad. The waitress looked blankly. "I'll see if we've got some." It turns out that there are even trendy versions of bog standard condiments in Shoreditch. She came back with coconut vinegar. COCONUT VINEGAR! One wonders how far in the world of psued one needs to travel before that particular delicacy jumps off the shelf and lodges itself in the mind of the purchaser as a good idea. It tasted fairly abrasive, but did the trick and I left the cafe feeling like I'd saved some pandas.

Sometimes the love which one's friends are capable of generating can be overwhelming. Philippa reached out to me today with a gesture of generosity I shall never forget. I wept openly in the Speak Easy.

On my way into Old Street, I found myself deeply troubled by a young child who was standing right in front of me, pointing at me and saying, "I want to sit there" to his Mum. For some time the accusatory comments continued, "he's sitting in my chair, Mummy." To my surprise the mother seemed entirely unfazed by her son's blatant rudeness. Had my son been pointing at a complete stranger and whinging like a twat, I'd have immediately told him to stop, or at least apologised to the stranger in question with one of those looks which says, "my child is a work in progress." But no, the tirade went on for some minutes until I felt incredibly embarrassed and wanted to stand up and give the little blighter my seat.

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