Saturday, 22 April 2017

Running out of reasons

All the people who work in Costa up in Highgate Village are European. Every day they serve me with exquisite politeness and every day, I listen to them talking to one another. There's never a sense of moaning. They never bitch or whinge. They're always open, friendly, and interested. They talk about football and Eurovision and describe the regular customers as their friends. They encourage banter. They're always wonderfully presented. When customers complain, they are horrified and instantly try to help. Yesterday a man asked for a takeaway and the woman behind the counter gave him his drink in a glass. When he asked for a paper cup, she realised her mistake, and instead of just pouring the drink into a paper cup, as he suggested, she insisted on making him a fresh drink.

One of the staff members sits on the street and has a coffee whilst smoking a cigarette before his shift begins. He does it every day. I can't explain it, but there's something intensely European about the way he does it. There's something in the calmness. The fact that he's not in a rush. He simply sits. Occasionally he'll wave over at someone on the street opposite. The very act of him sitting there makes me want to go to Europe.

I've started to notice that English cafe staff always feel far more arch and surly by comparison. I always get the impression that they're wanting to move on. That somehow that feel what they're doing is beneath them. They're doing it for the money, maybe, whilst waiting for Simon Cowell to notice them. I notice these same traits time and time again.

I don't think it's going to be possible for me to live in a country from which these beautiful, sparky, friendly European people are sent away from. On a daily basis they remind me that I belong to Europe, that I'm part of the greatest continent on the planet. And don't patronisingly tell me that we'll still be in Europe post Brexit. That's like saying that your most irritating third cousin who has severed links with all his relatives through outrageously arrogant and selfish behaviour is still a family member. At the end of the day, it means jack shit.

I watched a very elegant older lady in the cafe at one stage. She was sitting at a table outside enjoying a coffee of some description. She was probably in her 50s and was stylish in a Parisian sort of way. Beautifully manicured nails. Very keen fashion sense. I watched as she opened her handbag to pull out a lipstick but instantly realised that she couldn't stop shaking. She was trying to apply the lipstick but it seemed to be taking forever because she couldn't quite get control of her hands. My heart absolutely broke for her.

I walked home through air which was dense with the smell of blossom. Everywhere in London seems to smell really rich and ripe at the moment. I think it's a result of the lack of rain we've been having. Last night there was a dusty smell in the air which was infused with wisteria. It was really quite delightful. I love it when you get those flowers like jasmine which really start to kick off their scents after dark. Right now, you might guess that I'm struggling to find reasons to stay in this country...

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