The neighborhood I used to live in London is named East Ham, and yes, it’s located in East London. I’m not very sure what’s the current vibe over there, because I’ve never been back since I came back to Spain, but it was a good immigration wave tester. You could say it’s a very multi-cultural hood, with a predominance of South Asiatic population (India and Pakistan), even though many latinos and Eastern Europe people arrived when I was still there. To be honest I didn’t choose it. Joe was already there when I moved to London, and I stayed there all the time.
I used to live there, on the 3rd floor. Nice, huh?
Due to this Asiatic predominance, with Indians owning most of restaurants, shops and services (there was a Muslim praying temple below my house), you can imagine the fashion. Saris, tunics, loose trousers, lots of sandals and thongs…you know, comparing to my hometown it was very exotic.
I was living in a flat shared with 3 more people I rarely saw, they were all Asiatic and we didn’t have too much in common, plus there wasn’t even a living-room so I spent all the time in my bedroom, which, I’m proud to say, had this photo of the Blues Brothers hung on the door to mark my territory.
You’re entering the Toi Zone
My story starts any given Saturday morning, with a bit hangover, the usual stuff.
After having breakfast I had the urge of calling a friend in Spain just for gossiping, but had to buy one of these pre-paid cards and another international one for cheap calls. Once explained the outfits of people on the streets in my hood now you can understand that at that moment I didn’t really give a shit about going to the newsagents to buy the cards in my plaid jams with my old and beautiful blue electric wool jumper and sneakers. The procedure would last 5 minutes the most, and I can be very lazy sometimes, plus nobody would notice, and I can assure you this is true.
So I took my debit card and my mobile phone (one of these first Nokia bricks), and went straight to the store. It actually took me 3 minutes to complete all the transaction but when I arrived home I discovered my keys were missing. SHEEEEEEEIT! Nobody was home! I called Rashid, my landlord and flatmate, and he told me he was in Brussels on a business trip, and his girlfriend was in Kensington shopping. When I asked him what kind of shopping he confirmed the worst: clothes. The other guy was unavailable. The only option was waiting until one of them would eventually come back home, so I left a note on the door and Rashid also texted them. It was 12.30h.
I had my card, my travelcard, my mobile phone…and my pajamas, which in my hood were unnoticeable, but once I was on the tube everybody would realize about hem, thus going to some friends’ in West London wasn’t an option. I saw the sports pub in the corner, The Overdraft, and saw it clear, that had to be the place. I withdrew some cash and got in. 3-4 barflies, horse races, not crowded…seemed ok. I ordered a pint and called my friend for an hour. It was a good laugh. Then I called my friend Lukas to confirm when he’d be at The Fox and explained perhaps I was late. He laughed at me, obviously. It was 13.45h.
The Overdraft Tavern
Second phonecall, but before I ordered a pint of calimocho. The bartender, a young girl was flipping when I explained to her how she had to prepare it “a glass of red wine in a pint with ice, and then fill it with Coke to the top”. I called another friend in my hometown, Ana, for another hour till credit in the international card run out. Batteries were low too. I was hungry and now there was Premier League on TV and there were more barflies. 15.00h.
How long was this gonna take? I didn’t have the clue and I couldn’t go on talking on the phone. I order some chips and onion rings, another pint of calimocho and asked the bartender to look after my table, I was buying some press. So I went to the newsagents and purchased The Times (call me posh or classic, I am), Kerrang magazine, and Heavy Metal magazine, just in case. Now I was ready to wait till pub closed if necessary.
While reading, well reading, admiring a photo session with Miss Guy of Toilet Boys and Corey and Ruyter of Nashville Pussy, a barfly, probably the spokesperson of the regular crowd, came and asked me if he could sit down for a while. He didn’t look menacing and my appearance wasn’t attractive enough as to try to pick me so I said it was fine. First question was about my phone bill. They were all amazed I had spent 2 hours on the phone, all thinking I was ruining. Second, they all were very curious about what I was drinking, so I explained him about it and when I mentioned it tasted similar to sangria, the guy went crazy super excited. Finally, he asked me why I was alone. When I had cleared his doubts he offered me to join the crew of barflies, and I, very polite and grateful, declined the invitation telling I had plenty to read while waiting. He didn’t mention my outfit. Yesss!
Mmm, what’s the time? 16.45h. And still waiting. Lukas called me for an update. “Same shit, man”. Keep on reading, another pint of calimocho coming. The barflies were drinking calimocho too. The bartender was having a break and came straight to my table to ask if she could sip a bit. She tried and her face changed into a wide smile. Awesome!
Rashid finally called. His girlfriend was on her way home. I could see the end of the tunnel! “Waiter, another one!”. 17.00h. I was supposed to meet Lukas at 19.00h. difficult yet not impossible. I was mentally organizing my emergency plan. This was, having a shower, make up, the outfit…Ok! It seemed I had everything under control and went on with my reading, till I heard someone saying “Hey, hello! Can I sit and talk to you?” I lifted my eyes and found this rasta man with long redlocks and a tennis player bandana with the flag of Jamaica, full of necklaces, and all the reggae paraphernalia you could imagine. I thought “what the Hell!”, and replied “please take a sit”. So the guy couldn’t stop smiling at me. To be honest he wasn’t ugly at all, in fact was a very magnetic guy, thus I was smiling at him too. He asked me whether I was having a good time and told me I was sparkling in the middle of the bar because my attitude was a very clear sign of a strong character, since I was on my own, and that never happened there. I explained the whole thing and the guy was all the time telling wonders about me. I couldn’t believe it. Then he started to say I was very pretty, my hair was beautiful dark, my eyes, my…”Hey, wait! I’m in my pajamas! I smell, haven’t combed my hair, I’m terrible! What he fuck are you talking about?” Whatever! The guy kept on saying I was beautiful just like that, blah blah blah… After 5 hours in a pub, several pints, a terrible look…this guy was flirting with me! At that point I didn’t care about anything and couldn’t stop laughing.
Finally SHE came from shopping carrying 2 shitty bags and picked me up. It was 17.35h when I left, with a general ovation. I made it for my appointment with Lukas and was able to charge my batteries.
Just another Saturday in London 🙂