Thursday, 17 March 2011

Leaving London

In a "Giraffe" restaurant in Belsize Park. The waiter is Italian and has "Only God can judge me" tattooed on his arm in English. A group of young mums, actually a platoon of young mums, rocks up and the place is instantly transformed into a creche. The rest of our meal is accompanied by the screaming and stamping of their children and their own strident and dull opinions yelled over the top of the hubub, as they tuck into their sauvingnon blancs at 12 o' clock in the afternoon.

* * * * * * * * * *

My last psychologists meeting. There is no money on my Oyster Card and I have to remove cash and then top up my card at the Post Office. The two men in front of me are both buying their first cans of the day and paying with pennies. They chat and as they chat the assistant drags each coin accross the counter, slowly and methodically. My bus pulls up outside, the elusive 210! If I don't get on it I can't be certain of getting a bus at all. I rush out of the shop and, apologising, thrust a tenner at the bus-driver. He stares at me, then it, then back at me again and shakes his head.

"Please," I say, "I have to get to a psychologist's appointment,". It was the wrong thing to say - there are always nutters on the bus - London transport doesn't need to advertise for one! He shakes his head again. His face is blank and glazed with sweat like a kebab revolving in a shop window. I get off the bus shouting pathetically over my shoulder "An unhelpful bus driver...what a surprise!"

He doesn't care and I feel that much worse for my feeble insult.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I go into a cafe to get an Earl Grey to go. The man in front of me orders a coffee and pays for it. Then he decides he no longer wants it.

"I don't want that fucking coffee," he says in a weirdly aggressive way as if he had heard a rumour about the barrista's personal hygiene, "give me back my money! I ain't leaving till I get my money. Gimmee it, Now!"

He's a small man in a baseball cap and a leather jacket. The man serving him is much taller and, I'm assuming, in the right. But the little man, his face impassive and his voice trembling with emotion, is sending out electric bad-vibes and the barrista is visibly unnerved.

"You ain't the boss," says the man, "gimmee my money, get the boss, I ain't leaving; gimmee my money!"

The assistant shouts to the back of the shop and goes through the lengthy rigmarole of reopening the till without a sale. He sees me.

"Can I help you, sir?" he says.

"You're serving me, not this cunt," says the man, not looking at me, "Give me my money,"

The barrista opens the the till and gives him his money. The cappucino is still the steaming on the counter.

"Can I help you, sir?" says the assistant. He is visbly flustered.

"I'll have an Earl Grey to takeaway, please," I say.

"Turn the telly on," says the man, "you're not the boss. Get the boss in here - he always puts the telly on!"

There is a television over the door way. He has bought a coffee, refused to accept the coffee, demanded his money back and now wants to watch telly.

"It's broken," says the assistant, busying himself with my tea.

"Don't mug me off, you cunt! Where's the boss? You're not the boss. Turn the T.V. on."

The barrista shouts again and a large moustachioed man appears and the pair have a loud, animated conversation. I look around and the cap-and-jacket man has disappeared. The moustachioed man stands over me. I get change of my tenner in coins.

I'm leaving London.

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