Bank Holiday Monday arrived. I felt relatively fresh but we woke late. Breakfast was pretty simple : just cereal, coffee. Laura and I ended up feeling a bit hungrier than normal at lunchtime and we wanted to go out somewhere. I briefly pondered driving to Beckton Nando’s but I thought, you know what, let’s support the local economy. By local, I mean, the Upton Park segment of Barking Road.
We mooted a few destinations. It would have been really nice to head to Ercan’s Fish Bar, or Robin’s Pie and Mash, but both were shut (sensibly, it being a Bank Holiday and a day of rest). So, good luck to them. We ended up in Friends Cafe and I plumped for a fry up. Laura got a sandwich as they had run out of bagels.
We sat near the front of the cafe and behind us were three guys, one of who was the ringleader. He was a small time wrong ‘un, who in between speaking with his mouth full of various bits of his fried breakfast, spent his time liberally filling the place with swearwords. He told of us riding round in stolen cars, his friend headbutting a PCSO, him getting beat up in ‘deep, deep Plaistow’. It was unpleasant. He was very loud and he must have known how unpleasant he was.
My breakfast was unpleasant. The fries (I know, I know, but it came with either fries or hash brown and I went for fries) were soggy and limp and cold. The beans lukewarm. The sausage was a strange saveloy type of thing. I mean, it’s not hard to do a good fry up. The eggs and toast were okay.
We hopped on a bus to Stratford and got stuck in stop-start traffic. At one point the driver deigned to switch on the air con, which in a rare diversion for the day, was pleasant. Then we got to Stratford and had a pint at Eddy’s, which was pleasant. But these were rare beacons.
Then we headed through the mega busy town centre, now strewn with tin can high rise rotundas. In the plaza, loud music blared and a man dressed in a monkey suit half-heartedly did some strange ‘dance’. Kids rode through thronged crowds on BMX bikes, narrowly missing pedestrians, each other. We walked to the fun fair but it was charging an entrance fee. That’s right. £1 a head to get *in* to a fucking fun fair. Things have changed.
Then we rode back, and the guy behind us had a hugely loud phone conversation right into our ears, all the way back. We moved but in that seat, too, loud phone conversations. Generally I just sat there and stared into space and I thought about how generally unpleasant it was and that, perhaps, it was down to the selfishness of others that this busy bus was also turned into a telephone exchange. Perhaps it is to be expected in a big City, but the soggy fries and sad lukewarm beans and the shouty thug in the cafe showing off to his two eager friends and the bedlam of late period Capitalism that is Westfield Stratford, its £6 ShakeShack burgers drawing gawping crowds, I don’t know. All very unpleasant. There were beacons, you know. But a general mien of ‘this isn’t really that nice.’