I like movies. They teach me about the world, about life, about love. “The Princess Bride” taught me that your one true love will always forgive you for pushing him down a hill, “Requiem for A Dream” taught me that diet pills are a great way to get all the housework done. And “Blood Diamond” taught me that white men from Zimbabwe don’t like it when you think they’re South African. So naturally when Kevin Costner taught me that if you build it they will come, I left my job. I left the stable, responsible office job that not only gave me a regular pay cheque but a pretty regular case of the shits too. I decided there was to be no more daily grind for me, I had a plan. I planned to make money doing what I love.
That was six weeks ago, and that statement is about as far as the plan has progressed. I plan to make a living, but I don’t have a clue how. I don’t have an action plan, a business plan, or even a back-up plan for when all my savings dry up. And strangely enough, as much as I enjoy writing on this blog, so far no money has popped out of the disc tray when someone has hit the “like” button.
What I do have is scatterbrain ideas, one of which probably around a billion kazillion people are already doing and won’t make me any money for a long long time. And maybe not even then. But of course I am shrouded under the veil of naivety, conceit and lifelong love of uplifting and preposterous film scripts, so I’m sure my version will be the one in a billion kazillion that is successful. It’s a travel website of sorts, in the vein of Timeout, but cooler, more street, more in the know. Unfortunately I’m not cool or street and I don’t know anything. I could fake the first two if I had to, but the last one, well I need to sort that out. I need to get to know London.
So I decided to pick somewhere each week and go explore, see what there is to see, what I stumble on, what I can share with the peops. My first roll of the fuzzy dice came up with Dalston. I think the lesson learnt here is that stumbling in London is a crap shoot. London’s so bloody big and picking one spot is often unlikely to unearth a blog full of secret delights. The only thing to stumble on in Dalston it seems is memories of the East London I’d just moved out of: fried chicken shops, betting shops, fruit and veg in small plastic bowls sitting on fake green carpet and more kebab shops than Istanbul.
But I did find the Dalston Superstore. Not too hard that, because it’s right on the main street and fairly well known by everyone (alas making it not suited for my grand ideas website) but it was the best thing I saw in the hour or so it took me to decide to get the hell outta Dalston. I was surprised it was so small, the superstore. Going from its name and reputation I imagined a cocophanous shed full of the hip and happening. It was more like the Dalston Express.
I plonked myself in a high red booth. The seat was slanted forward and I kept sliding off until I discovered the foot rest was under the chair, not the table. Oh. There was cool 80’s music playing and art for sale on the walls and everyone working there or visiting had some combination of coloured hair, face piercings, skinny jeans, ripped t-shirts and tattoos. I liked it. It was industrial, mismatched, but homely at the same time, and it was the second time that week (and ever) that I’d heard tell of Chocolate and Guiness cake. Was that the universe speaking?
Now I’m not a fussy customer but they didn’t have Jack Daniels. That makes me suspicious. So I had to have Jim. Fine. Then I ordered a tzatziki lamb burger but had to send it back. The pink haired chef girl with the ripped t-shirt took it from me wordlessly, like I’d insulted her and like I was someone who thought the M in McDonalds stood for Michelin. I’m sorry mate, I admit it’s only been a few short years since I graduated from burnt to well done to medium, but really, if that patty was any more rare the little lamby it came from might as well have been sitting in my lap while I cut chunks off its back.
I think the real Superstore action must happen at night, when people from more interesting hoods converge, slinking down the spiral red staircase by the bar into what I’m sure is some tiny little, sweaty, bumpy, grindy dance space. So I decided I must come back one night, when perhaps the cover of darkness has rendered Dalston more interesting.
I ended up wandering around Shoreditch and settled on a place called Callay Callooh, mostly because my legs gave out and the place next door was having a country and western night. It was a cocktail bar, and from the sort-of-trying-to-be sumptuous decor I steeled myself for an overload of pricey and pretentious. I got pricey, but they were so bizarrely friendly that I’m not sure I liked it. As soon as I walked in the door, four people greeted me. Four! But it came off as over the top, not genuine. They were trying so hard not to be pretentious that they’d ended up preposterous instead.
Anyhoo, long sory short, I liked the fact that despite the chandeliers and wood panels and low lighting the staff were dressed like they were hanging around their house to watch the footy for the night. And I liked that because it was Wednesday 6pm, the place wasn’t packed. I also liked that they had a massive wardrobe which you can walk through to the toilets and a “secret” back room. I didn’t check those out because Narnia has taught me that if you walk through a massive wardrobe you’ll end up in a very cold world and have to fight an evil snow queen. I wasn’t in the mood.
But what I liked most and what I’m actually writing this post for is the chips! Oh the chips!! My. Godddd! They were the second best chips I’ve ever had in my life. Yes they were pretentiously priced at £3.50 for a mini champagne bucket of about ten pieces of spud, but oh oh oh, what quality spuds they were. Triple cooked, beer batterred and seasoned with what is probably salt from some exotic world like Atlantis, or a London that actually has a summer. Yummmmmm.
So there you go. I did stumble on something good after all.