Convenience, rent and coffee

It’s a funny old thing, living in London. Where I am, in Chelsea, the area is pointedly and angrily residential. There are well organised groups of concerned citizens who do mailouts. When The Tamezin Club – who are an Opus Dei receiving house next door to me – when they started hosting a girls’ school in their premises, there was local outrage. There is no school anymore.

As a result of this tendency there’s no decent coffee in my immediate area. The only shop in easy walking distance is the worst stocked Tesco Metro in the world, on Royal Hospital Road, woefully understaffed and selling an eccentric range of whatever they think people will want. I would love to see how much of their annual sales go on booze, even though a previous manager deliberately took the beer out of the fridge because he didn’t like local workmen buying cold beer and drinking it on the bench outside. They’ve recently put in two self checkouts and nobody uses them – either because the people are too old fashioned, they aren’t going to support the job automation, or – statistically most likely – the machines are both out of order again. Some Zuckerborg has made these crap machines and flogged them half broken to Tesco who have cut their staff and blocked out even more space to host them before it became apparent that they are just a humongous pile of failed bollocks like the Metaverse.

But yeah. That’s my only outlet until we get to The King’s Road, which is a warning to us all. Even up to the nineties it was a sexy and interesting place. The landlord – (I believe it’s the Cadogan Estate) – utterly ruined Chelsea by putting the rent up so high that only chains that are still dumb enough to think that The King’s Road means anything anymore can afford to be there. Big brands only. The Chelsea Kitchen went. The angry mangal place went. I think we might even have lost Picasso. Pucci Pizza. R Soles the shoe shop… All the personality has been excised, most of it a long time ago. Halfway up in the farmer’s market Phat Phuc still sells you basic decent ramen in their garden tent. Even The Stock Pot went though. I think Wilde Ones might still be trading, selling you a decent 0.20p incense stick for like £3.00, but good on them, they’ve got a market. There’s a lot of money in posh hippy kids. I blew my allowance there week in week out and I still occasionally buy stuff there because they are somehow still clinging on despite most of the road being assimilated by the borg. I haven’t been up in a while though. I’m more likely to buy the same stuff in Brixton market for a bit less of a mark up.

This is my last night in Camden,. It’s very very different up here in North London. 5 minutes walk from bed will bring me an exceptionally good independent coffee tomorrow morning from the place that used to be Leyas. It’s the same at Lou’s in Brighton with the Kemptown Bakery, which we both affectionately dub the Crack House. It’s just The King’s Road where I live that I’m disappointed by the cofferings. Starwucks. Pwet. Pwaul. Homogenised and insipid coffee from stressed out mass produced beans and indifferent staff. Ok so I take the quality of the available coffee as a benchmark for an area, but that’s because it’s an obvious thing to sell for a huge mark-up. It’s when the only outlets are actually these property empires that have streamlined their coffeemaking process until it is justjust good enough that you can’t quite get away with sending it back… “Excuse me, my but coffee is… Well … It’s … It’s insipid.” “We have correctly added the Fwargucks Fairtrade* beans to the perfect quantity. You agreed that you liked your coffee as part of the transaction when you made your payment. It’s the the tees and sees. And either way, there’s no point in you getting angry about it, we literally own you. We actually own you. Dance little piggy dance.” *(This is a brand name, not ethical practice)

I’ve lived in Chelsea for years. I don’t go out in Chelsea. It’s either lazy and standardized or its absurdly overpriced. It’s been lovely to be here in Camden. It’s a tiny bit more free here. I saw two old friends and remembered a bit more of those pre-lockdown days. Unfortunately though, we got fucked. The chains are moving in. The borg is assimilating Camden. Cwosta and Nwero and the others are all still there but we were after grub. “Hooray” we thought as Rossopomodoro told us they could take us on a late Sunday night.

£75 quid for two small bowls of pasta, two drinks and two tiramisu. Oh you villains. John is about to be a dad and it all ended up on his card too. Lovely jubbly until I have to return and favour. I can pop into Wilde Ones with all my unspent wealth and buy a single stick of palo santo… Might even get some change from it.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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