It’s end of April. My friends birthday is coming up. We know each other from working for a PR company in London. Even though I have left the city, we stayed in contact – message and talk regularly. Last year she didn’t celebrate her birthday. This year she wanted it to be different and asked if I would fly in to see her & celebrate.
It took me a while to decide, if I would come or not. I had just started my new job 3 weeks earlies and taking a day off already would be a bit weird. To fly in for just the weekend is stressful and financially not really worth it, but I end up booking the flights anyway. Since I have left London and moved back to Vienna my social life has taken a plunge. I struggle to meet people and struggle even more to connect with them and actually make friends. So, at least for one weekend I wanted to re-live my London life with familiar faces.
Me: friends with the Birthdaygirl from the time we both lived in London
The Birthdaygirl: still lives in London, South Eastern girl left her hood for West London since I have left the city for good last year
The Germans = the Jealous Girl & her “the” Boyfriend, the Jealous Girl has been friends with the Birthdaygirl since they were little
Friday: Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
On the day of my departure, I went to work extra early – so I could finish early & go straight to the airport. As I was only gonna be away for the weekend, I only had a little backpack as handluggage. You should know – I’m the master at packing light. I landed at Gatwick. What a weird feeling to be back the first time since I have moved away!
I took the train to my friends place – drove past the station I had to get out every day for work for 3 years, drove past my old South London neighbourhood – it felt like I had never moved away. Arriving in West London changed that feeling a bit, as I don’t really know my way around there – it’s not an area I ever hung out at. I used to live and spend most of my time in East and South East London and at the end of the day – that’s where I left my heart.
++ Read more about: The 7 best places in East London – off the beaten track ++
Anyway, while we were waiting for the other guests to arrive, we had some homemade wraps & caught up. As I was staying at my friends place for the whole weekend and I’m very greatful for her hospitality, I was reminded of some of the things I hated about living in London: run-down flats landlords don’t give a shit about, single glazed windows, carpet everywhere, mould everywhere… Finally, the Germans arrived & we started our journey east.
The birthdaygirl had really gotten into some bands signed by Yala Records, the record lable from Felix White from the Maccabees. Once a month there’s a Yala Event in a really intimate setting – the Bermondsey Social Club (it’s so small!), where some of the lables bands are playing & there’s a DJ set after the live gigs. In order to be able to buy a ticket, you have to be signed up for their newsletter. So guess what – there was a Yala event on the day of my friends birthday and she got tickets for all of us!
The artists playing where Blanc and Catholic Action – I especially liked Catholic Action (what a name for a band!). The only problem was, things got a bit out of hand quickly. Drinks were chugged, shots ordered, the dance moves got crazier. A drunken jealousy argument erupted, one girl stormed out of the club, came back in after being calmed down by her boyfriend; drunken drama started between the jealous girlfriend and the particularly crazy dancing other friend; the security lady scolded the birthdaygirl several times for standing in the doorway separating the club from the smoking area.
The security lady started watching out group like a hawk. I’m not blaming her – “we “(excluding me and the boyfriend) were quite a hot mess of a group. Finally, the birthdaygirl stumbled backwards and fell on the security lady. She told me to get my friends out of the club, or she would throw us out. #FAIL When we managed to get everyone outside, even more drunken drama started – girls were sitting on the ground, next to dumpsters, crying, coaxing etc. Because of the state they were in, they didn’t understand why we had to leave the club. Birthdaygirl didn’t want to accept that the night has come to an end now and started knocking on the clubs door.
I had already called an Uber, but we still had to wait a few minutes. The knocking continued, the security explained the no re-entry policy again and again. Didn’t really work. When the taxi arrived, we somehow managed to get everyone in the car and go “home”. What a night!
Saturday: Moving bricks to Brixton
…and learning how to fix them. As you can imagine, “the day after” didn’t start off well. Memory gaps had to be filled, realisations and embarrassments had to be faced. And let’s not forget how some people felt like they were literally dying. But staying in all day wasn’t an option. The Germans left the flat early to explore London. The birthdaygirl and I stayed behind. We would meet the others afterwards. And in the evening we were supposed to have dinner with other friends in Brixton.
We tried meeting the Germans, but they were east and Birthdaygirl couldn’t physically handle being on the tube for that long. We agreed not to join the others but go directly to Brixton. After getting off the tube twice to take a break and make sure there’s no vomiting on the train, we arrived. After a quick stop at superdrug, we went to Hootanannys to chill and wait for the others.
When the Germans joined us, we walked into Brixton Village to a tiny but truly amazing Colombian Restaurant “El Rancho De Lalo”. 3 people the Birthdaygirl and I used to work with years ago joined – a big happy reunion. It was probably the last time, that this group of people hung out together as one of my former colleagues will be leaving London for Spain after 10 years of living in the city and another former colleague is a father now with limited time.
We talked about the part we played in each others pasts and the future – going completely seperate ways. It’s crazy how life takes people different places after creating memories together and learning from each other. When the food was eaten and the first person had to leave again, we went for a few drinks to Dogstar and Ritzy. The evening ended civilised.
Sunday: Now she gets her kicks in Stepney
Last day, last chance. The Boyfriend had never been to Notting Hill and Portobello Market before, so we decided to show him. I’m not the biggest fan of the area itself as well as Portobello Market, but I wanted to spend more time with them. The boyfriend, for whatever reason, was obsessed with finding a place to try scones.
Personally, I don’t get the fascination. Just because it’s a fairly known British dessert doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worth trying. I don’t have a high regard for British desserts at all. Not one of the countries strong suits – sorry, not sorry.
Anyway, after walking up and down Portobello Road, we found a cafe that could accommodate “our” (the Boyfriends) wishes. If I could remember the name, I would mention it, but I forgot. It wasn’t bad, but not outstanding either – just some cafe in a sidestreet just off Portobello Road.
Soon after the Boyfriend lost his scones-virginity, the Germans had to make their way to the airport and I decided to go back where I belong. Or, once upon a time belonged – East London.
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After getting food from the Brick Lane Sunday Market, I went to my favourite coffee roasters to stock up on coffee beans – Nude Coffee Roasters. Then I strolled down Brick Lane and did a bit of browsing in the vintage shops along the way. After checking out new releases at the Brick Lane book shop, I wandered down to the Whitechapel Gallery, further onto Commercial Road past The Castle pub – where me and my flatmates spent quite a few evenings there in my first 6 months in London, to Shadwell – where I used to live.
As it was getting late, I went back up through Stepney – where I moved to after my first 6 months in Shadwell, and finally to Liverpool Street Station, where the Stansted Express took me back to the airport.
++ Read more about: The crazy Stepney flatmate++