Brixton

I’m 34. And if you’re 34 it means that it’s been about 4 years since you turned 30, and if you’ve turned 30, that means you’ve got no chance of making new friends. If you haven’t got good friends by 30 no one would blame you if you just gave up. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got better odds than winning the lottery, but Gosh it’s hard. It’s very very hard.


You can imagine as someone in their 30s travelling alone can be a pretty lonely time. Especially if you can collapse into a nervous wreck like I do at the notion of making a new friend. All those years of not making new friends teaches you that you’re not good at making new friends. This is what many of us call, anxiety.

So, because I’m a confident person I’ve got pretty good control of my anxiety. I’m lucky. I’m able to go outside and be in the sun and smile at the birds singing songs on my shoulders like any normal person can. I’m still out there trying to be a sociable human being.


One of the things I like to do so that I don’t become a hermit is go sit in a cafe and have a coffee and read a book, even though I don’t read anything more than 5 pages before I get bored, or I write something, even though I don’t write no good, or I sketch something, even though I end up scribbling it out out of embarrassment, or I edit photos that I’ve taken. That’s something I think I’m pretty good at! My mum tells me so much that she even framed one of my pictures. I’m very proud and humbled that people seem to like the photos that I take.


Truth be told I go and sit in a cafe because I’m hoping someone will talk to me. I’ll engage the waiter or waitress at a bare minimum, out of the social contract that exists between us, to at least ask them how their day is going. Good? That’s great! Is it busy? Oh, well I’m sure it’ll pick up. One latte please.


On the super rare occasion they’ll break it up with ‘I love your hat’ even though I just grabbed it so I didn’t have to do my hair or my favourite is when they ask me what I’m reading and I get to pretend for a few moments I’m learned and really really smart and good looking. One time, I explained the book I was reading was about a pessimist, and the waiter asked ‘Who is your favourite pessimist?’ This sent my anxiety into overdrive. I couldn’t think of one on the spot so I just said the one I was currently reading about. He said his favourite was Rust Cole from True Detective. Damn. That’s such a good choice! He’s so learned and really really smart and good looking.

Recently, I was in London. No where on earth has made me feel as lonely as London. Arriving in London for the first time in your 30s feels like you missed out on an entire decade of exploration. There’s so much noise with all sorts of people walking around, or hanging outside of pubs laughing and having a good time and everyone vapes. Why?


On my fifth and final day there I had a routine going. The loneliness of London was a bit too much for me by then but I would still find some coffee shops and work away in my own world, ever so slightly being broken up with a friendly chat with the staff of a shop, but I really found it hard. Every interaction was so brief and fleeting, nothing more than a ‘What’s good on the menu?’ ‘The chicken.’ I wondered if I had something on my face, or my beard was not groomed right or if I should have blown vape smoke in their face before asking. The waitress at this one cafe knocked over a chair with someone’s bag on it as she was bringing over the menu to me causing a huge commotion and noise. I got up and helped lift the chair back up and said ‘You wasted so much effort, I just want a Chai please.’ She laughed and said the whole thing was my fault. Yes!


30 minutes later at the same spot I’m editing some lovely photos I had taken in Scotland a few days prior. These are amazing photos, filled with emotion and terror and modesty if I do say so myself. If I had of seen someone editing these photos I would have said how beautiful they were. Suddenly I feel someone tap my shoulder. That’s new. ‘Excuse me.’ Says the waitress. She leans over the chair next to me and says ‘I don’t know if anyone has told you this…’ At this moment I can feel my eyes widen and a smile start to creep across my face. ‘but, we don’t allow laptops in here after 6pm.’


Oh…

Defeated, I hurriedly pack up my laptop, pay my bill and walk back to the hotel. I wish I had my headphones so I could distract myself from the thoughts that come up but instead I am forced listen to everlasting sounds of the city and all the people walking around. Everyone looks so busy. I wonder where they’re going and if they’d like my photos.



Coffee Seibu

I had been in smoke filled rooms before. Clubs in Melbourne before the smoking ban came in. Divey Izakayas in Shibuya where old salarymen avoided going home after work. None of those really compared though. Something bout 40 years of smoke, hitting the velvet curtains running up and congregating on the ceiling is something else. You could almost feel every cigarette that had ever been smoked in that room.

‘I absolutely love it here.’ I proclaim, knowing full well I haven’t smoked a cigarette in anger in about 10 years and that the air was so warm I’d be pining for fresh air within 30 minutes. ‘This is a Japan I’d have never have been a part before now.’

Green and Yellow stained glass windows gave an uneasy tinge to the room through the lights behind them. Wood veneer on the walls added to the 70s vibe that were no doubt stylish of the time. Opaque art deco shaped light fittings jutted out from the walls. The richests of red velvet cushioned booths accented it all and the hum of conversation, laughter and thought of the patrons lingered through the haze of cigarette smoke.

A manga artist was having his work critiqued by his business manager sat in the booth next to us. On the other-side, an older man smoked and drank coffee only ever engaging who I presumed was his daughter ever so often with a wry comment or conversation. She sat leaning away from him, but never dived so far away from thought that she would miss his comment.

Classic black coffee was served on a plain porcelain tea cup, with a tiny brass spoon to mix your cream or sugar in. I ordered a black chocolate cake out of the hazy glass cabinet at the front. Unsurprisingly it tasted like it was from the 70s but I still enjoyed it. 

We stayed for roughly 3 hours, talking, laughing and thinking like so many of people before us. I’ve never felt more pleased to contribute to the history of an establishment… me, white, foreign, a stranger. I sat there, the same as those who did 40 years ago and felt like I belonged.

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