In spite of Shoreditch’s receding hairline and thinning crown, it continues to spawn a remarkable flock of oddballs from its peculiar womb. Never mind the musk of BOY London that still embroiders the air. Nor the plethora of pleather jacket-clad LAD bible disciples that clog every street corner. It remains bizarrely intriguing. Riddled with the most enchanting born-again dregs you’ll find this side of 1970’s Soho.
Just one mince along Hoxton’s hind quarters and you’re privy to a promenade of primitive coffee houses sicking up dollops of gluten-free absurdity.
I came here to purloin wifi. Not to listen to a stout man feltching scum from the depths of his coffee cup…
Here I am hunkered down in a cafe of curiosities. It seats all of 6 people and lies just beyond the priapic shadow of the Gherkin. Teats are suckled. Belts are tightened. And currents of caffeine are being dealt clean into the bloodstream. It’s a painfully prosaic tea room where twats like me spend more hours than they do pound coins.
An exceptional irritant sits adjacent to me draped in the midmorning sun. Drinking a tea and a coffee, he cuts a chinless silhouette while his philtrum glints with specs of sweat. He’s lounging overly comfortably in his veiny bare feet. One naked foot rests on the edge of his timber table. The other he’s contorted to an impossible angle as he snips his toenails… with his teeth. You’d be forgiven for thinking he’s trying to climb into his own rotten gob and perhaps he should.
Equally engrossing is a young Liverpudlian lad lacquering an old lady in kisses. He’s brunching away in a palpable veil of salmon-pink contentment across from what can only be his grandmother. The antique woman is decrepitly divine with a pearly white wig she must have thatched herself. She’s not quite at death’s door, but certainly a few doors down.
The thirtysomething grandson begins uttering staccato snatches of love-infused verse to her, striving to sound more Byronic than his ability. His potent scouseness somewhat hinders the rose-scented prose from blossoming. But who’s listening anyway?
“Mavis, my edible silver swallow. I love you terribly so” said he tenderly.
“Sorry my love?” she asks politely, cocking her head towards his. Her beaded necklace clinking forward.
“You my dear. You’re just wonderful. I promise never to loosen the grip on your hand!” he continues, shining like a polished jewel.
“Come again my love?”, this time cupping her ailing ear to catch his verbal vibrations.
He laughs: “Don’t worry about it darling”, exposing the farthest reaches of his unanimous gums “just enjoy your tea!”.
“…You what?!” she says.
The spice of her mothball-woven perfume ransacks my nostrils as she sips on her basic tea. “If this isn’t bliss, I don’t know what is” she beams. Each ‘s’ whistles like a steaming kettle. Her faceless grandson was, at this point, still firmly playing the role of her grandson in my mind. I believed this right up until he slapped her on the arse. A cheeky firm spank which made her old skull whip backwards and her dentures clatter in her palate. What the fuck?! They’re not related. They’re lovers! Immersed in a carnal collaboration that pirouettes over the chasmic age gap!
“Well they’re bloody grim ain’t they” the foot nibbler scoffs, blowing a crescent moon-shaped claw from his tongue onto a vile pile of previously spat out clippings. “Can I get an AMEN!?” he yelps with an affected prairie twang in my direction.
I didn’t give him an amen. I just sat there. Saying nothing and buying nowt…
Testing the strength of the entire cafe’s patience the portly ball of flesh chomps his way to the peak of nausea, sucking his lukewarm liquids as audibly as the cadence of his sloppy oral crevice would allow him. With every swig and slurp his gulping gullet posthumously excretes a flagrant ‘ahhhhh’ of toxic breath. Such cacophonies of grimness had never before been heard as he raucously stuffs sticky cake into his facile face hole. The grim grim concoction produces such a putrid ‘shlop’ from his gummy sloshing machine that it shreds the senses of every poor bastard sat in here. It’s enough to make a nun’s face flush with fuscia.
A vexed sigh tremors through E1 as he then squawks to the waiter: “Gimme a deep dark hot choccy young sir! EXTRA frothyyyyy!!!”. The camel’s back snaps and our ageing beauty had heard enough.
She thwacks her brittle palm against the table as hard as her boyfriend’s earlier tease. Standing bolt-upright and turning to the gurgling gargoyle, she clenches her fist and triumphantly lifts one prune middle finger in his direction. Turning a shade of red usually reserved for smacked arses, the shaken gent’s slack jaw hits the tiled floor and the couple slip away like ink in a stream.
He flees soon after. Leaving a sickening smattering of off-white talons strewn across his table and a slick canal of sweat atop his warm leather seat. I remain just watching. Inhaling Hoxton’s cafe culture. And still not buying anything.