We walk through the door of a small shop in an unassuming street off Tottenham Court Road. The walls are piled high with endless sound equipment, making the large room claustrophobic. Directly opposite us is a long counter that seems to be made up entirely of boxes: TVs, wires, radios, headphones, remotes. It looks like Tetris. Behind it is a cohort of uninterested staff. Some of them look up briefly before returning to their mundane tasks, while one man sits studiously watching The Chase on his iPad and ignores us completely. We shift closer, but they still don’t acknowledge us. George decides to open proceedings and addresses the most lively-looking man. “Hi mate, I ordered 10 Shure SE425s,” he begins, adopting the voice he reserves for trying to look cool. It would almost be convincing if he weren’t wearing a collarless shirt and chinos. They blink at him. “It’s just I don’t have the receipt…” George falters, “…mate.” One of the men behind the counter gets up without a word and disappears through a gap in the wall of boxes. We smile nervously at the remaining three staff members, who say nothing. The silence is nerve-wracking, even with the inane Chase playing in the background.
Presently, the other man returns with a large box of headphones and places it on the counter, murmuring something to his colleague, who prints off a long receipt and puts it in the box before duct taping it shut. They look up at us expectantly. “Oh, is that all done then yeah?” They nod. George picks up the large cardboard box gingerly. By this point I want to leave, and turn towards the door. Suddenly the man watching The Chase comes to life,
“Thanks a lot, see you again!” he smiles. The door shuts behind us and we walk swiftly away from the shop.
George looks shell-shocked, “I think we need some lunch.”
Having escaped the weirdness of Westend DJ, our thoughts turned to food. I remembered a café that Freya had introduced me to. The Wellbeing Kitchen was quite nearby (somewhere near High Holborn) and apparently sold the best chicken katsu curry in London – or within walking distance of the Strand campus. A sign pasted to the window suggested optimistically that it was a vegan establishment. Undeterred and spurred on by Freya’s promise of fried chicken, we walked through the door into the minute café. It was buzzing with lunchtime excitement. Some students with jackets from the Urban Outfitters urban renewal range had commandeered the only two tables in the cramped seating area. They were loudly discussing Jeremy Corbin, Brexit, Trump and other important contemporary topics. The entire room smelled dubiously of fish, and I worried about the sushi on the menu. When the food arrived after a pleasingly short wait however, my cares were crushed by my excitement for crunchy breaded chicken.
“Why do you always know everything?”
We wandered down Kingsway into Lincoln’s Inn fields enjoying the sudden moment of summer and searched for somewhere to eat. The lack of free benches meant that we settled for a spot in the grass near the end of the park by some bluebells. Two women were performing sit-ups at the request of a chubby personal trainer, who stood languidly shouting instructions while his stomach drooped over the waistband of his branded tracksuit bottoms. The sunlight was bright on the red brick of the large gate next to us. George wondered what the building might be, and became quite accusatory when I pointed out that, given the name of the park, it might be Lincoln’s Inn.
“I’m always disappointed with a miso soup.”
The curry was an unconventional park snack. As others took out their protein shakes and packed lunches, we snapped our chopsticks apart and dug in. There was an abundance of beautifully crispy fried chicken. The sauce tasted like other katsu curries taste, which I assume is correct. There was a mountain of rice neither of us could finish. All in all it was great. The miso soup was a strange and slightly upsetting experience. It was paler than I would have liked, and tasted mainly of salt. George lamented this, but made few additional culinary points. I assumed this meant a thumbs up – either that or, because it wasn’t French cooking, George didn’t possess the necessary training to make any more technical criticisms.
As we sat in our heap of plastic pots, cans of coke and disposable cutlery, the damp slowly seeping through our trousers, we were perfectly happy with the world… That is until a large group of primary school children galloped into the park and we quickly remembered we had to be somewhere.