Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.Samuel Johnson
Will you be my Valentine?
It may sound like a simple question from somebody who feels a little lonely, who can’t get a date, who doesn’t have anybody to love and doesn’t want to accept that being loved is just a movie thing. Maybe somebody who thinks that their Valentine is going to be their one true love.
It’s a simple question the girl handing out food samples outside Simit Sarayi on Green Lanes is asking to passers-by – a direct marketing effort to attract people inside for food. She’s nice and smiley to everyone, and some stop for a chat. Over and over again, for hours, she asks: “will you be my Valentine?”
She’s worked there for a couple of months now, I think, always handing out food and chatting with people. I heard her name is Asena and she’s Turkish. She’s from a poor area near Istanbul, from a very old-fashioned and patriarchic family who still believes in arranged marriages. Back there, they wouldn’t allow her to work, nor wear fancy dresses, nor go out much. She could only do housework – cook, clean, knit. It surely wasn’t the life she expected and she’d often dream of incredible experiences through the shows on TV.
One day, while running her usual errands in town, she bumped into a visitor named John who seemed to show some flair for her. She was shy but not enough to hide a smile from him, a smile that, day after day, convinced him to approach her. John was English; he was a photographer travelling the world to get nice shots for his portfolio and images he could then sell. He was a roamer, an explorer; he knew facts, stories – the world – and his tales could only fascinate a girl like Asena who, of the world, had only pictured what she saw on TV.
They met every day. They’d talk, laugh, get to know each other. She would spend all of her time with him before curfew. They’d secretly hold hands, exchange romantic notes she would store under her mattress, and finally one day he kissed her. And it was the sweetest kiss ever! She touched the sky, the planets, the top of the universe. She finally understood what love tastes like through the lips of somebody who loves you. It was all real.
Always being careful not to alert her father with her constant escapes, they met at his hotel. They made love, over and over and over again. She discovered her libido, lust, passion, her and his body. And she loved it.
It was February 14th when he asked her to be his Valentine and handed her a small shiny-red box of chocolate. She glittered! She could never hope something this delightful would happen to her, that love itself would happen at all.
They would never leave each other, they were meant to be together forever – they both acknowledged it. So she decided to step up and talk to her father, to explain she’d found true love and get his blessing. It was the right thing to do in the name of love!
Against all purest and most naive expectations, his reaction was furious! He would never allow her to see anybody he hadn’t made arrangements for. He yelled at her, made her feel miserable, called her offensive names while hitting her violently, and locked her in her room for good.
A couple of days later, hit after hit, cry after cry, she managed to escape and go see John. She begged him to take her with him anywhere in the world, as long as they could be together – as long as they could live their true love story. But John seemed to be a little off. He had had second thoughts about that relationship, he wasn’t sure it was going to work, plus he had to leave soon for another place. He sounded distant, uninterested. She was confused, “I thought this was love love”, she cried – tears of desperation, of abandonment.
But that was the naked truth. While for Asena, John was the one true love, for John, Asena was just another experience. One that would end as soon as he moved to a new place in the world.
When she got home, her father punished her with extreme violence. He’d hit her to bleed before locking her in once again.
The days that followed developed through physical and mental pain, tears, regret, hurtfulness. She wasn’t allowed to leave the house, her room, anymore. She would read and read the love notes they exchanged, she relived in her mind the future she thought they’d have – happiness – and the more she dived in, the more it buried her. She went completely insane.
So one night she did it. When her father got into her room to hit her again and swang his hand to slap her face, she pierced his neck with a paper-knife she had hidden in her tights. He fell on the floor with a horrified look and bled to death in less than a minute. Asena stared – she couldn’t move. She was terrified but relieved, and had to think quick. She got his wallet and ran off, and after a couple of miles running, she got to the port. A ferry was about to ship soon and Asena saw her only opportunity to leave that place. So she hid on the ferry and began her journey, while pain, horror, fear, love began to nurture her obsession: she’d sneer and whisper “I will find you, John, my love…I will find you.”
The last thing she heard from John was that he was going back to England for a while to settle his work. He told her he was from London, from a North-East area called Green Lanes, the Turkish area. That’s where she was headed.
Days passed by and Asena finally reached her destination. Green Lanes felt so familiar, everyone was so kind and welcoming and she managed to find a job as a waitress at Simit Sarayi – everyone liked her immediately.
So now she has a new life. She’s got a job, she’s got people who care for her, she’s happy.
Today she’s handing out food samples, all smiley and chatty.
“Will you be my Valentine?” may sound like a simple question from somebody who feels a little lonely, somebody who thinks that their Valentine is going to be their one true love. Or maybe is a sign of obsession, of mental insanity, of somebody who’s not going to stop until she finds John.
“Sir, sir…will you be my Valentine?”
The Britalian Post
I’m chatty, open-minded, honest, caring, appreciating. I’m Neapolitan.
At least so I’ve been told. Too many times. It’s some sort of etiquette people have placed on me that’s probably supposed to define me, my personality, to say who I am just by highlighting this feature: being Neapolitan. Apparently, that explains everything.
This was no choice of mine, I just happened to be born there, in one of the most beautiful and dangerous (so people say) cities in the world; a city where history lays in every street, alley, corner, smell, thought. Yeah, it’s so strong it embraces you, and never lets go. It grows on you blooming some affection, wish, memory — smile. Now do smile, this is what Neapolitans do despite the tragic circumstances. Indeed, drama there is everyday business, it’s how deep people feel, how engaged they are when they either love or hate somebody or something. It’s a never-ending passion that nobody can control, that makes you speak louder and louder and louder because the louder you are the better you express how you feel. Silly, right? Very! Yet, it’s our proper cup of coffee — the strongest you may ever drink. It goes straight into your nerves, awakens thoughts, placates the spirit. However, that spirit is never going to be quiet, not if you’re Neapolitan. That spirit functions continuously and triggers genuine creativity, whether it applies to art, music, food, or dodgy stuff, what us Neapolitans are best known for. Great endeavours are the result, great stories; great sufferings. Believe it or not, this is what Neapolitans do: they suffer. They parade through shame, bad looks, prejudice, through the burdens of having too much to offer and too little to ask in return. And all is veiled with pride, with a sense of belonging we hold on to — to feel just a little better, just a little stronger. To go through another day, and another day. And even when the day is done, we’re not done doing. We’re not done wondering what tomorrow is going to be like. We’re still trying to ease our head on the pillow, close our eyes and accept…that we’re Neapolitans. That tomorrow the sun will shine sharply, that we won’t be finding any parking spot, that we’ll be dealing with chaos, the chaos we have created, the chaos that makes us stand out (or stand down) among other populations, cities — realities.
Because the reality is that we’re never going to be treated as individuals, as single human beings, as people; we’re not to be treated any differently but we actually are: as we are Neapolitans.
So I’ve been told. Too many, one too many times. That sort of etiquette defines me, my personality, it says who I am and apparently that explains why I’m chatty, open-minded, honest, caring, appreciating. And why I’m to be treated differently.
Yeah, I am.
I’m Neapolitan after all.
The Britalian Post
In the real world, I’d sit in front of my laptop, put the music on, and dream of what an ideal world could be.
. . .
In an ideal world, the Twin Towers wouldn’t have fallen; terrorist attacks wouldn’t happen because terrorists wouldn’t exist. Only Trump would. But he wouldn’t be president; Clinton would be president, or Michelle Obama, who’s a cool and strong woman, or any other cool and strong woman. Any woman, just for a change, an ideal change; to prove we’re not gender-centric. Nor terrorists. Or how about a female pope, without an act of terror? That would indeed be a change. Ideally.
In an ideal world, Britain would be against Brexit and for immigration. They would value the foundation of their entire history and country, a golden culture they could pride themselves on and show off to the rest of the world. There would be no settlement status to apply for, no borders… and no risk of going back to a diet based on fish and chips and beans on toast. And there would be no pineapple on pizza – a something only a terrorist would do. Ideally.
In an ideal world, glaciers wouldn’t be melting, I wouldn’t be melting in my room right now, the Amazon forest wouldn’t be burning, nor would our environmental attitude – our respect for the nature, for this planet, for everything we claim like it’s ours – whether it’s earth – our earth, or home. Nothing would be burning, Nothing would be burning, other than the burger I’m cookin…”shit shit shit shit shit shit!!!” Yeah…now this is an act of terror: it should really not be burnt. Ideally.
In an ideal world, there would be no racism, no black and white other than chocolate chip cookies, no prejudice, no clichés, no hate speech, no “Jim, stop being a Casanova!”… “But I didn’t do anything!”… “Yeah, but all Italians are Casanovas!” We wouldn’t care if our children weren’t fulfilling their parents’ ambitions, dreams, ‘what’s (supposedly) best for them’, because they’d have their own ambitions and dreams; they’d make the mistakes they need to make or they would never know what’s right or wrong. At the same time, we’d be respectful of our parents, understand that they too are individuals, that perhaps their dreams shattered into a million pieces, that they have made mistakes they wouldn’t want us to repeat, that they found themselves loving a child way more than they love themselves. And we would keep that in mind when we act selfishly or want to hold our (unique) ideal identity against them. Just like an act of terror. Ideally.
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to lose weight and be such a food addict. I would drop the food apps and prefer walking to Uber and public transport. Consequently, I wouldn’t miss the bus that often, I wouldn’t have to get off the station smashed as fuck on a freezing winter night, chase after that massive double-decker and have the doors shut in my face, seeing that slimy grin on the driver’s face glowing in the shadow. Ass hole! Oh yeah, the driver also wouldn’t be an ass hole. Or a terrorist. Ideally.
In an ideal world, I’d open the door and she’d be sitting right there – lying in wait, reading, smoking that rollie she never gets to stub out. I’d join her on the couch, approach the wine glass she’s generously filled with some fancy Italian red, get her legs onto mine, caress them and her beautiful feet. She’d talk me through some clumsy stuff she’s done over the day, because as much as she’s deadly charming, sensual, arousing, elegant, she’s also so damn dorky. She’d spill her wine – as usual. I’d laugh at her, she’d laugh at herself, we’d both laugh and we’d put up with her being such a lost cause when it comes to clumsiness. We’d stop. I’d kiss her on the cheeks, then on her perfect lips. I’d smell her skin and she’d smell exactly like she did on the first night we spent together. We’d look at each other, into each other, we’d still put on a shy and excited smile even if we’ve known each other forever, and in a matter of seconds, we’d be making love and it would be as great as it was the very first time. We’d be hugging while smoking, dropping ashes on each other, burning the couch, the table, making a miserable mess like we always do. We’d know we can’t wait to do extraordinary things together and that life would be our playground.
I know I wouldn’t care if Trump was still president, if terrorists starred on the daily news, if Brexit happened, glaciers melted, prejudice and discrimination were still a thing, food addiction was a weak spot and transport took the piss; I wouldn’t care if the world wasn’t ideal because she and I would be ideal in any kind of world.
. . .
In the real world, I’m still sitting in front of my laptop writing this bullshit. I’m alone and the playlist I had on has just done playing. I stand up, go check if the door is locked, take a sip of Guinness, lit up a cigarette, and sit on the couch with that only dim light coming from my desk that illuminates the silence.
And in that silence, I dream of what my real world could be.
If only terrorism didn’t exist.
The Britalian Post
How many people do you meet every day in London?
And I’m not talking those one-off randomly met people but buddies you actually interact and regularly share a bunch of meaningful moments with. So, probably, not that many?!
One who lives in London must be prepared to making new acquaintances all the time, new friends, sometimes a new love, as much as to seeing them suddenly set off for good. Think of a colleague leaving the office, a friend relocating in another city or out of the country, a relationship that ends with no ill feelings, or simply a pleasant acquaintance moving on, going places, other places, even in the same town. And with the city being so broadly spread, you as a Londoner are very aware that you’re not going to see them as much as you used to. And it lets you down.
“Take care of yourself, and don’t be a stranger.”
They all become strangers eventually, if not all, most of them. You’ll have lived some beautiful moments and experiences together, you’ll have created a bond, you’ll have shared some of your inner thoughts and feelings that you’re maybe still unsure of or simply haven’t fully bloomed yet – just because time wasn’t enough. You’ll have concentrated all your efforts in that little amount of time because there’s no right amount of time you should wait for to expose yourself to that person. Even if they eventually become a stranger. Or you do.
You promise yourself you won’t make the same mistake, that you’ll be more cautious next time. But you’re a Londoner and you’ll fall into the same loop once again.
It all starts on a random Friday night at your local pub; you meet them and get to spend the night together, then the weekend. You discover how much the two of you have in common, or more, that they are such a surprise you couldn’t hope it to be. You understand each other from the very first minute, and before you realise it, you know you don’t want them to be strangers. So when the farewell time comes and they’re about to hop on that train, you will not want to lose them, and you’ll come clean, quietly, stammering: “I love you.”
How many people do you meet every day in London? Hundreds, probably thousands. They might all just be strangers, or they might as well become a wonderful part of your life.
Truth is, there will never be a right time to give it try, and you may never be going to see them again. That one might be your last time, they might be the last strangers you meet.
They might as well be your last, one, true love.
The Britalian Post
Everywhere I go, everyone I meet, I always ask people for some feedback and insight on The Britalian Post. This helps me understand if I’m going in the right direction, if I’m writing relevant and engaging content, and what and how I can improve.
Recently, I’ve received some really interesting input, and I thought I’d share it with you.
It seems that in the photo in my bio in the left sidebar (that I’ve recently changed), I was making a sexual gesture that might appal a reader. Come on! This is the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard!!! Anyhow, what I thought was just an insignificant and innocent hip-hop gesture appears to hide a deeper semiotic meaning that perverse minds could spot. So to speak…
More has been said about the content and my frequent use of swear words being inappropriate as well. This leading the readers to think that I’m all about “f*** you’s”, and therefore judging me beforehand. Whereas I’m only the nicest guy ever, aren’t I? 😀
The thing is, there’s a reason why I make use of such tacky jargon. For those who don’t know, the way expats speak English is very different from natives’, and the use of swear words for us doesn’t sound as bad as if we were swearing in our own language. We basically learn the language we hear from others, so if they swear, you should probably tell them off!
So I decided to stick to this “street language” to stay closer to the type of reader I’m addressing – because (maybe) reading content that sounds more like the way they (we) speak, makes them better identify with the stories. Fuck me, that’s so easy to understand! (Come on, another swearword?! What’s wrong with you Jim?!)
Then, even if I tried to write in a more eloquent and articulate way, I just couldn’t – simply because, HELLOOOO, I LACK THE VOCABULARY AND THE SYNTAX!!! And even if I attempted to, the tone of voice would clearly sound fake and unnatural. Maybe people would no longer like it (if they ever have), and I couldn’t be so grateful for the 932 views and 477 visitors for the month of July only.
Which is – shit! – it’s super cool! (Jim really, swearing again?! You’re such a lost cause).
Jokes aside, thanks so much to all of you for reading and following this blog – I put so much effort and fun into it, and I’m beyond flattered when I hear that you guys appreciate it. A big and deep GRAZIE! And please, always feel free to get in touch and share your feedback (or story) – I’ll seriously value every single word.
Oh, almost forgot. Since I’m such a lost cause, add the following tag to your list:
The Britalian Post
We often say that people in London are extremely individualistic, that they don’t like interacting with passers-by and always treat others indifferently.
This morning, an old lady hopped on the 67 bus route to Wood Green and came sitting right next to me. Smiling, she said something to gain my attention.
Maybe she only wanted to exchange a few nice words with somebody, have a quick and pleasant conversation before ending up at home on her chair.
But I’ll never know. Because I totally ignored her and barely smiled back.
The fact that I was focused on some reading and listening to music doesn’t count as an excuse, and I didn’t even have the decency of taking off my earphones, ask her to repeat herself and how her day was so far.
We often say that people in London are extremely individualistic, and judging by my own behaviour, this is so damn true.
The Britalian Post