The other day I walked into my house and saw a bouquet of flowers addressed to one of my housemates – no idea who.
I don’t really have a relationship with my housemates, I don’t know who they are, what they do, or even their names. I know that most of them are from Romania and don’t really speak English, which brings all the interactions to barely saying hi when we cross paths in the kitchen.
The flowers came along with a note that got me curious, so I read it. It said something like ‘I know you need your own space right now and I totally understand it. You’re special and I’ll be waiting for all the time you need. Please let me fix things.’
So I imagined a background story.
I imagined this couple being in a committed relationship, living together, building a future together, and him screwing things up at some point. A financial issue that ended up in a bad argument? Failing to take responsibilities when running the house? Obsessive jealousy or another girl? His brutally aggressive temper? Something must have caused the break-up: who knows what “things” he needs to fix. She asks for a break, for some time off with her thoughts because she needs to focus on herself for a while in order to understand her own priorities. She needs to move out, find a new place, start over. A straight course of action, even quite simple if it didn’t affect someone’s feelings.
However, London never makes anything easy. For one main reason: housing.
Many times when renting in London, you’re bound to yearly contracts that, if terminated early, entail paying exorbitant fees – and sometimes we’re talking three figures! It’s not a coincidence you hear about a jillion of couples who are coerced into living together even when their relationship is over. Nasty stuff, but what can you do? The only way out is to hand away a couple of grand and still be able to have enough left over to afford the downpayment for a new place. And I imagine having to live like this; having to see all the pictures you have together hanging nicely on the walls, all the gifts, furniture and lovely items you bought for each other – every effort to make that place look like home.
Day after day, after day.
I’m assuming she didn’t want to live like that, that she didn’t want to carry that daily burden, for the pain and grief were too much to bear. So she takes that unfair bargain – another injustice London had carefully reserved for her – covers the fees and walks out.
Apparently, she lives in my house now – somewhere upstairs. I’ve never met her, in fact, I didn’t even know we had a new person in the house. Anyway, after being parked there for days, she eventually collects the flowers. Maybe there would be a pinch of hope for that guy if she didn’t throw them away at the sight of the sender’s name.
I seriously don’t know how this is going to develop. I’m just hoping she’ll let me fix things.
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.
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.
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.
He knew for sure I’d like it – at once and multiple times – that I’d treasure it and add it to one of my Spotify playlists.
That I’d listen to it on repeat.
At once and multiple times.
A friend of mine shared a song with me once and he knew I’d make an all-around experience out of it, of the different beats, parts, sounds, words. That I’d picture a moment of my life at once, if not multiple moments, multiple timelines of things I’d wish had happened, or hadn’t happened. That I’d sit in contemplation on one of the Underground’s filthy and dusty seats on a late night journey to north London scanning the emptiness of the middle carriage, slowly jerking my head to the top and down back to the doors, watching people chatting and laughing while hopping on and off the train and feeling heavy-hearted for no freaking good reason; or recalling when she let me down, when I tumbled to how my professional career wasn’t a fit, dreaming of becoming a rockstar, of succeeding just once. If not multiple times. That I’d stumble inside out myself feeling like a real shit because that song would awaken my beats, parts, sounds, words. He knew it would happen at once. In fact, multiple times.
A friend of mine shared a song with me once and he’d feel like a real shit – he’d feel exactly like I feel. He knew for sure he’d make an all-around experience out of it because he’d make an all-around experience of my different beats, parts, sounds, words. Of my multiple moments. During bad and good times. At once and multiple times.
He knew for sure I’d like it, the same way I knew for sure he’d be my friend.
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.
Having food delivered right to your door is probably one of the best features of the multitude of food apps out there.
That goes like, you’re hungry, you can’t be bothered to cook, or your food supply is miserably low. You go open the fridge and there’s just that one bottle of Guinness tingling lonely in the door and waiting for its turn to be consumed. It might as well be that you’re in the mood for something specific, like a burger, chicken, kebab, noodles – food apps can easily satisfy that craving.
Deliveroo and Ubereats are the ones I use most frequently, and whether I pick one or the other is a matter of food variety, as well as delivery time and overall experience.
Which is better? Hard to say.
Let’s go check them out individually.
In my opinion, Deliveroo has better food quality. The restaurants listed on the app usually serve fresher food than Ubereats that, at least in my area, gives you mostly options for junk food.
The estimated delivery time is generally accurate. Very rarely has it occurred to me to wait longer than expected and it mainly happened during peak times. However the app has recently been freezing, and while following the delivery progress, the driver’s icon disappears completely. Leaving you thinking, is this guy still in the country? Has he entered a time slip and is currently giving a pizza to a very confused looking 1920’s dandy gentleman?
My main complaint would be about solving issues. Although the customer service being incredibly responsive and agents attentively looking into issues, the customer satisfaction standards have lowered lately. For example, I’ve dealt with issues such as drivers who couldn’t speak any English and so impossible to communicate with and spilt, missing, or crushed items. Deliveroo would previously offer a refund or give you credits for future orders. Now instead, they’re just acknowledging the issue by sending an apology email promising they will do better next time. This meaning that your experience just sucks!
Ubereats has a great app design and contains more food pics than Deliveroo.
As said above though, the options on Ubereats are mostly for junk food. On a positive note, Ubereats-partenered restaurants deliver until a later time, while Deliveroo accepts orders until 11pm tops. Again, just in my experience.
Although Ubereats was supposed to be much faster than the other food apps at the start, never ever trust the estimated delivery time the app sets for you. Unfortunately, the ETA changes from when your food is being prepared to being on the way, meaning that the starting 15-25 min ETA can suddenly become 45-50 min. And when your driver finally gets there, Ubereats takes the piss saying “Your food has been delivered on time!!!”…what?! Fuck no, it wasn’t.
Another downside, drivers mainly ride with bicycles, so by the time your food gets to your door, it’ll be ice cold. Guaranteed!
The customer service is not as responsive as Deliveroo and accessing it isn’t any easier. But, when something’s gone wrong, I’ve always been refunded.
. . .
Pricewise instead, both apps have an average £2.50 delivery fee, and pricing is equal as its set by the restaurants.
However, some of the restaurants set stupidly high prices that your stone broke average Londoner can either waste your weekly budget on or just give up on the cravings.
For instance, I’m addicted to pizza. Like a real bad addiction.
Prices for pizza, and I’m talking Neapolitan pizza (so the original 9-inch thick-crust pizza) range from £8 to £14 for a Margherita. Like, you out of your mind?! I understand duty taxes, import fees, competition, etc., but this is seriously insane.
I go for pizza quite often though and occasionally with two Italian fellas I’m used to gather with. We do some sort of Italians-only night out where we discuss our culinary specialties and how much we miss them. Switching from a topic to another, we share stories of the places we come from: we recall that wacky night when we triggered lines of shots in multiple bars on Christmas’ eve and presented to our relatives for dinner totally smashed; or that romantic walk by the seaside with that special person looking at the nightlights drawing the whole bay, and how embarrassing to realise we had fallen in love. We recall the food, the love delusions, that nonsense meeting point, the best friends gone lost and our long-missed family. We recall all the beautiful and unforgettable moments and memories of our younger years that Italy grounded in us. We partake in a moment of silence, take a melancholic breath and smile at each other: “Yeah…it was good times.”
Yet we decided to take the distance from all of that, to abandon all said above and move to London for its opportunities, the unique lifestyle, a solid career and a wider perspective on life. There isn’t a moment we regret this choice; there isn’t a moment we feel we would give up on how this city welcomed us and what makes us experience every single day. We agree that maybe it’s all about where you feel like you belong. So we wonder, which is better?
Maybe there’s no better app; maybe there’s no better place to be. Maybe, as long as pizza makes us feel like home, we’re going to belong anywhere.