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Upstairs, downstairs



Kent. You know Kent?

In one of those London postcodes that’s become a playground for the one percent and where paparazzi loiter until the early hours poised to grab a shot of someone rich or famous or both tottering out of Sexy Fish or somewhere looking like I guess we all look at three in the morning after a night on the lash, Abdi is telling me where he lives.

I’m on a midweek works night out and having tubed it from Seven Sisters to Green Park it feels like we’ve been transported to another planet rather than simply another part of the same conurbation. A group of six of us arrived at this dimly lit basement bar just after six thirty but by seven my slim collection of small talk has been pretty much exhausted and the over-priced bottles of European lager haven’t kicked in yet so my frequent trips to the gents aren’t simply the consequence of a weak bladder. More a need to escape the bumbling work-based conversations that are an occupational hazard of any night out like this.

Toilet visiting synchronocity dictates that each time I visit the gents I see more or less the same faces including the friendly figure of Abdi who by my fourth visit of the evening has informed me that he’s originally from Somalia but has lived in England for seven years now. He reckons that he’ll be here until the bar shuts at three in the morning which means that he won’t get home until about five thirty. After waiting for a night bus it usually takes around two hours for the bus to wind its way through central London, down the Old Kent Road and out into the south eastern suburbs and finally into Kent. When he gets home at around five thirty he usually has a cup of hot water before heading to bed exhausted he adds.

Just then one of the bar staff from upstairs clip-clops her way down the steps and pokes her head round the entrance to the toilets looking for Abdi.

Can you come upstairs, someone’s been sick.

Abdi smiles, gathers a mop and bucket from an adjacent cupboard and follows her upstairs leaving the toilets and a selection of aftershaves, eau de toilettes, lollipops and two silver coins on a silver plate by the urinals unattended. Bloody foreigners, coming over here cleaning our sick up…..


From → London

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