Friday, 27 June 2014

Diary of a Deli Worker. Coffee Geeks.

Wednesday 25 June. Coffee geeks.

My head is aswim with coffee, both literally and metaphorically. Barbora insisted that I drank all the coffees I made in order to get the hang of what a real coffee tastes like. By the fourth cappuccino I could barely keep it together.

‘Remi listen, are you looking at what I do? You have to make it the hot side of warm, not the hot side of hot otherwise you will burn the milk and affect the taste of the coffee. Can you taste it here? Do you? Taste it. The bitterness of the coffee is because you burnt the milk. Coffee should have a sweet aftertaste, not like this one it’s too bitter. Now finish it and make me another one.’

Friday 27 June. 

Proud to say that after two days of intensive barista training I can get the milk silky, that is to say, the right texture. Sadly, I cannot get it the right temperature or effect when pouring and my espresso shots are unsatisfactory. I have nonetheless improved. Met my 92 year old neighbour Peggy in the hallway, she says her leg is still poorly but she’ll manage - must knock on her door and check how she is over the weekend. I found my grey cardigan but have now misplaced my swimming costume, annoying. On the way back from the pool I found a wounded crow outside our tower block. Feathers stuck out of his heart like arrows in a Strongbow advert, whereupon inside I Googled ‘What do you do wounded crow London’. The search threw up the most unhelpful RSPB bird advice site, stating that they are unable to help injured birds. Feeling sorry for the crow I threw a piece of stale microwaved bread his way at dusk.

Saturday 28 June.

Today I served my first cappuccino, it was hellishly busy, but I did it.

Illustration of "racoon" courtesy of Genny Edwards

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Diary of a Deli Worker (cont'd)

Tuesday 24 June. Day off from the deli.

Re-ordered my books in the morning. Very pleased with the end result where the anthropology section is neatly piled next to my Roald Dahl collection. Poached an egg. In the afternoon misplaced a grey cardigan, can’t find it. Some days not much happens and I’ll be the first to admit it.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Diary of a Deli Worker

Sunday 22 June. Day before the deli date. 

I often feel like everyone is rooting for me. Like life is a sit-com. Some might say escapism but I just don’t really think about it. I have a new job starting tomorrow, as a deli worker and I’m kind-of-slightly-sort-of nervous. Worst case scenario is chopping off another’s finger; so if tomorrow I come home and haven’t drawn blood I will be pleased. I have nice friends and sleep on a futon, which I fold away off my mum’s floor daily. I can’t foresee a time when I’ll next have a bed but it’s not too rough because I get to sleep beside all my books.

Monday 23 June. Day of the deli.

In the morning I have to consider what are “working-pants” and “playing-pants”? I don’t want to use up my nice pants sweating it out in a deli but I also don’t want to wear ones that make me look like I still wear nappies through my jeans. Difficult difficult. I can reveal now - No blood was drawn, hurrah! Apart from at home when I gave myself a nosebleed blowing too hard on a piece of tissue paper. Learnt that tapping frothy milk lightly is not enough to release the bubbles BUT too violently will leave a mess all over yourself and the countertop, spilt milk if you will, everywhere. Barbora the patient stern angel of the Deli keeps on at me about facing the door in a sort of 3/4 length profile whilst I work so as to always notice customers when they come in. This makes pouring things difficult, and made it look like I was threatening people with the bread knife when waving them in to the shop whilst cutting the ciabattas, which Barbora also noted and I will endeavour to correct. Delicious artichokes.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Cat Confession

I don’t feel half-bad. The big orange cat is back again sat beneath the apple tree, looking fat, and lazy, and defiant.

It was Friday night 23:46. Cirrus strips of glowing grey cloud parted to reveal the moon and then all of them dissipated, like they’d been cleared off the board - just like that. In a plastic bag beside me was Marmaduke my goldfish. He is dead. By my foot that had been swung lop-sidedly over the other leg was a small tabby cat in a red collar.


‘Yes yes. It’s a Friday.’


‘I don’t know why I don’t have plans. It’s probably because I’ve been out of the country for a month and my friends forgot I exist.’

The empathetic mew that followed made me think this cat may be alright. She’s kind of small but very curious.

‘Don’t touch that bag it’s got a fish in it!’

I grab the bag with gusto. I’ve had my moment and take my leave of the cat, of the apple tree, of the bench and stride out with confidence in to the night. Yes I know what I have to do, and he deserves a proper burial the little pesky pesce, poor guy being stuck with my mum in a heat wave. But five years. Five years! That’s enough to put on a tombstone Marms if you were a person and Bowie has a song about the length of duration and all. People may scorn your species, saying you were only a fish but you were unlike any other fish in that you had travelled. Seen places I’d not seen, like Walthamstow, and you’d survived a dark bleak winter with me in Norwich and the many practical jokes that had been played on you like when you got hidden behind a bin or when Alex poured milk in to your bowl. You really were an exemplar of your sub-species and extremely well-rounded. It was an honour to have known you Sir.

By this time I had reached the River Thames. Thoughts about my goldfish had been swimming (no pun intended) around my head whilst noises from pubs and heels on pavement had faded in and out of my mind. This part of the Thames is made for miniature burials (!) I thought to myself as I gazed upon its placid surface lit up faintly here and there by the glow of well-positioned street lamps. There were small steps leading down to the riverbed and shallow dinghy docking bays for the casual sailor. This is south-west-London-Richmond-Upon-Thames. Even the water is clearer here, and on a following Thursday I’ll see a resplendent stalk glide over the pools to alight on a delicate branch. Nothing like Wapping.

So I trod carefully down the steps and tufts of grass, pulled out the frozen body of Marmaduke wrapped up in a re-sealable (body-) bag and paper, then placed him on the water’s surface. My laces got wet from the lapping tides but it did not matter.

It wasn’t The Burial of My Dreams, I wanted the whole bit of paper to set on fire but only a corner did until it got sodden and floated away.

‘Darn. Sorry dude.’

Minute’s Silence.


I tread carefully back up the steps and look around to make sure no one had been watching me, not sure if I’d feel guilty if they had, but I wouldn’t feel like talking about it in any case. Thoughts pass like the clouds and the carcass gently drifting down the Thames to the sea. I’m glad it’s not the freezer he inhabits anymore and now he’s out in the open. It’s like the literal River Styx… only it’s the River Thames so it’s more like a metaphorical one, which is what it was in the first place.

I arrive back at the gated community where my current abode is and where my mum lives 24/7 - it’s nice, it’s peaceful, it’s secure. And there she is: the little tabby cat.

‘All done and buried.’ I sound quite chirpy and lower my voice, bend my knees and give the pretty cat a stroke around the ears.


‘Nothing in the bag.’ I rustle the bag to make sure she gets it and amble over to the entrance to the block of flats. As I get the keys out and jangle them about to get in to this tower block the tabby constantly vies for my attention and pulls her whole slinky body weight around and through my legs.

‘Meeeeeeew. Meeeeeeew. Miaoooow –’

‘Bugger.’ The cat got in. I don’t know how to get her out. She’s just staring at me blankly by the lift. So I try and balance the door open with one foot whilst extending my arms out to reach her with my hands but, roomph, she darts off around the corner and up the main stairwell. Oh come on! I have just buried a dear fishy friend and you won’t give me the peace of day, come back and get out of my mum’s flats. But it’s too late. The more I go forward the more flights of stairs she bounds up. It is 00:23 and I am tired and find this boring.

The following Thursday I am looking down at the atrocity that is the fat orange cat below the apple tree near the bench where the tabby used to hang out and I am quietly appalled. What if someone killed the cat? What if curiosity really did the thing it is often quoted as saying it does? The cat wore a collar so she had an owner - oh Christ - what if it was a little boy’s cat and now she’s dead rotting in some sicko’s apartment. It’s been six days now and the dread will only continue to brew. I pray every day now not to come in to contact with a Missing Cat poster pinned to a tree, which there are many of to avoid in Richmond.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Final Courage

This is my word:

I am happy and incolsolable because this is a modern crisis /
I have everything at my fingertips yet lack
The final Courage

Courage and belief is what I need /
A Collaborator of sorts is what I want /
But it's hard when your thoughts and your soul /
Belong to others so scattered across /
The globe.

Marmaduke my goldfish is buried at sea /
Well, in the Thames that leads to the sea /
Which leads me to think / a journey
Has begun for Marmy
In to the depths of the Underworld.
I'm not going to follow him /
I'll leave him to it -
But for me something else has begun /
To rumble, to fall, to intimidate /

Which is time, Tempus Fugit /
I must start now
To take the plunge and the humiliation /
That will come with all of it.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Continent

The girls in the street

were pretty

The boys going to work

were fine.

None. Everyone there ne'er

Felt misanthropy.

Not a cygnet wing

Lifted to 

kill somebody.