Dystopian mornings in London

I tragically fell into the habit of visiting a certain coffee and tea house every morning.

One of the very few things I know about myself for sure is that I’m a creature of habit. Routine grounds me, prevents my mind from running off into whirlwinds of worry and doom about there not being enough time (time for what? I don’t know, really, but I always feel like I’m about to run out of it.)

So when I realized that my sanity depended on the little chalkboard that said, “Coffee room open,” before the staircase that leads to the basement, I knew I was deep trouble. The fact that this certain coffee shop was a whole 5.5 thousand kilometres away from home wasn’t about to make anything easier.

(For the better part of 2019, I lived in London. I stayed there for another month and a half of 2020, but I didn’t develop this infatuation with that coffee house until the last two weeks.)

But I still went everyday, tormented by the thought that I’ll have to tear this part from my daily life soon. My mother joked that I met a lover there; that would explain why I was so dedicated.

(I didn’t.)

Inside the coffee house is another staircase, steep and a few hundred folds as claustrophobic as one outdoors. It takes you down to the cafe, and it honestly is a magical, magical thing how descending down that narrow set of steps brings about new sounds and noises and light, a little morning tucked in a coffee-scented basement in London.

I would drink my coffee in peace, with myself and everything else. I’m such a conflicted person inside, an anxious, angry mess. But I don’t think about it, or about life and what it may bring. I just have my flat white in such a serenity so foreign to me and the constant grinding in my brain.

This may sound incredibly romanticized, the half-hour I spend in a café being nothing more than daily routine to many. But it’d become a sort of ritual, a cherished and private escape from myself before anything else. I would read a tragic non-fiction book, Midnight in Chernobyl while listening to its audiobook, because I like it that much, and because Russian names are very difficult to keep track of.

In a sense I didn’t become unaware of the madness of the world above that little basement, but I just for a half-hour detached myself from it. There’s no dystopia more vivid than this reality– and I can’t tell if it’s a coping mechanism, our brain’s final attempts at grasping whatever thinning strands of hope it can find, seeking comforts enveloped within this world, hidden in its folds. But if it’ll spare me the torment of all this dread I’ll take it, delusion or not, for a few minutes of my day.

15 thoughts on “Dystopian mornings in London

  1. I guess it does make sense to break attachments to things that are too easy to lose, like a very specific coffee shop. Routines and rituals offer the best stability when they can be adapted. Still, there’s something beautiful about finding a place that you fit that well.

    Oh, and that first line is a great hook, by the way. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Years ago I used to live in London. The National Portrait Gallery’s coffee shop was in the basement. I read your description and was transported in place and time. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I visited lots of museums alone in london, for fun and as part of a short course i took there. Missed the national portrait gallery though, I’ll have to go take a look once this madness is over..

      Thanks for the comment!


  3. I love it, I bet the coffee tasted all the better for the ritual! Maybe your mother was right about finding a lover, but I’m sure you found more than one lover there. A lover in yourself of the form of your solitude, a love for your space and your time.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog! That coffee house sounds like paradise! I hope you and yours are doing well and staying safe. 2020 has already been a crazy year and it’s really made me reflect on my life. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “London calling, yes, I was there, too
    And you know what they said? Well, some of it was true
    London calling at the top of the dial
    And after all this, won’t you give me a smile?”
    — Penny Universities


  6. You write beautifully! I’ve been trying to express the benefits that come from suffering and your description of the staircase descending bringing “new sounds, and noises and light” is perfect. The deeper you go the greater the pressure. Reminds me of when I was in Israel and I attempted to go down the steps to what they said was Lazarus’ tomb.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s