A weekend with Swedes

Veronica is my crazy, colourful, all-over-the-place, vain, contemplative, scatterbrained friend from school.  She is a mother of three, and an amazing artist – the stuff that pours from her head onto paper is just beautiful and completely insane. She’s been to visit me six or seven times, and each time I am reminded of why I love London.

Veronica Levin

Naturally we headed to Camden, not only because it always delivers, but also because Veronica’s man Markus had never been and it’s always great fun to bring a freshman to experience the madness for the first time.

As always, it was busy and noisy and full of tasty food and colourful crafts, and Cyberdog still awakens the raver within me. The lights and the tunes remind me of epic nights spent in pimped-up warehouses and obscure vaults, dancing for hours and having the best conversations with strangers. Like Magnus, a guy I met in a balloon queue once. He had slaved away in the same office for twenty years, and one day he had walked up to his desk and just couldn’t bring himself to sit down. So he didn’t – instead he moved to London, got a mohawk, and started raving. We high-fived and felt smug about our respective escapes.

(Spring is coming – perhaps it’s time again? I still haven’t been to Whirl-y-Gig…)

It was bitterly cold and we had to keep moving, so after a brief amble through the main parts of the market we headed for the bars.

camden

IMG_4654rs

camden shops

We met up with old friends from around the UK and caught up on each other’s lives in the Blues Kitchen.

Once upon a time Veronica, our splendid photographer and philosopher friend Sarah, and I were stumbling home from a Greenwich adventure, and one of those chance meetings happened when we ran into two friendly chaps whom we later got to know as Rus the Viking and Henrik the German. They were getting on a bus to the eastern docks, and we spontaneously hopped on and spent that night in convivial company and fervent discussions about life, the universe and everything.  The following night they brought us to the Wibbly Wobbly, a boat pub (which has now sunk, boo!) where we wobbled with pints and the pub cat and yet more intriguing conversations with Rus and his cheery housemate, Kamil.

(That’s Rus below, but he’s hiding behind a mystery cloak of viking hair and is thus difficult to capture on camera.)

blues kitchen camden

So we reunited and drank and were merry, and bumbled from bar to bar.

camden pubs

blues kitchen camden

Once, some years ago, we met Veronica’s KAW friends, and we all sat on top of Primrose Hill and laughed and drank ourselves silly to the most perfect sunset over the glinting city lights. Two girls from that splendid evening, Kayley and Erica, also joined us for our Camden outing.

friends in camden

As the night wore on, people said their goodbyes and got their last trains. Veronica, Markus, Mike and I took a stroll along the canal and ended up in World’s End. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I can’t wait for warmer weather so that I can spend more long nights along these canals, which reflect the city and attract vibrant picnicers and other such fun folk with whom one could spend a carefree summer’s eve and never meet again. Ah, the sweet magic of summer.

camden lockworlds endThe next day it was just the four of us, and after a Full English spiced with Gammeldansk (“Gør godt om morgenen”) we strolled through the spraycanned streets of Shoreditch, went to the Backyard Market and bought ridiculous necklaces, and Veronica drooled over vintage art while I stared in horror at empty-eyed taxidermy creations.
shoreditch streetWhen it got dark and cold, 93 Feet East called us in with their generous seating areas and comforting heating lamps. I quizzed Markus on what it’s like to tour with a band in America, as he has done more than once, and I took mental notes for a novel which is brewing somewhere in my brain, to be fully formed at a later date.
93 Feet East

And as naturally as flow follows ebb, we ended up in Café 1001 because that’s just what we do. This is my old hood – this is where, before the smoking ban was enforced, the big chill boys of East London would sit sprawling in leather chairs and smoke spliffs to the relaxing beat of Jamaican reggae, and Karin and I would sit here with our cans of Red Stripe and feel young and free.

Café 1001 always works because it has everything you need for a good day and night – start in the outside seating area where you can have a barbecue, a smoke and a chat while the sun set betweens the tall brick walls. As it gets busier, move inside and buy yourself a vegan dessert in the downstairs seating area. When evening hits, go up the stairs and hang in the chill-out area for a bit, chat, drink, warm up. And then go through the rabbit hole to the dance floor in the back, where you can easily disappear in rhythmic beats until the wee hours. Sorted.
Cafe 1001My favourite Café 1001 wall art:
cafe 1001 wall artCafe 1001Cafe 1001Veronica Levin

It was fun and beautiful and busy and educational and utterly exhausting, and after they had gone home life felt a bit empty for a while, with nothing left but a bottle of Gammeldansk and a delicious Marabou Mjölkchoklad. I went back upstairs and carried on painting the skirting boards.

I’m sure it won’t be long before Veronica swings by again – she just can’t resist the primal calling of ol’ London town…

london is calling

The weekend begins

Friday night I was buzzing all the way to town, literally grinning and skipping my way down Gray’s Inn Road towards the arcade dive bar PimpShuei, where the legendary Clinton Cawood was celebrating his birthday:

clinton cawoodClint is a living legend, because he is a machine of parties and love. There are no limits to whom he can love and what he can drink. Eight years ago he walked into the bar where I was working and my life in London completely changed. And now he has the most amazing other half, Jeanne who is deliciously care-taking and plan-making and always glows with beauty:

jeanne kajsa debi

We danced and drank and shouted storied that could only be half-understood over the noise, and I felt free and alive and bubbly with joy and love for all these people.

“And disappear again into a summer’s bliss,
Of staying out and sleeping in and getting drunk with my friends”

Then Veronica and Markus came with their suitcases straight from Gatwick to the basement technicolor dunka-dunka madness.

veronica markus

veronica levinBetween arcade games and cigarette breaks, Elvis and Bruce Lee, catching up with old friends and making new ones, at some point the birthday boy got behind the bar and suddenly the price for tequila was no longer £5 but a bared chest, so shirts flew off and sticky liquor was poured straight into people’s faces.bar shotsAnd then everyone looked like this:friends

good friends

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tequila face

friends

Much too early the night wore off and people dispersed, and Mike and I grabbed our two Swedish guests and stumbled our way to a hotdog place. Clinton’s generous tequila servings had made Mike rather floppy and when waiting for his hotdog he looked like this:
cute mike

What an adorable creature.

Then Uber came and took us all the way home (I love taxis, what an amazing concept), and in the midst of the DIY chaos we settled down for a Gammeldansk nightcap before gratefully crashing into bed, saving some energy for the rest of the big weekend.