— CNP

London

From the heart of Bangla Town in so-hot-right-now East London, crammed between Shoreditch twats and Bank district suits, comes a postcard of indefatigable nonsense and misplaced perspicacity.

I’ve never before had quite so long to explore one city, so it’s been an indulgent affair of aimless wanderings, suburban jogs, swims at London Fields and naps on Hyde Park benches. The Tate Modern, being free, will see me enter and exit several times this fortnight with each visit adding just a few more rooms. An underwhelming staging of a potentially great fable by Marius von Mayenburg at the Royal Court has been the extent of my theatre-going, but I’m booked in for a “radical” Chekhov adaptation at the Gate tonight. Went to a club with Seb and Izi for a grime/dubstep night and got the full frisk and metal-detector job on the door. Ate an awesomely meaty mustard-slathered salt beef bagel on Brick Lane and ploughed into some hypercoloured Bangladeshi sweets. Might get to Daniel Kitson next week, might do the National Gallery, might go to Hampstead Heath … there’s still plenty of time.

Sundays are for markets in this neck of the woods. At the renovated Spitalfields markets its all artisan bread, watercolours and beads. Along Brick Lane its sheets on the pavement with dodgy DVDs, crappy furniture and cheap plimsoles, so one goes for the people-watching, not the substance. A short walk further north comes the Columbia Road flower markets, where deeply tanned East Enders and Turks shirtlessly plug their petunias and daphnes. In a highlight of the morning, a West Indian spruiker with a delectably camp Cockney twang held up a pot and hollered “Qu’est ce que c’est?” Then, with no response forthcoming, he sniffed the shrub and announced with glee “C’est LAVENDER!”

Saturday night in Spitalfields and a gang of us head to the uber-chic Story Deli where a friend, Sarah, makes organic pizzas on paper-thin crusts. The Deli is on Dray Walk, the epicentre of the Brick Lane cool factory where a polyglot parade of hipsters and scenesters spill out of bars and restaurants to sit and sip cider on the pavement. English accents are in the minority here. The skinny jeans and white-rim sunglasses belong to Swedes, Italians, Spaniards and Czechs. They flirt and ogle, drink and giggle and exist in a fashionably migratory vacuum that has nothing in common with the history of urgent migration that fills the rest of East London. Having said that, I know this milieu all too well … this could be The Exeter, or St Jerome’s, or any other such local lynchpin.

The pizzas devoured and the sky dark, we’re called away to a houseparty in Shoreditch, only a brief amble away. We don’t know anything about the party, but being the fashionably migratory knob-ends that we are, we heed the call. At the back of an off-licence, we find a door and walk up some stairs past a bedroom, up some more stairs, through a living room and kitchen, up more stairs to another bedroom, then up yet another flight to a rooftop. On the way up I noticed vast bowls of potato salad and trays of strawberries … odd. But before I can think about it too much we’re jostling to get through a sea of horn-rimmed glasses and vintage dresses. Staking out a corner of the rooftop, our gang of Kiwi musicians and Aussie groupies, settle in to the night. Downstairs, underneath a muted wall-projection of “The Wizard of Oz” there’s a 100 litre drum full of mojito, a map for guests to pin their home town on and a band kit lies dormant in a corner of the living room. Sometime close to midnight, a bespectacled gent with hooded eyes, a dapper blond wave of neatly parted hair and an unmistakable air of diplomacy approaches our little enclave of dagginess and informs us that “My sister’s band will start playing in around 5 minutes”. Our host is Swedish. Of course, the mountains of potato salad make so much more sense now. He is the epitome of the Swede in London. A man that has studiously applied the rules of chic to his life (and to this party) without necessarily enjoying any of it. He could have been presiding at peace talks in Chechnya… actually, he probably should have been. Nevertheless, his sister’s band bucked the current Swedish musical trend by being rubbish.

As the night, for us, grew to a close, a vampish Swedish girl and a dandy London lad squeezed themselves in beside me to get away from the madding crowds. Her opening line, which contextualised the entire evening for me, was simple enough: “I’m confident in my shallowness”. But the British boy, an architect, felt it necessary to lecture her on the engineering wonder of the glazing in the British Museum. He, it seemed, was insecure in his depth.