My lovely bosses at The Deli Downstairs are off to Australia until September, leaving our ragamuffin group in charge! The night before they left, they held a big party for the Village, where all our friends and neighbours (also our customers!) came and drank wine, ate some lovely Vietnamese food from Namo across the road, and listened to my friend Jimmy’s (who also works at the Deli) klezmer band, Benny & The Cheese Grinders.
Those of us who work at the Deli got up and danced, and soon we had a little dance party going on in our tiny cafe.
For all I have mentioned and raved about my workplace, I don’t think I have posted any pictures before. We live in the middle of Victoria Park, one of East London’s biggest public parks – our area is called Victoria Park Village, known affectionately as ‘the village’ by those who live here. We have one of the sweetest, most amazing communities any of us have ever experienced – we truly are a ‘village’ in every sense of the word.
We aren’t just deli workers, or fishmongers, or bartenders – everyone, customers & workers, are friends, and everyone knows everyone. There are the old timer East Londoners that have lived here their whole lives, who catch me when I walk past the pub and regale me with tales of the best jellied eels (an East London specialty) – there is the extraordinarily large group of Aussies who found this place and have never left, who bring me chocolate brioches from the bakery in the park, or sausage rolls from the Ginger Pig, our local butcher of rare breeds from the North York moors – there are the actors who banded together and made a troupe just for the village, who do pantomimes at Christmas – there are the fetes and fairs that we bake cakes for the ‘Guess the Weight’ competitions (where our lovely chef was worried for days about having to judge the childrens cake competition and break dozens of tiny hearts). I can’t even explain this place – as my mum said to me ‘How does your village even exist outside of a movie?’ I don’t know. I’m not gonna query it. I’m just going to live it.
We are kind of all tucked within a horse shoe of the park, and as such feel really cut off from the rest of London, which is lovely. Then, if we want to go downtown, we hop on a bike and cycle along the canal and within 20 minutes, voila! We are in Central London. It’s really the perfect place. And what makes it perfect is the people. We are a bunch of misfits, as I’ve heard us affectionately called. And everyone is really one big family. I was so lucky to find this little pocket of paradise, and then be accepted with open arms.
Sarah looked at me and said in a mixture of disbelief and happiness: ‘This is my life!’ She said she was of course excited to go back to Australia, but she was already excited to come back. I am not sure what she was saying about me when I took this…. I hope it was good!
The party was magical. Late at night, after most people had gone home, left behind in the cafe was part of the Deli family. Theo got out his ukelele, and we sang, and we danced, drinking Deli wine until late.