Tuesday 11 January 2011

The State of Independence

So this weekend I achieved two awesome things in one fell swoop: I kept up with my new year's resolution to meet someone in the flesh that I've met online AND I went somewhere new and inspirational. I can take no credit for the latter because the venue was suggested by the subject of the former.

There she is! Helene, AKA carottesauvage. If you've ever been near Burdastyle, you may well have encountered her before. She is a hella talented lady of multi-disciplined greatness, sewing and knitting creations with an incredible level of professionalism. Her creations regularly feature in the 'Top Ten' project choices of featured members including my own (to be found in the photo section of Burdastyle) for their sheer perfection. For more on what makes this interesting lady tick, check out her Q&A from when she herself was Burdastyle's featured member last week.

I can't remember quite how we first 'met' (e-met? net-met? Is there an established term for it yet?), but we've been commenting on each others' stuff for yonks and decided we should hook up in the flesh upon my return to the UK. I got to hear all about her recently finished Fine Art course and got the skinny on her New York adventure where she interned for the aforementioned Burdastyle, among many other topics.

We met at Helene's local: The Scooterworks bar and cafe near Waterloo Station. It's a former scooter repair workshop which used to function as such with a tiny cafe area inside. The scooters have since been moved elsewhere and more tables have replaced them. Despite this move, it is an incredibly interesting and eccentric, yet welcoming place.

Its decor is the randomest miss match of antique and junk shop furniture and tat alongside pieces of scooter memorabilia between which the three residents cats skulk about. The hot drinks are of an authentically continental nature (I had a couple of delicious piccolos) and all cost less than £2 (yes really, in central-frikkin'-London!). If you want something to eat but fancy something other than their pastries, you are welcome to go and buy something from elsewhere and bring it back to eat there as long as you're drinking something. Oh, and don't feel you need to pay as you order, OR feel you must immediately re-order once your cup has been drained.

This might not sound exactly revolutionary, but you must put all this in the context of central London, or in fact the UK. I haven't been anywhere like this in the UK for an incredibly long time, and I'm struggling to think of a parallel. The only places I can think of that are similarly genuinely relaxed and quirky are ones I have discovered abroad, like the panther milk bars in Barcelona. What I'm sayin' is you just don't get these kind of places here. With sky-high business rates and property rental at a premium on this squished in little island, generally independent businesses need to say 'buy buy', else they'll be saying 'bye bye'. I guess the owner (a kiwi, apparently) has a great passion and vision matched by his bank balance, for which I'm thankful.

It made me very happy to experience this place. When I moved to Barcelona, I was struck and enamoured by the variety and sheer quantity of little independent shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. I couldn't get my head round how there could be so many places with only a few tables, low prices and such unattentive bar staff, under no threat of apparent closure. I had hardened myself to the prospect of returning to the UK and saying goodbye to that wealth of independence, affordability and choice. But the Scooterworks gave me a little welcome reminder of what I'd been missing. Thanks Scooterworks and thanks Helene!


Anonymous said...

i read this last night on my phone & couldn't post comment but my god was i excited when i read this - I'VE BEEN THERE!!!!! December 12 months ago myself, my sister and her partner flew over to london to see spiritualized at the barbican (brilliant gig!)and happened across this little place when we were wandering about near our hotel. And had lovely hot appley whiskey drinks (it was the start of the original big freeze!) And we sat at that exact table that you photgraphed!!! Very cool place :)

oh and p.s. i'm not a regular commenter because i'm lazy and read blogs on commute but i too am not scared off by the prospect of more sustainability talk, quite the opposite infact, bring it on!

(overly excited and long gushing comment now over...)

Anonymous said...

Leche de Pantera!! Oh my goodness that brings back happy memories of my year abroad as a student in Madrid... Completely random bar! Must try out the scooterworks cafe next time up by Waterloo, thanks!

melissa said...

Oh cool I must check this place out next time I'm around there.

Don't take this the wrong way, but "you need to get out more"! There are TONS of quirky, col, laidback, independents shops and cafes in London! My god, I could name about fifteen just off the top of my head, in Shoreditch alone! And I could do the same for a bunch of other areas. If you find yourself on a main street full of awful high street chains, just move one or two streets over, and you're likely to find the good stuff. :)

Maybe not quite that cheap though!

Minnado said...

Looks like a good meet-up and also a lovely venue. I think you can find independent and not rushed cafes/bars in small provincial cities...I can think of several in my home town where you can linger over food and drinks
I am woefully, embarassingly outofdate on London though. BTW thank you for the lovely comments, made me smile. x

Reneebies said...

I wish I could hang out with you guys!

Fourth Daughter said...

I like "net-met" as a term to meet someone in person who you've been stalking for ages via their blog :)
Maybe it's cos Melbourne is so small, but I have met at least four other bloggers who I only knew by commenting, and at least two of those were purely by chance. Isn't it great though! Feel free to net-meet (not as catchy as the past tense, is it... hhmmm) me if you're ever in Australia!

Altar Boy said...

Erm, dig the bar and dig the Jesus. Unless I steal the piece, where can I get myself a framed carebear prophet for my at-home altar?

A great read!

BTW, you have been featured on my latest blog. TANG!

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