I speak in tongues of other men,
where echoes of history return again.
The mouth jars open yet remains still closed
And, in every word expressed, a void exposed.
Today, I am
a cluster of words
rip-roaring and strewn
like a flock of scared birds.
for I scatter easily
in the wordless wind
you breathe for me.
This will be the first of a series of reviews in which I embark on an exploration of the culinary heights of the best restaurants London has to offer. Prepare your taste-buds as we weave through the corridors of a city saturated with cultures that span the globe. Our first stop sees us visit ‘our neighbours from across the pond’ and revel in their mastery of meat and the humble potato.
I arrived at McDonald’s restaurant – Liverpool Street branch – on a cool spring evening. The sun hugged the skyline, semi-submerged, and set the sky on fire with shades of molten red. A kind cleaner held the door open as I entered – a great first impression. I was weary after travelling for an entire 25 minutes on the slower train from Cheshunt to Liverpool Street station – the express train usually takes a speedy 19 minutes, so you can understand how I was overcome by such a terrible malaise. Regardless, all was forgotten in that cleaner’s fresh and welcoming smile. He – his name was Michael – showed me to my table and offered to pull out my seat for me, however the seat was firmly budded to the floor – there was talk of a series of violent chair thefts in that particular area at the time. I was comfortable and my table was clean, apart from the homeless person seated opposite me. However, I managed to block out his grunting with the restaurant’s unique soundtrack of a roaring hip-hop beat, played from the phone loudspeakers of a group of youths on the table beside me.
McDonald’s pride themselves on their speedy service and my experience was no different. No sooner had I ordered my Big Mac burger (medium-rare) and american french fries there it laid in front of me. I must now note that this particular chain function on an “order at the counter, you fool” system, rather than the conventional table-waiting I have grown accustom to. Like the adaptive creature I am, I took to this with ease and was pleasantly surprised by the impeccable efficiency of this process. After calling for help from her manager six times, my waitress was able to enter my order. She – her name was Sandra – seemed just as inviting as Michael. Her wonderful greasy brunette locks tied neatly into a bun which seemed to stretch her face slightly. Behind the blemishes, she was beautiful.
I took my meal back to my table to find that the homeless man had fallen asleep across the table. Not letting this jade my experience, I decided to place my dinner tray on his back and tuck in. The homeless man’s soft breathing gave the illusion that my meal was bobbing on a collection of gentle waves – small details like this are what set McDonald’s apart from its competitors. The waves eased me into my meal and soothed me so much that I could not complain about my burger being overcooked. Usually, I would send meat back to the chef for such a culinary crime, however medium-rare was at the back of my mind as I was hit by the tantalizing sauces which burst from this parcel of flavour. Only an establishment with over 60 years in the food trade could come up with the master-stroke of mixing tomato ketchup and mayonnaise together to create such an elegant burger sauce. The potato fries were certainly fried and seemed to acquire the texture of well-marinated cardboard – a delicacy in some American states, I hear.
Unfortunately, my dining experience was cut short by a drunk couple who began to scream and disrupt the other diners – London is full of these colourful characters. I left the restaurant before the police were called and, on the whole, my time dining experience in this service-driven establishment was a pleasant one. From the extremely-stylised method of frying everything on the menu to the general ambiance which mirrored the frantic, time-oriented city it is situated in. McDonald’s is an artifact of London. It is a chain that links every street and every building. London, the fast food city.
Look how easy it is to fall
into the default cast
and move through time
tied to the shoes of the past.
We grow into them with ease
as if by some incurable disease.
The sun will always rise
and bleed the same light
across the skies
until the return of night.
We are but echoes
who scream into the darkness:
Die young and save yourselves,
before you become someone else.
We scatter like leaves,
between skeletal trees,
blown onward by life’s breath
toward a pile of red leaves left
at the end of a suburban drive;
Each leaf still thinking it is alive.
See into me as I see you;
a storm trapped in ice –
an insane grey-blue
If you ever begin to feel special or unique, spend a day or two job-hunting for your dream job and you’ll soon return back to your normal and disposable self.
How am I to feel real
With this incessant patter of doubt?
We speak such empty sounds
As we pass through eachother
And awaken with eyes closed;
I can’t see you infront of me.
Like ghosts, our lips press
Against the history of things,
Yet do not feel.
We glide along ignorant of the end,
Wandering lost in an isolated time.
Cold bodies lie in the darkness,
Awkwardly waiting in love’s afterlife.
Modern life is insane. It jitters in an incomprehensible half-talk, spitting away sounds without meanings. We are walking, with open ears, down a busy street of faceless figures. We maze through the shadows and brush past shoulders. Brief is the breathe and it hits us in a ghost-like, fleeting contact.
“Jeremy, we’re going to be late. Have you got your -” “-bannanas! A bunch of them here for you, my lady, for the special price of-” “-salvation; he died to save us all from-” “-getting a loan out in order to pay for the boat he can’t afford. I told Tony to invest the ten grand into variable ISA accounts to maximise the interest he could receive, but no, he buys a fucking boat and now he’s complaining about the-” “-bad bacteria that you can’t see. Well, our product kills 99.99999999% of bad bacteria to ensure that good bacteria-” “-does not exist. How can He? If God was real, we would know, we would have a-” “-brand new car with the most innovative technology to improve your driving experience. Imagine gliding quietly through-” “-life. He was a man loved by many. George Turner will be greatly missed. He was a loving father, an attentive brother and a-” “-fuckin’ cunt! Say that again to mah face you spineless prick! How can you sleep with her and think that I won’t beat the livin’ shit outta” “-the prime minister held emergency talks today with representatives from both Ukraine and Russia. An outcome has yet to be established; however, what is clear is that-” “everyone is going to die when they see you in that dress, Jackie. You look fantastic. No-one will be able to tell that you’re-” “-an ancient relic, dating back to 10 AD, will be shown on exhibit in the local museum next to-” “-a 26 year old man who was found dead late yesterday evening outside the cemetery in-” “her knickers. That’s all I want. None of this official relationship bullshit. Sex, that’s what it’s about and what it will always be about.”
The city talks to itself. Today is a rush of syllables carelessly strewn among a fever of feet which all march towards money. It is 8.30am and we can only assume the majority of the people around us are on their way to work. Suits, umbrellas and ties. Ludicrously high heels dance around puddles which pulse to the constant battery from heavy lines of rain.
Our ears prick to the emerging sound of a confident stride. It breaks through the hiss of scraping soles with an audible authority. A pathway opens up, as the mass of bodies divides, for a tall figure with sharp shoulders who moves swiftly on through. The figure disappears from view as quickly as it appeared to us. The sound of its confident footsteps gradually fading behind the sounds of talking faces. We try to follow these footsteps, but are swept away in the current of bodies that push past us. The pavements thrive like a living thing; it is a mess of limbs with a unitary drive. We are hit by a barrage of insults as we try to work our way out from the crowd. Life feels too quick for us; it is a panic of clashing moments which seem to push us further into the crowd of people. We choose to walk with the crowd, to follow the current to see if it leads us to an escape.
We move with the other suits and end up at a train station. The platform is full of men and women stood in silence, staring at an overhead matrix screen. Breathes are held and, once the matrix reads: ‘CANCELLED’, those around us release into a synchronized groan. Our head turns to the exit in hope of an alternative route and, as we march onward, our ears rest on the fragmented conversations of our fellow commuters.
“You have got to be joking! Out of all the days they choose to cancel my train it has-” “-nothing to do with me, sir, I’m merely a ticket officer. If you wish to make a formal complaint or have your ticket compensated you’ll have to-” “fuck me. That’s the third time this week. Tom, I’m gonna have to call you back. I need to find another way to get-” “-no fucking signal. One bar everywhere I go. Perfect. Now there’s no way for me to-” “form an orderly line, so that we can empty-” “-your purse fell from your bag. You should be more careful. There are plenty of pickpockets at train stations these days.”
The gentleman’s words dissipate like smoke. Mouths become silent and eyes follow the backs of other commuters. No-one knows where they are going, only that they have to leave. The crowd reaches the exit of the station and disperses into the streets of the city like the seedpods of a dandelion when blown by the wind. Feet dart into the sunlight in a tense panic. Suits strewn themselves in a number of directions; all searching for a way to get to their destination.
The rain has ceased and the clouds have divided to reveal the warm glow of the sun. Loose coils of steam release from the drying asphalt and fade into a semi-existent state. The air is warm, heavy and wet. The rain hangs around our face like a ghost. Its history hugs our skin and is almost suffocating. We survey the scene to see ringlets of hair appear and work shirts drying into a two-tone pattern due to the rain. The crowd appear wild around the edges. Stray hair and ceased jackets surround us.
Our feet move before we think and soon we are in another part of town. We are closer to our destination. We aren’t late. We are, in fact, right on time and decide to stop in a small coffee shop. A medium latte with two sugars. We order the same thing regardless of the cafe. The tongue is trained and does not wish for change, so we do not pursue it.