So. Beardy left London early Friday morning to bus back to Glasgow in time to photograph a friend’s mehndi celebrations. I reluctantly crawled from the comfy sofabed around 9am and after giving Jones the cat a pat on the head, ventured to the bathroom to get myself spruced up for my first solo day in the big city - and for my trip to Fish Island.
I took a bath. As is customary when bathing, I was naked. I was rinsing the last of the ‘I’m-on-holiday’ Charles Worthington conditioner (I know it’s probably a false economy but I only allow myself to buy ‘designer’ hair products in travel sized bottles to trick myself into thinking I’ve gotten a £2 bargain!) out of my hair when I heard a noise. I’d heard several noises already during the course of the morning and even when I was quite, quite sure I was being burgled, it turned out the fridge was just making an unusual tapping sound. Nerves & The City-a-go-go. My ears were underwater this time so, unlike before, I couldn’t be absolutely sure I’d heard what I thought I’d heard. I slid my body up the base of the metal tub and peeped my head over the lip. Before I even had time to confirm with myself that, indeed, I was not imagining a stranger turning the key in the lock and walking on in through the front door, I was face to face with a wee lady – her: armed with cleaning products and a big grin. Me: howling and flailing around in the bath water like a disorientated baby elephant As soon as the lady opened the door, Jones the cat made a dart for it out into the hallway. (I’d left the bathroom door open to keep an on him you see). Limited as to how much I could do right there on the spot without baring all, I curled my knees and cupped my boobs a la Carry On Dalston Lane and shouted, “Get Jones! Get Jones!’. The wee lady with the mop and the grin shouted, “Sorry! Sorry!’ over and over, slammed the door shut again then ran out into the hall in pursuit of the runaway moggy.
Great start. London alone is a right lark.
Anyway, since the unexpected arrival of the housekeeper meant I was now in no real rush to leave Swanksville, I got myself dressed and settled into some work in the mezzanine office (that’s right, dahling, the mezzanine office) while the grinning lady hoovered up and cleaned the bathroom. I resisted the temptation to critique her work (though I did conduct a mini inspection after she’d gone and I can’t say I was overly impressed with her effort at toilet bowl cleaning). I also managed to bite my tongue and keep my advice to add some Zoflora to her cleaning kit in future – though the urge was crazily strong. I wondered if maybe I could be a housekeeper in London.
Even after the grinning lady had gone, it became apparent that poor Jones wasn’t ready to make his return. I suspect he suffered a bit of a fright what with all the shouting and all the nakedness. Stuck inside the apartment while I waited for Jones to show up, I couldn’t help but daydream about what life might be like if I lived in the converted school building on Dalston Lane. Hmmm… What if this were my mezzanine office… and that bare brick wall with the huge windows? What if that was mine to do with what I wished? I probably spent about an hour of the morning just mentally rearranging the furniture and deciding on hypothetical homes for my very favourite things. Where might I display my new pastel keyboard? Where might my big green ceramic squirrel live? Luckily, Jones rocked up to the kitchen window just as I contemplated calling a locksmith and declaring myself a squatter.
With the kitty cat fed, watered and safely indoors, I packed up my things and headed for the train station. It wasn’t long at all before I was toddling down the ramp at Hackney Wick but my stupid holdall was heavy so didn’t enjoy the walk as much as I oughta. En route, I passed a film crew shooting in one of the Fish Island galleries, a lady with a whippet and a greyhound, a couple of skateboarders and a workman carrying too many cans of fizzy pop.
I said hello to the cats, got rid of the stupid holdall (I honestly do not understand why the damn thing is so heavy! Maybe I shouldn’t have brought half my magazine collection with me, huh?) and headed out again. I flipped through the London A-Z and tried to suss out areas of East London I’d never been to before – streets I’d missed or neglected to explore. It occurred to me that aside from a stroll along a teensy bit of Shoreditch High Street, I hadn’t really sunk myself into a proper Hoxton/Shoreditch exploration. Last time my friend Jolene was in London Town she recommended a few fabulous places to seek out so I thought I might make that my day’s task.
How-eeeever… All was not lost. I may not have uncovered any sneaky pete treasures down a back lane or claimed a secret cafe or bar as my own ‘lil find, but I did hang out in The Love Shake!
This is the The Love Shake.
In other news, I do not know why all the photos I took on Friday turned out to be a bit jaunty!
Not to be confused with ‘The Love SHACK’ (the B52s favourite saucy holiday hotspot!), The Love Shake is a 50s inspired diner nestled by the bridge on Shoreditch High Street. I was on the skoom for lunch – and for a comfy spot to read another little chunk of my Jazz Domino Holly book. The promise of an affordable burger and a retro shake was enough for me step on inside and the red leatherette booths, old time ad plaques, vintage wireless and retro soundtrack was enough to make me stay and settle in for a fair portion of the afternoon.
Come on in, sit right down and make yourself at home!
Unlike some other retro ‘themed’ (for want of a better description) venues I’ve visited, there’s a definite cosiness to The Love Shake. It’s warm and it’s friendly. The owner gives his customers just the right amount of time and attention ensuring every last visitor feels welcome. There ain’t no ‘too cool for school’ vibe here – no pouting, no sulky faces, no disinterested grunting. No siree. Not only was the service great, but my burger was delicious, my Oreo shake was divine and I surely enjoyed listening to old time r’n'b on the hi-fi. And, yes, it really was a hi-fi.
That big metal beaker on the left? That’s full of Oreo shake. And – and, I gotta say, Carter’s root beer is taaaasty!
Sorry about the camera fuzz. I was too excited to hold still.
As I stopped at the counter to settle my bill, I got chatting to the owner. Poor fella… He probably wasn’t expecting me to launch into my, “I’ve just had my first book published” story. He probably wasn’t expecting me to tell him all about Made in the Shade either – or about my Carrie Not The Kind of Girl You’d Marry blog. Anyway, I did tell him about all of those things. Told him about the adventures of The A-Maisonettes too. Chatterbox. This is what happens when you visit London alone!
After I’d finished giving Mr Love Shake my life story, he mentioned that although he had a specific vision for his diner, he didn’t particularly consider himself a vintage buff or a retro lifestyle enthusiast. He took his visual cues from popular cinema (70s classic Grease was referenced – ain’t it flippin’ always!) and from 50s alt. icons like Bettie Page. The Love Shake has gotten in tow with the Vintage Mafia gals now and they seem to be settling into their 50s-esque surroundings juuuust fine. London’s very own timewarp wives and bullet-bra toting vintage stylistas host regular pop-up fashion events at the venue – and it would seem this new collaboration is offering Mr Love Shake quite the educational experience!
A giant bottle of French’s Mustard. I squirted so much onto my burger bun that it dribbled all down my top when I took the first bite of my bun… They don’t call me Carrie Not The Kind of Girl You’d Marry for nothing.
Mr Love Shake likes what he likes – and he likes lots of different things across a variety of eras. Like me, he seems a little baffled when we talk about the most recent reinvention of ‘vintage’ and the current boom that’s occuring across, well… almost everything! Clothing, homestyle, giftware, beauty, food, drink, music, clubbing, dancing, art, film, lifestyle, branding, language, publishing, philosophy. “Vintage” is infiltrating and informing it all. That said, regardless of fads and fashions, bandwagons and scenesters, The Love Shake somehow manages to sidestep the dreaded territory of ‘novelty’. Jeez Louise… If there’s one thing that really makes my toes bunch when it comes to vintage chat, then it’s the tendency for some people/companies/whoever to reduce ‘retro’ to ‘novelty’ – to fancy dress or to bad taste or comedy. I remember once, a customer said to me, “Aaaaw… Your shop’s lovely. It’s like stepping back in time – y’know, with the furniture and everything. And the old-fashioned music’s funny. And you – you’re all dressed up in your costume! You fit perfectly”. Of course, this ‘lil soul was being kind and intended her comments to be complimentary – I got that. I’m not a total jackass. I appreciated that she liked what we’d done with the place and was flattered that she’d taken the time to say so outloud. I did explain though that we’d styled our shop (and everything else about our business) simply according to beautiful things we loved and felt inspired by. Our shopping soundtrack was chosen from our vast collection of favourites according to mood or occasion or even weather. And as for my ‘costume’, well… My costume was just, um…, my clothes.
I suppose, the flip side of that though are those instances when vintage snobbery gets waaaaay out of control. You know, when a gal can’t hang out in her favourite shop or enjoy a Sloppy Joe in her favourite America Graffiti-esque rock’n'roll joint without first pinkie swearing never to use a microwave? Or without first producing a certificate verifying the authenticity of her handbag/stockings/aurora borealis earrings? Or without first passing a quick fire test on the musical back catalogue of Wynonie Harris? Yeah… Ye can away ‘n’ raffle with that. Anyway, I digress. (I apologise. I truly hate that phrase. It reminds of a girl I went to school with. She seemed to say it a lot. It reminds me of her. And of tossers.)
Mr Love Shake has taken a general, common notion of what a midcentury diner might have looked like – and perhaps more importantly, what it might have felt like - then spent years collecting all the bits and pieces to incorporate into The Love Shake interior. It’s a mish-mashy kind of approach. My favourite kind of approach. Genuine vintage pieces and found objects sit happily alongside reproduction items (like the phone box) and where he feels like it, Mr Love Shake adds iconography and design features that break with the 50s theme altogether. As a unit though, the whole shebang work all works like a dream.
Brrrng-brrrrng! Hello? 1956? It’s Carrie Not The Kind of Girl You’d Marry here. What’s shakin’?
As I walked toward the door – tummy full o’ ice-cream and beef (yum), I promised Mr Love Shake I’d keep in touch. I wished him well with his venture and told him I hoped the mainstreaminess (now there’s a made up word for y’all! I like it), of vintage would somehow work in his favour. I’ve decided that when I finally relocate from Glasgow to London Town, one of the very first things I’ll do is ask Mr Love Shake if he might like The A-Maisonettes to come play some music for his customers sometime. Or I might ask him if I can host a party there. Or some such little fun event… I’m on it.
You can find out more about The Love Shake here. You can find out about The Vintage Mafia here.
Now officially craving a Love Shake burger. Rumbley in the tumbley.