I just experienced something unusual. Sat at home, tucking into a plate of Lucas Hollweg’s brilliant couscous salad with orange and dates (my go-to ‘bring a salad’ recipe, leftover from a BBQ last night), I spotted something out the window.
To most, it’d seem completely insignificant, but I felt like I was privy to a unique moment that, in all other circumstances, would have gone unnoticed.
Two people, cycling down the street, in opposite directions. One slightly older man, dressed in a tracksuit and with a mop of curly black hair, on a Boris bike, one twenty-something girl in shorts and flip-flops on an old clapped out bicycle. I don’t know who rang first, but as they passed, right outside my window, one of them trilled their bell. Almost instantaneously, the other trilled back, and then both erupted in laughter.
Within seconds, they had gone their separate ways – him perhaps back to his family, she maybe onto the pub to meet up with friends – probably never to see each other again.
An insignificant moment, likely to be forgotten by each of them within the hour – and if I hadn’t have been sitting here at that exact moment, no-one else would have been witness to it. But it got me thinking – how many other moments are there like that in our day-to-day lives? How many other opportunities like that do we pass up – opportunities to connect with not just the people we choose to have in our lives but those we pass day by day, whether we like it or not?
London can feel like a lonely place, at times. Which, considering it is home to an estimated 8.5 million people, is pretty ironic. Perhaps part of the reason why coffeeshop culture has become so alluring – particularly in the capital – is the sense of community it instills. It’s like all the best bits of a party – the background hum of chatter, the warmth and buzz, the potential for new interactions and friendships – without any of the actual inaneness of idle chit chat. OK so we’re all still pretty firmly behind our barriers – if someone struck up conversation with you from the next table, it’d still be pretty out-there – but there’s almost a sense of community, which I think most of us long for.
One of the projects I’m working on at the moment is Imago Dei. London is a breeding ground for creativity: there are hundreds of social enterprise start-ups working at making this city a better place. And there are almost as many food and craft markets – particularly in East London. Imago Dei seeks to bring the two together.
On 20th July, we’ll be hosting a market in the heart of Spitalfields. There’ll be food, drink and unique products on offer – and no end of opportunities for getting to know our neighbours a little bit better. If you’re around, pop down and say hello. You never know, I might just bring my bike.