Would you like a Labour party manifesto with your breakfast?’ the tattooed, multi-pierced waitress might as well have asked as she served me the most left-wing breakfast in the world.
What on earth is going on when Balham becomes so avant-garde that it negates the very reason a curmudgeon like me moved there — to be as far as possible from the trendy, liberal intelligentsia that rules most of London?
If I had wanted my local cafés decked out in reclaimed wood and serving quinoa specially flown in from the Amazon rainforest on Air Hypocrisy, then arranged on a pile of pea shoots according to a recipe by Gwyneth Paltrow, I would have settled in Islington.
Instead, I think I’m safe in crumbly old Balham, with its Caribbean market and pound stores. But now house prices have pushed this former haven of mundanity into the realms of the fashionable and the old street market where they once sold good honest yams is now teaming with the scourge of all England — independent cafés. Oh, how I hate them.
All the ex-builder boyfriend and I wanted was a spot of brunch when we stumbled inside a place that was until recently a ‘caff’ serving perfectly serviceable fry-ups and burgers.
Now we entered into a misty haze of whitewashed walls and distressed floorboards and reclaimed wood tables. And blackboards upon which strange legends had been chalked about ethically sourced this and locally farmed that and other bizarre fêtes of organo-claptrap.
If they could have got away with it, trading standards-wise, I have no doubt they would have put up a sign saying: ‘All our meat comes from animals that have in no way died at any stage.’
A tattooed, bearded waiter seated us at a recycled plank of distressed wood — I’m surprised they allowed the wood to become distressed, now I think about it.