Small White Elephant

Deep in the heart of Peckham, just off Rye Lane, lives our favourite coffee shop – Small White Elephant.  It was one of the best things about living in Peckham, which is saying a lot as the place is starting to contains a lot of coffee shops and artisan bakeries…

There is nothing wrong with an abundance of coffee shops; café culture has been a traditional part of European social culture for hundreds of years. People have used them to write, read, discuss ideas and entertain. As with many proponents of commercialism, multinational coffee outlets have appropriated this rich and positive aspect of our culture and reproduced it at a much lower cost but at the same time stripping it of its original charm through their inherent homogeny.  Small White Elephant is a welcome relief from these bland identikits.

Orange on the outside, cosy and tropical on the inside it is like being inside a secret treehouse. I particularly enjoy all the toy dinosaurs and large novelty mushrooms. Matt likes the constantly changing art and their choices in music. Especially the music.  Through this place he first heard one of his now favourites, Karen Dalton.

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The food is hearty and healthy, think lots of avocado, chorizo and brownies. Many a morning have we sat there trying to quell our hangover’s rage by tricking it with vitamins and caffeine. The Vietnamese coffee is delicious. You have to wait for it to drip, so it takes a little longer. The coffee is dark and rich, served with a little condensed milk in the bottom of the glass. It is a wonderful combination of sweetness and stimulant.

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They also have the occasional late night there, we went to a couple of jazz gigs, and they have poetry evenings.  There is also a big bookshelf right at the back, which operates a policy I usually see in hostels of ‘give a book, take a book’. I’m a fan of these magical bookshelves with unlooked for treasures.

What I like the most about this place is the eye for quality with lack of pretensions. There is interesting art, killer music choices and a warm, friendly environment. The whole place seems to have been carefully designed to replenish the body and refresh the mind. Jen and Dale are lovely and make you feel completely welcome.

My laptop still proudly bears the Small White Elephant sticker, although it’s looking a little bit worse for wear these days…

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If you live around the Camberwell/Peckham area, go and have a nosy – it’s bloody lovely.

New Town & Old Friends

I just spent a wonderful, if not bittersweet, weekend with three of my old friends. Two of them came down from Manchester for Lovebox and one of them came just for a visit. Myself and Matt have just moved to Peckham, literally getting the keys to the place on the same day they arrived. It did mean that they were kipping in chaos but they knew what they were letting themselves in for when they decided to stay with us.

Peckham is completely new to me, being a Mancunian I had no views on the area, had heard nothing about it and didn’t know what to expect. The reason I picked this place is because I really loved the flat and it is a lot closer to work, for me…

Peckham seems to be very vibrant, with lots going on. You’ll have to forgive me for speaking in northisms but it has the multiculturalism of Rusholme with the nice bars and art spaces of the Northern Quarter. Or at least that’s how it looks after two whole days here!

Two of our friends went to Lovebox and with our third friend, a beautiful spinning creature of madness, we chilled out, drank some wine and then decided to find somewhere to go dancing. Having spoken to a couple of people from work about Peckham, we had the Bussey Building recommended to us.

Walking in to be greeted by ‘Earth Wind & Fire – September’ was a joy. I really liked the venue, reminded me of where I used to work in Manchester, similar vibes. The production quality was a lot higher though. The fact you can choose from a variety of floors and genres also worked well for someone with an attention span like mine.

J + J didn’t make it back to us from Lovebox that night, the journey down and the festival wiping  them out completely.  The next day though we all went for breakfast at Café Viva. When I’m hungover I always try to trick my body with fresh fruit into feeling okay again, their berry smoothie did the trick. I could tell at this point that I’d become numb to London’s inflated prices for everything when my friends were reacting to the prices. It is commonly repeated but the price difference between north and south, in this case Manchester and London, is ridiculous. Café Viva’s food was lovely, delicious bagels and really good coffee- perked me up enough to realise the best thing to do would be to go to another bar.

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Franks. I had heard conflicting things about this place. From someone who had lived in Peckham for a while it seemed to be almost an embodiment of evil. From a guy from work who hadn’t been here long (also from Manchester) it was meant to have great views and nice booze. It is a bit tucked out of the way, but to be honest I like that quality in somewhere I am drinking. It makes me feel removed from the world and able to relax a bit more. After we’d settled down we could see that the views were overwhelming. It was such a bright but hazy day the colours all looked  cold and brittle, it felt like I was seeing some kind of dystopian future. On a hot day though I would recommend it as there was a breeze up there that cut through the hot muggy day.

I used to work with all three people who had come to visit us. I left the business in very unusual circumstances and there was a lot of strain all around. For them and for us. Spending that time with them reassured me that friendship goes deeper than our circumstances. When you form a bond with someone out of understanding and respect, not because you share the same geographical location, it can still be there regardless of unintentional hurts on both sides. It does make it harder when they leave. We shared a lovely afternoon drinking cider, getting told off by a friendly security guard and sharing our plans before it ended and they had to head home.
I smiled through the hugs and goodbyes but as soon as they went up the stairs I cried my way out of the station. It is good to know that even when people are apart from you they can have love for you, and not time or geography can change that.