Thames Barrier Cafe

2 Visits Over 3 Days To A Nuclear Bunker In A Forgotten Zombie Park & 5p Down

Monday 16th Jan 2017

To save time and energy, rather than walk, he takes the Docklands Light Railway from Cyprus Station to Canning Town and changes for Woolwich Arsenal via London City Airport. The Silvertown stop slips by, and he gets off at Pontoon Dock, a high concrete station with a quick ramp into the Thames Barrier Park.

As he rounds the corner of the high hedge, into the wide dew soaked grass park, disappointment strikes. The café is closed. The metal shutters on the oblong building are all down, making it look like a nuclear bunker.

As a recompense, he walks to the end of the park, and the edge of the Thames. Ahead the silver towers of the Thames Barrier stick up like capped canines. He surveys the empty water and the flocks of screeching seagulls.

Then, turning for home, walks back to Cyprus, but half way there gives up and boards the D.L.R. at Royal Albert, blowing £1.50 to cut out two stops and a bunch of walking.

Wednesday 18th Jan 2017

Rounding the corner of the hedge, he feels jubilant that the nuclear bunker is now a café. Behind is the same journey on the D.L.R. However, this time he had cocked up, and waited on the wrong platform at Canning Town for 10 minutes, as two trains went by on a different platform.

He passes through the automatic doors of the café and turns sharp right into the newly refurbished toilets. A very clean and bright, plush place to relive one’s bladder.

Back in to dog eared entrance hall he walks into the café. The owner is sweeping worn wooden floors. He is surprised to be serving anyone at that time in the early 10:30 am morning.

“You want coffee?” he asks, like it’s a shock.

“Er, yes please.”

The owner, a tall black man, in smart, but worn shirt and trousers, makes his way behind the smart, but worn, counter. The man requests a small cappuccino with no chocolate. The owner makes this and delivers it in a mug. The £1.95 coffee receives £3 change from a new style fiver. The man looks briefly at the carrot cake for £2.50, next to the note sellotaped to the counter: “please to not place your children on the counter” and decides against this decadent feast, already 5p down that day.

“Thanks,” he says and picks up his mug and supplied napkin, possibly a 5p napkin.

He makes his way to the low comfy, but worn, chair. Removes his coat, woolly hat and woolly gloves and sits down, his coffee is on the low, but worn, table. The owner resumes sweeping, as exuberant classical music wines out, trying to do battle with the refrigeration sound coming from the bank of chilling units arranged along the left side glass wall. The owner, presumably, has put this music on to motivate his sweeping.

From behind comes the sound of people entering to use the public toilet, but no one comes into the café. The man sips his coffee and gazes out of the glass walls ahead and to his right. Beyond the decking, with tables and chairs, the broken ones stashed up ahead, is the dew soaked grass and bare trees, framing the silver metal tusks of the Thames Barrier towers. On the grass, dog walkers stalk like zombies, and group together in hunting packs; and the dogs pack together in order to sniff each other and their excretions. Crows and seagulls get on with their jobs of, whatever crows and seagulls do.

The man sits with his mobile, texting, or sexting; and the owner returns to the counter in order to tidy up and listen to Radio 4. As the froth goes down in his mug, the man discovers the text on the rim: “deliciously refreshing” which is nice to know, as the text on the outside says: “Natural Speciality aroma” which, he feels, gives little away as to the nutty beverage.

            The combined din of classical music, refrigeration, talk radio and toilet usage, soon persuades the man to finish his coffee, and depart to walk home, in order to save £1.50 on train fairs, as being 5p down he’s not feeling too flush right now.