LATELY — 28 December 2008

The Most Surprising Thing That Happened to Me on Christmas Day

Across the road from my place–I can see it from my kitchen window, to the right of the pharmacy with the Banksy on the side wall–is this little Turkish cafe called Casaba. I’ve been there once or twice to get a hot chocolate, and it’s rather nicer inside than it would appear from the outside. (This is a surprisingly frequent turn of events when it comes to the shops of Essex Rd.) Anyway, one of the more perplexing things about Casaba is its very unusual (and seemingly unpredictable) opening hours–not open early in the morning, not open on Saturday afternoon, not open Sunday; open Monday evening, open Tuesday evening.

On Christmas night around 10.30, Pearlie and I were walking home along Essex Rd, and noting which shops were open and which were shut (Raab’s Bakery, dry cleaners, Co-op, Mississippi Fried Chicken–shut; minicab booth–open; dodgy Burger/Kebab/Pizza near minicab booth–open; the two largish 24 hour convenience stores that flank the Co-op–open!) and got to musing whether Casaba would be open too. Wouldn’t that be quite something? For the plucky little cafe to be serving on Christmas night?

And then, as we got closer, we saw that the sign on the door said “OPEN.” We were walking along the other side of the road and it was dark, and it was dark inside too, but there seemed to be people in there. We went a little bit closer and yes, there were definitely people inside. We crossed the street and opened the door. Some music was playing pretty loud. “Are you open?” we asked, still standing in the doorway. Yes, yes, replied the patrons and staff. (It never did become completely clear who worked there, and who was just visiting.) So we stopped by and I drank an Efes and Pearlie an apple tea. And that’s really the end of this story–the most surprising thing that happened to me on Christmas Day.

Oh, one of the reasons that Casaba’s opening hours seemed so eccentric was that they’d recently changed from being a cafe to a bar. (Business hadn’t been so good, evidently. According to the owner (co-owner?) Casaba had once been a successful Sisha bar (29 flavours!) but the smoking ban had changed that pretty quick.)

P.S. The most surprising thing that happened on Christmas Eve what that some dodgy chorizo undid my stomach, so I spent a large part of the night throwing up. I felt fragile for most of Christmas too, and spent most of it in bed. The pink lady apples were nicely medicinal though.