Manchester. Safad Take Away Restaurant. Cheese Fatayas and Falafel sandwiches with hummus and all the salad and the chili sauce.
We eat with our fingers in the cold at functional and featureless take-away tables with the door open in northern England at the end of November. Pakistanis, Chinese; no Village people at this time of the afternoon (though it feels like night its dark so early). People tuck in, to pizza, to strips of meat on a bed of salad and naan, chicken, chips.
I come here often. I have my places. Places that bring some warmth to me trying to find something in this hard city. Not a lot of love around. Not a lot of space you can call your own. And yet there's a few places like this. A Good place, a simple take-away. Something out of nothing.
Someone comes in says "salam oo-alley koom" to us all, the boys behind the counter serving food and those of us expertly ignoring each other sat eating it. Pakistani lads digging into a shared table of foods, strangers yet polite as anyone anywhere.
I come here. These are the type of places I come to. I could list a dozen such featureless take-aways that have come and gone over the years for me in Manchester since Matt introduced them to me when he arrived. Before this, in other cities, there where cafés, but cafés close early in England and in this city I hang out in the centre I live so close to, not out in the suburbs wandering the occasionally cobbled streets at night; and you need somewhere to go, somewhere to turn off your radar and relax, to turn off your mind from so much. And you find it in the most mundane of places. Especially the most mundane of places, in these days, in these cities vamped-up on the squeeze, teasing what they can from us at almost every turn.
Manchester, England. 23rd November 2005