Friday, 2 March 2007
A Carrotty Surprise
Owen Powell - 2nd March 2007
After a reasonably difficult morning, our encounter with Harsha and Sophie had enthused us again, and we headed towards Kensal Rise with more confidence. Alex had previously scouted out an Ethiopian cafe, so our expectations were high as we turned into the parade of shops near the railway station and saw the colourful sign above the Bole Cafe and Diner.
Inside, preparing for a busy lunchtime, was Aynalem (or Ayni, for short). Alex ordered an orange juice, and Ayni suggested he might want some carrot juice mixed in with it. Slightly baffled, Alex agreed that probably that was exactly what he was after, and he wasn't wrong - it was delicious.
In between jobs behind the counter, Ayni joined us for a quick chat. She was very softly spoken, and seemed a bit embarrassed by the attention, but smiled when Alex complimented her on the juice he was thirstily hoovering up with a straw. She had been in London for nine years, but had only been running the cafe for the last six months. It seemed to be a real labour of love for her - more often than not she worked seven days a week, and provided a catering service as well during the few times the cafe was closed. The Bole provided traditional Ethiopian food, popular not only with the large Ethiopian populations in nearby Queen's Park and Ladbroke Grove (where Ayni lived), but with many other customers as well. During our chat, one of Ayni's regulars, a burly Ghanaian man, came in for his usual mid-morning snack.
Ayni was happier talking about her new life in London than her old life in Ethiopia. She said that she had arrived on her own nine years ago, had lost her mum and dad, and had never been back. When we asked what her plans were, if she hoped to stay, her eyes lit up. "Oh yes, I hope to stay for a long time." She has settled now into a new community, and particularly enjoys (on Sundays when she is not working) visiting a church in Battersea where she has lots of friends.
The lunchtime rush was approaching, but before she went back behind the counter we asked about the name of the cafe. "Bole?" said Ayni, smiling. "Bole is the name of the airport in Addis Ababa. It was the last place in Ethiopia I stood in before I came to England, before I flew to Heathrow. It reminds me of home."