Right, bit of a pause between posts there. I actually made this visit on the same day as the first but have left it sitting in my folder just to keep you on the edge of your seat. (total lie, abject laziness and glut of weddings)
More complexity for the pyschogeographer as the new build development that encloses The Diner continues but with a narrow alley entryway to a courtyard set off the road. At the opposite side of the courtyard is a branch of gym chain Esporta. Immediately the purist kicks in. Is this actually ‘on’ Essex Road, does it count? It’s in Roberts Court and doesn’t actually have any view or frontage onto Essex Road.
I decided to let Royal Mail be the arbiter and entered, checking immediately to see if it had an Essex Road address. It did. 27 Essex Road. Given that The Diner was number 21 that meant there must be at least two properties, buildings or things between them. But there isn’t. And neither of them has a multiple address (ie 21-23 Essex Road) So essentially there’s some kind of middle class event horizon in Islington that’s swallowed these addresses and allows no information about them to escape.
I’ve actually considered joining this Esporta in the past but I’ve never been in. In fact I’ve never even been into the courtyard. I find it slightly scary how much stuff there might be just off the routes I walk or cycle. What might I have missed? I walked in to a reception area with some intimidating looking bars and Oyster style gates. An older woman with wet hair was sat fiddling with her phone and two receptionists stood behind a counter. The difference between them and the staff in the restaurant next door was immediate. Pristine white uniforms set off with chavvy underlit hair and fake tan. I felt less comfortable immediately. I took a deep breath and explained what I was doing to a pair of disconcertingly blank faces. Cautious OKs when asked if they would mind answering some questions.
Two big errors from me: One, I failed to look around and take much in. I was immediately thinking about getting out of an awkward situation. Second, I failed to ask for their names. I have to get better at this. Is it all my fault though? Could they have been friendlier? One receptionist answered my questions with a Vicky Pollard-esque tone of disbelief whilst the other watched me suspiciously from the safety of the back wall. They clearly had the potential to be fun. They shared a giggle dismissively as a disembodied managerial voice from behind a pillar reminded them not to wedge the door open as it was a fire hazard.
One came to Esporta from across the road. ‘Literally’ across the road. [Resists temptation for snobbish jibe] and the other came from Tottenham Court Road. An address I felt was suitably vague enough to suggest genuine fear at being followed home by the weirdo with the notepad. Interesting though to find my first Essex Road worker-dweller.
Neither of them knew what was there before the gym, although judging by the age of the development it’s either been there since the beginning or was another gym brand before. One of the receptionists involved the lady with the wet hair asking her if she remembered. I softened a bit at this piece of helpfulness. I resolved to find out a bit more about this development as I think I have at least another couple of businesses to visit that form part of it. Clearly something fairly big was removed to make way for it. I also resolved to try harder to relax into the project a bit as my own inhibitions are limiting what I get out of it. After all what am I afraid of? That they might laugh or refuse to give me three question’s worth of basic information? Seems unlikely.
I asked if I could buy something and they offered me a locker token for a pound. Feeling uninspired by that, I bought a protein shake. I safely predict that I will never drink it.
- Business has been there since – nobody knew
- Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 1 (thought this would be nice to add)
- Previous business was – nobody knew
- Around 30 people work there – the same as The Diner next door. I wondered if they ever had tug of war contests given they were so evenly matched in numbers. Probably not.
- Interviewees arrive there on foot and by tube
- I bought a Power Bar protein plus drink for £3
- Cumulative spend – £6.00
(The tug of war thing isn’t true, I just made that up. But it did give me a thought for another question I could ask around the interrelation between different Essex Road subjects. Do the girls from Esporta eat in The Diner? Do the chefs in The Diner work out in the Esporta? I’ll figure out the best way to ask this and maybe come up with some kind of interrelation score from now on.