Today I did speak to Lorenzo, the owner of The New Piccadilly Cafe. The Cafe, my Cafe.
I paid my Minestrone soup, and asked him the question that had been bugging me since the last time I was there.
“Is it true that this Cafe is going to close?”
“Oh yes” he said “They are going to rebuild this whole block, and the Cafe is going down with it”.
Oh no, this was not what I wanted to hear, at all.
“The people with the money have the power, so we are all moving to the Bahamas and retire”. At least he could joke about it.
“That is such sad news! I love this Cafe and (and this was the time to bring it up) the film.”
“What film is that ?” he said.
(There are several films shot in this cafe, the next one comes to your cinema in December, is called The Good Night and is starring Gwenneth Paltrow).
“The Girl In The Cafe.”
“Ahh, Bill Nighy.”
“Yes Bill Nighy indeed. He is such a great actor and it is such a wonderful film. The film is very close to my heart, and so is this Cafe”.
“Thank you dear. Did you know that that film was shot at the exact table you were sitting at?”
“I know” I felt a bit pathetic, but he wasn’t laughing at me, I think he realized that I was a serious fan of both his Cafe and the film.
“So when is it going to happen ?” I asked.
“About 6-9 months, a year at most.”
I felt very sad hearing all this.
“Have you ever seen this film?” I asked him.
“No! I haven’t got the time yet. You know I leave home at 7.30am to get to this Cafe, we close at 8.30pm, I go home after that and then I am tired.”
“You have to see it one day, really. Do you have the DVD ?” If not I would have bought him a copy.
“Yes, and thank you for thinking about me that way. But yes, some customers gave it to me.
You know, if you take your copy with you next time, I can sign it if you like. I’m not Bill Nighy, but I can write “With regards from the New Piccadilly Cafe”.
I just checked if he was pulling my leg, but he didn’t – he had a genuine smile.
“Great idea! I would love that, I’ll bring it around next time.”
I put my change back in my wallet. Put on my backpack, I had to go.
“I guess there really isn’t anything we can do to keep this Cafe open ?”
“No not really, the people with the money can’t see what they are doing to this neighbourhood”.
“Are you sad about it ?”
“Neah, I am fed up with it. I have been running this Cafe all my life. I am always working. I would love to go to the theatre, or the cinema, but there is no time for it. This Cafe – it has been my life.”
“I understand, but it is sad to hear this”.
“What are you going to do tonight?” he suddenly asks me.
“Uhm, I’m going to the theatre actually”
“There you go, see what I mean?
Anything interesting you are going to see?”
I did see what he meant, and I can understand him, but it doesn’t make things better.
“A new play from a first time play wright, it’s called “On the Third Day”, in the New Ambassadors”
“Well enjoy it. And we hope to see you here again, before we close”.
“I’ll be back soon. Take care now and enjoy your weekend.”
Which felt like a weird thing to say as he probably had to work all weekend.
Normally I step out of that particular door being recharged, full of energy and inspiration. This time I could nearly cry. London will lose a part of its soul when The New Piccadilly Cafe closes.
And so will I.