Chair Quest – How To Get A Free Chair

The story of Henry’s epic search for a free chair, and how he eventually found one.

Last Wednesday, my chair’s back snapped. 

I’m not sure what happened. Either it could no longer stand my poor posture, or it’s been transitioning into a stool on the sly. 

Despite a valiant attempt to reconstruct it with superglue, it’s still broken and now my jeans are sticky.

I’m not a stool-ist, but the wound’s pretty jagged. So, like a hairless cat, or a multipack of Walkers crisps without any salt & vinegar left, there was no reason to keep it.

So I set it free by putting it in the cupboard where the bins live.

However, after dropping it off, I found myself in a predicament. You see, my amp is too low, and my dirty-clothes-mountain is too perilous.

That meant I no longer had anything to sit on.

Thus began the most epic adventure since Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a tale that minstrels will to sing throughout the ages:

CHAIR QUEST

If you’re looking for a way to find a free chair in London, this is probably the best guide you’re going to get (because who the hell else is going to write one?).

So at about 15:00 last Wednesday after my chair broke, I started roaming Hackney’s streets in search of a new chair for my room.

Gather Your Party Before Venturing Forth (Get Some Help)

Knowing all great adventures begin with a party of unlikely companions, I decided to recruit some merry people. 

My severe lack of friends presented the first challenge. 

It wasn’t really a challenge though, because the economy’s provided me with loads of friends by consequence. That’s right, I tried to convince my flatmate to join me. You can probably do this too, even if your face looks like a potato (not these potatoes though).

Anyway, my flatmate’s a medical student, so we share similar hours (and work just as hard as each other 😉 ), and I knew that he wouldn’t have anything better to do.

Here’s how I masterfully approached the situation: 

I proclaimed, “Oh naive Medical Student, forsake those dusty tomes, and join I, Henry the Humble, on the quest of the ages. We shall overcome formidable obstacles to find the one true grail, a new chair perfectly suited to my chamber. Your healing skills will be indispensable, for many foes will stand in our way.

To which he replied, “Go to Argos and buy a new chair. They’re £20.” 

First, they don’t cost £20, they cost £45

Second, what he didn’t say was more important than what he did say.

I’ll spell it out for those whose EQ isn’t as great as mine

Forgive me, Henry the Humble. Nothing would bring me greater joy than joining someone as magnificent as you on this great quest, but alas, I have made a sacred oath to St Thomas’ Hospital. Rest assured, a man of my considerable cowardice would do you no favours in battle. If I came along, you’d probably end up sacrificing yourself to save me from a berserking bin man.

That was when I understood this task was too dangerous for ordinary men. I’d have to complete it alone. (No one was was going to come with me)

If you’re looking for a free chair though, you should probably bring friends because, well, you don’t want to die do you?!

Seated Sabotage

With the quest begun in earnest, I journeyed to the source of new seats. 

Finding it was simple. I just used my mighty powers of recall. 

(remembered where my previous flatmate had found the old one

At the other bin collection point! 

I knew that I had to approach the bin collection point with trepidation. 

That’s because when discovered, my former chair looked like it’d been staggering the streets for days. While we never spoke of the past, I assume that my chair had either been pimped out by a sofa, or forced to work in Vietnamese nail salon (both would explain the scratches). 

In other words, there were probably some mean old chairs sitting in that cupboard, betting on stool fights, stealing seat slips and smashing each other’s shoes.

But nothing could have prepared me for this scene:

The best place to find new chairs is the cupboard with the bins near council houses, because benefit scroungers get allowances to buy new furniture

Doors completely hewn from their hinges, rubbish everywhere, and no chairs

I knew then that all of the chairs must have escaped, or more likely, been kidnapped.

Yes, they’d definitely been kidnapped.

Facing such a setback, I reconsidered my options.

(Considered whether I could actually be bothered to find a new chair)

Is Buying A New Chair Really That Bad?

Beset by what I knew now must be a kidnapping, I uncharacteristically considered buying a new chair.

Then I remembered that buying new furniture is scientifically proven to cause global warming. 

Yes, instead of blaming politicians or coal, the true culprit for all of those emissions is actually DFS

Think about it. 

How did they think they could get away with all of those better than half price sales, while  selling chairs that are just made of glue and staples

Sure, “half price” glue and staples might be a great temporary diversion from the regret you feel after buying that two-bed, semi-detached new build, on the Government’s Help To Buy Scheme, but it’s going to do nothing for your carbon footprint.

So instead of shying away from this mystery (and succumbing to evil) I set out to uncover who had kidnapped these chairs and complete my quest.

Unfortunately, the only way to do so was to follow a trail of destruction.

I discovered that sustainability is a great excuse to be cheap, and is a great reason never to buy your girlfriend or boyfriend any presents, ever again

Upholstery Uncovered

There wasn’t an obvious direction to go, so I just walked down the road looking for chairs.

These are the chairs I came across, with an assessment on whether they’re suitable replacements for your own broken chairs.

Chairs In Front of Cafes

The first chairs I came across were on the patio at Venerdi, an Italian restaurant on Chatsworth Road

I nearly stole these chairs, but didn’t because they’re not nice enough for a pretty boy like me

The chairs were just about to tell me where they’d seen a large lorry load of chairs going by, when the restaurant manager leapt out and told me to stop eyeing up his seats.

If I’m honest, I’m not even sure that one of those chairs would look good in my room.

It’s ok to steal chairs in front of cafe’s, but they’re not always great alternatives to office chairs.

Mobility Scooters

Next I spoke to this mobility scooter. 

Have you ever seen a more delightful office chair?

It looked pretty suitable. And I liked the idea of finishing my quest early.

It had wheels like an office chair, with the added benefit of being motorised, so I would have been able to make trips from my bedroom to the bathroom with great ease. It’s also completely covered, so there’d be no splashback or any little accidents.

However, I then remembered that my bedroom has absolutely no floorspace, so the chair would be impractical, unless it was like offroad, and didn’t suffer from malfunctions after change got stuck in its wheels.

It would also be quite difficult to get driving stick under my desk too.

So I trundled off, further down the road.

Motorised chairs are fine to take, as long as the person you’re taking it from is only pretending to be ill. The easiest way to discover if this is the case is by stealing their mobility scooter and seeing if they’re able to run after you.

Chairs That Are Really Damaged

Next I came across Arnold the Armchair. 

He’d been playing in a skip and some plasterboard ripped up his skull. Poor Arnold.

The lesson of this story is don’t play in skips children

For a chair that was dying, he seemed quite cheerful. He also knew about the bin cupboard kidnapping.

With the last wheeze from his leather cushions, Arnold divulged the details. 

Apparently, a small man with an Indian accent and a very bad case of erectile dysfunction, knew that I had nowhere to sit in my room, and wanted to use the opportunity to scam me by pretending to be HMRC

Arnold said the man needed £50,000 for a new battery operated penis, and had invested all of his remaining savings in hiding the chairs around Hackney from me.

That’s because when he called, he wanted to make sure that I had nowhere to sit down. Because that’s how you make people really, really worried. 

Arnold said that he was going to call on 020 3631 5675

I thanked him, but he was already dead.

It made me a bit upset, because if my flatmate had come along, he could have cast cushion  moderate wounds or raise the upholstery and Arnold might still be alive today.

It’s not a good idea to take chairs from skips. They’re normally full of asbestos and smell like weed.

Incontinent Chairs

I was worried by what Arnold had said.

Obviously I had no interest in talking to a man with a severe case of erectile dysfunction, especially if I didn’t have a chair to sit on. 

What if it was contagious? 

I had to find a chair, and fast.

Finally, I came across one that looked sort of suitable. However, it appeared to be in jail, for no obvious reason.

I asked what crime it had committed. The chair wouldn’t talk to me, but then I saw a pretty horrible yellow puddle forming on its seat.

The dirty bastard was trying to urinate on me.

It’s completely natural sir

So I promptly left.

When looking for a free chair, remember to watch out for those with bladder control issues, as they will completely ruin your jeans and your room’s floor.

Delegate Responsibility To Your Girlfriend

Having not found a chair, I told my girlfriend about my predicament. 

She said I was being stupid and should buy a new chair.

Tired after a day of questing, we went to the merry ye olde tavern, The Elderfield, securing a room for the night for three coppers.

The next morning, I awoke rested, and having nothing better to do, set off on my quest again.

A Call From A Man With Severe Erectile Dysfunction

Just as I was about to find a great new chair near that old weird building on Homerton High Street, my phone started ringing.

The number wasn’t withheld, it was 020 3631 5675.

Damn, the man with Severe Erectile Dysfunction was calling.

Answering the call, I was met with a pre-recorded message that said, “This is an urgent call from HMRC about a fraud matter. Please press one to accept this call.

Obviously, I pressed one.

That’s how I started speaking to Armit.

He had a thick Indian accent, and definitely sounded like he suffered from Severe Erectile Dysfunction (you could hear his penis flopping about in the background).

He said, “Hello, is that Mr Henry, this is HMRC calling, a warrant has been issued for your arrest. The only option to prevent your arrest is to pay £50,000 now.

I was standing near a wall, on which I rested.

Yes, I’d foiled the evil Armit’s plan and knew that he’d hidden all the chairs because he wanted my £50,000 (I’ve totally got £50,000).

So I just hung up.

He then called again and posed the riddle, “Mr Henry, with HMRC you only get one chance, you need to transfer the money now.

Having worked in Government for six years, I knew the answer straight away. Specifically that the statement definitely wasn’t true if you’re white and English.

So I dispelled his spell by hanging up on him again.

I then walked home, forlorn that I hadn’t enquired about the chair’s he’d kidnapped, and the respective failure of my quest.

Deus Ex Ma-chair-a

To my surprise, that evening my girlfriend called me.

She’d found a black chair just like my old one, only with a broken leg.

It was dark and handsome, so when we both collected it from outside someone’s house we decided to rename it Vincent.

It’s great, and I’ve never been happier.

Thus ends the greatest story ever told, Chair Quest.

The moral of the sotry is, if you’re looking for a free chair, tell your girlfriend and she’ll find one for you.

Also, if HMRC call you and say that you owe them £50,000, it’s most likely a man with severe erectile dysfunction at the other end of the line.

If you work for Netflix and want to get the rights to this story, drop me a line.

Yeah, paid work’s definitely for losers

or how Henry got a job in a burger joint

Hey, I wanna ask you a question.

Imagine I’m pointing my finger at you (the right one).

Yeah, you.

Now you’re looking back at me.

Savings are great, aren’t they?

Now, imagine you’re looking perplexed.

Seriously, are they?

Wait, don’t say anything, I’ve already had this conversation with you in my head. It went like this:

You: “Why are you asking?

Me: “Oh, I don’t know. Do they make you feel warm at night? Could you paint me a picture with a background of green and blue, just like that of the glorious five pound note? Something to help me relax before exiting the cornershop with cans of special hidden under my hoodie?

Me: “Why are you looking at me so strangely?

Me: “Ok, fine. I admit it. I just wanted to talk about money. Or lack of it.

I don’t know why it took so long to get here, but it’s finally happened. The ATM will no longer give me money.

On a positive note, my bank balance now has two letters after it, DR. I’m not entirely sure what it means though. Maybe damn radical? Sure.

At least there’s some solace in Lloyds, Barclays, or whoever, finally realising it’s cool that I can’t pay my overdraft fees. After all that pain in 2008, the banking sector must no longer be full of losers (I’m joking, of course it still is).

I don’t really want to link the two (and I’m not sure if I should), but I keep feeling like I should.

I have no money and I quit my job a month ago. Surely there’s no correlation?

I mean, work just brings pain right?

Let’s move to a commune and reek of patchouli

Initially, no money wasn’t an issue.

It was like I was living in a commune with my flatmates. I, the entertainer, was rewarded with stolen tobacco, half finished beers, and tea spoons of hummus clinging to the pot’s lid.

But then they noticed I was licking the lids of their pots of hummus and stopped letting me use their washing liquid.

Not washing was fine though.

I mean, bin liners are perfect for hiding guts developed in servitude.

What fits better than a bin liner when pretending you can play electric piano?

However, some people didn’t get it, and despite being breezy, it wasn’t helping me find a way to get money.

Finally though, they got sick of the bin liner and the landlord started asking for the rent.

No longer young enough to attract richer older women, I had to find myself a job.

Who’d have thought it? I mean, it was going to totally ruin my quest to become the greatest copywriter ever.

It also seemed ridiculous.

What was the point of quitting my previous job if I had to getting another fucking one?!

Turns out I’ll never know.

A month of failure

I wasn’t worried. Henry’s are grafting men; take Henry the Hoover, and um, King Henry VIII. The latter was so busy he only managed to have one son!

No one else seemed to realise this though.

Despite spending the end of May applying for the lowest paid, hardest, least office type jobs I could find (within walking distance), I didn’t get a single call back.

No, not from Oslo, a bar in Hackney, where I applied to assist k-holing patrons from south London home, or even at Hackney Council as a groundsman, despite how I had two arms and wore a bin bag (so like, my clothes wouldn’t get dirty when I was digging stuff).

It was a real shame. A real shame indeed.

The biggest shame of all though was that as an aspiring and talented writer (yeah, I’ve been unemployed for a month so I can now legitimately call myself a writer), people were definitely not set alight by my CV.

And I didn’t immediately understand why.

It was full of great short and long keywords, like:

‘the hunkiest bar man you’ll ever need’

‘bricks and mortar baby – aka, I’ll stand the test of time’, and

‘I definitely didn’t just walk out of my previous job without giving any notice and they definitely didn’t fire me. It was a mutual thing. They knew that I was definitely not the right fit. The right fit? Oh, you know, I just liked working too hard and taking orders so much and excelling at my work so much. Oh yeah, I mean we agreed I’d leave because I was making everyone else look so bad.’

Henry’s CV, May 2019

And I’d even lied about last job, stating that I was definitely less important than I actually was so people wouldn’t be as intimidated by me.

Clerk of the Stationary Cupboard formerly known as King. The Department for Digital, Media, Culture & Sport (haha, get it?!)
June 2017 – May 2019

Henry

So what the hell was going wrong?

How to get a job that pays £8.21 an hour

Then I realised, I was being way too smart for my own good. The people reading my CV didn’t know anything about long keywords. They probably weren’t very good at reading either! (actually. they were, they just didn’t spend all day sitting around reading things and talking to other people about them at the tea point, so had less opportunity to scrutinise)

The best action I could possibly take was to copy and paste all of the key phrases from the job description onto my CV and title them as previous roles responsibilities.

It was so simple!

Clerk of the Stationary Cupboard formerly known as King
June 2017 to May 2019
Responsibilities: To be proud of Bromley Court Hotel’s rich 200 year history and years of experience offering comfortable surroundings, superb food and personal service to all of their guests.

Henry’s CV, June 2019

So I did. I also moved down all of my recent experience and listed some bars that I definitely used to work at.

It was funny because it actually worked.

And now I have a job, waiting tables for 40 hours a week at a burger joint.

And it’s great.

Where else is a successful Hollywood director going to meet a dashing and incredibly handsome waiter that looks like he should definitely be the next Spider Man (four’s the charm, isn’t it?)

And when he does, I’ll make sure I get his order wrong so he has a reason to give me his business card.

I went to the future – even the local chippy was vegan. Oh wait.

How Homerton’s Kingfisher somehow made vegan food authentically British

Today was the launch of the vegan menu at the Kingfisher, a traditional (not fancy) fish & chip shop in Homerton, east London.

I dragged my girlfriend along expecting a hilarious excursion; the only thing hilarious was how wrong I’d been.

I can honestly say that I think this is the first time I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating authentic British vegan cuisine. You know, not a tofu salad, nut roast or beetroot burger, but something that felt (and tasted) British.

And who pulled off this great feat? A little independent fish & chip shop in Homerton, which is pretty damn remarkable.

How I ended up going to the Kingfisher’s vegan menu launch

How did I get there? It began at a barbecue last night.

I sat in someone’s garden with a bunch of people I didn’t know. To make friends I started showboating.

To do it, I strung them along with a captivating story about the plight of a local fish & chip shop, and its misguided attempt to get with the times by launching a vegan menu. Then (and this is how you make friends) I got everyone involved.

Passing around a picture of a poster I’d spotted in window of the Kingfisher earlier, I asked everyone what they thought:

Invitation to the Party
Why didn’t you RSVP to the party?! Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher

For those who can’t see past the permanent marker, it’s an invitation to the launch of the Kingfisher’s vegan menu on Sunday, 2 June 2019: a bring-your-own-booze spectacular and the first ever VEGAN ONLY day in the establishment’s 47 years of business.

Then I said, “for a fish and chip shop that still doesn’t accept cards, that’s one hell of a statement. Why don’t we go?

Everyone was hooked (or at least pretended they were). So, much to their amusement, I called and booked a table for four.

Surprise-surprise. When I got up the next day everyone had forgotten about the plan.

So that table for four became a table for two (my girlfriend’s long suffering).

And hell was I surprised.

Much to my disbelief, the Kingfisher’s vegan menu launch featured decent vegan food. For the first time, I was sharing my culture with my girlfriend (who’s not from round here) and I wasn’t embarrassed about it.

Leaving, I couldn’t help but root for them. Businesses like this should be succeeding.

Authentic British vegan food? How can you make a claim so bold? (THE REVIEW)

The Kingfisher doesn’t boast. It’s a modest, traditional fish & chip shop situated along Homerton High Street. It’s pretty accessible at five minutes walk from Homerton overground and fifteen from Hackney Central.

Profile of the Kingfisher
A modest profile. Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher.

Compared to its neighbours (the Adam & Eve and the Spread Eagle): it’s not flashy.

But that doesn’t matter: it’s the real deal: no need for sequin dresses, an imported Club Mexicana menu or DJ sets that no one listens to.

Inside, it’s what you’d expect – the deep fat fryer bubbles, there’s the occasional spray of salt and vinegar and the placemats are kinda sticky. 

Interior of the Kingfisher
Why can’t I have a saveloy?! Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher

What makes the Kingfisher different is the menu.

This Sunday, it was totally vegan:

Kingfisher Vegan Menu
Beyond the permanent marker, it’s a pretty bold vegan offering. Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher.

When I first saw it, I didn’t really read it properly and instead just laughed. I was fully expecting deep-fried Linda McCartney sausages and slices of lukewarm tofu.

I was really wrong.

For their vegan menu, the Kingfisher had gone the whole tempeh (get it? Tempeh’s a pork substitute). It was wide-ranging and from what I tasted, very well executed.

Talking to the owner, it was clear that it was founded on a lot of research, experimentation and definitely was not half-arsed (yeah, I’m looking at you the Diner).

We saw them prepare the Classic (standard vegan beef burger), the Chickadee (their own attempt to rival Hackney’s vegan burger emporium, Temple of Seitan), their namesake ‘the Kingfisher’ (a mock fish-fillet burger) as well as their own vegan take on chip-shop classics including the doner kebab (every fish & chip shop in London is a glorified Super Kebab – it’s what the people want) and pie & chips. There were also a bunch of vegan desserts and smoothies.

Also, like me you probably associate traditional British cafes with Nescafe Gold. But look, the coffee actually wasn’t granulated:

Coffee at the Kingfisher
Actual coffee. Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher

As a party of two we had: 

  • the ‘Kingfisher’ (vegan breaded fish-fillet burger)
  • A Vegan Pie (vegan take on a steak and onion pie)
  • Some chips
  • And a Super Green smoothie

Look, it’s almost like someone might have posted that picture on Instagram:

Food at the Kingfisher
The ‘Kingfisher’ (a vegan fish fillet burger) and vegan pie. The mayonnaise is actually vegan. Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher.

It was surprisingly good.

I’ll start with the Kingfisher. For context, I’ve been to the vegan Sutton & Sons in Hackney central (the fancy-ish fish & chip restaurant chain) and I’ve had the fried banana-blossom mock-cod. I can confidently write that the Kingfisher’s breaded vegan fish-fillet tasted more like fish, had texture more like fish and was actually pretty nice to eat, like fish. I’d recommend it over almost any other battered vegan fish I can recall (and I’ve made vegan fish fingers with tofu and seaweed – so I’m pretty much the authority).

The chips were chip-shop chips (better than Chinese takeaway chips, kebab-shop chips and the pub-enamel-mug chips – irrespective of what this survey says). There was also complimentary vegan mayonnaise and a whole range of other free condiments that Mildreds would definitely charge you for.

The vegan pie, normally only offered takeaway, tasted like a meat pie and it came with vegan gravy (a real boon). It was good (in the sense that pie and chips are good). The offering at Camden’s Young Vegans (a dedicated vegan pie shop) isn’t any better.

And the smoothie? The Super Green was made out of avocado, banana and added pea protein (and some seeds. Apparently people who drink smoothies like seeds). It was thick (the right sort of thick), very green and pretty fresh. After a conversation with the owner, I learned that she’d worked a lot on getting the consistency right and even consulted her son, a sports nutritionist, on how to boost its nutritional value.

Smoothies at the Kingfisher
Can you see the pea protein? Can you?! Vegan menu launch @ the Kingfisher.

The food was well executed, well researched and the owners put in a lot of effort to deliver it. Even though it was 100% vegan, it really didn’t seem out of place or phoned in. It wasn’t up itself (pretentious) and most importantly, it tasted good and is actually something I’d eat again.

The whole menu’s also reasonably priced – it cost about as much as a standard meal at a London chippy (just over £20 for two – not including the smoothie).

Why weren’t more people at the launch?

When I arrived, there weren’t that many people there.

When I left, there weren’t many people there either.

It’s not my business, but it got me down.

The food was good, the invitation was charming, it was all well priced and you could bring your own booze. It also had something that you don’t find at chains – charm. I don’t want to be sentimentalist here, but it really felt like you were part of a community.

And if the food satisfied, going there this weekend was certainly a better story than a nutroast at an anonymous east London pub.

For the Kingfisher to deliver a wholly vegan menu was incredibly bold. Maybe it’s a sign of how tastes are changing – adapt or die – but honestly, how often do you see relics of the British High Street trying to innovate and reinvent themselves for 2019? And actually accomplishing it?

The owners were incredibly sweet too. You could tell they’d put one hell of a lot of work into delivering this and cared a lot about their business.

I really don’t want to rant, but if people like you and me don’t go out and support risk takers like this, then we’ll end up with exactly what we deserve – a London with way too many Pret a Mangers. Who honestly wants that?

I cannot implore you enough, vegan or not, to try the new menu at the Kingfisher.

I guarantee that you’ll be just as surprise as I was.