Apart from the Dragon Café (of course) our 2nd favourite place for a bit of calm, support, and quiet contemplation is the tiny Boathouse Café in Barking.

This scenic little cafe with a nice open terrace is tucked away on the banks of the River Roding. It actively promotes local artists, painters, historians, photographers and vinyl-playing DJs, plus a host of local musicians.

On a more personal level, owners Derrick and Alison could not have been more kind, sensitive and emotionally supportive towards us through some of our toughest and most challenging times, mentally. I am certain that we are not the only ones to whom they have held out the hand of friendship but of course they would never ever say.

Before the lockdown, the Boathouse celebrated Black History Month, ran open mic nights and championed both LGBTQ+ events, International Women’s Day and Record Store Day. (It won’t surprise you to read that this last one is a cause close to our hearts).

Both the Dragon Café and the Boathouse, have helped us more than words can say and we are so grateful.

They remind me of the lyrics to “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, especially these ones.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all, all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around.

It’s already obvious that when lockdown ends many fantastic, local cafes and restaurants will close and be supplanted by faceless, expensive multi-nationals who frankly, could not give a carrot about the mental health and wellbeing of their patrons.

I am pretty sure that both the Boathouse and the Dragon will survive. However, next time you are queuing (and social distancing) to pay £3.75, or more, for a Starbucks Skinny Vanilla Spice Latte in a branded plastic cup, give a small thought to the sort of venues and support you might be losing.

Rant over!

Shelley and Mike