Phoebe, a playwright from Hackney, 23, spoke to Eastlondonlines, recalling a harrowing experience following a meal out in London…
I remember parts of that evening well.
It was the summer of 2019 and I’d just moved into a lovely house in Hackney with my two best friends. To celebrate, we invited all our old school chums out for a meal. There was an Italian restaurant down the road from our new digs, so we thought we’d check it out – loads of people had recommended it.
The restaurant seemed your average Hackney-Hipster paradise; beautiful décor and charming, good looking, moustache-twirling waiters serving you. Most of our friends got pizza or pasta – but I remember being brave and opting for the restaurant’s vongole, because one of the charming, good looking, moustache-twirling waiters had recommended it to me. I rather fancied the waiter and it was one of the chef’s specialities, so there you go – I’m having the vongole, thank you very much.
I’m always rather suspicious of food that comes to your table quickly after you’ve ordered it – and everyone was eating their meals within 20 minutes of walking through the door. However, I thought nothing of it, because the food smelt so good and looked like it had been designed by Gucci – presentation is vital!
Despite experiencing my usual ‘food envy’ – where I habitually stare longingly at other people’s plates – I really enjoyed the vongole. It tasted like proper, traditional Italian food. You’re spoilt in London because there are so many wonderful places to choose from, but I thought I’d actually found my new favourite restaurant. We were having a great evening; everyone was having a good time; eventually we went back to our house for a few drinks after the dinner.
As we were sitting on our balcony chewing the proverbial fat, I remember thinking what a delightful evening it was. The city of London loomed in the distance like glorious pillars of urban life and the humid summer air made everyone glisten. At that stage it was looking a fantastic christening for the new house.
Suddenly I felt a bit queasy but I quickly dismissed it as first night nerves combined with the three or four glasses of Viognier I had drunk. My usual instinct in these circumstances is to let out a bit of wind to relieve the tension. However, to my utter horror, I realised that I’d been slightly too forthcoming, so to speak. Unfortunately I was wearing my best friend’s dress at the time. I muttered something politely and ran to the bathroom.
After having dealt with the unpleasant scenario that I found myself in, overcome with exhaustion I went to bed. As I lay there, struggling to drift off I started to feel freezing – which was strange because it was in the midst of that ridiculously period last summer when all the records for hot weather began to break. After a few minutes of this came a wave of tingly, ice cold nausea. Never had I felt like that before – it was like some sort of awful shadow had engulfed me. Instinctually, I flung myself out of bed and again headed straight for the bathroom. What followed was seven hours of terrible throwing up and an almost psychedelic hallucinatory experience.
At one point, I was lying on the floor and thinking I was tripping. As I was laid out I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the polished tiles – one of the few that wasn’t submerged with remnants of my vongole – and imagined I was floating upwards toward the ceiling, the same ceiling that I’d seen painted by a handymen a few days earlier. There I stayed for a while, staring down at myself, praying the whole ordeal would end. Eventually I made it out of the room and back to bed, but not after I’d gone through one of the most painful experiences of my life thus far.
When I woke up the next morning, I was relatively fine – there’s very little that a few glasses of wine at lunch can’t sort out. The only twinge of sadness I felt was when I looked in the mirror; I hadn’t lost any weight at all! I thought the least that bloody vongole could do was to make me lose a few pounds for the rest of the summer months. After all, it had condemned me to the toilet for the best part of seven hours, but oh well – that’s life eh!
Phoebe was talking to Tom McGhie, Eastlondonlines
This is day three of our series on food hygiene. Check out the rest of the series here #foodforthought