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GAL ZELINGHER: HAPPY HOURS

Stop by the Breakfast Club Angel for a super-friendly chinwag.

The Breakfast Club at Camden Passage is one of Islington’s hippest weekend meet ups with long queues snaking past this famous street’s quirky shops. But fortnightly, on Tuesdays from 3-5pm, three tables in the sunshine yellow-painted back room are reserved for one of our Get Togethers, offering over 55s chat and cake. Today the table has a dozen people (average is 10 and the most to date has been 17). Host for the afternoon is Gal Zelingher, 32, a super-friendly gold Converse trainer wearing Breakfast Club waitress (not this branch), based in New Southgate, who moves around the tables to chat with the guests. Over her second cup of weak tea, and a slice of lemon drizzle, Gal explains that she took on this role after a meet up with the Breakfast Club’s Community & Charities Manager, Eva Arnaiz, who helped set up the first Islington Tuesday meet ups as well as events at other Age UK branches (Croydon) and older LGBT groups in Battersea and Brighton.

Gal likes the community element of her job. “I’ve gone on Love Patrol giving out tea to homeless people, and last week I was in a canoe clearing the canal at Hackney Wick of rubbish – it was very hard to paddle and litter pick. But the event that stands out for me is this Get Together in Angel, as I’m very chatty and like tea and cake. I love coming here as much as anyone else. I like the way you learn random facts and help people meet each other. I call it ‘I’m lonely too’ as I came to London two and a half years ago from Israel.”

If eclectic surroundings and infectious laughter are your thing, join Gal Zelingher (L) at the Breakfast Club.
If eclectic surroundings and infectious laughter are your thing, join Gal Zelingher (L) at the Breakfast Club.

Gal is ace at conversational openers. She doesn’t realise how gifted she is at getting the talk going. Questions like ‘Do you live around here’ are good. I don’t know the area so the answer doesn’t matter, but it shows interest. Or ‘did you see First Dates on C4’, or ‘go to that movie’ or I’ll tell one of my stories. And then she’s off, fascinating her audience with a tumble off a bike, Life in the UK citizenship test questions, her first ever go celebrating Christmas in London and even Brexit. “We can talk politics as I always look for the different angles,” she explains calmly to a Brexiteer, considering that she has Romanian nationality. It’s clearly a fortnightly task that Gal enjoys just as much as today’s three other Breakfast Club staff on the chatting team, and the guests. For once this spot in the Breakfast Club is one where absolutely nobody is gazing at their phone.

HI TEA

Enjoy cake and fruit and seriously good conversation every other Tuesday from 3-5pm at the Breakfast Club Angel, 31 Camden Passage, N1 8AE.

First timer Joe and old hand Joan – both born in India – share their thoughts on a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon tea.

Q. What are you having?

Joan: Cheese on toast and a latte. I’m diabetic so I can’t eat cake – and I want to try and lose weight.

Joe: Strawberries and an Americano. I’m a coffee addict. Cakes aren’t good for me. I touch food and put on weight and then there’s high blood pressure and diabetes…

Q. What made you come along?

Joan: I’m on my own and you need company. I’ve got six children but my baby’s 54 and my oldest 64. I’ve got 20 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren – every other Saturday they come to my place for chicken in a bun.  Here the girls are very nice and I really enjoy myself: it’s so lovely because I’ve got someone to talk to. I’ve come on the wrong Tuesday and the staff let me in, I think they enjoyed that as much as I did. When I see my mates on the bus I say come to this club.

Joe: I’ve been living in Islington since 2009 but didn’t mix much, and used to feel sorry for myself. Loneliness is a big problem. My door used to open on to Seven Sisters Road and all that chaos, and then I’d go upstairs and shut the door and you’re alone. I went through a bad patch but that gave me the strength to come here. Quite recently I’ve been going to Age UK and found there are a lot of activities around here and quite a few places to go. I’m preparing a chart for myself so I can pick and choose something to do every day from bowling to gentle exercise.

Q. Which events do you enjoy

Joan: I usually dress up – today people keep saying they’ve never seen me in black before. I like orange and silvery clothes, glitter and sequins. My kids say I always look good. They don’t like me wearing old people’s clothes. You ought to see me in my silver gear…

Joe: I thought this was going to be jazz! I was looking for a brass band but I’m having a wonderful time. People are more than friendly and prepared to talk and make conversation. I’ll be back.

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