Estimated reading time:4 minutes, 51 seconds
Everyone onÂ Islington Faces BlogÂ has a story.Â Mostly itâ€™ s just Â A Abu Kalbinâ€™s head and shoulders that customers see behind the huge newspaper and magazine kiosk at Angel. But that doesnâ€™t stop people asking him questions as if heâ€™s a talking A-Z. And after three years in this job, plus a short spell living near Paradise Park, N7 heâ€™s a good source of local information.Â InterviewÂ byÂ Nicola Baird
â€śI like to help people! I can look at the map or Iâ€™ll check their area postcode. EC1 is this side,â€ť says Abu (his friends call him Alex) with a grin, pointing first left and then the other way towards Upper Street as he adds, â€śand N1 that side.â€ť
Rayden Newsagents, to give the kiosk its correct name, is an Islington institution. It stocks every known newspaper and magazine and is open from 7am seven days a week. Abu isnâ€™t the only person working there, but heâ€™s the one who does a good job helping people find their way around while serving a stream of customers. â€śWe mostly sell the Guardian, Times and Indy, and a few foreign magazines too, mostly Spanish or French. People know weâ€™ve got a really good collection of magazines that they donâ€™t see in WH Smith, Waitrose or Sainsburyâ€™s.â€ť
Read all about it
As the photo above shows Abu is surrounded by a sea of magazines including some fabulous titles such as Garage, The Gentlewoman, Hope Street as well as the more conventional exotic titles like Wallpaper* and i-D.Â No wonder thereâ€™s a steady stream of fashion and design folk queuing up. As a joke â€“ because Iâ€™m wearing a luminous yellow bike jacket – I ask whether I look like the sort of person who might buy a fashion mag. Abu laughs and has a quick retort. â€śYouâ€™re not going to pay ÂŁ6 or ÂŁ10 are you? Normal people, who are not too much into fashion, they get the weekly magazines like Grazia and Hello. Most of the fashion people are models or putting the seasonal clothes together. Itâ€™s their work.â€ť
What we ask the guy on the newspaper stall
Q: Is this the way to Kingâ€™s Cross?
Take the 2nd right
Q: Whereâ€™s Highbury and Islington station?
Q: Is there an internet cafĂ© nearby?
Thereâ€™s one up Chapel Market on the left.
Q: Do you have Time Out?
No, itâ€™s free and comes out on Tuesday, but you can see whatâ€™s on in the Evening Standard at Angel tube or tomorrow (Saturday) in the Guardian. (To help the pensioner couple clearly out in town on a Friday date whoâ€™d clearly been banking on Time Out to help them decide what to do.)
Abu, 40, is from Jordan, and speaks Arabic and Hebrew fluently. But heâ€™s good at English and fashion too â€“ the magazine that most tempts him is GQ – so when he can he chats to the customers. â€śYou know England,â€ť he says laughing again, â€śif people are old itâ€™s the weather, if they are young itâ€™s football.â€ťÂ Luckily he loves football and used to follow the fortunes of Bayern Munich (European Champions’ League winners and winners of the Bundesliga) and Liverpool. Now he â€śjust likes to watch football at friendsâ€™ houses, and every two weeks we go to a pub to watch.â€ť
â€śIn summer time itâ€™s a really nice job. There are more people outside, they are happy and like to talk. But in winter it can get really cold [even with his small heater] and people donâ€™t talk, they just like to go to work.â€ť
Not surprisingly the kiosk has attracted a fair share of celebrities and crazies.
â€śIâ€™ve met the Mayor, Boris Johnson. Heâ€™s a nice guy and he does normal talk â€“ said ‘good morning, how are you, how is business’. What surprised me was he bought Private Eye! Heâ€™s a funny guy and relaxed, not like the MPs that take themselves so seriously,” says Abu.
â€śYou meet a lot of people working here. I remember one woman, who was about 35, just picking up boxes of magazines and throwing them into the street. She didnâ€™t speak but I could see something was wrong with her. I tried to calm her down and get the magazines out of the road.”
Thereâ€™s always a few troublemakers to contend with too: â€śPeople do try to take the piss and make me angry but I just try to keep cool, and show I donâ€™t care too much, so that they just walk away. If people try to nick magazines I just try to speak to them â€“ if I can sort things out Iâ€™ll do it. If I canâ€™t, or thereâ€™s fighting, then I call the police.â€ť
Thanks to Abu’s way with people it rarely comes to that.
Rayden Newsagents, Â Kiosk 2,Â Islington High Street, LondonÂ N1 9LH
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This blog is inspired byÂ Spitalfields LifeÂ written by the Gentle Author.
If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy the most popular of all islingtonfacesblog posts,Â Nina Marcangelo from Alfredoâ€™s Cafe on Essex RoadÂ which had 800 viewers in a week, 187 views on its 2nd day up and 97 facebook shares.