Friday, March 29, 2013

Drive to Surrey, Shopping, Dinner, Theater

Monday, March 18, 2013: London

Off to Woking on a Mission of Mercy:
One of the items on my To-Do List on this trip to London was a visit to my Dad’s cousin, Sybil, who following a stroke, a year ago, was confined to a hospice in Woking, Surrey. Since I am very fond of Sybil and grateful to her for all the hospitality she has showered on me over the years on my visits to London, I was keen to make the time and the trip to see her. Fortunately, her ex-husband Joel of whom I am fond, offered to meet me at Hounslow East Tube station from where he drove me for 45 minutes to the Princess Christian Care Home in Woking where I found Sybil fast asleep at about 11 am. Our visit lasted an hour and I was relieved to find my dear relative comfortable and well cared for by medical professionals who are competent and efficient. An hour later, Joel drove me back to Hounslow station from where I took the Tube for my next appointment.

A Business Meeting at Queen Mary College, Mile End:
Prof. Alison Blunt and I have been in correspondence for a few years now as both of us share similar research interests in the South Asian diaspora—she as a geographer and I in Cultural Studies. When she extended an invitation to me to meet her to discuss our common research interests, I accepted eagerly. Mile End lies at the East End of London not too far from Whitechapel. It has a huge South Asian ethnic, mainly Muslim, population—which makes Alison well-positioned for the studies in which she specializes. Over a lovely warming cup of milky coffee, Alison and I discussed our current and forthcoming publications and the forthcoming projects in which she is collaborating with a number of easily recognizable names in the field. She photocopied some of her recent work for me and we made promises to stay in touch and consider collaborations of our own before I took my leave, an hour later, to enable her to get to a class she was teaching. Queen Mary College has a sprawling campus in the East End and going by the students I saw, I can say that it is multi-cultural and multi-racial and a very fertile ground for the continuation of the studies we are currently undertaking.

A Disappointment at Whitechapel Art Gallery:
Since I was only a few bus stops away from Whitechapel Art Gallery at Aldgate East Tube station, I hopped on to a bus going west with the intention of visiting the gallery that has acquired a great deal of fame for the quality of its ever-changing installations. Alas, when I did arrive there, about a half hour later, it was to discover that the gallery is closed on Mondays. I must say that the lobby was impressive and I have little doubt that I shall make the effort to return to the space on a future visit.

Shopping for Favorite Goodies:
With time to spare before my next appointment, I hurried to Bury Street in Bloomsbury to a small shop I have patronized over the years called Bury Foods where I have always bought my supply of Darjeeling Tea and Border’s Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger Biscuits. Again, I had a disappointment in store—for while my biscuits were available, my preferred tea was all sold out. Still, I corralled my supplies and left the store before walking towards Charlotte Street for my next appointment with my friend Rosemary.

Dinner at Brasserie Zedel and Theater (Old Times) with Rosemary:
My good buddy Rosemary got off work at 5. 45 pm and met me in her office building from where, after an affectionate reunion, we headed off to keep our dinner and theater plans. Rosemary had made reservations at Brasserie Zedel, a vast basement eatery that was part of a huge complex containing a bar, a dance club, a comedy club, etc. Its distinctly French ambiance was quite exciting to me and when we sat ourselves down and surveyed the menu, Rosemary settled on two starters while I had the Boeuf Bourgignon, a most hearty concoction served over mashed potatoes in a gigantic Yankee-sized portion that was flavorful and succulent—maybe the best I’ve ever had. Again, it warmed the cockles of my heart for we had walked across the city from Fitzrovia to Shaftestbury in a downpour and I was grateful for the steaming stew.

Rosemary and I settled the bill, decided to have coffee and dessert after the play and hurried off to the Harold Pinter Theater on Panton Street to watch a Harold Pinter play—Old Times, with a dazzling star cast consisting of Kristen Scott-Thomas, Rufus Sewell and Lia Williams. In classic Pinter style, the play was confusing, bewildering, open to multiple interpretations but riveting in the quality of the acting and the brilliance of the dialog. However, at the end of the show, both of us felt the need to sit somewhere with a coffee to try to piece together the disjointed bits of what he had just seen and understood. Together we were able to cobble a sensible conclusion to a largely plotless drama.

Then off we went to Piccadilly to Café Richoux—a sort of intimate, atmospheric French coffee house that is so popular in London and that I have grown to love. We sat down with coffee and shared a large slice of Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake which was simply fabulous. As we chatted about our impressions of the play and caught up with so many other aspects of our lives, time flew but we kissed and parted—Rosemary to take a bus to Battersea where she lives, me to get to Amen Court on another bus—with the promise that we would meet again, hopefully soon.

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