Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Being a Sloan Ranger in Chelsea and Knightsbridge

Tuesday, August 6, 2013:

Being a Sloan Ranger in Chelsea and Knightsbridge

            My day began with 8.00 am Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral that I attended with my friend Cynthia whose husband, Bishop Michael was saying it. It was the feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord and was, therefore, said in the special American Chapel in the back of the cathedral—a chapel that was created by the people of Great Britain in appreciation of American effort in World War II and in memory of the Americans who died giving their lives for the defence of Europe. It was a very moving service indeed after which we met a couple of folks from Kerala—one was a Roman Catholic priest from the Bronx in New York, Fr. Jose; and the other was his nephew Shibu John, a scientist with Royal Brompton Hospital in London. Michael ended up inviting the two of them to his place for breakfast so we spent some time over porridge and toast and tea chatting with them. Today was also the morning I decided to go out and get my special breakfast from Paul’s—almond croissant with a hot chocolate (as only Paul can make it). Such yumminess! I carried it over to Amen Court and had it while Cynthia prepared breakfast for her unexpected guests.
Off to Chelsea:
            After breakfast, I sat working for a couple of hours. Then, Cynthia and Michael and I set out for Chelsea by Tube to see the flat into which they will soon be moving. We stopped at Trinity Church en route at Sloan Street to pay a visit—it is a beautiful Arts and Crafts Church with stained glass windows by the Pre-Raphaelites William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. We spent a little while in prayer after which we stopped briefly inside the Jo Malone showroom for a sample spray. It was then time for us to get to the flat and survey it. Michael and Cynthia were so proud and happy to show me their new place. It is a gorgeous flat, bright, light, spacious and yet not overwhelming. They are indeed deeply blessed to have it. We sat and had a cup of coffee together and then I was off, leaving them to get back home.

Becoming a Sloan Ranger:
            I spent the next few hours doing one of the things I most love to do when I am in London—dallying on the King’s Road and browsing through its thrift shops for antique jewelry and vintage finds. On and off the 22 bus I stepped, stopping off at all the stores that are my usual haunts. And I rode all the way to the Mary Portas shop at Parson’s Green. Indeed it was my lucky day because I found a genuine Sadler’s Brown Betty teapot, an antique hand painted porcelain cup and saucer to add to my collection, an interesting necklace with twin interlocked hearts and a set of four Swarovski crystal candleholders that were all splendid buys. Indeed, as Cynthia put it, I did very well with my vintage browsing. It was also great to simply slink around Sloan Square and Sloan Street like the Sloan rangers of the 60s. Interestingly, I did actually enter the Vivienne Westwood store—the very place from which the designer made her daring debut in punk fashion that heralded the arrival of punk culture. It is a rather iconic store and I was glad to be there.

Off to Knightsbridge and Harrods:
            I could hardly believe that it is the last week of my stay here in London and I have not yet entered Harrod’s. Had I gone there as soon as I arrived, I might have had a glimpse of their half-yearly sale. There were no sales, alas, but I was there specifically to buy a Christmas pudding to carry off home and I was pleased to have a first shot at their newest stock that has just come in. I also bought a box of biscuits for my friend Bina to whose place I was headed in the afternoon. Harrods also gave me a chance to browse a bit in its famous Food Halls, took in its gift sections and then left.

Dinner with Friends in Harrow:
            On the bus across the street I jumped only to get off at Green Park Tube station from where I took the Tube to Euston. I was headed to Harrow to spend the evening with my childhood friend Bina who has lived in London for 25 years with her husband Naveen. At Euston, I followed the signs to the Main Line Overground trains and reached Harrow at 5. 15 pm after dozing off a couple of times on the train! Bina was waiting for me in her car at Harrow and Wealdstone station and off we went to her place.
            We spent the rest of the evening, as always, chatting and catching up. In a short time, Navin arrived and joined us for dinner. Bina and I always have a great deal to say as we go back a long way having first made friends when we were but 13 years old. Our friendship has stood the test of time and it is always a delight to meet up with her and her family in London.
            Dinner was vegetarian as Bina sticks to a non-meat meal on Tuesdays—we had rice and dal with chick peas and a mixed vegetable. By the time we were done with her delicious meal, it was 8. 45 and I was ready to leave. They dropped me back to the station and I took the fast train to get back to Euston from where I got to St. Paul’s on the Tube.
            Cynthia and Michael were admiring and envious of my buys and keep wondering how I am possibly going to carry these loads off to the States—frankly, I am wondering too! I had a bowl of vanilla ice-cream with chocolate sauce and Michael’s homemade flapjacks before I excused myself and went up to bed.           

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