Friday, October 7, 2016London
Au Revoir Chriselle, Lunch with Stuart and a Pub Quiz and Curry Supper at Ealing Cricket Club
It is still a novelty to wake up in this gorgeous flat. It is also a novelty to wake up with company—albeit Chriselle’s. It is grand to have another human presence in my home and to make small talk with someone in the mornings. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and Chriselle returned to Los Angeles today via Gatwick airport. But we had the most amazing times together and savored every second of each other’s company because, as we grow older, such leisurely times became rare and more precious.
Best of all, it was a thrill to discover my new neighborhood of Ealing in Chriselle’s company and to revel in the little luxuries of my new home. It is early days yet, but I will tell you this: it is a 180 degree difference—like day and night. I LOVE this place—both the location (Ealing Broadway was buzzing at 11.00 pm when Chriselle and I got home on the Tube after seeing a play at the West End last night) and the accommodation (it is a converted flat in a Victorian house dating from the mid-1800s). My landlord Stuart, is an architect who works with Norman Foster’s firm in London and travels around the world supervising global projects—need I say more? He has done an interior conversion that would be the envy of design magazine editors. My one-bedroom flat is huge, has period details (marble fireplaces in living room and bedroom, crown molding and plaster decoration on the ceiling) combined with a completely Modernist aesthetic (a brand-new stainless steel kitchen, a gigantic drop down 70 mm TV screen that connects to my laptop, a combo washer-dryer—few British homes have dryers, by the way—a deluxe hotel-quality round bath tub with jacuzzi and generous rain shower and dimmers on all lights!). It is bright, airy (and well-aired), has sunlight streaming in from huge glass-fronted windows, and overlooks a park (Haven Green). I really do feel as if I have died and gone to Heaven! Thank you God!
Meanwhile, together Chriselle and I have scoured stores literally on my doorstep—Marks and Spencer department store, plus high street chains such as Accessorize, Monsoon, H and M and Zara are all around the corner! I have a selection of three huge supermarkets from which to shop—Morrison’s, Sainsbury and the lush Food Hall of M and S—all seconds away. My home is located on Haven Green, a huge park that is filled all day with dog walkers, strollers and joggers. My Tube station is literally steps away from me (I can see it from my front door) and a huge bus depot skirts it. Adjoining my block of Victorian houses is a stone church from which I can hear bells peal! The area is vibrant, diverse, cosmopolitan, ‘happening’—my idea of London! And for all this, I am paying the same rent I paid in the East End of London. Truly, moving was a no-brainer for me and I really do feel I lucked out big-time.
Chriselle and I had intended to take a walk around the neighborhood before her departure, but she was too tied up with packing and getting set to leave London. My landlord Stuart arrived with a plumber to take care of some urgent work. I met him for the first time and as we chatted and got to know each other, I was completely charmed by his talent as an architect, his focus and his demeanor. What a lovely young man! I do, of course, know his Dad Cecil, a physician, who has been a friend of mine for years—but I had never met Cecil’s children. Chriselle too enjoyed meeting Stuart as they found a lot in common to chat about—mainly Stuart’s interest in acting and in audio-visual entertainment (hence, the gigantic drop-down TV screen in his home!). I offered him a coffee while I cleared up our breakfast things: we’d had croissants with cream cheese and toast with peanut butter over raspberry and cranberry tea.
Then, quite suddenly, Chriselle managed to pull a muscle in her shoulders and spent some time lying horizontal on the hardwood floor while I applied an Ibuprofen ointment on her shoulder blades. After a hot shower, she felt much better. I too showered (we are still unable to get over the thick and generous rain-like shower head in our massive round jacuzzi bathtub) and then it was time to leave with her. She had carried sandwiches for her lunch—so off we went on the Tube at 12 noon to get her 1.05 pm Easybus from West Brompton to Gatwick airport.
Saying Goodbye to Chriselle:
It was hard to say goodbye—for both of us—as neither one of us has any idea when we will see each other again. That’s the most painful part of partings—the unknowing! But being the mature adults we are, we focused on the great times we’d just had together, said our goodbyes and at Lillie Road outside West Brompton Tube station, we found the Easybus waiting and inside she hopped. And then she was away and I returned on the Tube back to Ealing.
Lunch with Stuart:
Stuart was still home when I arrived and was just finishing up bits of work that he had scheduled for the morning. He invited me to join him for lunch as both of us were starving. We ended up going to one of my favorite eatery chains in London, The Hare and Tortoise—a Japanese chain that is inexpensive and simply the yummiest. I always have the Curry Laksa when I am there—it is a massive bowl of noodles, bean sprouts, prawns and chicken in a coconut milk-based curried chicken soup that is mammothly filling and super delicious. Stuart had udon noodles with sushi and prawn tempura. Our lunch offered more of an opportunity to discuss international architects that we love from Norman Foster (for whom he works) to Zaha Hadid, from Jean Nouvel to Gaudi. Stuart thinks that the Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is simply the world’s most awesome building. It was a great pleasure chatting with him and I truly enjoyed our time together. Best of all, I am thrilled beyond words that The Hare and the Tortoise is just steps away from my new home, across Haven Green. Anytime I feel like a Curry Laksa, I can nip right in!
Quiet Afternoon and Evening Until…
I looked forward to a quiet evening spent catching up with my blog, sorting through my papers, responding to urgent email, etc. and I was in the process of doing just that accompanied by the pleasure of a hot pot of tea and cake (for I had nipped out earlier in the evening to get some goodies from M and S) when I got an unexpected phone call. My friend Cecil, Stuart’s Dad, who lives ten minutes away, called to find out if I was free to join him and a few friends for supper at his nearby Club. Boy, being alone quite so suddenly after Chriselle’s departure, was I just! And what a fascinating evening it turned out to be! A true exposure to British Cultural Studies!
A Pub Quiz and ‘Curry Supper’ in a Cricket Club:
Cecil’s invitation was to the Ealing Cricket Club, a few blocks away from my new home. He rang my door bell promptly at 7. 20 pm and together we hopped into a car around the corner in which his friends Mona and Girish Shah were seated—they were part of the quiz team that would participate in the annual Club fund-raiser. Within minutes, we were chatting companionably with each other. We arrived at the Club, parked our car and entered the gymkhana-like atmosphere of an old English Club where Cecil is a member—a first-time for me.
For the rest of the evening, I gave myself up to the pleasure of the pub quiz—something about which I had heard so much and was very pleased to participate in. There were about twelve tables with teams of varied sizes. We were joined by Kate, an Englishwoman, a little later—so our team comprised 5 people. There were about 10 rounds of quizzing questions in different categories: Pot Luck, Entertainment, Sports, and the like—with 10 questions in each category. Questions were called out by the MC. Each table received a ‘pack’ of sheets with space for the answers on them. And then we were off. I have to say that we did not do too badly overall. I was culturally ignorant about a lot of the questions but I managed to answer a few!
Halfway through the quiz, we stopped for supper that was laid out at one end of the room. Much to my amusement, it was a ‘Curry Supper’—featuring Chicken Curry and a Vegetarian version, served over rice (which I refused) and naans. There was also yogurt, a green salad and a number of pickles and chutneys—all of which I found to be a very English version of an Indian curry meal and a fascinating exposure to British Cultural Studies. For example, in India, we would never present a bowl of plain yogurt at a meal—it would always be a raita! Nor would we ever present a bowl of plain salad greens—it would always be dressed! Other than at Parsee weddings, you would not see a sweet-hot mango chutney (such as Sharwood’s) at an Indian buffet—although you would find hot pickles! So everything was quite amusing and entertaining to me, as I observed each aspect of British Cricket Club culture.
After supper, the quiz continued (five more rounds of it). Every team was serious and focused and competitive. My team had informed me that they have always come last. Well, this year, we ranked about 8 of out 13—not quite rock bottom! Indeed, we failed quite respectably!
By 11.00 pm, the Shahs dropped me off at the corner on Haven Green (still hopping at that hour—which was a huge comfort to me) and I was home a few minutes later. It had been an eventful day and I was glad I had my mind taken away from Chriselle’s departure and my feeling of sudden bereavement by this exciting quiz night. I was also delighted to make friends with the Shahs whom I hope to see again as they live not far away in Wembley.
Until tomorrow, cheerio…