An Afternoon at the Library

fullsizeoutput_29cdA consistent low snore broke the sound of a quiet occasional rustle that is the local library.  As I walked beyond the steps of North Kensington’s fine example of Victorian architecture, past Information with a view towards row upon row of ruthlessly alphabetised books, I tried to figure out where the afternoon nap was coming from.

I was on a quest for my next read.

As always I start off ambitiously, taking myself to where I think the author might reside.  I looked at H’s recommendations:  Emily St. John Mandel.  Hmm.  To a child of the late 70’s and 80’s that meant ‘M’ to me, however I am aware ’tis not always thus.

I headed towards the bearer of Magnificent and Marvellous but first my eye caught the ‘L’ section.  I’m a fan of Elmore Leonard’s novels…perhaps he could be my next read?  It’d be interesting to see what they had of his, and an immediate indication of quality in terms of the oft neglected crime reader at large.

Rounding the corner I glanced down.  There they were – and not just one or two but several titles to browse.  I knelt down on the municipal ‘carpet’ tiles. The snoring continued somewhere as I picked each book up, flicking through them one by one.

To my left a gentleman in mustard coloured cords sat quietly reading.  The gentle murmur of the ladies at the Information desk was a classic moment in time – unchanged by the outside world, history, or the day’s events.

Getting up off my hunkers I wandered over.  An inquisitive face looked up over rectangular framed reading glasses:  “Can I help you?”
“Yes please.  I’m looking for this author, I think she’ll be in ‘M’ but I wanted to check” I said showing her H’s recommendations on my ‘phone.

I followed her to locate the book in question. She was indeed where my schooling some years back told me she should be.

I carried on, past various other suggested authors by my chum in L.A. I had a notion for a classic, but I needed humour above all else. The choice was baffling, so over to the Biography section I went.

Two large deep-silled windows framed this section. One was occupied by a young girl seated with a laptop resting on bent legs, and the other by the library rule breaker – out for the count, eyes firmly closed enjoying her nap in the afternoon sun.

I smiled.  Ah well perhaps today wasn’t my lucky day. I started towards the main door when I spotted it: ‘Recommended by the Librarians’.  Eagerly I approached. There it was on a smooth wooden shelf: Catch 22 – and my next best friend.

Save our libraries: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/efforts/save-our-libraries

 

 

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Made in Chelsea

fullsizeoutput_2934No, not the TV show, but rather the Chelsea Flower Show gardens: They’re superlative this year – and made on the spot in the grounds of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

And, that’s not all there is to enjoy at this stalwart of an event: The comments to be heard wandering along a logically organised route are to be relished as one views flowers and creative displays.

IMG_1116I paused at the Morgan Stanley Garden. “It’s absolutely stunning” a behatted lady said to her companion and then turned to the man on the stand: “You were robbed.” Various other viewers murmured agreement; there was a head shake or two.  I wandered further along main avenue to see the culprit of all this dissent.

IMG_1124Past shuffling bag carrying visitors I went, pausing to look at other show gardens on the way. Finally on the corner tall blocks of stone rose to greet me, wild plants and weed type species burst up through the hard slabs. “Is it inspired by the Giant’s Causeway?” my brother asked.
“No, Malta – it’s got that desolate drought feeling about it.”

A lady behind me blew her nose: “It’s all about what grows up after…”  She trailed off.  Her friend continued: “It’s divided opinion a bit: Best in Show?!! It’s not my cup of tea.”

Through the pollen and Artisan gardens we trod. A cacophony of sneezing and coughing surrounded us. “Gaw, there’s something making my nose go” a gentleman remarked to his partner.
“It’s the same every year in this area, love, it’s the tree pollen.”

At the end of day, I returned to my favourite: The BBC Radio Two Zoe Ball Listening Garden. “There’s something especially comforting about this one.” I said to my brother as I placed my foot on the gravel to feel the sound vibrating as, reaching its lowest frequency, it simultaneously caused the water to ripple, bubble and then spurt in the long troughs nestling amongst the greenery.

“Mesmeric, isn’t it?” the lady helping out said. “They’re all supposed to be a comfort – these gardens reflecting the senses” she told me. “You were here earlier weren’t you?”
I replied that I was, and told her the name of my blog.  “Well, my name’s Mel, and I’ve just won best explainer of the day.” she told me.
“And well deserved too.”

I turned to my brother to suggest it was time to go. “Can you feel the sound?” an elderly lady beside me asked her husband.
“No, nothing.”
“Well, maybe your shoes are too thick.” she said turning to leave. “Let’s go and get an ice cream.”FullSizeRender 10

Thanks to RHS for a fantastic day.

Plus ça change on Mars and Venus

IMG_1023In the Nineties, dare I say so, we all read it.  In fact we read two of them: ‘Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus’, and ‘Mars and Venus on a Date.’

This was a hotly anticipated ‘sermon’ at The School of Life: An audience with John Gray – author of those books.

Back in the day we’d looked to him for guidance in a dating world where we were all a bit confused. As working women we’d been told we could have it all – however those paths to high flying careers had been littered with obstacles, one of which was a conundrum re our relationships with men – or more specifically male and female ‘roles.’

My cousin smiled: “I wonder how he’ll address it today – we’re twenty years on; we didn’t even have the internet back then, let alone smart phones and app dating.”

Conway Hall was busy, sun flitted momentarily past large paned windows on the ceiling.  Hundreds of women (and a few men) sat on the edge of their seats.

After the customary sing-a-long hymn, he came bounding onto the stage. The applause was heartfelt before he said a word – an indication of the bond created by so many conversations back then in a world where we lived in rented flats, had drinks after work, and attended multiple parties on a Saturday night.

Continue reading “Plus ça change on Mars and Venus”

Zen and The Act of Kindness

IMG_0772“Seriously?  You have a bath and a kettle in your room?” I said to new Club Med friend Els. “It must be a deluxe one: I was told they’d done away with most of them in the refurb – part of an economy drive around water. I agree with that – but I do love a soak in the bath after a hard day’s table tennis and lounging by the pool.”

It was the first of many changes I spotted during my week at Da Balaia. It seemed that like some of its guests and the world at large, Club Med is also partial to an identity crisis: Rooms are refreshed; a newly decorated bar upstairs is all blonde wood; the nightclub area bright and airy, however in the communal areas the same old comforting carpet greeted me – a little tired around the edges now.

I followed crowds of beards from a tech company visiting for a conference to the dining room for lunch.

Ines, a Gentil Organisateur (G.O.) tore me away from frowning at chipped plates and cups, and the large round table next to me of eight French bloggers superglued to their ‘phones.
“So, how was your morning?” she asked, smiling. I told her what I’d done and hadn’t done and we found shared experiences to bond over.

Continue reading “Zen and The Act of Kindness”

Japan Calling

IMG_0390“I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m on holiday, not in Maida Vale” I said to The Brunette – my dinner companion for the evening. Contemplating the decor of our newest local restaurant  immediately imbued a sense of relaxation and calm. Dark wood, mirrored strips on walls – a nod to Japanese lacquer – minimal tables and a soupçon of light jazz to be heard in the background provided the comfort of the traditional with the frisson of the new.

A Gordon Ramsey type restaurant this isn’t.  If you’re after cooks shouting orders: ‘SERVICE! NOW!!’ you won’t find it here. Instead, sitting up at the kitchen bar – possibly the most action packed location of any restaurant – Ken and Masato Nezu noiselessly and respectfully went about their business creating exquisitely simple, wonderful to behold dishes.

fullsizeoutput_27a0Manners maketh man and most certainly add to the enjoyment of dinner out on a Wednesday night.  Politely we were asked what we’d like to drink.  We discussed the options with Toru the owner: “Try the sparkling Sake” he told us, “It’s light, not too strong, I think you’ll be okay.” He was right; gently floral, the colour of effervescent water it was to be relished for itself rather than any unwanted effects.

IMG_0377We took our food recommendations from Ken: “This is nothing special” he repeatedly told us. Yellowtailed carpaccio with truffle oil, grilled asparagus with sesame dressing defined with threads of chilli as a starter told us otherwise.

Venturing into the territory of the mains our reactions seemed to surprise him; but when sushi and sashimi plates are this good it’s hard not to express delight. The smoked eel sushi took me out of my comfort zone into a new level of enjoyment. This is not the challenging eel of cockney lore, rather a super tender smokey hot mouthful with the delicate crunch of cucumber, wrapped in rice so good the entire experience was synergy personified.

Finishing up with sesame and Yuzu fruit ice cream followed by a cup of Genami tea, Toru gave us some backstory: “Our chefs are from a sushi family, we invited them from Nobu. It is an art to create this food.  In Japan an apprentice doesn’t touch the fish for three years – they just watch. How you cut the fish alters the flavour; knives have to be sharp. How you press the rice requires just the right amount of pressure; the temperature is vital. Everything has to come together – into one. It takes time.

We left ‘Japan’ light but replete, warmed but refreshed: “How appropriate that two friends from choir should have such a harmonious evening” The Brunette remarked as the Murasaki team bade us ‘Good Night.’

Many thanks to Toru, Ken, Masato Nezu, Piyumi and Kauri for a delightful evening. Murasaki, 12 Lauderdale Road, London W9

Sneaker Time

fullsizeoutput_2791Tom from Crepe City shoed us in. My niece led the way up urban stairs of concrete and steel into a cavernous room made of similar hard stuff.  Music boomed so loud we had to shout at one another to be heard.

IMG_0316A sea of black hoodies, baseball hats, rucksacks and box-fresh super trainers adorned the majority of attendees at this Crepe City convention.  I followed H’s Inter Jordan All Stars past rows and rows of sneakers for sale and asked for some explanation, some clue as to what all the fuss was about.

IMG_0354 “The thing is, the Yeezys for instance – they’ll launch a new style in store, but the queues will start the day before so the chances of getting a pair at the retail price of £150 is slim. The fact that they’re limited in production ultimately increases their value for re-sale. That’s what this is all about” she informed me. “See?”  I glanced at the trainer she held up for me to appraise.  The price tag attached read ‘£750’ – a punishing price to pay for your inability to be one of the first in line on launch day.

IMG_0321I remained intrigued as we wandered on past the special Back to the Future Part II self-lacing Nike Air MAG trainers and other £3,000 pairs to be envied, admired, and coveted by some, if not all sneaker enthusiasts.

I shamefully looked down at my Ecco Terracruises. “H, I bought these for £12.99 in a charity shop the other day: I feel a bit embarrassed.”
‘It’s okay Auntie Sarah, they’re actually so rare that nobody knows what they are” she said with a wry smile.
I burst out laughing, loving the fact I have a niece with such wit.

IMG_212646C32E07-1At a sneaker-friendly watch stand – finally comfy sofas and a free nailbar.  I sat down and took full advantage; neon pink with a lavender heart, mindful of mother’s day ahead.

To my right a girl sat with two watches decorating a heavily tattooed arm. “I had an original one of those in the late 70’s” I said pointing to her gold Casio, “We all did. Wish I’d kept it now – be worth a fortune.”
“Really!” she said.  “This is the waterproof one, I wear it all the time and nothing ever happens to it – just keeps on going.”

IMG_0349Heading towards the exit we passed a gentleman wearing a pair of Adidas Hardcourts. “I’ve come from Sweden especially to be here today” he told me. His newly-met companion shifted from one of her SB Dunks to the other, smiling at him admiringly.

I turned to H. “I think I get it now. Time for lunch” I said, walking out into fresh air and sunshine; E Bay on my mind.

Thanks to @hayles45 for manicure photo.

Sunday School

img_4733People smiled at each other in the lengthy queue for an early cuppa at the Cecil Sharpe House café.  Earthy wooden tables decorated a sparse room warmed by the buzz of conversation and the bang-bang of the barista’s coffee work.

“Is that the door to sorrow or are my eyes deceiving me?” I turned to look at the owner’s voice and noticed him glancing towards a handwritten sign above a door not too far away.  I followed his gaze and burst out laughing.  “Um, I don’t think so!  But having said that I can’t work it out either – is it ‘Storrou’”?
“Time for an eye test I think” came the reply. “Anyway whatever it is, I don’t want to go there.” Between more joking and laughter, we discussed the virtues of our morning venue and the talk we were about to attend there. “I’ve heard Ruby speak before in Ross on Wye. She was good” he said. img_4724

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A Christmas Evening

img_4503I laid the loaf of sourdough bread down on the floor, alongside my faux fur and handbag.  “Jeez, it’s hot in here”  I said to my Goldie Hawn Lookalike (GHL) of a neighbour.  A glass of Walter’s Royal Riesling Sekt Brut in hand I spied the canapés on offer.  Geraldine – the generous owner of Raoul’s and solely responsible for starting off this annual Christmas event in the ‘hood noted it.  “It’s okay, every year our glasses get mixed up with The Winery’s next door, but eventually they find their way to the right home.”

I was glad about that, because even as I sampled the Riesling from David’s wine gaff, I had one eye on Raouls’ Prosecco – both pink and white on offer.

The chat started to flow, a local beautician joined us as we talked botox, Trump and blind dates in no particular order.  Niblets of chorizo and beds of bruschetta laiden with mozzarella, pesto and dried tomatoes stimulated the taste buds, and before I knew where I was I found myself one glass of rosé bubbly down.

“Let’s go next door!” GHL cried.  It seemed a good idea, as we were down to our last sophisticated sausage roll and the hostess of the evening had bade us ‘goodnight’.
“I’ve got a piece to publish tonight and Christmas cards to write, I can’t stay out much longer..!”
“Just one!” she replied.

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Kenzo Tiger

img_3979I woke surrounded by Tiger print.  Red and pink Tiger print.  Had it all been a dream? A glance at the receipt and an inspection of photos on my phone said otherwise.

A delightful invitation to a preview of Kenzo for H&M had me planning every minute of the week (not to mention a year in advance) beforehand with my plus one.  For a diehard long term committed fan of the H & M annual fashion designer collaboration, this one had special resonance: An opportunity not to get up at 5am and queue for days to be first in line, plus the fact that Kenzo, one of the 80’s designers has a special place in my heart.   Always just beyond reach of my shoulder padded purse in those heady days, would H&M work their magic on this designer brand’s less acute following in the last couple of decades and up the ante again?

Continue reading “Kenzo Tiger”