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London Diaries

Posted by on June 13, 2014
Hyde Park

Hyde Park

Started my second day in London in a salubrious way with a walk in Hyde Park. I am here practically every summer and yet I have never given a morning constitutional in the park so much a consideration. After walking around the streets of London through the day and dining out every night, somehow languishing in bed the next morning always seemed like a more lucrative proposition than putting my chassis through the trouble of a drill in the park.

But this time around, things are different. For one, my mother who rises before the morning sun is with us. Second, we are staying at a cousin’s vacant flat hence no room service or housekeeping.  Of course this does not bode too well for me because it means that I have to drag my lazy body out of bed and fix the kids their breakfast.

This morning mother and I have avowed to go back to India looking skinny, sans any holiday weight in manner of the two famous Ethiopian ladies Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie.

Hence, together we are embarking on a healthy diet and a daily exercise routine starting today. Leaving the kids in the television’s husband’s care, we walk across to the park with a sense of purpose.

It is a gorgeous morning and there is a cool breeze blowing, the kind that encourages one to run without feeling any exhaustion. Hyde Park is at the peak of its summer’s glory and playing host to cheerful little babies in their buggies, unleashed doggies giving their owners a chase and rare birds flocking around the Serpentine Lake. Beautiful flowers in all conceivable colours are shooting forth with abandon from every little verdant corner of the expansive landscape.

The beauty of the English summer is that it is a summer in awe of itself and like no other summer anywhere else in the world. This summer’s day in the park is begging to be photographed by my Instagram lens. I am torn between maintaining my heart rate and clicking pictures with my phone while my mother is torn between walking in brisk steps and running around the park as if on rocket fuel.

I could live in the moment and admire nature’s pulchritude and instead of taking pictures with my phone but living in the moment is so last season. If you have not clicked it and preserved it for posterity, it has not happened to you. I will work out another day, I tell myself and go about clicking rare birds, dogs and flowers that cross my way and instantly uploading them on Instagram because if you have not shared it on social media it has not happened to you either.

I hear someone call my name and turn around to find a familiar face that belongs to a school mom whose name I cannot recall because of my advanced Alzheimer’s. We chat about the school and about how everybody we know is in London and promise to catch up again soon. I do not have the heart to tell her I do not even know her name as I sprint along.

Close to the Serpentine Lake cafe, I run into a friend whose irreverent wit and company induces fits of laughter, both in the mother and myself. Sadly we have no money on us to buy ourselves coffee and nor does he.

Later in the day, the children and I are digging into fish and chips at a restaurant in Bayswater while mother is sticking to her yogurt and banana diet, the benefits of which, she recently became enlightened to during a short holiday in Bhutan last month. I seek consolation in the fact that by the end of the holiday at least one of us will look emaciated.

In the evening, the husband and I stop by at Meadows, a charming cafe near the apartment, for a cup off coffee but end up having wine instead. I am espousing the benefits of a walk in the park to him and encouraging him to start getting some exercise while on holiday. He politely asks me not to get so carried away and reminds me that I have spoken about my maiden morning walk only about a dozen times since the afternoon.

We take a short walk around the tony neighbourhood of Notting Hill, which is full of eclectic shops and boutiques. I spot a records shop that sells old LPs and am reminded of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. There is also Chef Jamie Olivier’s organic food cafe and patisserie and another store that specializes in cook books from around the world. It is nice to be in a hood that is not tempting me to shop and where I can actually take a walk with the spouse without annoying him by diving in and out of shops.

We have plans to step out for dinner but I have overtaken by a sudden urge to cook. The husband winces at the suggestion but I convince him with feigned confidence that I will cook him a good meal. I am clearly in the first flush of domesticity.

I begin to stir fry the vegetables with great gusto but realize a minute or two later that I ought to have parboiled the broccoli and baby corn. I then go on to retrieve the oiled veggies and par boil some of them before tossing them back into the pan. It is all quite silly really, to not be able to manage something as simple.

I keep picking broccoli florets and bite into it to see if it is cooked and before I know it a good portion of the broccoli has been thus devoured in this process. To make up for the reduced quantity, I throw in some mushrooms from the sealed tray and start to stir them in only to realize seconds later that they still have dirt on them and needed to be washed. I then go on to reclaim the oil coated mushrooms as well and wash them before putting them back in again.

This is not doing too much for my self-esteem as a domestic goddess. I am feeling more like a domestic doggess here!


Hyde Park

Hyde Park

When I finally serve the kids who are half faint with hunger, they lap up the stir fried vegetables and the handmade egg pasta (handmade by Tesco, not me) that I have put together by adding some pomodoro and parmesan sauce out of a bottle.  There is cold breeze coming in from the kitchen window and for all the time that I have spent in the kitchen, I am neither sweaty nor tired or irritated.

I look outside the kitchen window and admiring the blueberries growing on the tree and come to the surprising realization that I am enjoying this organic, self-sufficient way of living. It is a refreshing to be able to manage on your own and for a change, I would much rather be doing this than be rushing to Zuma or Kai or Koya for a meal night after night.

The food is also a big hit with the husband and my mother who cannot stop praising my culinary skills. “I never thought you could cook but you have proven me wrong today,” she tells me. The kids are thrilled to be eating a meal cooked by their own mother.

I too am thrilled that no one can tell that the sauce was readymade or that the stir-fry tasted had packets of Maggi masala tastemaker in it.


One Response to London Diaries

  1. Penny Aunty

    Hi darling Shunali

    Nice to know you are so close and yet so far from Manchester but at least we are stepping on common soil. Over here even if it is sunny sometimes the rain does come during the day to remind us that Manchester is a rainy city. I am glad you all are enjoying your stay in London. Seems like you probably know the sites more than the locals there because when my son went to visit his friend who lives mainly in the Asian quarter, his friend was at a loss to show him the sites which you just mentioned but mainly took him to the most expensive restaurant you can imagine and my son wanted to pay for the meal which was an insult to his friend because my son was the visitor.

    My nephew keeps begging me to come over to his place in London to meet his soon to be Brazilian wife, and since I am his only family here in the UK besides my son who is too shy to go and meet them, I feel guilty but I feel I will get lost in London. Last time I had a bad experience where I could not even find the bus station from the train station to catch the coach to Manchester as everyone seemed to busy to stop and give me directions. Even though I was used to the heavy traffic in Athens it has been a long time since then and wondered if one of those famous red double decker buses would run me over.

    I know London has beautiful attractions and fantastic night life but I believe I am at an age where I like to take it slow and easy and Manchester is a city which style I am used to as it is so similar to Adelaide in Australia where I was raised and feel at home. If you ever come here I would love to take you to Media City which makes you feel you are living in the future unlike the old traditional English homes in the other suburbs. Of course your husband would like a tour at the famous Manchester United Stadium and my son says the Football Museum in the city is fantastic.

    Over the years, I noticed how important how to cook home food which we take for granted until you leave your home country and then your own husband and kids remind you it is your obligation to cook for them their beloved food and sweets. My son here always complains I do not cook his milk pie which is baked with semolina and sugar syrup, and lasagne and pastichio and lately every morning he expects me to prepare his Greek salad with tomato, onion, peeled cucumber, feta cheese, oregano and of course our famous olive oil. Even my daughter and her kids including her Spanish husband ask for the same things when I visit them in Spain every summer and the only thing I truly want is to lie down as I only go for 10 days and still feel jet lagged by the time I have to leave. On top of that my husband who I see twice a year in Greece also expects to cook for him to remind him of his wife’s cooking and lately said I will have to come back to him in a year’s at the latest two years’ time, as he really feels it is time we should be together again on a permanent basis. I feel like I am living in an ancient Greek drama where the heroes leave their families behind but in my case it is me who is travelling for a lot of reasons.

    Enjoy your stay darling with your lovely family

    Bless you with all my love

    Penny Aunty

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