After a crumpet too many at afternoon tea in our hotel’s lounge, we were ready to hit the tube for central London. It’s about an hour from Heathrow, so we had plenty of time to observe the local fauna in their natural habitat – bickering. There was a young black man across from us and, like most others on the train, his attention was mostly occupied by the buds in his ears and the small screen they were plugged into. A middle aged white lady boarded the train soon after and sat down beside him. All was quiet for a while, and we didn’t much notice them as we tried to maintain consciousness. Until the lady pipes up, “Move your arm, you’ve got the entire bloody armrest.”
“I can’t use the armrest? This is your train?” he retorts.
“You could show some consideration, share it a bit.”
“I wasn’t stopping you from using it.”
“But you were hogging it. Typical….”
And so on.
The above exchange was the best paraphrase I could conjure of what was actually an exchange of many more lines, far more wit, all said in thick British accents, and completed in about 10 furious seconds of outstanding feistiness. The one word I do remember quite clearly, though, is the lady snorting “typical”, which I took as barely veiled racist exasperation. Yay multiculturalism!
Getting off at Covent Gardens, we wandered the narrow streets filled with pubs and restaurants, food stalls and retailers, deciding that we need food before beer. Blasphemy, I know. We settled on a little place on Russel Street called The Marquess of Anglesey. It was a packed pub downstairs, crowded with the typical young suits downing a couple of post-work pints. We had dinner in the restaurant upstairs, which felt like a reading room in contrast to the hubbub below.
Since our time in London was so short, we had to pack a quintessential British meal into one dinner. Erica thus ordered sweet potato curry. It had a perfect slow forming, flavourful spiciness. A well-executed Anglo-Indian creation. I had a hankering for pie, which was satisfied by a satisfying chicken, leek, and ham pie. Not the conventional configuration, a bed of mashed potatoes and cubed root veg held up the stewed meat and gravy, all topped by a heavenly cloud of puffed pastry. Check out the pictures at the bottom of the post.
After a walk along the Thames, through a literal festival of food, past the Eye and Big Ben, we popped into a pub for my first English pint of Guinness. Poured beautifully and a touch chilled, it was the perfect dessert. Back to the streets, we wandered past the National Gallery up into Picadilly Circus, marvelling at the crowds and the diversity and energy of our imperial capital. As we walked the steps back down to the tube, I regretted even having come, for London had taken my heart and mind, and I could not even begin to reciprocate this visit. I know we will be back.