Sunday, October 23, 2005

October Half-Term Day One

The sky, gently glowing orange and pink, was mostly obscured by banks of static pale grey cloud. The Silverlink platform at West Ham was obscured by the hordes returning home.

Anxious that we might miss the train which skirts round the edge of Zone 1 to North London we ran down the stairs, up the escalator and down the next flight of stairs to be faced with a sea of people and an announcement that the train was running approximately seven minutes late. Spotting the train heading in the opposite direction we jumped on and changed at Canning Town. We boarded our train calmly and chose two seats together. We had avoided the scrum at West Ham; the surge at the doors, the well aimed elbows and treading on toes.

Hackney Wick, derelict but for the council blocks, soon to be transformed for the Olympics. I've yet to meet a positive local. Lost allotments, warehouses and higher council taxes. 'What's in it for us?' they cry plaintively. (No-one is listening).

At Dalston we wrinkled up our noses as the smell of rotting veg, fish and meat wafted across from the market and through the train doors. The well-known market serves the Afro-Caribbean community; many a strange item can be found.

The Portuguese girl next to me was reading a textbook: Parabolic Solar Thermal Conditioner headed Chapter 4. I was really rather impressed. English is my first language and I didn't have a scooby what that meant.

We were quite taken aback on reaching the Wetherspoons at Highbury Corner. Full of drinking Gunners. A sight we hadn't seen for a while as, I think I am right in saying, this was their first Saturday kick-off at the traditional time at home. I wonder how different the atmosphere would have been if City had equalised after Pires's theatrics?

There were very few women – just a handful. The groups of men were interesting. They didn't look like they went together. Different backgrounds and clothes but all drawn in by the lure of the beautiful game.

I had to forgo my pint of Guinness. I cannot drink it from a plastic glass. I opted for a red wine. It tasted like vinegar. I was transported back to my student days – cheap plonk drank from whatever was to hand.

Walking down Upper Street in search of food we glanced in the shop windows. I mused on who decided it would be a good idea to advertise tasteful silver jewellery by surrounding it with plastic fried eggs.

Le Mercury was a first for us. A French bistro serving very reasonably priced food. A little rushed, particularly so for the French, but enjoyable. It makes it onto our mental list of good eats. I ordered in French and was relieved when the waiter replied likewise. I'm scared that speaking it so infrequently now it'll disappear.

The Kings Head, a charming pub with theatre in the room behind, was too full so we stopped for a post dinner drink in the less atmospheric Slug and Lettuce. It too was busy but I have an eye for a departing couple and we were soon seated.

A thoroughly pleasant way to start the holidays.

No comments: