Feeling much better, thank you

What a difference a weekend makes. Especially when taken with nightly doses of Night Nurse, the miracle drug. I have stopped snivelling, mostly, but am cultivating an impressive hacking cough which should keep contaminating fellow passengers at bay long enough to get truly over this thing.

I am upset that I managed to miss International Kitchen Garden Day though. Damn. Next year for sure.

Anyway, I nursed myself with healing foods, like kheer with cardamom, pistachios and golden raisins, and freshly stewed plums that I bought during a spin round Marylebone Farmers’ Market on a sunny Sunday.

Marylebone remains one of my favourite areas in the whole world. A charity shop that looks more like a Bond Street boutique. A lovely, lovely Waitrose. The world’s very best bookshop, Daunt‘s. The world’s very best charity bookshop which even has poetry readings, Oxfam. Valerie’s Patisserie for good carb ogling. A Ginger Pig for heaven’s sake: how wonderful is that? Very, very, is my answer, remembering the most fabulous ham we bought from their Borough Market outlet years ago. I saved a lustful browse through the Conran Shop for a rainy day and spent instead a calm half hour with other Sunday paper readers under the canopy of plane trees in Paddington Gardens. Even the pigeons were napping in the grass.

Monday was a holiday and so I made a late start and then had another amble up Edgware Road. Definite changes top to bottom. Arabic script even in Argos of all places. Shiny, glittery pharmacies every ten steps, mostly doing more than one thing: I thought the pharmacy plus internet cafe was a particularly ingenious idea; just the thing for RSI sufferers. The 7-11 farther up, by the enduringly tatty Church Street market, has become the Sindbad Shop.

Then on into the fringes of St. John’s Wood, but was lured down a path to Regent’s Canal, which was a perfect walking place on a warm sunny day.

The occasional canal boat chugged by; people were sitting out on their decks at the houseboat community at Little Venice; cyclists and walkers and peace and quiet.

Then I emerged near Regent’s Park and hopped a bus up Finchley Road to visit some of my old haunts. I had an extremely nice time in the Natural Natural shop, which is, naturally, a Japanese/Asian treasure trove. Here are a couple of photos to make you weep, Andy, Donghyun, Amy…

Then into the bosom of Waitrose, which is very obviously under construction as it expands into a neighbouring shopfront. I can’t help myself. I am deeply besotted, profoundly in love with this store. This relationship has lasted for decades now; I remember outraging a Hampstead Heath dweller by saying I was happier living with Waitrose at the top of my street than the Heath, and I’d say it again, given my druthers. And my love has been tested, not just by five years in another country. During my week in London I’ve endured furtive visits to rival supermarket chains, closer to where I’m staying – Somerfields, Sainsbury’s, Tesco – but they are shabby and pitiful by comparison to the lovely Waitrose, which I’d willingly cross town to visit. It’s partly familiarity, I suppose: the enduring product lines, the sensible arrangement, the luscious recipe cards. But also the happy staff, the organic range, the recycled paper products, all of that.

Well. I wrenched myself away and ambled over Primrose Hill, pebbled with peeps all blissed out in the sunshine, and landed in the land of Leah and Howard who fed me very well on food and conversation and off I went to find a bus. Everything went well until I reached Marble Arch where I realised I had decided to return home just as everyone from the Notting Hill Carnival had decided likewise. Luckily I squeezed on the second bus – too full to fall over, as we say.

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