I have this thing about the British Isles. I was born and brought up in the common-wealth, went to an English-speaking school, learnt to speak and write the Queen’s English and thought that freshly baked scones with freshly churned butter from a farm, must be the ultimate gourmet food in the world! I blame it all on Enid Blyton and the Famous Five.
In my innocence, I just assumed everywhere you go in the Isles, you would see countryside dotted with sheep and ruddy-cheeked farmer’s wives who would welcome you with lemonade and give you treats like home-made Yorkshire pudding, which I thought was something similar to caramel custard. I was in love with this (imaginary) English countryside dotted with docile sheep and mooing cows, there would be towering elms to rest under and tinkling brooks to drink from. There would ruddy-cheeked farmers’ wives who would welcome you with cold lemonade and strawberry tarts. I was fascinated that children in England could go away on their own without adult-supervision and could have adventures – it was a magical kingdom.
I grew up, went off to live in Europe and took this imaginary UK with me. Then I went to London and got married! I met my husband in India but we got married in London due to some convoluted circumstances (which, when explained, would be slightly longer than a blog post). Enter, the fabled city of marvels!
London – with all its quaint brick houses, the tube stations with the smartly, sharply dressed men and women with their briefcases and umbrellas, the quintessential pubs with names above their stations, the yellow line and black cabs, red double-decker buses and royal mailboxes! The various monuments standing testimony on how to age gracefully, right beside younger buildings with their glitz and glamour.
So usually around the month of April/May or whenever World Cup Cricket match is being played, you can find me on my annual pilgrimage to London, visiting my aunt, gorging on home-made goodies (my aunt actually makes a list of all my favourites and hangs it up on her fridge and the she is the most fabulous cook. No, her address is a dearly guarded secret, I shall not give it away) and watching cricket or Tamil/Hindi movies and laughing at silliest jokes, well-past midnight! Its a complete ‘me’ time.
But what I love the most about London, is shopping! Shopping – oh, the glorious shopping! I love shopping in London, not the least because I can walk with impunity and ask for the petite section without having to cause the saleswoman undue consternation and hear comments like ‘have you tried the children’s section’. No, I am not going to try the children’s section, I am not a child – I am a grown woman even if I am not all that ‘grown’, so take that back, you 6-foot German lady!
The problem is, I am not just a size 8 or 10 or 12, I am size ‘inconvenient’. I am under 5-feet but do not fit into children’s waist sizes. The other countries in continental Europe which do have petite clothes, have petite clothes in languages that I do not speak. So I go to London to bow before the edicts of consumerism and pay my tribute to our Lady of Shopping*, at the temple city of London. I know the shops and their cuts, which ones suit me and which ones are just too ‘fancy’. I do not have to spend hours trying things on (although I do tend to do that), I can do all my shopping in a day and be back by tea time. Tea time,which is another of my favourite oh-so-british thing. We are very big on tea times – there has to be cakes, home-made snacks and a pot of tea for each member of the tea-partaking group. And it should be milk tea, with just the right amount of milk and sugar. That is the only way to survive the English weather – hot tea, snacks and cricket being played in some sunny part of the world on telly – bliss!
This year I had to give my yearly pilgrimage a miss and most probably will not make it to London for the next few years either but soon…
More things British, to be continued (my lavender-scented, rose-ribboned note to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is still in the making)..
*Inspired by Ian McDonald‘s inventions in his cyberpunk-meets-AU novel “Brasyl” – a great read.