Monday, 27 February 2012

...And then there was a weekend in London (Part I)

Friday was a standard day at work I must say. Nothing even remotely out of the ordinary, except that I booked a train ticket to Balham. Lovely Balham which is feeling more like my home from home each time I pack a weekend bag and pay it a little visit.

To be more precise I actually pay Carrie a visit, and to be honest when she lived in Clapham Common I said the same thing about there too. So in actual fact I think South London is my home from home and I’m harbouring not-so-secret desires about moving there.

But enough of that -  The move is some way in the distance yet, on account of having an incurable shopping addiction and a limited resource of pennies.

Anyway, I drove home at the speed of light, hastily threw an assortment of clothes in a wheelie bag (previous trips have taught me that excess walking makes a shoulder bag uncomfortable and impractical). I prayed that there was enough variation to make an outfit or two to get me through the weekend’s frivolities.

Like my day, the journey up was uneventful. However I should like to ask for some clarification the etiquette regarding asking other travellers to turn down their music in a carriage not marked ‘quiet zone’. I know I have covered this in previous entries, but it still remains a little undecided. Should I have turned to the ignorant man behind me and asked him to turn down his mp3 player of choice? If I wanted to listen the beautiful melodies of garage, R’n’B and hip hop like he did then I would have brought my own. But alas, I did not and nor did I want to listen to the ‘tss tss tss tss...’ for the journey. 

I didn’t turn around and say anything. And neither did anyone else. But when the refreshment trolley came through the carriage and offered him drinks and snacks, he didn’t have any money. I almost offered to purchase him an overpriced caffeine fuelled beverage in exchange for silence. Unfortunately he found some loose change before I had the chance to turn around in my seat.

I arrived in Balham quite content and warm, for Friday was a balmy night in London, and waited at crossroads outside the station for Carrie. She was in Sloane Square for leaving drinks and arrived a little merry, I was keen to join her in this state. We dumped my bag at Chez Carrie – a top floor maisonette shared with three or four of the other sex (I can’t confirm numbers since I have never seen them all in the same room) and another female companion, and made our way out in to the night.

Destination? Balham Bowls Club.

Yes my friends, I too wondered what this venue would have in store, since I  (like you) associate Bowls with retired people and green lawns – never to be confused with bowels, which could lead to all manner of bizarre conversations with the elderly.

But we walked in to a packed array of quirky rooms, each decorated with the flair of yester-year. A very homely and welcoming pub (which serves fantastic looking food). Carrie and I were unable to locate a couple of chairs inside so decided, that whilst it was warm and not raining, we would move our beverages (a bottle of house red – don’t mind if I do) outside. We propped ourselves up against the wall and were the only people without a cigarette. Having never wanted to light up in my life, I was overwhelmed by a brief and fleeting desire to stand with a lit cigarette in one hand and wine glass elegantly poised in the other. Thankfully it passed before I could act upon it; it seemed that the smoke was doing enough to make me feel like one of the cool kids.

The only downside to moving to London is that I will have to practise ‘freezing’ my face when it comes to paying at the bar. After the wine disappeared (and we had moved inside, the temperature dropped quite quickly) we opted for another favourite of mine, the good old gin and tonic. I’d love to say that I can tell the difference between our array of widely available gins, but I would of course be lying. So I won’t.

I stood at the emptying bar and made my request, “Double?” the young lady serving me asked. “Oh why not,” I thought to myself, “Yes please, with a slice of lime too.” She dutifully obliged and told me how much it was. It took every fibre of my being to stop my chin from hitting the bar top and creating a scene. I know that by London prices it was very reasonable, but when you come from the suburbs on the south coast, it’s a shock.

I paid, left, and returned to Carrie. Now a fully integrated Londoner (she knows the tubes and bus routes without checking a map), she shrugged and sipped her gin.

It got late and Carrie suggested locating a food serving establishment. Red wine and gin does not form the base of a nutritious diet so we found a kebab shop. It was run by some lovely Greek men, who were extraordinarily busy and dealing with a large number of hungry drunk people. We joined a growing queue. Next to us were two Irishmen who had a hard time believing that Carrie’s transatlantic tones were Bermudian. It was one of many stages in life where Carrie has had to convince strangers of her childhood home. Soon they got bored debating with her and stepped outside to eat their now-cold kebab in a polystyrene box.

I can’t recommend it, purely for the fact that I don’t remember what it was called and I probably would only suggest going when inebriated because let’s face it, your tastebuds don’t care what they’ve got. But it was on the Balham High Road, opposite Waitrose (that’s how you know Balham is posh!) and it makes crackin’ chips. I opted for a little salad and garlic sauce with mine, just to get in some of the government backed 5-a-day.

We clambered into bed a little after three am. Fed, drunk and happy, we vowed to get up early to be at Portobello Road market.

My weekend of London adventures were only just beginning.