Monday, July 26, 2010

Greetings from: LONDON

Maybe I was too hard on children in my last post. They can also be wonderful, but this comes when they’re older, in my opinion. Case in point: my cousin’s children, 10 and 11, have fully-formed personalities, rather than these little explosions of energy. They’re in their final week in school, in their final week in London (my cousin, married to a Greek Cypriot, is moving to Cyprus), so we don’t see them much of the children, but what we do see of them, we like. S___, the older sister, is gregarious and open-hearted; on the day we arrive, she brings over a friend, Reya, to play. R___, it seems, is more interior, imaginative. His father compares him to me (R___ having just written a poem about the London Eye.) When the scallops Matthew and I prepare for the evening turns out very spicy, R___ describes it as an army in his mouth, shooting hot bullets into his tongue. R___ doesn’t say much at first, but when he gets going, the words come in a deluge.

Matthew and I have been to London before, so we can skip the usual tourist stops (Tower of London, British Museum, Tate Modern, London Eye, Millennium Bridge, Buckingham Palace) and go straight for the shopping. Alas, Matthew’s rather disappointed that he can’t find a nice sports coat at Austin Reed like he did on our last visit two years ago, and when the salesperson suggests Aquascutum across the street (more suited for slender guys like us), we come across a depleted stock. You should have come earlier in the sale, the Mick Jagger-like salesman says. I can barely plan a trip across the street, much less plan a trip to coincide with a certain sale.

What I can manage, however: high tea. This time, at the Wolseley, which is attended by an army of servers, all of whom move about with such crisp efficiency that it seems they have wheels on their feet. High tea is always deceptive: when it comes out on its cute three-tiered tray, you have to remind yourself that tea wasn’t meant to be a meal -- a few finger sandwiches, a sprinkling of pastries. It’s a placeholder meal until dinner comes. But in the stomach, tea interacts with cucumber sandwiches in a strange way: the bread expands to fill up available space, like spray foam, so by the end, you barely manage to cram the last piece of scone into your tea-hole.

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