A wedding

Monday, 18 February, 2019

We were invited to a wedding. It was out of the blue almost. But it happened.

Krish has a friend he met online, Avi. He lives in Leicester, he’s visited us once, and he makes long phone calls to one or the other of us pretty regularly. He’s a great guy, a real pleasure to know and chat to. Genuine, polite and curious. Avi says things that surprise you – that’s because he is so honest about how he feels. This happily includes good things about you – he speaks openly about his feelings around you and what you have to say.  It’s quite refreshing.

Avi looked after his mum, who had Alzheimers, for years. His dad also had health issues. Avi’s life was completely tied up with that and he couldn’t ever do much outside the house. Then his mum died. His dad decided to take Avi on a trip of a lifetime to his own birthplace in India. Avi would call us to say how much he wanted to leave, how bad things were in India. Then when it was almost time for him to come back to the UK, his dad became ill and was put into hospital. Avi’s return was postponed while his dad went from serious to recovering, back to serious. The government stepped in and told Avi he’d overstayed his visa and sent him back to the UK to reapply. As soon as his new application was granted, back he went. While on his stopover on the way back to India, he got word his dad had just died. It broke my heart that had he been granted passage one day earlier, he would have been there.

His parents had wanted him to marry but every woman he met didn’t make the grade. With both parents now gone, Avi became more determined. Not too many months later, he called to say ‘I’m getting married.’ That’s a weird feeling. I knew our friendship would change, I knew his life would change, I wondered how it would be since it was an arranged marriage and he barely knew his fiancee.

A few months went by and I didn’t expect to be invited to the wedding but one day he called us to ask if we would be there. It felt like a great honour. Of course the day came – we had booked a hotel to take in the two days of celebration that we were invited to. The photos will tell the story!

Arriving at the wedding hall
Arriving at the wedding hall, I was startled by the glittery dresses and the gathering crowd to welcome the couple. I suddenly felt very under-dressed but excited. People passed me, all saying hello, and good morning. Very nice! Suddenly someone greeted me and it was Avi dressed in gold, walking into the hall It started to feel real.

A very grand hall with lots of sparkly dresses
A very grand hall with lots of sparkly dresses and smart suits. I realised I was the only white person in the room. A strange feeling. We sat at tables and Avi had arrived to show us over to a reserved table on ‘the boy’s side.’
First there was the civil ceremony
First there was the civil ceremony. Avi and Farrah exchanged rings and vows. The bride’s dress was red and gold.

Some narrative. I’ve never been to a Muslim wedding. There were hundreds of people. The women and children were dressed up very elaborately. Very often families dressed alike – the women in identical dresses and the men in matching colours – sometimes just a tie that matched the women’s dresses. There was heavy make up and jewellery. There was a lot of hugging.

The stage was arranged with thrones, and a sofa – white satin and gold. When the Nikah happened (the religious ceremony) the bride went up to a balcony at the far end of the hall and sat there with an attendant. The imam and Avi and close family members formed a circle of chairs down on the hall floor around them, but only the men. Chanting – not sounding too far from Hebrew – began, followed by a sermon or teaching of sorts, about marriage. When the bride came back, Avi and Farrah sat together on the stage and people came up to visit, take photos,  and deliver gifts. This was often boxes filled with clothing, shoes, jewellery… it was very showy. The whole thing was fascinating and once again I felt privileged to be there.

And of course there was food.

Menu and food
We had a printed menu. The food was delicious and plentiful. Everyone at the table was concerned it was too spicy for me. No!

People went up to the stage, while the queues formed and onlookers faced the stage, watching all the action
People went up to the stage, while the queues formed and onlookers faced the stage, watching all the action

Mendhi - all beautiful, showing off the gorgeous rings too
Mendhi – beautiful work, enhanced by jewellery and sparkly dresses
So under-dressed!
So under-dressed!
Like a king and queen at the coronation
Like a king and queen at the coronation

Continue reading “A wedding”

January and February, why are you so sluggish?

Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

You don’t hear so much about the February blahs in London. But in Toronto they were a big thing. And, yes, I know it’s not actually February yet but January seems to have the same feeling.

Grey January skies
Grey January skies and the tree is looking different than other years

Days and days of dull, leaden skies. I miss the blue skies and snowy days in Toronto sometimes. I don’t miss the cold or slush. And I definitely don’t miss the freezing rain and ice. But I do have days where I feel very sure I suffer from SAD and so I light daytime candles and have yellow or white roses to lighten my mood. Sadly, I also eat chocolate – my jeans are telling me maybe a little too much.

Actually, I also feel sad. And there it is.

There are no explorations to talk about today but perhaps the photos will show a bit of my regular life.

Spring is coming and the foxes came back
Spring is coming and the foxes came back

In February I am going to a wedding in Leicester. It’s something to look forward to. In April my sister Ruth, nieces Suzanne and Adrianna, and great whatevers Seamus and Fiona are coming to London. Am I looking forward to it? Hmm. Yes and no. It’s always nice to see familiar Toronto faces in London and I enjoy planning things and working on maps and itineraries, whether or not they are used, but family things can be chaotic. So it’s a mixed bag and I hope mostly positive.

Adrianna is also going to Budapest so there’s an added level of planning and writing up ‘sort-of-guides’ for her. It also made me think about Budapest and the things I miss about it. Most cities have things I miss but not enough to  go racing back. In the case of Budapest, there are just too many other things I need to do or be available for this year to follow my impulses to book myself a ticket. Continue reading “January and February, why are you so sluggish?”

Christmas Lights in the West End 2018 – epic part two!

Thursday, 3rd January, 2019

Today was my day to venture back to the West End to see more Christmas Lights. My plan was to start at Selfridges, go down New Bond Street to Fortnum & Mason, then along Piccadilly and end up at Chinatown again to buy some dim sum supplies and two new steamer baskets. I think I did pretty well.

I started out around 3pm by taking the bus to Bethnal Green. On the bus I thought I saw Gemma Collins but perhaps not. This version was neater, a bit trimmer, and understated but maybe the on-screen Gemma is more outrageous.  Then I took the Central line to Bond Street, Yes! I hardly ever take the tube. I really don’t like being underground but sometimes I just go for it.

I arrived at Bond Street just as it was getting dark, but not dark enough to see the lights at their best. Luckily I’d already seen Oxford Street and my only reason for being there was to see Selfridges a few minutes’ walk away. But I did take in the crowds on the street. Everyone must still be on holiday! And I took a lot of photos so sit back. As far as photos go, this will be epic, starting with a good look at Oxford Street.

Sadly, when I got to Selfridges the windows were all papered over. I’d missed them! So I walked towards the food hall anyway, to see what was going on there. That’s when I saw that a few windows at the Food Hall side were still there.  To be honest, I can’t say I was too impressed.

Selfridge’s Food Hall is always a favourite. I actually like it better than Harrods – at least I can afford some of the food there. This time was a disappointment.  I couldn’t see all the counters I was used to. Perhaps it’s a Christmas thing or maybe things have changed. Nothing stays the same but some things I just count on! I did cruise around though and see what I could see.

Coming up to the Food Hall at Selfridges
Coming up to the Food Hall at Selfridges
Selfridge's fish counter
Selfridges’ fish counter
I was pretty tempted by the middle eastern snacks
I was pretty tempted by the Middle Eastern snacks
Snowflakes projected on the pavement, Oxford Street
Snowflakes projected on the pavement, Oxford Street – confusing babies and dogs!
It isn't always junk food
It isn’t always junk food

Keep reading! There’s loads more to come.  Continue reading “Christmas Lights in the West End 2018 – epic part two!”

New Year and the ballet

Wednesday, 2 January, 2019

New Year in London is a big deal – just not for me! I usually stay home and don’t do much but I was busy nonetheless. I popped out to the pub around 7pm and chose a pizza – my first one from there – to take away. They took a long time to make it so I was suspicious. I kept remembering how fast the pizzas were made in Torino so what were they doing back there?

The pub has been taken over by a local craft beer company
The pub has been taken over by a local craft beer company

I decided to go the whole way and make it a junk food night so also went to buy some wings and fries. Another long wait and second thoughts later, I arrived home with pizza, five chicken wings and fries. None of it was worth eating but at least I wasn’t hungry after picking at it. I’ll never learn that these things are rarely worth trying! I watched the fireworks on TV and some out of the window and fell into bed. Happy New Year!

On January 2nd I had tickets for a ballet. It was meant to be a surprise for Krish but he wasn’t in the mood so I asked my friend Juliet if she was up to coming and she said yes. But first I was going to take myself out for lunch and then wander around a bit at Angel, which might be pretty at Christmas.

I wanted to try the BunBunBun newly opened location in Dalston so allowed plenty of time to get there and eat and set off again.

BunBunBun, Dalston - a spare setting
BunBunBun, Dalston – a spare setting
Bun Cha, my lunch
Bun Cha, my lunch

I ordered the Bún chả Hà Nội –‘Served as it is served in Hanoi [grilled lemongrass pork, mini grilled pork patties in a meat broth with a crispy spring roll]. sounded intriguing. and it was.’ My whole review is here! I’ll go back and try something else soon to see if the rest of the menu measures up. I’d love to do a foodie trip to Vietnam. Continue reading “New Year and the ballet”

Christmas Lights in London

Thursday,  27 December, 2018

There are two enduring memories of going to the west end at Christmas as a child and teenager. The beautiful windows, especially at Selfridges, and the magic of Liberty at Christmas. I’d have saved some money and off I’d go. I remember nothing of the window displays now other than they were beautiful, and so many of them. I’d always feel I could go window shopping on Oxford Street and not care if I bought a thing. The looking was even better than buying – since it was unlimited. Then Liberty always felt like a hidden treasure. Even today I know people who aren’t sure where it is or say they haven’t seen it.

This year I hadn’t made it down to the west end, ‘up west’ as they say. I made a plan to get there before the lights were turned off and I knew I couldn’t see it all in one trip. So I planned two. Part one would take me from Covent Garden to Chinatown, Soho, Regent Street, and Oxford Street. Part two would take me to Piccadilly, Bond Street, then New Bond Street, and up to Selfridges. Even then I wouldn’t see it all. No Trafalgar Square, no Marylebone…but that’s OK.

I don’t think I went to Covent Garden when I was younger. If I did, I don’t remember it. At any rate, it would have been a wholesale market and not that interesting to me. Now I know it really well and, although I put it low on my list because of the crowds of tourists, there are some things I do like about it and some shops you can’t find anywhere else – it is where the most concentrated collection of shoe shops is, so yes I do go sometimes. This time it was about the shops and the lights and the little inside courtyards I wanted to see.

At Seven Dials, and not quite dark enough to appreciate the lights
At Seven Dials, and not quite dark enough to appreciate the lights
Covent Garden Market Hall
Covent Garden Market Hall
Inside the Hall is the Apple Market
I loved the mistletoe lights
I loved the mistletoe lights
…and these large silver baubles
But the throngs of people make it a lot less magical
But the throngs of people make it a lot less magical
..so it's nice when you step outside a bit and see there's magic after all
..so it’s nice when you step outside a bit and see there’s magic after all

Inside Pollocks Toy Museum shop
Inside Pollocks Toy Museum shop

Continue reading “Christmas Lights in London”