Louie, Sandra’s younger son flew in to Heathrow looking like you’d expect a seventeen-year old who has been sofa-hopping with his mates in Cairo for three-months. Underweight, hung-over, tired as hell and hungry but cheerful and pleased to see us. After the hugs, coffee and a couple crispy doughnuts we headed off to Putney to visit Phyllis with whom Sandra had worked in Egypt.
Now, I’m a West London boy and don’t go south of the river if I can avoid it because as everybody knows, they’re all villans there. However, Putney [never been there, never wanted to] came as a bit of a shock. Leafy Victorian suburban roads, boathouses along the river, dutch barges and houseboats complete with pots of geraniums on the roofs. Indian, Chinese, Nepalese, Thai restaurants on every street corner. Nice. Very nice. Every other car a Merc or a Porsche. I could live there at a push, if I had 1.3million quid or more, which is what you’d have to pay for a family house [away from the river]…
Phyllis is Super Teacher, going in to failing schools to help turn them round. She is a positive, strong woman with firm ideas grounded in practical experience and academic rigour but in addition has a wicked sense of humour and a nice sense of the absurd. Once we had settled in to her flat with views across a green wilderness where kingfishers flashed past as a streak of blue [not common in London, I would say] we visited one of her local pubs, The Jolly Gardeners where I had an excellent fish pie and a couple of pints of London Pride. Mmm! The Wimbledon ladies final was in full swing and while Sandra and Phyllis enjoyed watching Serena Williams taking her opponent apart [don’t follow it myself] I sat on the other side of the table and tried to ignore the proceedings.
The Jolly Gardeners is one of those fine 1930’s pubs with large open bars, high ceilings and solid wooden furniture. Like so many pubs in London, it had been scraped clean of age but retains enough of it’s history to make it interesting. Louie tucked in to his sausage and mash with gusto while I checked out the barmaid who had the hair on one side of her head shaved off completely. This seems to be a new trend with girls of about 2o. Mind you at 20, most girls would draw attention if they wore a hessian sack tied around the middle with an old piece of string. Maybe I could invent a trend!
The visit to Phyllis turned into a food festival after that, with a trip to the excellent Indian at the end of her road [vegetable korma] and brunch the next day at a very up-market cafe on Putney High Street. Full English. Light, fluffy scrambled eggs, organic bacon, mushrooms fried to a dark brown, thin fried bread, black sausage, two large slices of crispy while bread, butter and jam. There was no need to eat again until evening…
Some people say that a traditional English Breakfast is a heart-attack on a plate while others say that so long as the bacon is grilled and you ignore the black pudding, it is quite healthy. I hope the latter is true for the sake of my arteries and my taste buds!
We sat in the sun and put the world to rights while Louie caught up with his sleep back at Phyllis’s place. In that moment, I could almost have been convinced that living back in the UK was worth it and do you know what? If you could guarantee three-months of fine weather like that we had experienced since returning from Namibia, it might be.