I need to exercise my muscles before they all cease up from lack of use.
This I’ve decided includes my brain, which though technically not a muscle I figure is a muscle like thing. I am going to make sure I write something everyday as a cerebral workout – a regular diary with day to day experiences.
This will form the basis of my second book ( a tale of the redemption of an ageing Roué ) which no doubt is going to be another great success following on from my first (soon to be completed) tome ‘The Confessions of a Rambling Man’.
Today I am meeting up with my newly discovered relation Bev, an American who hails from California, along with my Sister & niece & Bevs family.
We tracked each other down through 23&me the DNA website.
It turns out we are both descended from Boyers from Lincolnshire a century or so ago.
Bev is on vacation in Europe with her family and she’s coming to London.
We text and mail beforehand and agree we will get together when she is in England.
You suggest where to meet she says.
As I’m British I mutter about the weather, apologising in advance. I suggest that everyone prays it doesn’t rain.
Maybe we could eat something she suggests, we’d like to try some traditional English food?
Oh fuck, what does that mean I wonder, Curry?
The appointed day is a scorcher with clear blue skies, clearly praying works.
I pat myself on the back for a good call – meeting on the Southbank – The Thames, the sunshine – the sights – well done Martin.
I’m slightly nervous about the meet up, what happens if Bev turns out to be a Trump leaning nutcase? I have of course stalked her on social media and am pretty sure she isn’t but well, who knows? And what if we really just don’t gel? Well what’s the worst that can happen?
As the clock ticks towards the appointed hour it’s time to get ready – this feels a bit like a date, only of course its not, I’m meeting my relative & lets be frank she drinks from the chalice of Sappho so it is most definitely not a date, but I still spend a while deciding what to wear, I shave and squirt a bit of scent on in the hope of smelling nice. On some kind of level I want to make a good impression.
I’ve arranged that we meet at Laurence Oliviers statue on the Southbank, outside the National theatre. We all get there early, there are smiles & hugs, let’s have a drink I say, there’s a bar over there.
My sister & cousin go to fetch a round of drinks and the other four of our party take possession of a table in the shade. My cousins daughter is fifteen, I glance towards her, trying to remember what it feels like to be an awkward teenager in the company of adults & I realise its so long ago that I’ve totally forgotten.
The drinks arrive, just as everyone has sat down we realise that Bevs glass of wine was left off. I’ll go I say, what was it? A glass of cabernet sauvignon says Bev.
I head to the bar, order the wine, pay and about to head off when I notice the rim of the glass is dirty, I call the barman back, explain & he apologises & serves a new glass.
This duly arrrives, the rim of the new glass is still grubby.
This is awful, I cant deal with the idea of my new relation discovering that the Brits can’t even serve a glass of wine in a clean glass. I grab a napkin and spend two minutes cleaning the glass, then return to the table and place the glass in front of Bev with a flourish.
She looks at it and then looks at me.
Cabernet Sauvignon she says.
Yes says I.
I look at the glass and repeat Cabernet Sauvignon.
A glass of white wine stares back at me.
I am mortified, what must she think, the Philistine can’t tell red from white.
For a moment I consider telling her about the dirty glass, how I got wrapped up in that but then just slink off to the bar to get another glass of wine that’s the right colour.
After a drink we meander along the River and then the subject of food comes up and I explain that there’s not really anywhere close by for good English food, save perhaps for the Swan at Shakespeares Globe, but that it might be a bit expensive. However there are a run of places along the River. What about Wagamamas I suggest. Its not English but its good food & always reliable. Several of the party express a desire for Katsu Curry. Its a done deal.
The joint is packed but we manage to get a table.
I find myself staring at a waitress person who flounces up and down the table aisles theatrically carrying trays of drinks high above his/her/their head. They are dressed in a Tutu which hangs by two straps over wide shoulders that a body builder would be proud of. Big red rouged lips pout out from a head crowned with big blonde locks. I don’t understand what I’m looking at and I realise that thereby hangs the problem, that having to ask myself in the first place is the problem, I am getting old.
The late afternoon lunch is a jolly affair, afterwards we stroll along the River, take some pics and as the sun begins to set we are rewarded with a beautiful evening.
We say our goodbyes, four or five hours have flown by, we head in three different directions, my new relations take a river boat downstream to their hotel, my sister & her daughter head towards Waterloo Station, I cross the wobbly bridge over the Thames and pause midway to take in the view. I have forgotten how beautiful London can be sometimes and this is one of those moments that help me to remember.
I walk on towards St Pauls Cathedral, my journey takes me through the edge of the Churchyard, the light has almost gone & all is quiet, the Cathedral is etched in gilt light. I turn a corner and head into the City, which is empty, an occasional car goes by, I reach the Tube and limp down the steps, a gaggle of young women are coming up, they sparkle in sequinned dresses, high heels clatter on the concrete, kohl-dark eyelids peering upwards into the night-time, I’d forgotten it is Eid & these young ladies are out to party.
I head back on the tube, content and just a little bit tired, but not Samuel Johnson tired, not tired of London & not tired of life, not yet.
Once home I look at the app on my phone that measures walking. 19,230 steps. Bejesus I’ve not walked that far in bloody ages. Now that was a bloody good day.
Monday July 11th.
Woke up early this morning feeling stiff as a post & sorry to overshare, but the old stomach is a little out of sorts. This resulted in a prolonged period on the throne with ensuing multiple evacuations, went back to bed and reflected on the previous day.
Realised to my horror that I bent my cousins ear for far too long about what I disliked about America. I ranted about Trump, about racism, about the rolling back of Roe V Wade. Possibly even C.I.A. machinations in other countries. Oh my goodness, what a stupid insufferable pillock.
& the wine incident, oh God.
At this point my phone pings with a message from my Sister;
Are you ok Mart?
Yes why I reply
Only Megs was sick last night, Bevs daughter was throwing up all night and I’ve been ill she messages. Well I’ve a bit of a stomach thing I say.
We then work out that the common denominator is Katsu Curry, all four of us ate it and all four had consequences.
Brilliant, another fine decision by yours truly, I’ve given my relations food poisoning – at least they had a day they won’t forget in a hurry.
& I think of another Jonson, Ben Jonson: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Ain’t it just.