London is the kind of place where memories are made; hearts are lost, won, and broken; and dreams are achieved. It is a place of such bustling anonymity that often you can feel lonely, and the metropolitanism can make you feel small. On the last weekend of July 2016, Katherine and I hit the big city with the Pollard family for the final time before our departure.
Emotions were running high as we wouldn’t all be together again until late 2017. I’m the last one to enter into this family, a pretty daunting task, but never have I been more humbled to be included in such a wonderful group of people. It is times like this that the wonders of the city; the love, the support, and the kindness, really shine through.
WELCOME TO LONDON
The city was glorious in its metropolitan feel and we could not wait to get things started. Katherine and I arrived at Euston on Friday morning and instantly, I felt a pang of nostalgic familiarity. I had been through this terminal many times during my year of study in the city. The first task was navigating the underground to find Oxford Street, where we intended to pick the final few garments for our trip. Oxford Street is quite easy to reach from anywhere in London, and today was no exception.
Alighting at a drizzly Tottenham Court Road, typical weather conditions for the British summer, we headed off to find some morning fuel, coffee.
After a quick Google search for independent cafes, we descended upon the charming Gitane on Great Titchfield Street and settled-in for some smooth, late-morning, replenishment. We got some serious people-watching done and having filled our stalking quota for the day, finished our drinks, and moved on to shop til we dropped.
We dropped at 12.30 and met my sister, Harriet, for some Italian food at Vapiano on Great Portland Street. These restaurants thrive in London and there is little wonder as to why. The dishes are varied and you even get to choose which pasta style you want. The visit with Harriet was regrettably fleeting, but we had a busy day ahead so we scoffed the marvellous food and headed off to meet KP’s family, the Pollards at her brother, James’, flat. This meant another tube journey, out of central London, on a Friday evening, on the Piccadilly line.
We arrived unavoidably sweaty and tired from carrying our backpacks (how will we cope?), but none-the-less excited. James and his wife Shireen greeted us at the door and welcomed us in where we relaxed for a while with some prosecco. Rachel, Katherine’s sister, had baked us some amazing cakes to celebrate our imminent
The icing on top is ‘Unicorn Clouds’, our preferred method of transportation, and I tell you what, the cakes tasted just as magical. The photos on top are some of our favourites from the last two years and I don’t think she could’ve done a better job. Friday night was filled with catch-up conversation, pale ale, and Angry Dad videos on YouTube. This family just fall back into the same banter, usually aimed at my clown-like clumsiness, no matter how long it has been.
JASMINE AND ALADIN
On Saturday’s menu was a brunchtime trip to the Shard, a matinee viewing of Disney’s Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre, and – in keeping with the unofficial theme – an eccentric visit to Aladin Indian restaurant on Brick Lane.
AquaShard is situated on the 32nd floor of the tallest building of Europe and serves some of the most exquisite food I have had the pleasure of tasting. I’m no expert on swanky restaurants, but this was a pretty fantastic display of food; I recommend the Lobster Benedict for starters.
The Prince Edward Theatre might be one of the most charitable theatres in London; they actually managed to emulate the climate of the sandy, equatorial nation that Aladdin is set. The temperature in the theatre must have peaked at about 60C, somewhat distracting attention from the
glittering jazz hands and shiny-white teeth of the dancing ensemble. The show was followed the story of Disney’s Aladdin rather faithfully, and some of the musical numbers were quite captivating.
The starcross’d lovers’ foray into enchanted carpet flights was quite special, and perhaps the most moving part of the performance. We all agreed that whilst we had a good time, the show struggled in a few places and probably deserved it less than stellar ratings. Having said that, to me theatre is always enjoyable, and I can’t help but wonder how my opinion might be different had Delfont Mackintosh managed to prevent the temperature of the auditorium soaring into a Whole New World.
BRICK LANE IS IN MY EAR AND IN MY EYES
If you’ve been to Brick Lane, or any market in a developing economy, you will recognise the scene. Energetic restaurateurs and their staff attempt to entice you to buy into their product by proclaiming offers of two curries, two sides, and a drink for £9.99.
The Bangladeshi population of the area and the corresponding sub-Continental cuisine really makes for a diverse experience in central London. When I lived in London, KP and I frequented Aladin and its subsidiaries, Nazrul and Jasmine, and each time we came away with a warm glow from the great food enjoyed in a cracking atmosphere.
This time was no different as the packed restaurant roared with energy, laughter, and conspicuous Bangladeshi rave music. The eccentric waiting staff impressed us with their short-term memory skills, and their ability to juggle plates of food in the narrow floor space of the restaurant. This was until one of them could juggle no longer hurling naan breads, baltis, and pilau rice to the floor.
Saturday’s revelry ended with a long, Uber ride through central London. I might’ve been lulled to sleep by my overfilled stomach had it not been for the tinkling sounds coming from James’ phone as he tried to catch a Pidgey at Old Street roundabout. We also neglected to factor in that three tall lads in the back of one taxi might be a bit cosy, so when the driver sped ironically over speed bumps, my head smashed the roof.
The upshot of all of this is to show that no matter how crowded a place you are in, or how lonely that makes you feel, all you have to do is look home. I am blessed that my own family is able to provide the inexorable, undying support and love that all families should provide. Katherine feels safe in the knowledge that hers can provide the same. Joining a new family, whether as a boyfriend or girlfriend, fiance, or husband or wife, can be extremely daunting.
This is especially true when your partner is the youngest daughter, and is protected like Indiana’s Sankara stones. Yet not once have I felt under-pressure to succeed, not once have I thought I wasn’t good enough, and not once have I felt out of place. The time we spent in London was excellent and we had a fantastic time, but it’s bigger than that. This weekend has helped me to realise that there is always a support network, wherever you are in the world, and to have that acceptance from your partner’s family, well that really is something.