Having done the laundry, we awoke on New Year’s Day with that sense of contentment that comes from a clear conscience. It was Monday but felt more like Sunday and, with so many shops and businesses closed, an old fashioned Sunday at that. The day was ours: how would we spend it?
Devoted readers of this column (all both one of you) will no doubt already be muttering the word “breakfast”. Well done! That was indeed our first thought having acquired consciousness and had a cup of tea. When decisions are to be made, it’s no good asking me: I can never make up my mind. Fortunately, Tigger had already made a decision on the matter and so we strolled down to St. Johns Street and caught a bendy-bus.* Tigger knows I like surprises and so keeps our destination secret until we get there.
Today, I guessed where we were going but only as we got there. Nul point, alors. Our destination was a certain London street, once the centre of all that was trendy but today a mere shadow of this colourful past. Got it? No? Then here’s another clue: it is associated with the Fab Four aka the Beatles. Yep, Carnaby Street. It’s probably still worth taking the occasional stroll down Carnaby Street but the old magic and excitement are no longer there.
“What’s this got to do with breakfast?” I hear you cry. Tigger had a particular cafe in mind but unfortunately it was closed. We will definitely go there another time and it will perhaps generate a mention in this blog. For today, we went into a little street parallel to Carnaby Street, called Newburgh Street, and entered the Garden Cafe. Tigger took the photo on the left and if you click on it you will see a larger version. Unfortunately, they don’t do a vegetarian breakfast so I had an omelet and Tigger a crepe.
After breakfast we had a good wander around the area and visited the Carnaby Street branch of Muji. I wasn’t keen on Muji at first but now I like it. It stocks a curious range of clothes, furniture and items such as stationery, tools and what can only be called toys for grownups. Everything is small and neat in the Japanese fashion. For example, Tigger bought me a pen that combines the role of a three-colour gel pen with that of propelling pencil. After a visit to Muji, stock in ordinary European shops seems big and clumsy. If you have never been to a Muji shop, give it a try and see if you find it as fascinating as I do.
We next took a bus, which crawled through traffic snarled up by the New Year’s Day parade but eventually we reached Elephant and Castle. The E&C shopping centre is another place I enjoy. It has a unique character, among other things reflecting the local Hispanic community, and I am very sad to know it is to be closed down and “redeveloped”. Attached to it is a railway station on the old Thameslink, now First Capital Connect, line. Tigger suggested we go to Mill Hill by train. So we did.
Emerging from Mill Hill Broadway station, Tigger suddenly said “How do you feel about going to Ruislip?” Well, why not? We leapt aboard a bus just as the doors were closing. Ruislip is nowhere near Mill Hill so the journey took quite some time but that’s fine if you treat it like an excursion. There is always plenty to see on a bus ride. As we reached Ruislip tube station, the daylight was beginning to fade. Also, breakfast was a distant memory by now so we started looking for somewhere to eat. Very little was open and it looked as if we were going to have to make do with Pizza Hut but then we discovered a little Italian restaurant open. We were the only customers.
As we often do, we started with bread, oil and vinegar. This is one of those simple pleasures that neither technology nor TV chefs can improve. Bread. Olive oil. Balsamic vinegar. Fingers. I think I could live on that. We then had a calzone each. You probably know what this is but it was new to me. It’s a pizza base folded in half with a delicious filling. In this case the filling was blue cheese, roasted vegetables and spices. Delicious.
When we left the restaurant, a nasty surprise awaited us. It was not only raining hard but was dropping hail as well. By the time we reached the tube station we were getting soggy. For once, Tigger suggested we take the tube home. So we did. It was a perfect ending to the day to get indoors, take off our wet clothes, put on the gas fire and make tea.
*I love the bendy-buses. They used to be called “burny-buses” because of their tendency to spontaneously burst into flames to the anxious surprise of all aboard but that problem seems to have been cured. These days naughty people often call them “free buses” because you can board by any of the three doors, i.e. without showing your ticket (or lack of one) to the driver.