Sunday, December 7th 2014
We haven’t done much lately apart from the essential tasks such as going to work and doing the shopping. The main disincentive is the weather: short days and cold temperatures are more conducive to staying at home in the warm than in gallivanting around the landscape taking photos. I am sensitive to the cold and however many layers I put on, the winter chill somehow sneaks in and makes me feel miserable.
On Friday evening, in search of Christmas cards, we passed through the N1 Centre in Islington. There we found the Christmas Market in progress and the famous angel wings lit with coloured lights.
I didn’t find any Christmas cards that I liked but there is time yet and I don’t send many. To be precise, I send exactly two, though I may also add my signature to some of Tigger’s.
Yesterday, Saturday, we started out with good intentions and made it up the road to the Turkish cafe in Upper Street where we enjoyed a Turkish breakfast. After breakfast, we sniffed the air, metaphorically speaking, and returned home. Snuggling up in the warm over a pot of tea seemed much preferable to wandering about in the cold.
This morning we did our weekly shopping as usual and returned home to put it all away. In the afternoon, we thought we should bestir ourselves and so we set out once more. We made it all the way to Camden Town, courtesy of the 214 bus. The conditions were cold and dull but it was at least not raining (or snowing).
Parkway, where the above photo was taken, is a broad street leading south-west from Camden Town tube station. These days, it is a one-way street but I imagine that in times past its traffic flowed in both directions. You can see why this is important if you look it up on the map: it leads you straight to Regent’s Park. And what’s in Regent’s Park? Why, the famous Regent’s Park Zoo, of course! Now called the ZSL London Zoo, since opening to the public in 1847, the zoo has been continually popular with visitors.
With so many people travelling along Parkway to visit the zoo and, perhaps more importantly, coming back from it, it was the ideal street in which to open a store selling animals, particularly exotic ones. Today, we frown on this but in 1921, when the shop started up, it was considered normal. Originally a pair of 19th-century houses, the building is now listed Grade II. It is no longer a pet shop (it has been succeeded by Palmer’s Pet Care, a little further along on the opposite side of the road) and is currently the premises of a teashop.
What is thought to be a picture of the interior, taken in the 1950s or 1960s, will be found here. English heritage gives some details of the shop and its history on its listing page, and a charming account of a personal reminiscence of working in the shop appears on Nicky Grace’s blog.
Today, our interest in the shop was that it is a branch of a still small but seemingly successful chain of teashops called Yumchaa. I have already mentioned Yumchaa (see, for example, A quiet ramble). As a tea aficionado of long standing, I am always interested in finding a new outlet for fine teas. Yumchaa have an impressive range and serve tea to be drunk on the premises and sell tea in packets for you to take home. We enjoyed a pot of tea each – Red Christmas for Tigger and Russian Caravan for me. I saw that they were making an offer of three packets for £13 and decided I would buy two packets of Russian Caravan and one of Oolong.
At the counter, a disappointment awaited. Yumchaa doesn’t seem to have got the retail side of the business as well organized as it should be. Both of my chosen teas were out of stock. Perhaps in an attempt at mitigation, the assistant remarked that “Russian Caravan is the least popular of our black teas”, not this did anything to console me. They have promised to have the three packets ready for me tomorrow, so I will come down and pick it up.
Whereas Oolong (also known as Wulong) is the name of a variety of tea, Russian Caravan is a blend. I rarely buy it blended, though, because tea merchants tend to be coy about exactly what they put in it. Yumchaa states that their Russian Caravan is a blend of Oolong, Keemun and Lapsang Souchong, which I consider to be the correct recipe. If theirs is any good, it will save me buying the ingredient separately and mixing them myself as I usually do.
Tomorrow or Tuesday should provide the answer.