London 2005: Arrival, Kew, Curry, Change

Day One: Thursday 4 August

Dependable as always, Russ is at Heathrow to pick me up and drive me back to his place, where I’ll be staying for most of my time in London. As always, conversation is like we’d never been apart. I freshen up a little at his house and chat with his dad before we head out for the day.

Because I am a deeply cultural person interested in deeply cultural things, our first stop is H&M. I know, I know, I can hear all of you shrieking in disbelief even from here – “All this interminable whining about how much she misses London’s vibrant arts scene and rich history and robust system of civil and political liberties, and the first thing she does when she gets back is shop in a multinational chain store?” – but look, it’s near Russ’s house, and in my mad packing rush I forgot to bring any belts to prevent my ass crack from showing when I bend down. Also, I just fucking love H&M.

Alas, in my time away from England I’ve returned to my Singapore size, with the result that I try on 6 items of clothing and none of them fit right. I do, however, procure a nice green belt for £3.99, and avert builders’ arse for now.

Boots value meals in hand, we eat lunch under a tree in Kew Gardens and talk about everything. (Click pictures for larger versions.)

Gardener and his wheelbarrow, amidst tree.

We eventually remember the real object of our visit, which is to see Dale Chihuly’s glass sculpture installations.

Detail of Chihuly’s boat installation.

I have a feeling the sculpture in the coffee lounge of the Singapore Ritz-Carlton is also by Dale Chihuly. My friends and I usually call it the sperm sculpture. I don’t think I’m a big Chihuly fan, but it’s still interesting to see how the sculptures are incorporated into the landscape of Kew Gardens and its various greenhouses and conservatories.

Bit garish.

Russ is a little tied up with flat-hunting while I’m here, so we go from Kew to Hoxton to view a flat. It’s pretty grim. The current occupant’s desperate to rent it out so that she can go on holiday, and also because desperation is generally the most realistic attitude to take when attempting to rent out a flat like that one. We end up near Brick Lane for dinner, so of course I take Russ and Dave to good ol’ Sweet’N’Spicy.

I get a pang when I walk down the street where Alec lived and realize it’s changed so much that I can’t even recognize which door was his. But at least the chicken korma in Sweet’N’Spicy is as wonderfully creamy as it always was, the prices are as low, and the service as cordial. And of course, the seriously retro Turkish wrestler posters are still on the wall. In this timeless but ever-changing city, at least I can hold on to Sweet’N’Spicy. May their tables always be formica.


  1. H&M! Kew gradens! Bricklane! you make me miss london so much now. I love H&M, it’s the best. when i was in stockholm, i went to all the H&Ms i could find, which was basically on every street.

  2. Michelle, apologies for an out of context post, but thought I’d mention the casting of Elijah Wood for the Everything Is Illuminated flick – what do you reckon?

  3. I was watching a show on the BBC recently and I saw Alecs’ door on it. It was definately his because I remembered the pretty unique clothes shop next to it.

  4. Warning; don’t bother reading this boring comment. I’m just indulging my naustalgia when I should be studying.

    Yee’re both right. The yuppie’fication of my erstwhile ‘hood’ continues at an alarming pace. Yet somehow my old flat at Number 49 remains unscathed. If you peer closely you can still see my name in faded letters by the buzzer.

    But everything else that was special about the street is gone. Victim boutique has been replaced by a retro furniture shop that is as pretenious as it is unoriginal. My other neighbour was a Bangladeshi corner shop. These guys knew me so well that when my father first passed the shop they figured out that he was my father and came out to give him directions to my flat. I was less endeared after my father recounted the full conversation. Apparantly they asked if he was the father of ‘that white yuppie what lives next door’.

    Anyway, these guys are also gone. And it makes me sad.

  5. You’re right, the sculpture in the Ritz-Carlton is by Chihuly. H&M…aaargh! Brings back bad memories of being dragged unwillingly from one H&M shop to another across Germany on a university trip..

  6. Argh, why is my comments sidebar fucked? I’ll have to fix it when I get home, I guess.

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