6 – Stories from the City…

London.  I am sure I have already made clear my complicated relationship of love and hatred with London. Actually, to be quite precise, I think I just stated that I hate it. Which is mostly true, especially for the individuals that inhabit London. OK, I don’t hate anyone, really, I just strongly dislike most Londoners, the way they (don’t) interact with each other, the fact they need to get shitfaced before being able to enjoy themselves. However, London has heaps of stuff to do to offer, if you have the time and money, and if you can be arsed to spend a significant part of your weekend on the public transport.  What follows is a taster of an alternative London weekend.

The recent period has been all about getting to know my new camera, experimenting with style and form – actually, trying to find one, more than experimenting – and trying all kinds of genres. I suppose I can produce a half decent landscape or architecture shots, but I also know that I have no clue or confidence when it comes to street photography. I also have very vague knowledge about what is legal and what’s not, but I seem to recall that as long as I am standing on a public ground, I should be free to take any photograph I like. Anyway, there is no better moment to start gaining some confidence than now. And as there were quite a few things going on in London last weekend, I packed my camera, and wandered off to the city.

So, no Halloween shots. First, I dislike Halloween. Second, while taking pictures of random people on the public ground might be entirely fine, sticking your camera into the faces of smashed zombies is a completely different story. And anyone who’s ever spent at least a weekend in London knows just how friendly the drunk English are.  Fortunately not only Halloween was happening last weekend. It was also Diwali, the festival of lights, the Hindu new year, the most important holiday of the year for the Indian community. Therefore, me and four of my girlfriends decided to go for a proper Indian meal on Saturday lunchtime, and there is no better destination in London for that than Wembley. Now, some of you may point out that there is no need to travel all the way to Wembley for a decent curry, when Brick Lane is much more central. That might be a valid point, but Brick Lane is definitely overrated, overpriced, and let’s face it, the food’s mostly crap. Therefore, after what Vivi claimed to be a 2 hours thorough internet research for the best Wembley-based curry house, Fat Papaya was picked. I’d eaten my fair share of curry, as I live in Tooting, which is more Pakistani than Indian, but – you’ll pardon my ignorance – I have always found that the substantial difference between the two cuisines is that you get a Cobra in the Indian restaurant. But then I grew up with a cuisine that uses sweet paprika as the spiciest spice, so I most likely don’t know what I’m talking about. To the point though, Fat Papaya was a great choice (well done, Vivi), probably the best indian restaurant I have been to except for Amaya (but that one has an “estrella micelìn” (sic), so comparing them would be a bit unfair). Highlight of the lunch: panipuri with mint yoghurt, and Vivi accidentally chewing on a chili pepper.

A much-needed after lunch walk (well, a marathon was much-needed, really) took us through the Wembley street market, Indian jewelleries, sari shops, and traditional sweet shops with long queues outside. We were hanging around the Hindu temple, when a lady approached us and invited us inside. This must have been one of very few cases of a sober stranger talking to me in this city. We removed our shoes, were advised no photos were allowed, and the nice lady showed us around. The temple was commissioned in India, all the sandstone bits were carved there, then shipped to London and assembled in Wembley. The shrine was opened in 2010 and it is quite an unexpected sight in London.

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Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir

But, the evening came, and with it the highlight of the weekend – the only european date of Little Steven and the Disciples od Soul 2016 tour. Now, me and Stevie have a history together, although he probably doesn’t remember it, so I couldn’t have possibly missed the gig. Stevie and his entourage of aged men (and background singers that looked fresh from a porn casting) played the Indigo in the O2, a small and intimate venue, but the show for some inexplicable reason started few minutes after 11pm (doors at 9, which means I was there at 20 past 8, and people were already queuing – get a life, losers) and ended just before 2 am, so almost 3 hours of solid rock’n’roll. Richie Sambora joined the stage for the last two songs, all dressed in leather (which really does look awfully ridiculous once you’re over 40 and don’t happen to be riding a motorbike). I have no critical eye when having to choose gig pictures, so there you go: all of them. Sorry.

Sunday – I went for a brunch with a friend who was visiting London and her friends; Portobello road wouldn’t have been my first choice, not on a Sunday anyway, not to mention that I wouldn’t have even considered a place that doesn’t accept reservations, doesn’t serve alcohol (why, no bloody mary with brunch? Piss off!), calls smoked coconut flakes “bacon” (honest) and charges almost fifteen quid for an avocado toast with a couple of poached eggs. But I tagged along with the crowd. And Portobello Rd is pretty. Kind of.

I had to cheer myself up by a compulsive obsessive raid in a book shop, where I had the second surprise of the weekend – the shop keeper commented on my rather eclectic selection of books. Yeah ok, I guess not many people buy Bolano, Roth, Rankin and the hottest guilty pleasure of the moment (Girl on the train) in the same take. But still, the guy talked to me!

And finally I got asked to join someone for the PJ Harvey show in Brixton the same evening. Well, I guess the reason why I was asked was because it was me who had bought the tickets months before when me and the someone were still an item, but whether this was an act of common courtesy or a genuine interest to see me will forever remain a mystery. I already arrived strengthened by half a bottle of wine (for the courage) and some more wine was consumed during the gig. The concert was great, Polly Jean was on top form and I was glad I had come to see her. I got the set list from the sound desk (another one of my little obsessions) and someone asked me to take a picture of if, and as he was doing so, his friend commented that I had really photogenic eyes, to which I might have replied something way out-of-order (…the wine). We went for an after gig drink (totally unnecessary, given the amount of alcohol I had already consumed, but still) and I think I might have wandered into some kind of pessimistic, apocalyptic, political, drunken rant, for which I am sorry (so if you are reading this, Kruse, I fortunately don’t recall much, and I am kind of hoping you don’t either).

pjharvey


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