I mentioned in my last post that I enjoy a busy weekend, and I thought I would share one from August with you. Another friend, R, had a BBQ and we had the same angst about the weather. Once again, the weather held out and even though we weren’t as warm as 3 weeks ago, we were still able to enjoy the outdoors and (most importantly) the meat. The highlight of this BBQ was 10 hour cooked pulled pork shoulder. If I figure out how to attach a video, I will – this pork shoulder was moist, tender, delicious and devoured ravenously by myself and R’s other guests. (Just managed to link it, for the video click where it says cooked pulled pork shoulder.  Not suitable for vegetarians)

In fact, although we had prepared various salads, they weren’t really eaten. The meat just kept coming and we kept eating it gratefully. I hope that R’s family were able to enjoy the salads in the following days, otherwise I will be annoyed at having woken up so flipping early to prepare them. Anyway. The weather was ok, not too warm, just warm enough to sit outside with a light fleece on, the food was delicious, the company was good and it turned out to be about as perfect a day as you can get. Of course, getting to R’s house in Dagenham was entertaining as I was at the mercy of my Satnav which makes for a frustrating and often loopy journey, but we got there eventually, an hour journey taking us two. I am proud to announce that on the way back, alone, I made it in an hour and 25 minutes and the satnav only had to recalculate three times… I feel like I’m making progress.
That evening we played cards with some friends and stayed up too late, but hey it was Saturday, nothing to wake up for on Sunday, so no problem there – oh wait, I did actually have plans for Sunday morning as did my friends, but the cards were too much fun and there was a tense decider (which is a word that completely freaks me out, so we refer to it as ‘third in a series of three’). Still it was totally worth it, my best friend and card partner N and I won. Booyah, etc.etc. We play this Greek card game that is a somewhat bastardised version of gin rummy, and no money exchanges hands, it wouldn’t be fun if there was money at stake, we play for the ‘honore’ and that is where the fun is.
Sunday was also going to be busy, I was meeting my good friend J in the morning to go to the Tate Modern to see the Matisse cut outs exhibition with tickets I had received from another friend A, who works for the Tate group (how lucky am I for lovely friends? – I am hugely thankful). I had never been to the Tate Modern before which is a terrible truth, but in my defense, I had promised to go with an artist friend of mine who lives in Greece when it first opened, and he has been promising to come to London every month since then. The Tate Modern opened in May 2000 and so that is in excess of 160 broken promises and missed opportunities for me to go. (I spoke to him before I went and told him he had missed his chance – he was suitably apologetic.) Anyway, I was going with J who is – amongst other things – my museum buddy and we were looking forward to the exhibition and – as important – the coffee afterwards. As my friends were leaving on the Saturday night at around 2am, someone mentioned that it might rain the next day, but I didn’t pay much attention, I was too busy trying to calculate how long it would take me to clear everything up and get to bed. The next morning dawned and it was grey, but nothing horrific. I got dressed and ready and finished the rest of the clearing up (nothing like a good potter on a Sunday morning). I had looked up how to get to the museum, but must have been distracted by something (possibly something earth-shattering like the microwave beeping, or the kettle boiling) and just not read the instructions fully. All I knew was that it was Southwark Tube station, that it was 800 yards from the station, and didn’t bother to carry on reading to see in which direction or indeed how long a flipping yard is.
As I was thinking about leaving, I heard this rushing sound from outside. I went to the window and realised that the rushing sound was torrential rain. I mean, not heavy rain, not cats and dogs, but cats, dogs, giraffes, lions, furniture, arks – the works. It was sheeting down fast, and I was suddenly faced with a wardrobe crisis.

It was, I think you'll agree, a bit wet.

It was, I think you’ll agree, a bit wet.

Not a problem for clothes, as I have said in the past, my summer and winter wardrobes are practically interchangeable. Footwear however was going to be a problem. I was struggling to find any waterproof shoes. I was in full summer mode, and so espadrilles are my footwear of choice. Anyone who has ever worn espadrilles will be able to tell you that the soles of ‘spads are effectively a sponge. Even with the ‘for show’ plastic coating sole glued to the bottom of the shoe (which makes it squeak on every kind of flooring except carpet by the way) all you have to do is step onto a wet pavement and all of the surface water is absorbed instantly into your shoe making it heavy, soggy and stinky – which are the trifecta of things you absolutely do not want in a shoe.
So, once I had eschewed the ‘spad option, I was left with my other shoes – converse trainers. Also not particularly useful in wet conditions. I flat out refused to wear my waterproof snow boots in August, one has to draw the line somewhere. I was therefore left with a black pair of fit-flop trainers which I had never worn before. I wasn’t actually that sure that they were waterproof, or even comfy, but it was late so I took a chance, grabbed a huge golfing umbrella and made my way out into the monsoon. I am not exaggerating when I use the term monsoon. Frankly I would not have been surprised to see a canoe float by. Certainly the cars and buses were mid-wheel deep. I was lucky with the bus and got to Baker Street Tube Stn relatively dry. Ie: my head and shoulders were dry, and my legs were soaking from the ankles all the way up to mid-thigh. Baker Street was awash (pardon the pun) with gobsmacked tourists who were bemoaning the fact that the previous day had been lovely and now they were ankle deep in water wearing flip flops and either short shorts, or maxi skirts which were retaining water and necessitated the pulled-up-through-the-legs-diaper look. Part of me felt sorry for them, but another (clearly darker and more vindictive part) wanted to say Rain! In England! Who ‘d have thought?!
Anyway, many of you will know how often people talk to each other on public transport in London. The answer is never. I have a friend who sat next to a guy on the tube and put her briefcase (it was the 80s) on top of the arm rests at her side. Feeling an itch on her leg, she reached down and scratched her leg. The itch wasn’t abating and she scratched harder and harder before looking down to see what was making her itch so much. What she discovered when she looked down was that she had been scratching the gentleman beside her’s leg. I mean it is weird that she didn’t notice she wasn’t scratching her own leg, but I am sorry, it is even weirder that this guy sat next to her and never said a word. Not “Ow!”, not “Oi!” Not even a very British “Er, excuse me”. Nothing. He just sat there in stoic silence as she rubbed her nails across his thigh hard enough to draw blood. Unbelievable.
Ok, so I feel that the silence on public transport has now been adequately explained. This is the thing though. This time, everyone was talking to everyone. It was amazing. We all sat there commenting on how soggy each person looked, and where we were going, and what did we think of this weather and how long did we think the deluge was going to be going on for. It was really quite cosy. More and more people got on, varying degrees of wetness and the conversation continued. It transpired that many of us were actually going to the same place. I had no idea that there was such as thing as a traditional Sunday morning outing to the Tate Modern. So it was that at Southwark Tube station, we all got out and traipsed up the stairs to where there was a small crowd cowering under the station awning, trying to stay as dry as possible in the face of driving rain. Somehow I lost the people I thought I would follow when I realised (in the train) that I hadn’t really done enough research into the directions and there I was, feet dry but everything else wet, large umbrella aloft trying to work out which directions to walk 800 yards in.
There are little old fashioned signposts around the area as it is a tourist spot, so I managed to start off in the right direction. As I walked on, I angled my umbrella to protect me from the worst of the rain, and so I couldn’t really see in front of me, only what was in front of my feet allowing me to avoid large puddles (small lakes). I hurried along, trying to get where I was going as quickly as possible in the inclement conditions. I spotted three women pressed along the side of the building I was walking along. The overhang was about a foot so they were good and soaked.
“Hello!” they said cheerily. “Are you going to the Tate Modern?”
“Yes, if I can find it! “ I answered.
“Can we hitch a lift under your umbrella?”
“Sure, come on in!”
Suddenly I was surrounded by three very wet girls, each with an arm around me. It felt… Well now that I have seen it written down, it sounds like the opening sequence of a porn film. What it felt like at the time was a surreal and funny as hell. The girls were Dutch, they were giggly and pressed up close, and I thought this was a take on hitchhiking that was more than a little different. We approached a crossroads.
“It’s this way,” one of them said.
“No, straight ahead.” Said another.
We all stopped. When not in motion, the four way hug felt even stranger. I felt their eyes on me.
“Don’t look at me, I have no idea where I’m going,” I said. “I have been letting you steer me along.”
Just then one of them darted out and turned right, the other two followed running into the rain and bearing right.
“We’ll make a dash for it! Thanks for the lift!”
I was left there, even damper with still no idea which way was the right way. Eventually, after finding another two lost souls, who also snuggled up under my brolly, I made it to the museum.
I called J. “Are you here?”
“I am waiting in the queue to give in my soaking coat.” she answered.
I found her, we left our coats, bags and umbrellas at the coat check and off we squelched to see the exhibition. Very interesting it was too, and after we had had a mosey, we stopped for the much needed and very welcome coffee. After about an hour chatting, it was time to brave the elements once more. Imagine J’s dismay when it transpired that the hugely helpful and gifted staff at the coat check had just dumped all of her bags and her wet umbrella on top of her coat instead of hanging it on one of the 4000 hangers available to them. We put her coat into a plastic bag and she went home without one. Fortunately by this point the rain had gone, only to be replaced by extremely strong gusts of wind. After we experienced a Mary Poppins moment each (the irony of which was not lost on either of us having both been nannies for in excess of 10 years) we folded the umbrellas, made our way to the tube station and made arrangements to meet soon for another traditional Sunday morning museum visit.

The next thing I want to go and see are the poppies currently being planted around the Tower of London. I hope that Noah doesn’t feel like he has to join me for that one.