13 Feb 09
London (Part 1)
It was hard to let go of Mum on the driveway because she was crying. Crying because she was worried about me going it alone. I told her not to worry, that I would accomplish things in London to make her proud. She was still crying as I set off in a medium-sized rental van loaded with cardboard boxes scrounged from a local grocery store containing the belongings that she had helped me pack. She folds clothes meticulously, does my mum.
Only getting lost twice, it took me five hours through cold snowed-under countryside to get to the warm welcome meal prepared by my landlord and roommate, Mike Hotwheelz. A spinach-and-potato curry that broke my forehead out in a sweat.
Guildford is a pleasant town. Lots of students and artsy types. I'm in the front bedroom of a narrow terraced house. My room is spacious, the wooden floorboards creak, and the window I have established my computer next to overlooks the constant flow of students hastening by on a small brick road.
I joined Guildford library. I borrowed a book: Hollywood by Charles Bukowski – an alcoholic who wrote for decades, sometimes roughing it like a bum, before becoming successful. The movie, Barfly, based on his life, raised his profile.
My new boss is in South Africa visiting rehabs he works with, so I haven't started my job speaking to youths yet.
I'm going through the shock of suddenly having responsibilities like grocery shopping and cooking. Items from the local Sainsbury’s are keeping me alive. Bananas. Yoghurt. Tins of beans. Vegetable stone-baked pizzas. Pita bread, feta and jalapeño houmous. Onions, garlic, and mature cheddar that I toast on soya and linseed bread.
The curry at the local Chinese chippy tastes good, but the service is peculiar:
“I’d like chips, curry and rice, please,” I said to the young lad at the counter.
Overseeing the fryer, the old man with his back to me snarled, “No rice! This not Chinese restaurant! This fish ’n’ chips!”
“Where I come from near Liverpool, all the Chinese chippies sell rice,” I said politely.
“You see rice on my board?”
I looked glumly at the menu board. In a display of solidarity, the young lad looked with me.
The old man continued to communicate with me through the back of his head: “No rice on board! What wrong with you?” He then shook the fryer basket with appreciable hostility.
“I’ll just have curry on chips then, please. Left open.”
The lad handed me an open bag of chips with a sealed carton of curry on top. Holding a little wooden fork, I stared at the carton as I walked home.
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Shaun P. Attwood