It’s odd but this part of London I have not visited before. From the cab window I can see little boats and large willow trees, bridges above the canal and ducks in the water; everything in Little Venice looks cute and laziness-inducing even in the hail – up until the moment I suddenly think “And how is this different from the Water of Leith?”
I’ve lived in Edinburgh long enough to be unable to enjoy London again.
By the time I check in and unpack, the raging torrent outside turns into an ordinary rain and then disappears altogether; the sky is bright and clear blue and my mood is better. I put on my new grey jumper and set off to explore.
I walk down the path along the water for quite a while before I suddenly realise I’m in Paddington. By now it’s well past 6 so I pick a restaurant for an early dinner.
In front of me, a couple of empty tables away, a man is sitting on his own, nose in a newspaper, picking at something on a plate with his fork now and again. He raises his eyes from his paper and instead of looking at his fork he looks at me. I acknowledge his gaze. Half a salad later I catch his eyes on me again. I look back. He smiles. Must be the new jumper. I smile back. With pleasure.
He looks like someone who would work in Central London and live in Watford with a wife, 2 kids and a dog. Only he’s clearly just finished work and instead of rushing home for dinner he’s idly reading a newspaper in a restaurant and making eyes at a strange woman. Either not married or something is rotten in the state of Watford. His plate is long empty and he’s still there, looking at his newspaper.
He stands up eventually, picks up his raincoat and briefcase, and waves good-bye to me. I wave back. He leaves.
What an English way to go. Sometimes I wonder how this nation still reproduces. You see a woman, you show your interest, the woman reciprocates – what do you do? You leave! Why not come up to the woman and tell her that her smile made your dinner and that you’d like to buy her a hot chocolate*. Or at least pay for her salad. Ah, romance is dead…
Back in Edinburgh, a few days later, I’m having lunch at my favourite restaurant. The waiter, who had previously endeared himself so much by totally looking at my bum, brings me a hot chocolate. In the centre of the thick cinnamon-sprinkled froth I can see a little, uneven heart-shaped opening. Clearly custom-made, not a result of a mould or some froth-arranging device. An analogue of waving at me? Or just re-creation of something memorable?
* I sometimes have a feeling men don’t understand the concept of offering a drink to a woman. By buying her a drink you buy her time. If she accepts your offer, she agrees to give you her attention for as long as the drink lasts. This drink should be enough for both of you to decide if another drink is a good idea or if you’d like to move on. See, nothing scary! Yes, you two enter into a sort of social contract but it’s not a commitment to spend the rest of your lives together. Not even an obligation to exchange phone numbers. Just an opportunity to get to know each other a little to decide if it’s worth it.
As you no doubt have noticed, I’ve been very quiet lately. August is a mad time anyway, plus I’ve been working on a personal problem so I didn’t have that much time left. I am sorry about any disappointment caused and I will try to resume the semblance of regularity on this blog. To make up for my online absence, I looked at some of the old drafts and here‘s a new old entry for your amusement.