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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Head in the cloud (berries).



During the week, as I was lying on my sofa like a reclining Buddha, my mobile phone rang. Normally, I keep all my phones switched off as I can only hear in mono and not stereo. Consequently, I cannot work out from which direction a sound is coming from. In the past, I have muttered to myself as a selfish commuter failed to answer the persistent ring of their phone, only for it to dawn on me that the offending racket was emanating from within my own handbag. Years ago, I had gone straight from work to a recital given by the Spanish harpist Marisa Robles in the Music Room of my beloved Kenwood House. I had my overnight things with me as I was going over to the Partridge’s later for supper. During the performance I could hear the faint and muffled clamour of a bell ringing outside. To my horror I realised the sound was coming from my weekend bag. My pocket alarm clock had gone off! Fortunately the sound was sufficiently deadened by my night clothes not to have disturbed those around me.

Even people who should know better can occasionally forget that others have hearing difficulties. Once at work, I heard someone call out my name. The sound seemed to be coming from somewhere in front of me. As I couldn’t see anyone I turned around.
“Are you deaf or something?” asked my irate friend Theresa.
“Actually, I am, “I replied tartly.
To her credit, Theresa often repeated the story at her own expense.
In crowds of people, I find nodding my head and smiling when the other person smiles, is often easier than trying to follow a conversation with a stranger. I’m sure that has unintentionally made me popular at parties. Many the man has prattled away, convinced I am fascinated by his small talk when often I don’t even realise he is standing right next to me.

So, rather than be driven to distraction by having a phone ring and not be able to find it in time, I switch them off. However this week I had my mobile phone switched on and within vision. When it rang I immediately picked it up. A recruitment consultant wanted to know if I might be interested in a certain interim role. From what he told me, it sounded intriguing. He asked what I had been doing since my last post. “Travelling and helping the Pensioner fight a repossession order in court,” I declared. I also explained how I had been rather busy recently putting the finishing touches to an article the Guardian newspaper had commissioned.
“The Guardian sent their photographer around on Sunday for a photo shoot and the Editor has assured me the article will be published on 5th December,”I added, hoping to give the impression that my life was a hectic whirl of championing the oppressed or else penning articles for the broadsheets, as opposed to reclining on a sofa most afternoons perusing Jezebel.com on my laptop.

The next day the recruitment consultant rang again. “They” wanted to see me next week.  The Finnish Church in London was holding its annual Christmas Fair all week. I toyed with the idea of going after my interview and then decided on going today instead. Interviews make me superstitious. I don’t want certain places to be tainted with the memory of an unsuccessful one.

I needed to buy some more boxes of frozen cloudberries. If ever I have a heraldic shield drawn up they will feature prominently. Earlier in the year, I had been in the shower when I heard Jeni Barnett on LBC radio ask listeners if they could tell her precisely what a cloudberry was. Wrapped in a towel I dashed to my phone and rang the station. I was put straight through to Jeni. I described cloudberries to her and explained that I bought mine frozen from the Finnish Church in Rotherhithe. She asked me how I served them and I said seeped in cloudberry liqueur and folded into whipped cream and placed in a Pavlova.  I added that as cloudberries were so hard to get hold of, I only served them to friends as a special treat. Jennie asked if she could become my friend, my new best friend. I laughed and said indeed she could.

I don’t think I ever went to the Finnish Church with my mother. Until I visited it, I had assumed the building must be date from the 19th century when the Church was first founded, but it was actually built in 1958. I cannot say I am enamoured of the design but it is one of those rare churches where you can pray to cleanse your soul and then stroll downstairs to have a sauna to cleanse the body.

Within walking distance of the Finnish Church is the Mayflower Pub. My mother loved going there and would remind me for the umpteenth time that the Mayflower had sailed from the very same jetty with the Pilgrim Fathers on board. I prefer to dine at another riverside pub in Rotherhithe, the Angel. Although the current building only dates back to the 19th century, a public house has stood on this site since the 15th century and   nearby are the ruins of a royal palace dating from the 1350s. Naturally Samuel Pepys popped in here as well  for the odd pint of ale, which makes me wonder if anyone has ever done a pub crawl around all the extant inns he was said to have drunk at.

Having just unpacked my supplies of cloudberries I was shocked to discover I had spent £72 on 4 small boxes. Being so expensive to buy at the time, Samuel Pepys famously buried his wheel of parmesan cheese in his back garden during the Great Fire of London., rather than let it perish in the flames. At £18.00 a box, I am going to have to take similar drastic action if ever my frozen cloudberries are threatened.
The Finnish Church in London

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