Saturday, 14 April 2018

Carnaby Street

I spent the morning in the East End, meeting a very charming rabbi, who showed me around the famous Sandy Row Synagogue. It’s a beautiful building. Victorian. Very compact. Nothing from the outside, but inside, it’s absolutely stunning. It actually reminded me of a Welsh chapel. There’s a balcony which runs around three sides, and tall windows which let in dusty, nostalgic light. I instantly felt a weight of tradition there. A genuine link to the old Jewish East End. I wondered if this had been Arnold Wesker’s family shul. It’s certainly very close to where he grew up. I also thought about the cousins that my Grandmother used to talk about who were costumers from Petticoat Lane, just a stone’s throw from that place. These are the slums that Jack the Ripper roamed and there’s a slightly foreboding darkness to them even now. I think some of his victims were found within a block or two of where we were.

The afternoon was spent learning music for shul tomorrow. One of the pieces we’re singing appears to be a print out of PDF of a photocopy of a photocopy and is almost impossible to read. It took me about an hour to decipher and I have a horrible feeling I’ve subsequently forgotten everything I learned! As I get older, things seem to rush through my brain without sticking.

This evening, Nathan and I went into Soho to meet our old friend Frank from New York. We had food in a Mediterranean cafe with his charming friend JJ and spent much of the evening in such deep conversation that we kept having to ask the waiter to turn the music down so that we could hear each other properly. We had a delicious three course set meal for about £15 each, which felt very reasonable. The woman sitting on the table opposite was staring at me, somewhat disapprovingly. I never got to the bottom of what her problem was. Years ago, her Paddington Bear hard stare would have been the snarl of a homophobe, but she was sitting with a woman whom I assume was her girlfriend. Who knows? Perhaps she was admiring my skin! I’ve been told several times recently how luminous my skin is looking. Oddly, this always happens when I lose weight! I guess it’s indicative of the fact that I’m eating healthily. I’m also taking regular vitamin D at the moment.

The night ended in a Pret A Manger on Carnaby Street, a road which finally seems to be finding its mojo again. It’s such an iconic place, and yet, its fame is really only associated with about two years’ of total coolness in the late 1960s. When I first moved to London, it was an absolute dump, filled with tatty souvenir shops and cheap clothing stores. In the last few years, they’ve started using it as a canvas for brilliant street lighting and giant art, and the boutiques have started moving in...

It was a relief to find a cafe which was open so late. One of the things I’ve never understood about London is how completely “un-24-hour” it is compared with New York. The cafes close at 10. The majority of pubs close at 11. There’s a weird funnelling effect as revellers shift into fewer and fewer locations. I’m way too old to sit in a noisy club at midnight on a Friday night because there are no other options for hanging out with my mates!

The joy about being up on Carnaby Street was that it meant we could meet Llio and Silvia out of the Palladium Theatre, where they’d been watching The Wizard of Oz with a live orchestra. It’s always been Llio’s favourite film and, as I sat down to eat this evening, I noticed that she’d posted a hugely excited Facebook message about going to see it, so instantly knew I wanted to see her afterwards to hear how it had gone. Llio also knows Frank, so that was an added bonus. I just love hanging out with Llio and her Mum. They’re genuinely two of my favourite people in the world. I always feel enriched after seeing them.

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