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fortieth floor hijinks

Day 74-75 Brick Lane Markets, Shoreditch, Cocktails at Duck & Waffle, Sunday Roast at the Londesborough




Rob stays home, needing a “home day”. I have plans. Big plans. It’s been four years since Naomi and I first met in Paris. Outside Shoreditch High Street Station, we squeal, jump and hug like teenage girls at a One Direction concert. Naomi's made reservations for Fika in Brick Lane. The Sunday market is on and after I’m done being distracted by a stall selling Luchador masks and she’s stopped peering at old projector slides, we walk into Fika. The waitress comes out to tell us, sorry but the chef forgot to turn up to work, we understand exactly why it's dead empty.

We’re not deterred. It’s Shoreditch. There’s brunch everywhere. Pretty soon we find it, and for the third time during this London trip, I’m a stone’s throw away from my Mother Cluckers chicken van. That chicken van is like my North Star. I spill Naomi’s coffee all over the table of the café but finally, we get to sit down, eat, shriek, and gossip.


At various Brick Lane junk stores, there's taxidermied ducklings, squirrels, and badgers. Naomi shields me as I take sneak pictures. Some stalls are very precious with their aggressive NO PHOTOS signs. Naomi points to some ducklings and says, “You should buy one and take it to New Zealand.” I tell her, “We can’t take anything like that into New Zealand. Customs is super strict.” I tell her about Cate Blanchet bringing an apple into Wellington and being fined a couple hundred dollars. Undeterred, Naomi points to deer antlers. “What about those? Can you bring those in?” I shake my head, “Naomi, you’re not really getting the concept here.” I have list to her the various things NZ Customs has confiscated from me and my family, not to mention the veritable fruit stall I’ve thrown away just before entering the country.


We walk through the Columbia Road Flower Market. Walk is actually a lie. We sort of, more like, stand in a slow moving line and shuffle. It’s like the outside version of the Tube but there’s flower stalls on either side of us. 


Behind us, two guys bicker. “I didn’t know it would be like this,” Boy One says sheepishly.  Boy Two is having none of it. “It’s always like this. You know it’s always like this,” he says accusingly.


There's a chubby, pink-cheeked man in charge of an orchid stall, wheeling and dealing, phone attached to his ear. “Isn’t he sexy?” she shrieks. “I’d do him.” I suspect it’s the aphrodisiac effects of a man being surrounded by so many exotic flowers. Later, we stand over some crinkly orange orchids. “They look like bacon,” she says. “Don’t they look like bacon?” I laugh and laugh over the bacon orchids.


There’s a little surprise involving reservations. We take the bus to Liverpool Street and I have to wait outside a corporate building. Naomi comes out, flustered. “I should have just said I had reservations,” she mutters to herself. “They don’t even check.” She thinks about it for a sec and suddenly, she's propelling me along with her.

A woman is standing inside a narrow foyer, near a pair of elevators. What she's guarding, I don't exactly know. Naomi starts pleading with her, “Please please please, my friend is here. She’s come all the way from New Zealand. We’ll only just go up in the lifts and come straight down. Please, please please. It’s Christmas!” I concentrate on looking like a Dickensian orphan. The woman isn’t looking sold but Naomi is relentless, grabbing her arm, pouting, pleading Christmas.


I think we’re both a little surprised when she capitulates. “Up in the lift and back down. That’s it, girls,” she warns. From Naomi, I see where London confidence and perseverance can get you. Namely, a 40th floor view from the bar of the Duck and Waffle. We’re looking down at its neighbour, the Gherkin.

I’m scared when Naomi proposes a cocktail. “The woman will kill us!” I say. “Who cares? What’s she gonna do?” replies Naomi and suddenly, there’s a gin cocktail that tastes like flowers in my hand and we’re looking at all of Zone 1 and Zone 2 of London. We’re forty floors up and we’re barely seeing a third of all London, such is its mass and sprawl. We get told off for taking pictures with my big camera. Apparently, they only want you to take pictures with your camera phone. In other words, this is a classy restaurant; we don’t want you tourists up here gawping at the view the entire time.


Surprisingly, even souped up on a fancy gin, I manage to lurch home (on the bus, of course), crash on the air bed facedown for fifteen minutes, then lurch down the road to the Londesborough Pub for Sunday roast. Pork roast and crackling with all the trimmings, ginger beer, and a banoffee pie cap off one of my favourite, most indulgent days in London.


There are no pictures of what we thought would be our last day in London. We’re too tired to be tourists and we do what we did on our first full day here. We wander around Stoke Newington. The Tube and the crowds is too much. We've only been here a week and a bit and already, we’re stuck to our adopted borough. I suspect if we were forced to live in this city, I’d become a hermit and my only friend would be the man at the green grocer down the road. People try not to give me the side-eye when, at the Parlour, I’m the slob ordering berry granola and a breakfast muffin at 2pm. 

submerged pumpkins in canal water

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