A Crouch End and Hampstead jolly jaunt

‘You look knackered.’ said Lil.

‘I am. I had a fantastic but full-on weekend, and the working week didn’t afford any recovery opportunities. How are you Lil?’

Lil was sitting at her usual table. I took off my Parka and joined her. Our friendship had grown to the point where we could share the same table for our weekly catch up.

‘Yes I’m fine. I’m thinking of redecorating my sitting room. It’s not been done for 15 years and styles change you know.’

I longed to see the space Lil inhabited. This wonderfully funny, older lady had experiences aplenty, mementos of which must flavour and spice her residence.

‘I’ve just been discussing with Armando whether I should re-paper or emulsion the walls.’

I glanced at Armando behind his wooden counter rearranging the display of healthy option muffins, if healthy and muffin don’t present too much of an oxymoron when in the same sentence.

‘Anyway why are you so tired?’ asked Lil.

I needed some sustenance and ordered an Assam and a vegetarian breakfast with one sausage. This made Lil and Armando both snigger. Lil thought it rather odd that I wanted the vegetarian option and then pollute it with meat. I pointed out that if eating meat caused pollution then her crime was greater than mine. I didn’t want masses of meat, just a taster.

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I then swerved the conversation swiftly into the previous weekend to steer their attention away from ridiculing the Boulevardier. This should be a banned sport.

The previous weekend had been great. A really good, longstanding friend, Alison, was visiting. She resided in the Cotswolds and needed a slice of North London, having previously lived in Hampstead.

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Alison arrived on Friday evening and we had a table booked at Banners, the local Caribbean-Fusion restaurant, a Crouch End essential. We had a refreshing Oloroso to whet our appetites before leaving the flat. After all it would be ill-mannered to leave home without a taste of Sherry. We were to be a party of four, however, one was held up at work. Alison, Michael and I took the short walk to Banners. We were all in light spring jackets and remarked that it was remarkable to be thus adorned in January. It is wonderful and comforting to talk about the weather. It’s a skill the British always manage with grace and decorum.

I knew what I wanted before I’d even opened the menu. I like to try new things but there are times when only the old favourites will do. Black Tiger Prawns to start, served in their shells with wasabi mayonnaise on the side. Michael and Alison had Calamari and salt fish cake respectively. For mains we enjoyed Ackee and salt fish, Jerk Chicken and Thai beef curry. The curry was rather hotter than Michael expected and we tried not to notice as his glow increased. We awaited the explosion but none came. This delicious feast was washed down with a mixture of gin, wine, beer and port. We rolled back home to have a few further settling ports before bed.

After leisurely drifting out of bed and a full breakfast on Saturday morning we ambled around the shops in Crouch End. Of Special Interest was top of my hit list. I can’t imagine tiring of the rows, cupboards, shelves and tables full of delicious accents for the home. I also have my eye on a chandelier which could aid flavouring my bedroom as a boudoir.  I quite like the idea of the Boulevardier’s boudoir.

At this point in my story Lil almost started an earthquake with loud cackles. ‘Boulevardier’s Boudoir. More like tart’s palace.’ Armando joined the laughter chorus. I carried on regardless.

We spent the late afternoon and evening in Hampstead. This was Alison’s old stomping ground and with her head high she led me through winding side streets into small boutique shops as she stocked up on depleted items. We settled in the King William IV for a pre-dinner Sherry (Alison had wine) and saw this rather interesting door signposting the ladies lavatory.

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Lil didn’t find this so funny, pursed her lips and suggested I carry on.

We had booked a table at La Cage Imaginere and I’d hoped that as so many Londoners were taking part in a detox January that we would be able to book a last minute table for a respectable hour. More often than not in London if you’re not planning and booking upwards of a week in advance you are offered either dinner at the time when most are enjoying a late lunch or when it’s so late the waiting staff have their coats on and the chefs have left for the evening.

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La Cage Imaginere transports diners back nostalgically to high class dinner parties in the 1970s.  The polished wooden floors compliment the red and pastel pink walls. Each table has its own white birdcage tea light holder. Upon arrival we were offered bruschetta – strong with garlic – by the Italian waiter with a faux French accent.

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Alison consumed pan fried scallops, a fillet of beef with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Pistachio Crème Brulee. I had French Onion Soup, Coq au vin and Chocolate and Baileys Cheesecake. We lubricated our banquet with a fine Bordeaux, and then hailed a taxi to Crouch End to continue along our Bordeaux trail.

Catch up gossip and meaning of life conversation populated the weekend.

After waving Alison a safe journey home it was time to start getting excited about the Mari Wilson interprets Dusty Springfield evening at the Jazz Club Soho on Monday. Mari was well qualified for the event having played the lead in Dusty the Musical fourteen years previously. Mari drew us into many old favourites and a few lesser known tracks. A calypso version of Son of a Preacher Man was among the highlights. Mari interacts with the audience so well with an abundance of anecdotes to thrill and entertain as she goes.

‘I’ve seen her around Crouch End,’ Interjected Lil. I realised my story was turning into a monologue and was grateful for the jolt back into conversation.

‘And no bloody wonder you’re tired. Boulevardiers need rest too…

… It does sound like great fun though. I wish I was younger.’

‘You’re welcome to join in anytime Lil, and you Armando.’

‘For now I’ll settle with a regular Breakfast Club thank you’ said Lil.

Lil took her sturdy vintage purse from the handbag hidden inside her trusty trolley and removed a battered £10 note to complete the transaction. I was a little disappointed. I willed a crisp note from her well-kept shiny pouch.

I smiled at Lil and we exchanged farewells and I watched her steer the trolley onto the Boulevards of Crouch End.

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Tis the season to start getting ready for the season

What is it all about? Your Boulevardier loves immersing in the spirit, the smells, the tastes (especially the mulled wine), the sparkle and the music. I have already had celebratory dinners with good friends, attended early Xmas parties, a festive show by Mari Wilson, an orchestral winter concert, a Christmas musical show hosted by the Supreme Fabulettes and a 40th birthday bash. Yet to come are classy lunches, a carol concert at Westminster Abbey and of course the Selfridges sale on Boxing Day.

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But does it really mean anything else to me, something deeper?

It’s quite often said that no one should be on their own for Christmas or not get a hot meal. But there are many people worldwide who are alone and lonely, and without a hot meal on the other 364 days of the year. Do they feed lonelier at Christmas because they are told to?

I love the superficial side of Christmas as sited above but struggle with the deeper meanings or real sense of giving just because of the season.

Conversations surround us of anxiety to make certain gifts are appropriate and appreciated. I do actually prefer to give presents when someone needs or wants something, or for an event such as a wedding or anniversary.

Is it a time of goodwill to all men? Or is it a time when people put up a faux happiness and allege a sanctimonious good will to all?

I wasn’t sure.

And then I heard something several weeks ago which has moved me tremendously.

The Haberdashery, an independent café in Crouch End, which I have previously wrote about put out the following message:

We need your help! Please read…

On Christmas day we will be providing Christmas Dinner and entertainment
to about 30 elderly people that would otherwise either have no means to celebrate,
or be lonely.

This will happen at The Haberdashery in Crouch End.

The guests will be chosen by AgeUk, a local charity that looks after
elderly lonely people.

On the day we will provide Christmas Dinner (with all the trimmings),
drinks, Bingo, Secret Santa, music and lots of happiness!

I need your help though.

There are many ways to help:

– donating any amount of money (even £1.00 would help!) to go towards the
food and drinks for the day (any extra money leftover will be donated to
AgeUk)
– donating a present for secret Santa
– donating a bottle of wine or something that would be consumed on the day
(mince pies/Christmas pudding/turkey etc…). Please do get in touch if
you want to donate food/drinks so can organise not to have 20 turkeys and
no booze!
– fundraising through your friends/family/customers/circles… Seriously,
£1.00 each could make the difference!
– by donating any old item you might do not want anymore: we will have a
table selling all the donations at the Christmas Barboot at The
Haberdashery. Books, shoes, clothes, anything will do!
– spreading the word through twitter, facebook, word of mouth…
– putting me in touch with someone that might be able to help with
discounted food or someone that might want to donate for this cause

Any donations would be extremely helpful!

For the first time in years I am looking forward to Christmas day like
when I was a kid!!! Super excited!!!

Spread the love,

Massimo.

It was clear to me then. The religious, and the sanctimonious reasons for Christmas don’t matter. It is a time when the truly generous in our midst get together to be with family and friends, and help those in need.

The elderly in our society are often overlooked unfortunately, and have only their memories of enjoying wonderful Christmas lunches and celebrations in the past. Surely the elderly will rejoice the most in sending and receiving Christmas cards. They won’t be as competent online or use Facebook or Twitter. However, how can they send cards when the cost of a second class stamp is now 50 pence. When you multiply the price of cards and stamps by the amount you send the cost skyrockets.

Family is so important and I wouldn’t miss Christmas lunch at my parents. The time with my ageing parents, aunties and uncles is precious. However, I want to make sure the Haberdashery have all the help they need with this amazing and selfless initiative.

I offered to go and help, but they already have so many helpers on the day, which is fantastic in itself. I have to say I’m not sure my waiting skills would be up to much, but I would make a great welcomer or accompanying Sherry drinker.

So it’s the fundraising that I’ve focussed on. I set about speaking to a number of local retail businesses and was overwhelmed by their generosity to this cause. Any surplus generated will be presented to Age UK.

If you live in or around Crouch End, own a local business or have the means to contribute please let me or the Haberdashery know.

This to me is Christmas. It’s time to help those less fortunate than us and I think a Boulevardier engages in these activities and gives his all…

I even have a few decorations up at home (some borrowed) to really get into the swing which makes the Sherry taste much sweeter!

Have great holidays my lovely readers!

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TNW