A quiet day in London town

Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
Trip End Sep 19, 2006

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sleeping in - what a concept! For someone supposedly on holiday I have had no opportunities yet to stay in bed unobligated by constrictive breakfast hours, team meetings or sightseeing urges, so this morning's 10am rising is graciously welcomed.

We have a delicious home-cooked breakfast - another pleasant break from the feeble efforts provided by the Rising Sun, then Leon suggests that he and I go for a bike ride around the scenic parts of west London. A jolly good idea it is too. We wend through the irregular, narrow streets and passages of Hounslow and Richmond to the Thames River. The other side of the bridge is beginning to fill up with Sunday afternoon promenaders and we nimbly dart amongst them. This part of the river is very attractive, with million pound apartments standing regally over wide pedestrian paths and ample grassy banks dotted with weekending yuppies and camera-toting out-of-towners. We dismount to haul our bikes up a steep hill through a botanical garden in order to reach the rewarding Richmond Hill views that span western London and beyond. The summer weather has created a pleasant afternoon, so we jump a fence and sit down in some thick grass overlooking the vista, crack open a couple of beers and spend a relaxing two hours shooting the breeze.

Sufficiently refreshed, we cycle on to Richmond Park, a huge expanse of pathways, shrubbery and trees, in equal parts developed and overgrown. We hurtle down a dirt path and great speed, causing ourselves and others a few flutters, and arrive at an attractive but strangely odorous lake, where we sit and down a few more lagers.

By this time it is nearly 4pm so we start back, stopping at a riverside pub for, naturally, a couple more beers. I offer to take Leon and Naz out for a meal by way of thanks for their hospitality, so we wander down to a Bangladeshi restaurant and have a very tasty dinner. The restaurant owner, Raj, an older man with a cheery face hidden by a bushy beard, recognises Leon and Naz from their one previous visit a month ago and I am introduced by Leon as his "friend from Canada".

Raj returns when our food has arrived to start a thoroughly unexciting conversation. "So, Canada!" he says loudly, "Where are you from in Canada?"
"Wow, Toronto!" Long pause. "I know some people who live in Toronto. Well, Ontario actually."
"Ah, really", I respond with as much as enthusiasm as the coincidence deserves, before another long pause.
"Canada is nice place", Raj continues.
"Yes, quite nice, yes", I concur, nodding. Long pause.
"Mm, nice place . . ." Raj muses, seemingly distracted by his own thought and contemplating just exactly how nice Canada is. There is another long pause, during which I return to my meal in the hope that he might leave us alone.

Clearly struggling to come up with another question to prolong this fascinating dialogue, Raj switches his focus to Leon, who has been quietly working away at his curry. "You like the butter chicken, I see."
"Yes" says Leon, "I had it last time". No doubt misunderstanding what Leon had said, Raj bursts out laughing, to our surprise. "It wasn't a joke", Leon says defensively, so Raj's laughter peters out and he finally leaves us alone.
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