I went into town yesterday for a meeting.
I took the Uckfield train. Stood in the sunshine and did some exercises whilst I waited for the little chuffer to turn up.
On the platform, opposite where the steam train club meet, there are vintage advertisements on the walls. Ladies and Gentlemen’s waiting rooms and lavatories. A clock whose face is set in the 30’s and a sense of history. Like nothing has changed since Jenny Agutter played with the railway children.
I stood looking across the tracks. Bird song – silence – rustling September leaves – silence. The platform, mostly empty, save for one man, two women and me. The computerised timetable told us that the train would arrive at 10.50, and bugger me if at 10.49 the shhussssh of the wheels on the rails didn’t signal a perfectly punctual arrival.
I took my seat in an empty carriage, apart from a Chinese couple who were reading their telephones. I walked the length of the train to find the guard to buy a ticket – the station did have a ticket machine but they unsettle me. I’m always worried about losing my card and my patience.
Relocating my seat, having found no guard, I resolved I would buy a ticket at East Croydon.
The train trundled slowly through Ashurst, Hever, Oxted, and more finally arriving at East Croydon. I got off the train and it felt like I’d left another dimension. The East of Croydon was noisy, busy and full of people who were talking to themselves, on earbuds, nobody looking at anybody else. Asked a guard for a ticket and he said I should buy one on the train.
The train was packed, I slid my way through the carriage seats, so narrow that were I the oversized version of me I would have pressed my ample bum in someones face. Squeezing and apologising I made my way to the back of the train.
No guard. So I found a seat and reminisced about living in Battersea and how my life had changed over the past few years. Got out at Victoria and walked to the barriers. A lovely guard stepped off the train, then on again, printed out my return tickets, wished me a nice day and gave me a receipt for my Senior ticket.
Victoria was jammed with tourists, school children, commuters. I walked out into the sunshine. Lovely my old stomping ground.
Turned left, walked to Ebury Street, turned right, down to Number 29 – ‘Santini’s’ – a swanky Italian Restaurant on the corner. I ordered squeezed lemon juice with sparkling water, took out my book, and waited for my host.
I ate buttery wild mushrooms, monk fish in tomato sauce and Italian cheese cake, with a chocolate filling so yummy it was worthy of ‘Bake Off’.
After a satisfying chat about ‘Jeni and Olly’s Wine Shows’ we left. I hadn’t realised that I only needed to cross the road from the station to get to the restaurant. But walking down to Mozart Terrace always makes my heart sing, normally in D Major, my fave horn concerto.
Now every town has an Italian restaurant, and most towns have a road with shops selling South African biltong, car radios and second hand records. Tunbridge Wells has Camden Road. It has loads of eateries, one of the newest ones is ‘PASTA MADRE’. If ‘Santini’s’ is high end then ‘Pasta Madre’ is rustic.
It’s small, wooden tables with homemade food worthy of Gennaro Contaldo and Carluccio.
The old git and I have been there twice now. The waitress has eyes as big Sienna, the related women, wearing colourful turbans, make the food at the back of the restaurant. In full view. They chatter, over the Italian sound track. The homemade cakes are mouth wateringly good, the coffee perfect, the breakfast we had – even though it was lunchtime -was a fried egg in a bread ring, with mushrooms, tomato and salad. I love it in there. Feels like family. Feels like being in Calabria. Feels like not enough people know about it. So if you are in the TWells area, and you fancy a taste of Italy go to number 11 Camden Road and make someones day.
It’s now 16.13. We’ve done the accounts, and I’ve been eyeing the dresser which is as dusty as a Bulgarian Bottega. But I’m cold so the housework can wait until tomorrow. It is a days job after all, what with fine glasses, silver goblets and various artefacts that have been gathered over the years. I bought the dresser from a neighbour back in 1982. She lived upstairs in our block of flats. She sold it to me for 250 quid, I have been reliably informed that its worth at least 5 times that now.
Pity my vintage body hasn’t appreciated. Although the ‘oosbind said he does appreciate my legs, says they look like Queen Anne’s.
1 thought on “Primo Italian, Secondo too.”
I have a replica of those Queen Anne legs of yours in the form of the dining table inherited from my parents. Thus, you are never too far away, old friend.
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