Thursday, 26 November 2009

Walking into London. Church Hats, Vegan Buses and Food Martyrs

Nice day today and I'm free (for a change lately) so decided to walk from our house into the centre of London. It's a nice route through St Johns Wood and across Regents Park, and since we haven't had a frost, there are still leaves on the trees, some of them even green (ish). And there were quite a few roses still to be seen on the bushes in the rose garden. Strange, since it's nearly December, but it will all go when we get a frost

National Portrait Gallery
Saw the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize show at the National Portrait Gallery, one of my all time favourite galleries. It's a comfortable, welcoming building full of colour and life. There are always new and fascinating portraits to admire in the permanent collections, and interesting lectures (many of them free). We try to go every year to the painting and photo portrait contests.

Church Hats

My favourite showed an elderly African woman sitting in her bedroom with some of the fantastic hats she keeps specially for attending Church on Sundays with her friends. I liked it because the visual image described her in a way that words cannot. It said so much about her - that Church is a social occasion, and she has a regular routine and takes care and trouble about how the world sees her, and also, I think, that she wants to be looking at her best to worship God.

Pigeons in Trafalgar Square

Sat in Trafalgar Square a while in the sunshine. It's now rather sadly short of pigeons, although the lady eating a sandwich next to us was mobbed by about 20, to her annoyance. When I was a child one of my favourite outings was to Trafalgar Square, where we'd buy a packet of grain from one of the vendors who used to hang out there. I still remember the weird and (to me) highly entertaining feeling of pigeon claws scrabbling all over my head and arms. It sounds a bit creepy now but then kids don't have the cultural baggage of Hitchcock's "The Birds" and other similar horror movies, do they?.

Routemaster Bus Cafe

On the way back decided to try out an unusual cafe - a Routemaster bus parked next to a multistorey carpark in Soho. It's very nicely done out with a kitchen downstairs and a cafe upstairs with moody Eastern music and some comfortable tables. All perfect except for the food. It is vegan - and I hasten to say that I think good vegan food is brilliant. But it's a while since I've been in a vegan cafe and I wonder if the ethos of eating vegan has changed.

The food was so plain and dull and tasteless that I thought it might be aiming at folks who aren't interested in taste but want to be sure there's no salt, sugar, gluten, oil, etc. to ruin their virtuous dining.

Vegan Food Martyrs

T and I each had soup, and were amazed to find no seasonings, no herbs, no actual cooking (apart from liquidising the ingredients I suppose). Very watery (not unlike the water that's left when you've boiled vegetables) and quite hard to force down. Not cheap either and definitely not something to set you up for the afternoon. Kindness forbids me from naming the cafe. They're so enthusiastic, they've done the bus out well and it's such a good idea, in theory. Perhaps they're aiming at the food martyrs of Soho.

And John Lewis

On to John lewis which was PACKED. No sign of recession and no sign that anyone's abandoning the high street. Perhaps even more people were sitting at home with their computers, though, and making the trip with We got a duvet cover and then went home because we were already starving after our vegan non-lunch.


  1. It's probably out of your way, but go to Deptford. There's a cafe in a train carriage and I really, really loved it.

  2. Vegan food can be better than you have described.

  3. I love the portrait gallery too! Didn't get my pic shown in the exhibition, but did get the catalogue sent to me for free....humph.

  4. aw, that's unfortunate about the vegan cafe.
    I would suggest acquiring some vegan cookies and that way you get all the comfort of fresh cookies with the(vegan) buttery-ness and the sweetness of the sugar and chocolate. that way, you feel as though you are eating something substantial and full of flavour but yet aren't guilty about all the silly calories present in non-vegan dessert fare.

    hope you have better luck at the next vegan cafe.

  5. Seems like you've got a lot of great recommendations. Thank for posting. You've got an inspiring blog.


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