Tuesday, October 30, 2007

North Finchley on my mind (and Palmer's Green, too)

I turned twenty-one there.

For my birthday, I got a bonsai tree. They were a new thing then, and I loved it. I couldn't keep it alive for much longer than a year, if quite that - it died of either too much or not enough watering, I can't remember, and I took it to the bonsai shop to be fixed when it was clearly dead, and the woman at the shop gave me a dirty look as to a murderer, and said something on the lines of "I told you not to plunge it to water it - I remember this little tree".

I think we went to eat at an Indian for my birthday - one of our two favourites, either Rani's or Jai Krishna's. Rani's was probably in Finchley, and their starters were to die for. We became such regulars I was awarded first a gold and then a platinum card, which gave us ridiculous discounts. We took the office Christmas party there once, I think that's how I got the platinum card. Their business really boomed later, and they enlarged the premises, but I seem to remember it impaired their food. It was coming out of Rani's, after a meal to celebrate a friend's birthday, that I saw the full moon had been and gone and I hadn't had a period and I realised I was most likely pregnant. I was, with my firstborn. But that was later. Two years later.

Jai Krishna's was a little further away, maybe Stroud Green (does a road named that exist in London? I don't know. Maybe I just made it up now. It matters little). Their food was even stranger - once, I had "Idli Sambar", it came in two bowls, one had a red liquid, the other one a grainy cake, and the waiter gestured at first one and then the other and said "Idli - Sambar - Sambar - Idli". The taste experience was so alien - lovely, but completely alien - that I felt the process needed a new name, it couldn't really be called eating. They had no alcohol license, but you could nip into the off-licence across the street for a bottle of wine or some beers. They would charge you fifty p corkage charge for a bottle of wine. I can't remember what they charged for beer corkage.

Around that time, I had my waist-length hair spun into dreadlocks - spindled, I think the term was - by a friend of a friend (in fact, the same friend from whose birthday party I was coming when I realised I was pregnant). She worked at a hairdresser's. She did my hair at her house, but she charged me for it anyway. I hated my locks at first and loved them later and hated them again much later. I don't have naturally curly hair and had to work on the things for ages before they really set - months. It taught me the technique of making dreadlocks with distinctly Caucasian hair, and I did it for a few friends who wanted them, later. I didn't charge them anything, though.

It was almost exactly this time of year, we had a big Hallowe'en bash, fancy dress and everything, in the back garden that was the biggest I have ever had, it stretched out and became a weird orchard/wood/common and none of us really knew where our bit ended. For once, everyone actually turned up in fancy dress, it was pretty good, and someone asked us if we'd want to take on a stray kitten they'd found - we had just given away the last one of my hand-reared litter named after the Beatles. The kitten arrived a couple of days later, in terribly starved and manky condition, and I fell in love with it instantly. It was named Punch, and after a day or two, I found him limp and weird and obviously very ill but purring louder than any cat of such a diminutive size should have been able to, in his cat litter tray. I carried him to the vet's on the High Street. They diagnosed him with meningitis and didn't give him a very good chance of surviving. I was too upset for words, but one of the people we shared house with asked if it was contagious to humans. Punch pulled through, though, and became the big little kitty love of my adult years. He loved me more than any one of my other cats ever - I would wake up in the morning and he'd be purring on my chest, dribbling onto my face, and he'd climb onto my shoulders and fashion himself into a muff around my neck when I was studying. Later, when we'd moved to Palmer's Green, he disappeared and was never found, even though I left notices on every lamp-post in the area. One person only rang me, and he was offering me kittens from his cat's litter. I didn't really want to face it at the time, but he probably got run over on the North Circular, or became chicken chop suey at some less-reputable Chinese.

29 comments:

NMJ said...

So many gems in here, Cyberfriend. I could never have a bonsai, it would be dead within a day. You describe the Indian place so well, I can just feel it. And I can see you pregnant and dreadlocked, your words are so full of meaning, but the cat with meningitis is just too much. My heart is quite pummelled. x

Anna MR said...

Oh, Cyberfriend - hello. Lovely to see you and thank you for your words...I was thinking today about why I came up with this latest word-splurge, and as usual, there are several reasons, but I think one is I am not in touch with anyone who was in my life in those days, and consequently have no-one to share my memories with. I need to write them down to make them live, the way shared memories live. I was searingly unhappy in my early adulthood, it was horrible, really, but all of it is my life, and I don't want to lose any of it.

(Sorry about your pummelled heart - the disappearance of Punch the Cat was a terrible thing and I thought I'd never, ever get over it. He'd be nineteen now (i.e. dead), though, so maybe I am over it, finally. My first cat, funnily enough, was nineteen when he died. I got him for my fourth birthday, he died when I was pregnant with the firstborn.)

NMJ Ms Legs, I have missed you, hence the keyboard diarrhoea here. Lovely to see you, truly.

x

But Why? said...

Ridiculous discounts at restaurants - I love them. Having said that, whenever I get ridiculous discounts, I seem to end up spending the same amount through ingesting additional alcohol or extra bonus calories. Perhaps I should love them less.

Wonderful post, BTW. xx

trousers said...

Well, a sad story about the cat - but then again, a very happy one. After all you needn't have taken him in, and/or he might not have survived beyond kittenhood in the first place.

For a while I had a sprouting of dreadlocks from amidst my then-straggly hair (nothing by comparison to yours), I used to put school-glue in my hair and twizzle it round.

Lovely, telling descriptions throughout, once again.

Anna MR said...

Hei Tohtori Mutta - the ridiculous discounts are there so they can have you more tightly hooked, the bastards. Not that anyone anywhere gives me them these days, mind.

Very, very nice to see you, by the way, and thank you for complimenting the post, it's always lovely to hear that sort of stuff (if somewhat pain-inducing - in the way of not knowing what to say and where to put one's hands and feet in a sudden attack of mega-clumsiness. It's just as well you can't see me, Butkins, I look a right mess when I get shy and self-conscious. Or maybe I just look a right mess full-top. Yes, that sounds more accurate, actually. The "just as well" bit still stands, indeed, even more so.)

Hoping you are keeping well, Lady Doctor, it's always a pleasure to have you visit...

xx

Anna MR said...

Hei housut, I know, I know - I gave that kitten life and he repaid it with, well, a larger helping of kitteny love than any catkins ever. I was truly crushed when he disappeared - only someone who's lost a beloved pet will really know how utterly horrible it feels, and how upsetting it is if and when people give you the "oh come *on*, it was only a cat" treatment. Not that everyone did, I hasten to add, but some did. I only had one more cat after him, and although he was alright and I fed him and stroked him from time to time, it was never the same (and he didn't really love me very much either, even on the cat scale of things).

(Thank you for the compliment. I am hiding in these brackets here, so people won't notice my embarrassment. Aren't I sly.)

Hope all is well in the land of trousers, in the house of housut. Lovely as always to see you.

Anna MR said...

Oh dear. Tohtori Mutta (and anyone else possibly reading my comments) - that thing is supposed to read "a right mess full-stop". What a dork, and I always proof my comments as well...or at least think I do.

That's so pants said...

Hi Anna

There IS a Stroud Green Road in London and it runs from Finsbury Park Station to Crouch Hill Station. What a memory you have. And the legacy is that there are sad things and happy things in it as well as street names. May you never lose any of them.

xxx

Pants

Kahless said...

Hei Anna.

I have always thought Bonsai trees to be unlucky because their growth is being stunted by design, not y nature.

Otherwise I think nmj's words at the top of this thread said it all for me. I felt your post too.

{{{Punch}}}

Anna MR said...

Hei Pants, thank you for verifying the existence of Stroud Green Road (now Finsbury Park I remember, there was a Club Dog we used to go to, on Friday nights - or was it Saturdays? Anyway, saw a fair amount of bands and other weird acts there), and, in particular, for your words regarding not losing my memories. I find myself increasingly intrigued by memory and memories (must be a feature of increasing age) - my own as well as others. The interestingness of actual lives, the detail of them, be it spectacularly unusual or mundane and everyday, has started to feel considerably greater than the interestingness of fiction, to me. Go figure.

Lovely, as always, to see you, Pöksyt. How long will you be a Londoner, still? Have you got your suitcases packed? And that owly pusscat whose name eludes me, is he all packed and ready? I need to nip in and visit you soon, I have been mostly sitting at home on my own site lately. Hope all is well with you, Pantkins.

xxx

Anna MR said...

Hei and shwmae Kahless, I know what you mean about bonsai trees. I felt a possibility of that feeling regarding my (first) bonsai (there was another one, a few years later when I was already living yn Ngymru, a present from the (then-) mother-in-law. It was an outdoor bonsai, and it died super quickly, and that's been the end to the ownership of those), but the attractiveness of the "doll's-house" aspect of them (anything made tiny is somehow fascinating and lovable, to me - doll's houses, model railways, etc. Yes yes I know, I am a saddo and need an anorak or something) won out in the end. I did at some point have a book on "making" your own bonsais - this may well have been by the time I was in Wales, actually - but the process of "stealing" a live young tree from its natural environment and training it to live in a smaller and smaller container etc started to feel like mutilation, so I sort of went off the things altogether - at least the ownership of them, it's okay in my view if others want them, I am not currently on the barricades about the issue.

Anyway, too much waffle about bonsais from me here. Thank you for your kind words regarding feeling the post, and in particular, for the warm hug wee Punch received. Do you know, writing about him has made me remember the hurt of losing him quite vividly - it's not as painful as it was then, of course, but the anguish is not entirely forgotten, either. He was such a sweet thing, and totally beloved by me. Ah, such is life, the purest and truest loves aren't meant to be, I guess.

I am so profound. Take care, Kahless, lovely as always to see you, and as I said to Pants above, I shall have to nip over soon. I have been hermitting here in blogland as well as in the outside world, lately. Hope all is well with you.

x

But Why? said...

Anna,
Always a pleasure. Worry ye not about the missing 's', I had spotted its potential absence and was alert to the possibility it might at some point in the future be reinserted. Very little harm done...

Mutta xx

Anna MR said...

Oh, Mutta, I'm so happy it was the understanding you this unspeakable boo-boo of the missing s occurred with - fancy if it'd been some spelling Nazi. I'd be a gonner and no mistake.

x

LottieP said...

Glad someone else confirmed Stroud Green Road does exist. I used to go to the Tesco's there.

LottieP said...

And thanks for touching off some unexpected nostalgia - not about the Tesco's per se, of course, though it did sell nice cakes, but about Finsbury Park and environs.

Lxx (Finsbury Park & Manor House 1997-2002)

Anna MR said...

Hei LottieP, you are welcome to all the nostalgia you can well up. Nostalgia is a feeling I'm becoming more and more fond of, myself - I think there's enough time between my present self and the general unhappy naffness that parts of my life have been, for me to actually experience an amount of the *lovely German word which I've forgotten* one can feel for one's youth (although 2002 does feel a bit close still to be nostalgic for, but then you are a mere spring chicken, aren't you, my dear).

Axx (Barnet, Crouch End, North Finchley, Palmer's Green, 1988 - 1990 - now that is a while back. I can't actually get over the fact it is twenty years ago in a matter of weeks since I moved to London, carrying a big ice-hockey kit bag I'd "borrowed" from a friend's kid brother, and they had overbooked the economy class seats of the plane, and would I mind most awfully if I had to sit in the executive area, and and and)

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Next time you come, why don't you just bravely give yourself a name. You can rest assured, I'll never look you up.

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lmao!

so much I fell off my chair!
:-)

Anna MR said...

Hei Kahless, glad you were amused. The mentality of some people just doesn't cease to cause me surprise and wonder of the bewildered sort. I mean, look at that list of links. Who does that? And why? Do they get paid for it, or do they just, you know, do it out of interest? Imagine having that as a job. Or as an interest, for the love of Jesus.

Anyway, I don't like being rude (it's so basic, no skill to it, don't you find?) and will not disallow anonymous comments, because I'm for free speech and like the random connections people can form here in space. So, if the no-name who left this ever comes back, they can leave another one, I don't mind. I'll reply to them in kind, whenever necessary...

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