Saturday, March 25, 2006

At the Vietnamese restaurant

Last night, after wandering around the greengrocer's purchasing assorted vegetables I rarely ever eat (such as radishes) for my pending detox, I had a mad hankering for a tofu stir-fry as I passed Saigon Palace on Hoxton Street and decided to pop in. The restaurant was cavernous, peppered only with three staff - an older woman and two guys in their early 20s watching Coronation Street on a flat-screen TV - and a noisy family of two parents and two girls of about seven and five.

One of the guys leaps up from the television, waves at me and shows me my table.

The woman I assume to be his mother takes my order. I sit and watch as the guy who showed me the table translates Coronation Street in Vietnamese for his friend who eagerly nods, eyes glued to the screen.

At the table next to me, the kids are precocious, in a partially annoying and partially entertaining way. The father is mostly silent, while, in a broad Scottish brogue, the mother engages her daughters in adult-like conversations, mostly concerning foods of the world. Then the conversation turns to theme parks.

"What's Disneyland like, Mum?" says the older girl.

"Oh! It's a horrid plasticky place full of horrid rides and horrid creatures smiling and waving at you. You never want to go there!" she declares.

In my childhood, Disneyland was promised as the no. 1 place we'd visit if we ever won Tattslotto. In spite of myself, I'm astonished and turn to gape at them.

"Yes, it sounds very horrid!" sighs her daughter while even her younger sister nods.

Before the seven-year-old I once was rises and has me running from the building screaming "FREAKS! FREAKS!", she adds:

"Although, I would rather like to go to Hello Kittyland some day ..."

Trailing off, she slyly looks at her mother for some sort of positive reaction. Hitting a brick wall where her mother doesn't show a flicker of interest, she looks out the window and sulks, just briefly.

Continuing the international theme, the younger girl starts talking about a soft kiwi toy her friend at kindergarten has, which makes a noise when you squeeze it.

"And what sort of noise does a kiwi fruit make?" asks the father, perplexed.

The mother, who has endless patience for her daughters' questions, scornfully snaps at her husband: "She means a kiwi bird, YOU TWIT!"

After I've finished my meal, the man that showed me my seat comes over to start chatting to me. He asks me how long I've been in London and what I do. I tell him I'm an editor and mention the publisher I work for.

His face lights up.

"Oh wow! You work with penguins? I LOVE penguins!"

Obviously he's misheard me. But before I can correct him, he's shouting over to his friend in Vietnamese. His friend shouts out "Aaaah!" and claps and waves at me.

The guy looks back at me. "Looking after penguins. That's really great, innit? There's so many problems with the environment ... "

The anti-Disney family on the table next to me are looking on with interest. I smile and nod and ask for the bill, too stuffed with food and drained from listening in to my neighbouring conversations to be bothered explaining. As I walk out all three staff are waving to me and speaking in Vietnamese. Possibly about me and my penguin crusade.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Still kickin'

Well, the most momentous thing to happen over the past month or so was me hopping on a long-haul flight to visit the huz. Well, the huz that was the maybe-former-huz but is now the huz again. In transit from frosty ol' Blighty to positively balmy Singapore, I pulled my best Day-to-Night Barbie stunt by wearing a reversible skirt (of which one side could be considered summery) peeling off the layers, and attempting to spritz up the moon tan by pinching my face in the loos, all once I snapped out of the Valium haze (drugs supplied by a workmate who was concerned I wouldn't sleep on the flight and might turn up cranky and have a major spaz-out at the airport, tapping the final nail in the coffin). After the joy of actually seeing T-bone, sans spaz-outs, more joy came when I saw his apartment which was positively palatial compared to ... well ... anything I've ever lived in before.

Of course after splitting up for seven months things were weird and wary, but, aside from that, it was good and happy and decisions were made that yes we want to make it work again. It didn't take me long to decide that I could and will live in Singapore for a bout before moving back to Australia early next year. And it wasn't just the swimming pool in the apartment complex. Next time I'll see him will be Italy in June.

Things are going to be unwieldy for a quite a while longer, as I possibly won't leave London until my contract's done in September, but it's good to know where I'm going.