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.

7 Comments:

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh momo....its so nice to see you back! And to hear that things are finally falling into place. I am happy for you. You go girl!

*fingers crossed*

Smita

 
At 3:19 AM, Blogger Steph said...

Marriage is hard, man. I'm married to a freakin' musician. I should, by all rights, be locked up in an institution right now, humming to myself while I pull out my eyebrow hairs one at a time.

The world must certainly be properly aligned on its axis now that you and T-Bone are making plans and especially since you're guarding the penguins. (Just watch yourself with the tweezers.)

 
At 3:15 PM, Anonymous shauna said...

oooh always a treat to read a new post from the penguin tamer.

my folks did that disney/tattslotto thing too... i thought it was exclusive to my white trash family! hehe.

hope yer well in ol london town :)

 
At 12:05 AM, Anonymous wack-bash said...

That's a lovely story about you and the bloke... hope it all goes well. Just don't chew gum in Singapore...

 
At 2:12 PM, Blogger Erica said...

I keep checking back here to see if there is anything new, and then in the week I don't look two new posts spring up! What's that they say about a watched pot...?

I never got to go to Disneyland, although I always wanted to. Oh the jealousy when a friend would come back from a family holiday there with all kinds of American "candy".

 
At 11:58 PM, Anonymous VB said...

The only thing wrong with Disney Land is there is no beer.

 
At 8:43 AM, Blogger flotiz said...

Best of luck with u and the boner... i can hear a mariah carey song somewhere but i just spent 4hrs at ralph lauren with my mother persuading her to go for the purple (it's the new blue) rather than off-white.

Penguins are cute but tend to be abit morish served with roasted poataoes so go for a light cranberry sauce and a fresh swedish garden salad.

 

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