“You have reached Notting Hill Gate, smoking is not permitted on the London Underground, please keep all belongings with you…” with a great rush, arms, legs, suitcases, umbrellas and my old boots from a boutique in Bricklane all step off the line. Some make their way towards other lines, whilst others, like me, weave our way to the exit and on and up to pastures new.
My favourite haunt was exactly an eight minute walk from the station. An old converted pub, now part gallery, part overgrown bookshelf, part cafe. I step in and am instantly enveloped in a nutmeg aroma and the reverberation of an old French song, the singer’s throat occasionally shaking at the deeper notes.
Behind the bar, Niall and his wife Tula welcome customers with their unconditional smiles. Niall (a tall Christian from Scotland with soft red hair and eyes that sparkled through a mat of lashes) met Tula (a small yet robust Muslim migrant from Cyprus with dark curly hair) at the bus stop on a rainy night in Pimlico, and like the hero and heroines of Bollywood, they were soaking wet and love was just a sweet inevitability. They gave birth to the cafe on the fourth year of marriage.
I ordered the usual and nestled in my regular spot, in the alcove between the overbearing bookshelf (which cradled books from home and afar, spanning many subjects, from Foucault to Foie gras) and the back wall where old rugs from Tula’s travels hung heavily. On my right, I noticed a new painting.
A dark haired naked Rubensian woman with red lips sitting by the bank of a never ending river that reached towards a pale sky pierced with olive trees. Her right hand sat gently somewhere between her collar bone and her heart. She was looking directly at me, with an expression of nonchalance washed on her face.
© 2014 Shroomantics ~ Rahima Begum