Monty on a Monday
In his own words.
Today was terrible and I will never, ever go there again. She was a looking for a big box of baking soda to refresh the drains. We started off down the canal path but then went up the steps to Morrison’s Supermarket. It is vast and smells bad. What she wanted wasn’t there and so we went through more back streets to Sainsbury’s where she did find four bottles of Vinegar at .50 p each. Both stores have security guards and when we got to Sainsbury’s one of them came over and stood beside me. She gave him a firm look and he moved away!
Usually we go to Camden Town on a Monday morning. Camden holds a real mix of working Londoners. It is especially nice on Monday after the midnight city lorries, hosing down as they sweep, have cleaned the punk madness of the weekend away. The streets seem refreshed, though the polka-dot chewing gum still decorates the pavement and the water has long dried by the time we get to town. Often something has been found wanting over the weekend. ‘I may have to go into Camden for that’ is uttered in more than one household whilst drinking the morning tea when lists are made.
We set out weaving through the Auden Place Estate to Regent’s Park Road and walk to the big five-way junction. We cross through the maze of traffic lights onto Delancey Street and carry on past the curved row of white terraced houses where, according to his Blue Plaque, Dylan Thomas once lived.
It is a quiet, bright street and the sun almost always seems to shine there. Often the C2 and 274 busses pass us on their way to either end of Oxford Street.
Our first stop is the coffee shop owned by George Constinantou who has been at this location for forty-two years and five months. If there are no other customers, there is room for me to come inside, while she waits and talks. She is always talking.
Despite his shyness and the roar of the roasting beans, she knows about his annual holiday when he goes home to Cyprus to his mother and sister’s family every year. He is constantly in motion, weighing, scooping and roasting beans taken from the sacks piled up along one wall. Then 250 grams of Continental and £3.80 later we are on our way, another half a block to the Camden High Street where the pub on this corner still looks hungover on Monday morning. It is the only place that is not refreshed.
Now she crosses over the busy High Street to The Camden Town Bakery, established 1972, and gets a White Tin Loaf of bread. The bakery closed recently and ‘he’ said there were no more tin loaves, that it has all gone fast food. But thank goodness it was only getting a makeover. Housewives of a certain generation who shop on the High Street don’t want anything too fancy – sweet, yes, quick take away deli food, yes – but please keep the familiar Old Tin loaves in the corner.
She puts the loaf next to the coffee, both keeping the other warm, and we go back across the High Street to Waitrose. It is the only supermarket we like. It is small, there are more shelves with produce for proper cooking and a little less plastic wrap and more organic produce. Mostly she comes here for the household staples and I always have to nudge her at the checkout to move the tin loaf and not squash it with the laundry powder. She never remembers her coupons – she should, at her age.
One time she took me back across the road to the small artsy-crafty shop. The isles were so narrow there was barely room for me. What was she after? Turned out she needed a big bag of toy stuffing. She can’t keep up with the need for knitted piglets for all the little people she meets.
It is sweet really but there are two big sweaters, I know because I’ve seen the wool, waiting for her to finish. The stuffing is cheap, I hear coins changing hands. It is bulky but very light thank goodness as I am always almost full when we leave Waitrose.
Now we are nearly done and cross the Camden Hub High Street intersection where six roads come together by the tube station. We can go up Parkway, past the Odeon cinema, an Italian deli and Ossie the barber, to the Turkish greengrocer. We love this shop the best. I just get to squeeze in and have to wait by the checkout counters where I can see her. The shop is so small they don’t have trolleys – only baskets. ‘Don’t get too much,’ I try to say but she never listens.
The produce is bright, very pretty and the trays are kept full. Everything is labeled, what it is, where it is from, if it is organic and there are always several varieties of whatever it is. Take choosing the organic eggs: there are chicken, duck, quail or goose. The pears are from Spain and Argentina. She always buys the ones from Argentina. The peaches from Spain are better, at the moment, than those from Italy. But the tomatoes from Italy are better than those from England. These last few weeks she has been getting gooseberries and always a bottle of pomegranate juice. The fresh organic turmeric and ginger are from Peru.
Eventually she is ready and comes back to me at the counter. No she doesn’t need a bag, she has me, and one way and another, moving the tin loaf again, everything fits in and we leave. It is uphill along Parkway but I don’t wobble at all. There are more traffic lights to cross and then the downhill bit along Regent’s Park Road back through Auden Place until we are home.
She could never carry all this on her own and she has quite come to rely on me. Inside it is one step at a time and she can pull me upstairs. Then she unloads everything out onto the kitchen counter. The relief. It is hard work, but I don’t complain. After all she nearly threw me out when she returned home last spring and saw me in my box on the terrace. I know what could have happened to me – off to the charity shop and who knows where after that. When she is done she carries me back downstairs and carefully puts me to bed, tucked away behind the washing machine. But she always remembers to say, ‘Thanks you Monty, I couldn’t have done it without you’. That “Thank You” keeps me content until Saturday when we will go out again, up and over Primrose Hill to the farmer’s market.