It’s always been one of my firmly held convictions that you can’t get decent Thai food in London. I say this as someone who once waitressed (on reflection, quite badly) in a very good Thai restaurant in Australia. The Bangkok-born chef made sure the kitchen staff only prepared half a recipe so they would come back to buy the food rather than re-creating it at home, and his wife got away with paying 30 bucks a night, no matter how late you worked, by providing a staff meal at the end of the night. Quite frankly I would have worked for free.
I did once go to Sing Buri in Leytonstone, we had very good Thai. I’ve been back a couple of times, but the first time we got completely lost and it was full so we ended up at the not-so-good Thai restaurant down the road, and the second time we got completely lost and ended up almost missing our two-hour window to eat, and hell will freeze over before I attempt a third visit with a screaming infant thrown into proceedings.
But as it turns out I might not have to, because there is now a Thai food stall, Moraes of Manna, at the London Fields Primary School Saturday Market (a kind of spillover to Broadway Market; there’s also a farmers’ market on Sundays from 10-2). I had a green chicken curry, but they also do summer salads, chargrilled pork skewers with tamarind sauce, red tofu curry and sticky rice with bananas and taro. And it was really, really good. They are there tomorrow and I would recommend a visit.
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As seen on London Fields the other day. It reminded me of Oscar Wilde’s quote – nowadays people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, and made me feel rather depressed.
Or maybe it’s just that I’m reading The Golden Notebook
Spring is on its way and the local pool is getting busy again. This restored 1930s pool is open today (rather than bulldozed back in the 90s) due to 18 years of campaigning by the local community, and every time I tiptoe into the lukewarm water, and daydream my way through twenty unhurried laps, I silently thank them. Well, actually, I don’t, but I should. We all should. I will do so now. Thank you, London Fields User Group, for all your hard work. The pool is lovely.
However. It’s human nature to quibble, and so, with no real authority in the matter apart from a lot of time spent in assorted swimming pools, I present my ‘it’s just a suggestion’ suggestions for a happy Lido experience.
- Shave at home. Not in a shared outdoor shower. This isn’t because I ‘have a problem with body hair,’ as the shaver accused me when I pointed out it was neither the time nor the place. Hey, she was the one shaving, not hairy-legged moi. Some activities are best confined to a domestic bathroom, that’s all. And I would have said the same thing to that blonde girl clipping her toenails on the 242 bus a few years back, except that I had my glasses on that day (I am more assertive when the person I am ticking off is just a misty blob).
- While on the subject of the showers: lads, a bit of shower gel is fine. But extended sessions of ‘lower-region’ washing, front or back, are not. Hands where we can see them!
- A warning to all short-sighted swimmers – although your glasses are in the locker and the world is just a pretty blur, people can still see you. Just something to bear in mind when you’re staring at someone’s transparent bikini or stunning abs or whatever (this is a reminder to myself as well.)
- Please don’t blow your nose in the water, or the shower. If you’ve got a cold, you probably shouldn’t be swimming anyway.
- Try not to swim directly under a person if you want to get somewhere in a hurry. It’s very discombobulating to suddenly kick a hairy head at the bottom of the pool (and probably not very nice for the person being kicked either). Just stay on the surface and make your way calmly around them.
- Avoid the pool-lane equivalent of tailgating. Yes you’re in a pool, but the usual rules about personal space still apply, and it’s not polite to headbutt someone in the bottom because you think they are going too slow.
- Obviously, if you are in the fast or medium lane and people are swimming past you in an agitated fashion on a regular basis, it’s probably a good idea to change lanes. A lot of those so-called fast lane swimmers crash and burn after five laps, so just move aside and come back when it’s empty again.
- If the lanes are busy, don’t lurk at the end chatting with your mates. It’s really annoying. Just go to the non-lane part of the pool.
- A lot of ink is being vented on that poor, ragged complaints book about People in the Wrong Queue. It’s sometimes suggested that ‘pool attendants should really control this.’ The pool attendants are paid about £6 an hour to save lives in an emergency, not to mediate disputes about who should swim where. If the person in front is swimming slowly, go past them or change lanes. If it’s really bothering you, ask them to move to a slower lane or come back when it’s quieter and the kids are at home (like all winter). Saturday afternoons in high summer are no time for Lane Fascists. Especially those hardcores in full-length wet suits (you know who you are).
- I think that’s all. Happy swimming.
A hot day does strange things to people in this country. London Fields, for example, becomes a mass of half-naked people drinking rose wine straight from the bottle, or lying limp on blankets. Barbecue smoke hangs over the fields until people straggle home. Before they go they pile mountains of rubbish by the bins (or just leave it on the grass if they are really lazy). It’s like a festival, with that same atmosphere of sprawling abandon.
But in winter the crowds are somewhere else. Even the park bench drunks must be holed up in warm pubs. Only the stalwarts use the park: the local kids’ football team, the odd jogger, dogs on leads and swimmers like myself in the heated Lido. It’s a beautiful time of year. The bare London plane trees wait out another winter (they’ve been there since the 1890s, they’re used to it) and the smell of wood smoke makes it easier to imagine the park’s long history. The fields were first recorded in 1540. Market porters and drovers used to graze their animals there, a resting point between Epping Forest and Essex and the final leg of the journey to the meat market at Smithfield or Slaughter Street in Brick Lane. Long before swimming pools and rose wine and budgie smugglers.
Several things cross my mind as I’m paddling up and down the near-deserted pool, manned by two lifeguards: Firstly, this is the first swim I’ve had since November, despite paying a monthly membership, so it’s a seventy-five pound swim. Secondly, it probably is worth about seventy-five pounds, because there is a lot of staff for just a handful of swimmers, not to mention all the power being generated (and where is that winter roof we were promised? Surely this pool is pumping out enough heat to keep a street of houses warm?) And finally, what on earth would those drovers think of us today, swimming down a huge, steamy bathtub on a freezing February afternoon?