Diet Croydon and Croydon

Yesterday, we went to Bromley, where we visited the outdoor market and bought some wool, and the shopping mall, where I bought some underpants. These were both exciting events, especially as time, heat and humidity have began to destroy all the underpants I own in Singapore, and the mark-up on new Marks & Spencer items out East is something horrible. I suppose if I had time and enough masochism, I’d go and use the wool to knit my own underpants, but that would probably be a bit too scratchy. To finish off, I took my wife to look out over Shortlands from the top of the hill, and then gave her a quick tour of some of the pubs, kebab shops and bus shelters that featured in my novel, Diet Croydon .

Things change, and things stay the same. It was slightly strange to see that the Glades shopping mall, which opened with great fanfare about twenty years ago, has now had to rebrand itself as "intu Bromley" as if a few spelling errors will rectify the gaps in the shops inside. The market outside the Glades seems to be doing well though – perhaps this is the start of a big move back to the streets. Good. Or all the stall holders will get pneumonia when winter comes. Not so good.

Today, having been to Diet Croydon, it was time to visit Full Fat Croydon.

I like Croydon. I think I may like it more now that I live in the more sanitised environment that is Singapore. Because I live in Singapore, every other English accent, whether it’s the most estuarine or not, sounds gentle and kind in comparison with a taxi driver bellowing "can? Can not!" at me. Thus, even when stood next to a man effing and blinding about how he’s done faaaack-all today waiting for some faackin’ faacker to turn up (next to his child in her pushchair) I didn’t feel upset. I was just too excited with the cool air and the disorganised greenery.

We took the tram to Croydon. The tram seemed to be full of babies in pushchairs. One of our friends came with us, and the tram driver actually kept the tram waiting until she could buy a ticket from a somewhat uncooperative machine. That’s the sort of small act of kindness that reassures you about humanity. And probably leads to trams running slightly late. Then again, if the industry of South London was going to be derailed by a tram waiting an extra two minutes to get to Croydon, civilisation in this part of the world would have vanished years ago.

From East Croydon, it’s a short walk to Lloyd Park. If you’re me and have vague directional sense, it is a slightly longer walk to Lloyd Park. But it was Sunday, and we weren’t in any particular rush.

By now there were six of us: two of my old university friends, Hugh and Denise, my wife, my baby and me, and my wife’s Canadian friend that she met in Hong Kong, who’s now living round the corner from my parents in England. We walked around Lloyd Park, which is a few large grassy fields with the odd tree scattered around. We spent a bit of time catching up and talking about nonsense (Hugh’s academic speciality, and I’m not being facetious) and then I had to distract our child by pushing her around in the pushchair as fast as I could manage.

This was exhausting for me. I’m not sure why – it could be the jet lag, it could be the awkwardness of pushing a stroller when the handles are much too low for comfort, it could be that our child is putting on weight faster than I thought, or it could be that I’m just not that fit any more. To begin with, our daughter continued to complain, but the constant vibration over the bumps provided a tremolo effect, and no matter how tremulous she was, that made her cries more amusing than disturbing. Perhaps this makes me an awful parent.

Still, she seemed happy enough by the end of the afternoon, beaming out of her pushchair.

Once you’ve been around Lloyd Park, unless you have a dog and / or a football, there’s not very much to see, so we crossed over the Coombe Road to the gardens on the other side, where there is a nice cafe.

A nice cafe where the kitchen closes fifteen minutes before we arrived, so there was hardly any food left apart from a few slices of cake, and a harried group of staff members who’d been slaving away all Sunday. We settled for eating the cake (very good, very good) and taking photographs with the baby to confuse future face-matching algorithms. People may think that Felicity belongs to Hugh and Denise, and then wonder why two people living at opposite ends of the country to one another are holding a child and looking so pleased with themselves. Or in years to come, if our child acts out too much, I’ll use the photo to confuse her.

After a full afternoon of this, we were quite worn out. It’s not often that we spend the whole day walking while in Singapore – perhaps we’re just not physically prepared for Europe yet. Denise and Hugh departed, going their separate ways across England, and we wheeled our daughter to Lloyd Park tram stop, to listen to men swear vociferously. How quaint. How charming. How does this work again?

One response to “Diet Croydon and Croydon”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.