Ice Cold In Beckenham


One of the most overlooked benefits of living in Singapore has to be the temperature. Yes, it may be dull that every day is 30 degrees, and the constant humidity, as though we all live in the armpit of a man wearing one too many overcoats, is a little galling, but back in Beckenham I’m reminded of the alternative.

I met friends tonight at Casa Cuba, a wholly inappropriately located Cuban bar. It’s in Crystal Palace, atop the ridge of land dividing London proper from the yokels of Kent, and constantly flayed by an icy wind, as if Beckenham had an icicle sharpened and pointed at London’s heart. Inside, it was uproarious; the place was a sausage fest, filled with men, and only men, trying a bit too hard to dance to Cuban music, not a woman in sight. We wanted to catch up on old times and new, so we sat outside. Plus, my friends wanted to smoke.

But out on the cold, it was unclear if they were outside because they wanted to smoke, or if they had to smoke to keep warm, since they were outside. Perhaps Cuban cigars would have helped, protecting us from the gusts of wind. Instead, we were in an environment where your muscles genuinely ache from the cold. Never mind your joints getting sore, your shoulders tense up from the constant brutalization and never relax. Your legs begin to seize up. Your heart complains, as do your lungs. It’s simply too damn cold in South London.

I wonder, then, at the reason for Casa Cuba’s location. Was it a mistake, or an attempt to melt the frozen hearts of the denizens of South Norwood? Would rum be enough, against the satanic spires of the Crystal Palace and Norwood radio masts? Could I carry on asking questions, or was I going to freeze to death?

Perhaps the cold reduces street crime. No mugger can lie in wait for a victim, lest he perish himself from hypothermia. In April. Wasn’t the summer meant to be on its way? Or at least spring?

Earlier today, when it wasn’t so cold, I met an old school friend, down from Edinburgh with his baby and wife in tow. Having been away from La Serpiente Negra for so long, it was nice to bounce any baby on my knee, and fascinating to note differences in development. While La Serpiente is solid, this child was slimmer, more etiolated. Our child can scuttle swiftly across floors but hasn’t got the hang of waving at people. Only one of us has any teeth yet. We need to get them to Skype one another to figure out other significant differences. The most obvious one I can think of right now is that only one of them has a father who managed to forget how many letters there are in his daughter’s name. Would I have done any better in the warm?


2 responses to “Ice Cold In Beckenham”

    • But isn’t the benefit (delicious, lung-warming smoke) more pronounced when it’s cold? Excuse my naievete; apart from once hoovering up a pack of Marlboros when very, very drunk, my experience with cigarettes is slim to none

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