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Catching some Zs

Polish Food in South Ken

Polish Food in South Ken

Yesterday my most viewed picture on Flickr was “Polish Food”.  This picture was taken three years ago at a restaurant called Daquise which is close to the South Kensington Underground Station.  I’d seen the restaurant there on a number of occasions and just assumed it was French, it sounds French, right?

Simon and I had gone to one of the museums at South Ken, Science or Natural History or maybe the V&A and for some reason stopped to look at the menu.  Polish food sounded intriguing, so we went in.

Now I love Polish food.  If you look at the top of my plate there are some dumplings.  Those dumplings are meat pierogi – and look what they’re garnished with – meat! What’s not to love?

There’s been a substantial Polish community in London since World War II.  I didn’t know it, but there was quite a pocket of Poles in Tooting.  When the substantial Polish migration to the UK began after Poland joined the EU, apparently many Poles naturally were drawn to areas where there were already Polish community resources.  And in Tooting, that includes a Polish social club The White Eagle and I presume services in Polish at the Catholic church across the street judging by the throng of people I’ve seen on the sidewalk on the rare Sunday I’ve been up and about that way.

The White Eagle also has a Polish restaurant that anyone can go to, although you do have to walk through a strange bar with permanent 70s decor to get to it, faux wood panelling and all.  Although that’s probably not as weird as the fact that club shares premises with a genuine Spiritualist Church.  The food’s not quite as good as at Daquise, but it’s pretty close and it costs a lot less.  You can hire the hall at the club as a venue and it’s probably the biggest one in Tooting.  Salsa lessons on Tuesday nights (don’t hold me to that)…and there may not be anything quite so surreal as listening to salsa on a rainy Tuesday night and eating Polish food.

The best thing about the influx of Poles has been rise of Polish delis – the Polski Sklep.  There’s a tiny one between our house and Bill’s nursery and we stop in regularly to buy tasty, tasty polish bread…sourdoughs and brown breads with sunflower seeds.  Much better than the standard stuff and the best butter I’ve ever tasted.    I’ve never seen another native English speaker in that store.

The woman who runs (owns?) the shop is very friendly and sometimes gives Bill a lollipop or some other treat.   So much so, that he’s kinda come to expect it.  I keep thinking I need to teach him how to say thank you in Polish.

But since the Basic guide to Polish that I found on the Internet says:

Thank you

Dziekuje

dzhehnkooyeh

I frankly wouldn’t know where to begin.  The sheer numbers of Zs in Polish has always scared me off.

Memento Mori

While I was on maternity leave, I went into the nearby cemetery almost every day.  Pushing the stroller over the bumpy roads seemed to calm the boy and at least we got out.   I always took my camera and was ever on the lookout for interesting floral tributes.  Flower arrangements heavily reliant on Oasis foam and florists’ wire and turned into the shape of a cat or an angel or the inexplicably common (but not very photogenic) floral chair.  I had already been taking pictures of these things for some time, but during that period I managed to collect quite a few.

I haven’t been in the cemetery quite so much and when I have been there usually wasn’t a good selection of tributes. Either nothing at all, or nothing very original.  I wasn’t sure if it was just my bad luck or if there if these things had gone out of fashion, some kind of cultural victim of the credit crunch perhaps.

But yesterday I nipped into the cemetery and found I was in luck.   There was a fabulous floral tribute based on the London Ambulance Service Crest.  The occupational floral tributes is perhaps one of my favourite themes, and this one was a particularly fine example – well executed and with the inclusion of fake gems.

Sometimes I think that this a morbid fascination – and I suppose it is.  But on the other hand, these are works of a temporary nature and represent one of the really important moments in our lives (for the bereaved and of course for the deceased), and despite being made by professionals they have a kind of folk art feel.  And maybe they are folk art if you think about it as a collaborative commissioning process.  Anyway, I tell myself I’m capturing and celebrating an aspect of culture that’s little appreciated.

Or, maybe I’m just ghoulish.