Everyday life offers you a cast of thousands when you work in London and having spent 13 years of my life around the Barbican area working in my heroic role as print monkey extraordinaire, I've seen a lot of faces. Over time, some people do begin to stand out though, who don't just colour in the scenery, people who you start to recognise and begin to acknowledge with a slight nod as you pass and get on with your day. They will probably always remain nameless but nevertheless, it's nice to make human contact, however understated and fleeting because ordinarily we all keep our heads down don't we. One of my favourite characters in the area who always stands out everytime I see her is a vivacious blonde and whilst she likes to act demure and shy, I know with absolute certainty gets a bit of a kick whenever I spot her and grin. It's all in the body language. Everytime I fire off a wink and smile those knees of hers, without fail, always collapse and waver. Those terrible, knobbly, hairy knees that just hang below a red, polyester hemline with calves gangling into an ill fitting pair of red high heels. It doesn't really improve from the waist up as it's usually a white flouncy blouse affair which barely hides a stuffed push up bra. The wig has definitely seen better days. And the face, well in all honesty, this vivacious blonde will never be able to conceal the reality that she in fact a he, no matter how much slap is trowelled on. Yes this local character is quite possibly the most unconvincing transvestite that I have ever set my eyes on. If any HRT treatment has taken place, it hasn't bloody worked. But he/she has been carrying it off with great aplomb for yonks now so long may he/she carry on strutting their stuff around the streets of EC1.
Some people do frown upon such behaviour unfortunately. Rigid, uptight, conservative, moralising, traditional, authoritarian types who would do well to take their heads out their own arses. And prior to meeting him, I was kind of worried that Uncle Ji would be precisely one of those types, given his persona on twitter. However after lunch, conversation and a WMPC swap, the first one in a long time, I was pleasantly surprised. And futhermore for such a strong, masculine, macho member of the male species, I have to say that Uncle Ji had pretty good hair and nails for a man. Too good really. So I'm kind of suspicious as a result. And as for what we actually talked about over a pie and a pint in The Fox and Anchor, well Uncle Ji has forbidden that I reveal too much as he is a fiercely private man. It turned out that he only really wanted to meet me to see if I could get my hands on some indigo kyanite but I didn't really have clue what dear old Uncle Ji was on about. "Vat you talkin' beta? Vord on the internets is you the man who gets things?" he exclaimed, to which I could only reply, "Well I do get food from people Uncle Ji but that's about it". So bizarre and curious goings on indeed but I was grateful for the Indian food he gave me which came in the form of an aubergine dish called 'baingan ke amchoo', some 'shahi paneer', a dahl chutney, some rice and a very unusual pigeon tikka dish.
Being a big fan of aubergine, the baingan was a big hit. Smokey and delicately spiced with a luxurious texture that was so so pleasing to eat, I loved it. And the pigeon was a nice surprise too as I've never had game presented like this before. Very tender and again light with aromatic spice flavours rather than the fiery heat I normally associate with curries, mind you Uncle Ji did criticise the English interpretation that Indian food should be packed with chillies. The homemade paneer was very good too, rich and creamy whereas the rice was plain and simple and all the better for it given the combinations of flavours going on. There was one duff note though I am afraid which was the dhal chutney, compared to the rest of the plate it was rather bland and felt like it needed something else for some extra oomph. I normally love coriander but the last minute addition to this chutney left it all tasting rather.....soapy? Sorry Uncle Ji but otherwise, a splendid meal.
I did email Uncle Ji afterwards to thank him for his contribution to WMPC and was relieved that he didn't take my criticism of the dhal too hard. However there is something in his reply that makes me think there's a lot more to this gentleman around town than meets the eye. I just wish I could put my finger on it.
Good morning beta, (son)
You are very welcome for dinner. Vas pleasure to give you proper Indian food! Most food these days not good Indian! Is very important that you no write that Uncle Ji cook for himself beta, it no look good in my community! I have very good Indian lurdki (girl) who come in and cook for me - I ask her to make extra for you, innit? She very good cook. Uncle Ji no cook for himself - I am Indian man, Indian man no cook. Is Aurat ke kama (women's work) innit beta? You see these days these young Indian boys cooking all this food! It no blaady good! Vhat they blaady thinking?! Occasional toast of poppud over fire is thaik hai (ok) but whole blaady meal? No beta, no. Is no blaaady good.
Yeah, I agree beta. I didn't much like the chutney either. Dall should be cooked all together- not with some raw ingredients added after - new fancy bullshit if you ask your Uncle Ji. usually I would cook red dall with onion, lots of garlic, haldi (turmeric) and numac then when dall is cooked in separate pan melt ghee and fry whole dhanya (corinader) and jeera (cumin) in it gently with slices of garlic to make Tardka innit. Then you pour tardka into the cooked dall. Is much better traditional way. I no like this new fancy bullshit way of cold dall and raw onion.
I very much liked that pub you took me to, also they have good IPA. Although Uncle Ji does not drink alcohol of course. Good Hindu's do not drink sharab, beta. But was very good food. I liked the steak pie very much and the bone marrow was amazingly good. Although of course I didn't eat the beef or the bone marrow because I am good Hindu and Hindus no eat beef, innit. Guy maa ki hai. (cow is mother) innit.
British food is getting better beta, much better. Especially when inspiration is taken from old colonies, innit. Uncle Ji still prefer French food to British food though. Main difference between English and Indian food is English people lazy. they make one dish. Indians cook 5 or 6 for each meal, then chapatti and rice and chutneys.
Um, yes, I think it's very important for a man from good family to take care of both his hair and his nails, beta. That is all
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