from Sandy Needham

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sunningdale/London Dispatch

Because we arrived in London while it was technically still summer, I was a bit stubborn about wrapping up against the cold, on principle.

Bira and Cecilia
Things were not so chilly in lovely Sunningdale, a 45-minute train ride outside the city where we were meeting up with our old gang of Natal friends...all of whom had moved back to Europe. Our hosts were Bira and Cecila (Brazil and Uruguay), who returned to the London area where they lived before their years in Natal. 

We arrived early, along with Michelle and Pedro (Canada and Portugal) and their darling Luca - now about 16 months old; they live in Ericeira, Portugal. I really felt myself back in Jolly Olde when we three couples had our last quiet lunch at the lovely Four Horses Pub in this wooded and ivy-laden area.

Then arrived Maurice and Gabi (Belgium and Brazil) from Majorca; Jordi and his fabulous new girlfriend, Maria (Catalans from Catalonia); and Ana Paula and Hian (Brazil and Singapore) with their now-teenage Jesse. They just moved from Florida to Sweden, where Ana Paula and Hian met years ago.

Hian, Michelle, Ana Paula, Jesse, Gabi, Cecilia, me

Maria, Jordi, Cecilia, Pedro, Newton, Maurice, Gabi, me, Michelle
It took no time for the gang to get into Natal mode, or should I say we would joke, eat, drink, be rowdy, discuss things, and hug most anywhere on the planet.
Newton, Jordi, Bira, Pedro, Hian, Michelle, Luca, Ana Paula, Maurice in front
Cecilia and Bira had made wonderful plans that the group managed superbly when you imagine all of us marching through the woodsy park to catch trains, switching Underground stations, then never losing a soul around London!

Newton & Bira on the train

me, Newton, Gabi, Michelle, Pedro, Luca in front
We met up with another great buddy of ours at Borough Market: Ian, a native who had returned to London from Natal. What a joy to cling to my favorite tattooed, overdeveloped bicep in the chilly wind!!

At Borough Market we all selected lunch from dozens of choices; curry for me, as I have it so rarely.

While wandering along the frigid Thames, we stopped into The George pub, which was Shakespeare's old bar near the Globe Theater. 

We got a patient person to snap our group photo:

Ian explained to me that this graffiti skateboard haven just along the Thames was to have been given over to development, when the citizenry won a battle against corporate power and saved it!!!!! Just to remind us it can happen.

I don't know how we got a photo without was full of them and entertaining to watch.

Here's the wonderful "Floating Dreams" installation in the Thames by Korean artist Ik-Joong Kang. It features a sculpture of a small boy with flashlight, and folk art drawings. It is lit up at night. Its neighbor is the Millenium Footbridge.

The grey, blustery day along the Thames was challenging - in my stubborn little sweater - and Newton's commandeered scarf. Eventually Hian forced me to wear his sort of Chairman Mao jacket, having worn four layers himself. My surrender felt so good.
Here we are bidding farewell to Ian at Waterloo Station. Even in Natal, he always eschewed the poker table!

Poker Night was, in fact, that evening back in Sunningdale. The women got out of the house for the big event. We went off to Windsor, where I can only recommend that you never have margaritas or Mexican food. We later saw the town again in the daylight; Windsor castle's imposing medieval towers hold sway over the town.

The boys had another of many legendary poker evenings.

Crazy Maurice

Ana Paula, Gabi and I purloined a bottle of champagne from the poker table bucket before retiring. I always love to observe the "Three Monkies" wherever I am, especially when I am in a room adjacent to the poker table.

I remember Newt coming up to bed around 3:00am, then - hearing more ruckus below - he got back up and rejoined his fellow malandros! That's when I heard the old familiar strains of "Yellow Submarine," a perennial 3:00-4:00am favorite of this group.

Ana Paula, Cecilia, Gabi

While the boys had their sleepy Sunday and started preparing a real Brazilian churrasco (barbecue), we ran back to Windsor and the area around Eton.

The merry wives of Windsor here:

Cecilia, Gabi, Jesse, Ana Paula, me
The churrasco was divine, if subdued! Bira and Cecilia's wooded backyard was the ideal fall setting, wind-free. Luca passed the time exploring on his own and playing with the big Golden Retriever, Lampião. I never saw him happier!

Later, Crazy Maurice and Jordi made our last evening complete with their fresh Belgian fries and Spanish tortilla.

Thank you, Bira and Cecilia. See you, gang, at the next poker reunion!

Newton and I had an airb&b in London for a couple of nights, which was actually a little row house hotel near Hyde Park. The food wasn't so great around Paddington Station with all the little tourist hotels, so we ordered pizza in and branched out to other neighborhoods. 

Hyde Park

I decided on the Tate Modern Museum - out of so many choices. While it was not my favorite modern - I had been to several lately, and I found the unifying curating theme they attempted for their permanent collection less than compelling - there were some choice pieces I loved.

Outside the Tate Modern
Jean Hélion; "Abstract Composition" 1934

Brazilian artist, Lygia Pape; "Weaving" 1957

Theo van Doesburg; "Counter-Composition VI" 1925

A floating sculpture: Victor Pasmore; "Abstract in White, Green, Black, Blue, Red, Grey and Pink" 1963

Lorna Simpson; "Photo Booth" 2008. She had several stunning pieces that visually examined the quandaries of race
Newton joined me for a hike across the Thames on the Millenial Footbridge to St. Paul's, then the Temple Church. I have been obsessed with the Knights Templar since I read a heavy tome about them years ago. The church of the monk/warrior/banker Templars, who went underground or were destroyed in 1307, has been maintained for centuries by the law court, the direct heirs of the Magna Carta, signed here in 1215 by King John, as we all learn in school. A fascinating information wall inside leads one from the crusades and Jerusalem's Temple Mount to the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. Quite a timeline.
Temple Church

Covent Garden was a special happy hour: we descended to the lower level for wine and a street opera singer. She transported all present (those hanging over the balustrade above, as well) with a voice that fully rose to the incredible acoustics of the space. Heaven. 

She was followed by an accomplished string quartet who actually managed to follow her act effectively.

We recommend the elegant and affordable West End/Covent Garden restaurant where we had a delicious dinner: the Ivy Market Grill.

Speaking of food: we were off to Italy!



  1. I think it is amazing that you are meeting more old friends in London than I have old friends. Although I'm not sure how you were able to all keep together as you moved about the city.

    This has been a really strange fall. We have not yet had a frost, although it seems one is possible later this week. The trees seem to taking turns in turning to their various shades. Walnuts were first, as always, then came a few early maples, the honey locust and Kentucky coffee trees, then the hickery trees, then the yellow ginkos and now more maples, while the sweet gums are just starting and the oaks are all still green. We have had temps in the 70's in November and the projection for the next two weeks is in the 60's.

    Looking forward to hearing about Italy. Max and I have been sampling a number of Italian red wines and enjoying them.


  2. Great and warm memories! We had a fantastic time and hope we can repeat the gathering soon again.


Click on left arrows below for Archive Dispatch titles.

Blog Archive