This blog will be brief now as I am using a French keyboard
13th July – Stayed in almost the worst accommodation I have ever experienced in the Old Shepherd in Chorleywood but was able to eat and shower at Siobhán’s.
Lovely 2 days helping to look after the children and then a lovely party – very posh indeed!
15th July – to London to visit the Anthony Gormley exhibition – great. Then a very welcome evening and B&B at Heidi’s. An extra treat was that Helen and family visited at the same time.
12th July – instead of Orange marching today I have been eating – or at least it seems that this is all that I have done.
We had a nice lazy morning – well, I had a nice lazy morning while Helen sorted out Yom, cleaned the house and cooked dinner for Tom (Helen loves to cook). We then set off to meet Tiwonge but I needed a coffee at our first bus change – no surprise there. It really is amazing to move between different parts of London – different kinds of cafés and very different prices.
We got to London Bridge Station in good time but all the places that I had agreed to meet Tiwonge had closed. Nothing daunted, Helen sat on a step to feel Yom and we met up with Tiwonge a while later. Helen told us about the café at Southwark (how do you pronounce this?) Cathedral and it was indeed lovely – we sat out in the courtyard and had a lovely lazy lunch. There was some classical music nearby and it was all very continental really.
Then we parted ways and Helen, Yom and I set off to Crickelwood where we met Marta for a traditional Ethiopian meal at a restaurant there – called “Abyssinia” (9 Crickelwood Broadway) for those keen to try it. We had a lovely meal and Helen was able to feed Yom as and when he demanded it – he thinks she is a self-service bar but that is perhaps too much detail for a blog!
We took a number of buses which took us right across North London, via Golders Green and Highgate, which are a significant change from the areas where we start and finish.
I can now say ‘thanks’ in Amharik and also “no”, which will be confusing to Yom as it is “Aye” – anyway he takes no notice when I tell him not to eat his socks. He will take even less notice when he comes to Scotland and is told “Aye” for both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
Enough for tonight – watch this space for when I can next post.
Getting the Tube across London at rush-hour reminded me why I hope never to live here. This experience is an everyday one for so many people – I cannot imagine how they can put up with it. At one point I had to negotiate with a man that I could hold onto his bag as I am too short to reach the overhead handrails and needed to stabilise myself in the very crowded train.
But the fruit and veg are amazing – I saw watermelons which were 22Kgs. There is a huge variety of food and other products, which is so lovely after mono-cultural Edinburgh. However, looking for a sandwich in Knightsbridge was a bit tricky – you can’t eat expensive handbags. We had a lovely picnic in Hyde Park when I did find sandwiches.
Before that we visited Kensington Palace, which was lovely. There is a flower sculpture exhibition starting in one of the gardens.
In my sheltered life I have come across a range of solicitors and even worked in a solicitor’s office one summer, decades ago, and that in itself could have a whole blog …
But yesterday I found another world of solicitors’ offices. No “would you like a coffee?”, or empty plush offices, or secretaries looking helpful. But how may solicitors’ offices have you seen where one whole wall is papered with “thank you” cards?
I went to this asylum solicitor in London with “Hanna”. The reception area is almost completely taken up with boxes and bundles of files, tied up in pink ribbon and clearly confidential documents. The small floor space that was left is occupied by people coming and going and chatting or waiting, in spite of the sign asking people to wait downstairs. “Hanna” was late, as always, but she was unperturbed. The solicitor agreed to see Hanna a bit later and we went to find a coffee. This was not easy as the cafe we choose was being used for filming and there was a queue so we had a seat but no coffee.
We went back to the solicitor to find that there were now three people to see the same man at the same time. Amazingly we were considered to have priority. He (the solicitor) came to reception, shook hands with Hanna and promised to be 2 minutes. 15 minutes later he came to get us and led us through a maze of steps and corridors to his tiny office.
His desk was several files high with papers. While he dealt with Hanna, he constantly answered two telephones, at one time speaking on both at once while also speaking to Hanna. Who said that men can’t multitask? He is clearly very knowledgeable about his area of work as he knew exactly what paperwork the Home Office would want and what would be helpful – e.g. he asked Hanna to get a letter from her church to say that she was a regular attender. He knows that it is important to build up a picture of his young woman as the responsible and engaged-with-the-community person that she is. But our photos were separated and needed to be not separated so we would have to get those redone. When the solicitor wanted to copy some of Hanna’s papers he went off to do it himself and gave her back what she needed. This is obviously how he does not get completely confused about what he is doing – he completes each task there and then.
The wall of thank-you cards is testament to how well he represents his clients but these clients are very vulnerable and rely on him and his colleagues for their very survival in Britain. While I am used to a very different solicitor experience, this was very amazing, sobering and heartening – all at once. This office provides a valuable service to a community who are often very chaotic because of life circumstances and so the apparent chaotic nature of the service is probably helpful. People drop in and get to have a quick word with their solicitor and all the clients have the solicitor’s mobile number (probably because of lack of staff rather than any wish to be particularly accessible to clients).