My first London garden party.

Garden party in Archway

I recently moved up to North London from Chichester, West Sussex.

It was quite a change of pace, everything is more urgent, with so many different accents, it took me a while to adjust.

My first taste of the London night life was a garden party in Archway.

I arrived, with my friend Frances, who I had met at Giovanna’s writing group.

The garden was lovely, but very small, a long table and chairs just about fitted between the raised beds, these were filled with flowers, tomato plants and even some cucumbers, a very keen gardener must live here.

The evening was very warm and still, the smell of these plants filled the air.

Once we were seated it was difficult to move and the food had to be passed along from one to another.

Of the twenty or so guests, Frances and I were the only ones from the UK, but of course everyone could speak English.

The chap next to me was Turkish, he seemed to be in charge of everything.

After the food was finished, a guitarist played some very nice music, and some of the guests sang along with it.

My Turkish friend produced a box of cigarette papers and tobacco, as he started to roll one of these, I thought he must be a beginner, it was the most-untidy rollup I’d ever seen, very fat and bits sticking out of the ends.

“What sort of tobacco is that?” I asked.

He carried on without looking at me for quite a few moments, he then lit up, took two very deep puffs and passed it to the lady next to him, she also took two puffs and passed to the chap next to her, and so it went from one to another, just like the food that was passed along earlier.

How very friendly I thought, this must be the Continental way of doing things, and now, it has become the North London way, everyone shares what-ever they have.

As he started to make another rollup he looked straight at me and said.

“This is weed”. In an almost challenging sort of way.

How odd I thought, this must be another import from the outside world.

I looked around the garden, there were no weeds to be seen, not one.

Now, I remember in the sixties there was a trend for growing your own tobacco, and I know what a tobacco plant looks like, nothing like it in this garden though.

In the stillness of the evening, a perfumed layer of smoke from the roll-ups hung just above our heads, although I didn’t smoke, it was not at all unpleasant, in fact I rather liked it.

The party was now really swinging, everyone chatting loudly and singing along with the guitar player— because Frances and I only drank the punch, we were the only sober ones there.

The party came to an abrupt end when the guitarist passed out and fell back into the tomato plants, at first it looked like he had cut himself badly, but on a closer look, it was just tomato juice.

I drove home, having had a delightful evening, I felt really good.

We have a friend staying with us, and as soon as he saw me, he started laughing.

“Alan, you are as drunk as a lord”.

But when I told him of the party, he said. “No, not drunk but you are as high as a kite”.

I like North London, It’s not at all like Chichester.


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