Tea and cakes with African rhythm

I’ve had a slightly surreal experience. On Saturday, the weather dawns fine and bright and we know it will be a lovely hot summer’s day. We decide to go to the local Farmer’s Market to see what they have and also marvel at some of the ludicrous prices. However, we come away with some beautiful organic rye bread, some smoked mozzarella and some salt beef so honour is satisfied. Our favourite cafe is closed. I have spent many a happy hour in there, resting between shopping when I couldn’t manage the trip all in one. The people who ran it were lovely and, on one occasion when I was hunting for change, told me not to worry but to pay next time I was in the area. It was also a good place for elderly people to congregate and be rude to each other in that lovely way older people do. I really enjoyed sitting at the next table listening to them reminisce and slag each other off in affectionate banter. We go to another cafe and have coffee there. We ask about the cafe opposite and the people tell us they have not gone on holiday (as we had hoped) but have gone. For good! they say, with emphasis and a small smile. Suddenly their customer base has increased dramatically but although they are polite and attentive, their coffee is not as good as at the other cafe.

After lunch, we go to the old Quaker meeting house in Isleworth. It is the venue for a garden party in aid of the Maggie Centre. I am sporting my new panama hat, bought a while ago in a charity shop in anticipation of some summer sun and to protect my new growth of hair. I wonder if I am dressed up enough for such an event. We had never driven down the little lane before so had never seen it. Immediately it is like stepping back in time and into another world. The meeting house owns several acres and, I suspect, held several more but have sold them off. What remains is a beautiful garden with a weeping cherry tree and several apple trees in a small orchard. There is clearly a children’s nursey there as the orchard is a riot of outdoor toys and a small wooden house. To one side of the building is a huge cemetary. 501 bodies were removed from a Quaker burial site in Long Acre at the end of the 19th century. Their lease had expired in the 18th century but they were finally told to take the bodies and re-bury them, which they did. There is a plaque on the wall to show where the bodies are buried and to emphasise they did not want to move them but did so under duress.

We sit and have tea and cake in the orchard, basking in the sunlight and listening to an African Seventh Day Adventist meeting which is being held in a large summerhouse in the garden. Periodically they burst into song and give us renditions of – well, we’re not quite sure what but the singing is marvellous and totally incongruent with our surroundings. We are the only people at the event apart from the people organising it but we restrain ourselves from eating the entire supply of cakes. As we leave this tranquil suburban oasis, I am pleased to see a small stream of people making their way to the house so I am doubly grateful I didn’t eat everything in sight.

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