When I worked in the City (of London) in the nineteen seventies, I was sent all over the place auditing various companies. At some of the larger establishments there were canteens where marvellous lunches could be had at subsidised prices.
But more often than not we relied on finding somewhere that sold sandwiches – and at that time there was a great choice of such places. Many were Italian, staffed by people who could put together a fresh sandwich at top speed, as you told them what you wanted. Queues were never too long and always moved quickly. The choice of fillings, types of bread and additions such as mayonnaise, was enormous.
Food was still very plain in those days, but beginning to be more interesting. I remember being introduced to an exotic-sounding ‘egg and anchovy on brown bread’ (before ‘granary’ was introduced) as a very junior articled clerk. I was given the task of fetching sandwiches for the entire team on an audit in Shepherd Market, a slightly dodgy area of the West End, renowned for its ‘ladies of the night’. I was advised to ‘be a bit careful’. The entire experience would be unheard of now, but in those days we all accepted whatever we were asked to do. As it happened I was fine, although the other girl on the team who foolishly decided to wear a fur coat to work, was almost propositioned on her way and didn’t wear it again.
One of my favourite sandwich shops was on Bishopsgate, and their ‘cream cheese and chutney on rye’ was to die for. Another, under a railway arch off Minories sold the best cheesecake I have ever eaten, to this day. Topped with dark cherries and with a creamy texture, I would carry a slice in a greaseproof-paper-wrapped parcel back to the office, where for five minutes I could forget everything and indulge.
I doubt any of those sandwich shops have survived – or would survive in the London of today, but sometimes I yearn for one of those sandwiches, or a slice of the cheesecake. They probably wouldn’t taste the same or anything like as delicious, but one can dream.
Back in the here and now, and I am inundated with tomatoes from the greenhouse. The two plants I planted outside have been a bit of a failure. I think they have suffered ‘tomato blight’, which I have been told by my neighbour is affecting not only his crop but many others around here. So I think I’ve been lucky with my ten plants in the greenhouse, all of which have been very healthy and abundant. The red ones in the photo are 'Crimson Crush' from three plants I bought online from D T Brown Seeds. This was a very successful purchase, as the plants arrived in very good condition and grew fast. The others are 'Sungold' which I grew from a very few seeds left over from last year!
I haven't grown any other vegetables this year. Instead I've concentrated on plants, and also for the first time since my mother died I've grown Sweet Peas. She loved them so much that I simply found it too sad to contemplate, but Mike came home from the supermarket with a small punnet of tiny plants and I couldn't resist growing them on. They have been spectacular!
We are in the process of extending the large circular flowerbed. Mike jokes that at this rate in a few years' time we won't have any lawn left! The main reason, though, is to move a couple of roses which have been swamped by the Hydrangea 'Annabelle' - which clearly loves its position so much it has gained huge proportions. In the photo I have placed some potted box and petunias to cover the newly exposed area and safeguard it from the local cat community.
I won't move the roses until the autumn, but getting the turf taken up and moved has been quite a task and I'm now ready to dig over the exposed soil. We are on clay here, but it's mixed with rubble and stone, which isn't ideal - but you can only work with what you've got. I will add in a lot of grit and some compost before planting up. Plenty of work ahead!
Finally, I must show you some of the butterflies which have made the garden so uplifting this year. Since the buddleias came into full bloom they, and many other plants, have been covered in butterflies, especially on sunny days.