MEMORIES OF LONDON: PING PONG AND ZANDRA RHODES

I had just showered and was feeling beautiful and radiant, even though I was wearing a thrift-store empire-waist top with lots of ruffles, giving me the classic seven months’ pregnant look. It was black with orangey-cream flowers printed on it, with straps. My hair fluffed up in a giant ball of curls. The sun was bright and it was windy and cool. I walked rapidly down by the docks, rich-people-yachts to my right, rich-people-restaurants to my left. A thin blonde aproned smiling server handed out a glossy card to me. Lunchtime deals at Ping Pong. £8 for a 3-course meal.

I was hungry. My pace quickened, as I winded around the docks to reach my brother’s apartment to pick up The Princess. I ran into them as I swerved around the old brick walls- they had just come out to go to Sainsbury’s, to buy chorizo and pasta for lunch.

-“Forget about that!” I cried expansively. “They are doing lunch deals at Ping Pong, let’s go there!”

We sat by the yachts, and ordered the meal. The soup was pale yellow, with slimy wrinkly chickeny things in it, and raw spring onions. The rice was heavenly, flavoured with mushrooms and brown stuff and broccoli. I kept wondering out loud how to recreate it at home, until my sister said I sounded just like my mother, and I cut it out.

We were as stuffed as a piece of dim sum. We walked on round the pedestrian walkway, and began hunting for the Fashion and Textile Museum. I had seen the sign before. We kept checking maps. There were pictures of Kate Middleton everywhere. We commented on how homely and plain she looked, and then realised she was supposed to look like that. Common and relatable. We bickered and accused each other of losing the way. Finally we found FTM.

It was a nasty shock to pay the entrance fee. We had thought all museums in London were free, but apparently not. We cried out we were students, and received a discount.

We didn’t know the whole museum was about Zandra Rhodes. We had never heard of Zandra Rhodes. I had thought there would be showcased fashion items from the ages (museum of fashion, right?), but there wasn’t.

I stared at the collection of Zandra Rhodes dresses, their bright confusing colours and random shapes. In our own language, they were dahati, vulgar and provincial. Beads and sequins and shiny satins, clothes that villagers and nomads would wear. I didn’t get the point. I didn’t approve of the exoticism. I looked at her pink-haired bust. Lady Gaga before Lady Gaga was a thing. I began composing a blog post in my head, about Zandra Rhodes. This was not it. The recording of her voice echoed through the small museum.

The penny dropped when I saw the silk white wedding dress, with ripped holes safety-pinned back. I remembered my favourite pair of old black ripped tights back in Halifax- I had pinned its rips with big safety-pins and earrings, because I had read once in a british novel a young girl in a village doing that. I suddenly got Zandra Rhodes, her pink hair, big nose and beautiful intricate clothes. We sat down and watched her interview, fascinated.

We wandered in the shop, but everything was too expensive. We signed up for the FTM newsletter, and we got free postcards.

I can’t remember what we did that day, after we walked out of the FTM.

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