Today I’m back in London. I lived here for 11 years and yet it’s only now, coming back from abroad, that I appreciate this city. It’s only now that I relish how we can drink water from the tap; only now that I notice how people walk around London with the expectation that they won’t bump into anyone they know (so they don’t look anyone in the eye, so of course they don’t see anyone they know). It’s only now that I notice how unnaturally quiet Londoners are on public transport. In Pristina everyone would be talking to the person sitting next to them (even if it’s a stranger. ‘Are you married? How many children do you have? Are your parents still alive?’); in London everyone on the bus or tube is reading. I wonder what makes for the better society – a city where everyone reads (I wish that in Kosovo there was more reading, not just of my book) or a city where everyone talks to their neighbour.
Most of all I appreciate the vast variety of food I can get in London. Not just British expats’ nostalgia like asparagus, vegetarian sausages, salt and vinegar crisps, but the world cuisine available: houmus and coriander and, tonight, French Indian cooking at La Porte des Indes.
I didn’t go expecting a honey treat but I got one. In the restaurant’s juice menu I saw a tempting treat – pear, orange and ginger juice with bee pollen and manuka honey. Just listing the ingredients makes me feel like I’ve been for a run – along a beach – followed by a yoga session, and a shower; this is glowing health in a glass.
Extravagant claims are made for both bee pollen and for manuka honey. Bee pollen is the grains of pollen selected by bees and brought back as protein for the hive. That stuff’s got to be great. And honey from the manuka tree has anti-bacterial properties and allegedly much more. Mix them with fruit juice and ginger root and you have a sweet, zingy, nutritious, just faintly medicinal frothy drink that makes you feel great. I don’t know what you imagine the elixir of eternal life to taste like, but my guess is that what Hermes Trismegistus was knocking back was something like this. It’s not quite Ice Cold in Alex, but it’s a suitable way to celebrate return to the motherland; I notch it up as one more thing about London that I only learned to love when I wasn’t living here.
Elizabeth Gowing is the author of Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo