The reason that I did not update my blog for a while is because I took Audrey on a whirlwind visit to London. Our four days there were packed — The Lion King, British Museum, dinner parties, shopping and best of all: time with friends. We stayed with my friends Hanan and Shamim, who were the warmest of hosts anyone could have. They are both foodies, and like mine, their two large refrigerators are always full. When it comes to eating, Hanan errs on the side of extravagance. The day we got there, they had a few friends over for dinner, but they prepared enough food to feed a battalion. Hanan was the first person to introduce me to Lebanese cuisine when we met 20 years ago. And how we met was an incredible story that I had shared in one of my earlier blogs. I was so happy to taste her lemony chicken with hummus, fried garlic and pine nuts again. And her flat bread sprinkled with ground thyme, sumac powder and sesame seeds was so delicious that I had to ask for the recipe. I will try to make the bread in the near future and share with you my result.
When Audrey told some of the crew members from London that she was going to visit their city for the first time, they asked her what she was going to see there. I was surprised to hear her answer. Other than London Bridge from the nursery rhyme, the only things she had heard of were London Eye, Top Shop and Primark. There is a Chinese proverb 读万卷书行万里路. It means traveling 10,000 miles is as good as reading 10,000 books. Our London trip has been eye opening for Audrey, who now remembers London as a historically rich, culturally vibrant city with some of the world’s best museums, theaters and restaurants.
As Audrey and I walked across Waterloo Bridge, I told Audrey about how the film Waterloo Bridge starring Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh was one of the two Hollywood films that I had seen before I left China in 1981. In my teen mind, the black and white bridge in the fog was the most romantic place on earth. In those days, Chinese films were made exclusively as Communist propaganda, but before a film went into production, the director could request to watch “foreign reference films” that were strictly forbidden for the general public. Those discretionary screenings were the most coveted privileges in the film industry reserved for the few top department heads and lead actors. The only other Hollywood film that I had seen was Julian from Lilian Hellman’s book Pentimento. Many of the films I saw since then have faded from my memory — sometimes as soon as I left the theater, but those two films from so long ago have been branded in my mind’s eye. They had been the oasis of my cultural desert.
I caught a cold on the second day there when Audrey and I went on the London Eye. I have since lost my voice. I hope that my voice will return by tomorrow when I get to the set.