This is a subject I’m surprised I haven’t written about in any great detail before. Nando’s. My very favourite restaurant since summer 2012. It holds a great deal of sentimentality for me. Plus the food is pretty darn delicious.
On Friday night, I found myself wandering alone in a city which I am not hugely familiar with. I’d spent a great deal of time sitting down on trains that day, so I was keen to get up and stretch my legs, rather than just sitting around in a hotel.
With Christmas coming in just a few weeks, there were Christmas lights up everywhere – though in contrast to their warm and comforting glow, it was a very chilly evening indeed. But, in a way, the bite of winter helps me to better appreciate the Christmassy sentiment of the lights.
What was especially significant about those lights was the fact that they looked identical to the Christmas lights of Bath. Many of my most sentimental and cherished festive memories are of times spent in Bath around Christmas. But it wasn’t a case of simple heartwarming nostalgia – it was kind of bittersweet. Many of the people I shared those memories with now live very far, prohibiting similar experiences from happening again, and others who are currently near, will not be so for long. Indeed, last Christmas I did very few of my usual traditions.
Eventually, I came to a Nando’s. It was already 9:10pm at the time, so I was concerned that they might be closing soon. Thankfully, they were still open for over an hour, so there was more than enough time for me to order the Nando’s meal I have every time I visit.
After placing my order, I was sat at a table next to the window, giving me a clear view of the Christmas lights I’d been appreciating a little earlier. Now, at least, I was feeling a little warmer. I was surprised by how dark it was in there, but I felt that the lack of light actually helped to create a very nice atmosphere and also helped to further pronounce the lights outside.
Though I was alone in a restaurant I’d never been to, far away from home in the middle of the night, there was still a sense of familiarity and comfort that Nando’s provided. Because despite never having been in that specific place before, the sight sounds, smells and tastes within Nando’s are so evocative of those happy times.
I felt pretty content, really, because it felt as though I were surrounded by the ghostly presence of every person I’d been to Nando’s with before (and don’t worry, none of them are actually dead.) Looking back I realised I’d been to Nando’s with thirty-two good friends and acquaintances – Egan, Dalfino, Stacey, Rob, Belinda, Oscar, Chloe, Sophie, Mairi, Rory, Liam, Christopher, Sarah, Sarah, Greg, Beth, Elle, Edward, Hayley, Tasha, Will, Ben, Gareth, Kayleigh, Alex, Sam, Rini, Suzie, Sophia, Stefanie, Alice and George. And with all these people in my heart, how could I ever truly be alone?
After leaving Nando’s, I wandered the streets a little more – taking lots of photographs of the lights as I went and keeping all those people and times close to the surface of my ocean of memories.