Nonsense

It’s been a while. What can I tell you?

My broken toe is a bit better. I had to take the strapping off earlier in the week, because while it was helping the bone to knit, it wasn’t doing a lot for my flesh. My toe looked rather like a naked mole rat, but less attractive. As I’d pulled half the skin off with the plaster, I’ve had to leave it to air, in the manner of a Fifties housewife. The skin is now growing back, which is a relief. It’s no good having a beautifully knitted together bone if you can actually see it through your strappy sandals, like the symbolic digit of your mortality, beckoning to the way of dusty death, in a Birkenstock.

Ingmar Bergman could have done something with that.

I took the kids to see Toy Story 4 today. Dear God. Why are children’s films so brutally upsetting? I am still traumatised by Astro Boy, and that was 9 years ago. I didn’t wear make up, so I didn’t have to worry about coming out looking like Robert Smith after a three day bender, but still. My heart can’t stand this stuff.  Also, Woody gets on my nerves, truth be told. I know he’s the hero, but he’s such a goody goody. Imagine if he was your boyfriend. You’d have to kill him and bury him under the patio for being too nice.

Tallulah is going to see The Lion King tonight. She’s a glutton for punishment. I can’t watch it. It was pretty upsetting the first time round just because it’s a children’s film and that’s what children’s films have to do, break you to rebuild you. Then someone told me it’s Hamlet in meerkat suits set to an Elton John soundtrack and my head blew off, and that’s the end of it as far as I’m concerned. No more. Make it stop.

Tilly is home from en France tomorrow. She has been regaling us with tales of all her delicious meals, including a description of a chestnut sundae. This was at half ten at night when I was in bed, and in no position whatsoever to take myself off for a sundae, chestnut or otherwise. Practically speaking, this was probably a good thing, but emotionally speaking I am still feeling a bit sad about it.

Basically it was like a posh, French, knickerbocker glory, with marron glaces and chestnut puree, and lashings of cream and ice cream and toasted almonds and really, it sounded like a thing of great wonder.

Talking about it made me think about why a knickerbocker glory is called a knickerbocker glory. Clearly I could just google it, but it will almost certainly be some very dreary explanation that in no way matches the splendour of my ideas.

To whit, that it was invented by a flamboyant chef as a prize for the man who could invent the most voluminous trousers and give them the most glorious name. The prize involved filling each leg of said trousers with as much fruit, ice cream and whipped cream as possible and handing them over to the proud owner with an extraordinarily long spoon so that each fold of material could be scooped dry of the delicious mixture.

Or something.

Seasons of Spam

There are rhythms to the amount and type of spam I get, I have discovered. I have a vague understanding of algorithms, although I am not entirely sold on the idea that they work that well for me. I use Amazon a lot, (I know, I know. I shall heap coals atop my head, etc) and their recommendations get more and more strange, despite my persistent patronage. The week they offered me Tena Lady and guinea pig food remains the nadir. I was so bemused I actually went back through my buying history to see what had inspired them to offer them up so gleefully. Nothing. Literally nothing.  Nothing to suggest I might want to take up trampolining with my well fed rodents.

They are quite good at porn though. Ever since I bought Tilly a book called Tokyo Lucky Hole for Christmas, at her request I might add, my recommendations have been eye opening and in some cases, eye watering.  And no, I don’t know anything else about Japanese orifices, because it came shrink wrapped in black plastic to protect my innocence, which given the fact that I’d just ordered a book of hardcore porn seems a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

And no, I wasn’t even slightly tempted to release it from its wrappings. I prefer my child’s sex life to remain largely ignored and wholly imaginary, thanks. I am very relaxed about sex as long as I don’t have to think about my nearest and dearest doing it. I like to think of them all as laminated from the neck down, for the sake of my sanity.  Think Barbie crossed with Uncle Fester.

She tells me it was for ‘art’. I have agreed to agree to this.

I am curious here, as to how Facebook do these things. I was looking at some Fila trainers with Tallulah yesterday, a gift from us for her not running amok and killing everyone during GCSEs. Shortly after browsing, I opened Facebook to find myself knee deep in adverts for trainers I don’t want. Would this happen if I had been browsing Porn Hub? Instead of overpriced trainers, would I be up to my eyeballs in bum holes for hire?

This brings me neatly back to my spam situation. A few years ago I was inundated with emails offering me access to thousands of comprehensive shed plans, including blue prints. I must have had hundreds of these over the space of about six months. I was somewhat mystified by this. The whole point of spam is that it is alluring, right? That you are tempted to have a look, to click on the link. Who finds shed blue prints alluring?

I once went to a wedding where we spent the duration of our meal talking to a guy who wanted to start his own religion in a shed. He had really thought it through, but even he was quite happy just to pop to B&Q and buy a six by four starter shed. He was committed to the idea, but not once did he ever mention shed blue prints. He was crazy, but not that crazy.

Over the months as the emails continued to pile up I thought a lot about the mysterious sub section of society who would be truly tempted by this offer. The individuals who would be calling up BBC Watchdog to confess that they had given their life savings in exchange for shed plans that never arrived. I imagined the camera, panning over a desolate back yard where a small, worried man in a cardigan stood atop a lot of hardcore looking bereft.

After the shed plans came the adverts for military grade flash lights. Again, what is going on here? How many thwarted navy seals are there in the world? Also, what is a military grade flash light? Does it have a sword stick in the middle? Is it camouflaged for night manoeuvres through your shrubbery? Will it double up as nunchucks? Maybe it has a cyanide pill secreted in the bottom in case you get caught digging up the neighbours prize dahlias and don’t want to be taken alive. I have so many questions.

After this there was a desultory spate of people offering me cut price Canadian Ibuprofen, which given it’s 16p a packet at Tesco Extra is even less alluring than a khaki torch and the fancy shed of my dreams.

A few weeks ago there was a flurry of emails that purported to know exactly what I had been browsing on the internet and which threatened to dob me in to the entire world if I didn’t send them £47.50 in used Co-op stamps and a £20 M&S voucher. I feel really sorry for people whose browsing history is that suspect that they panic about this. Given the fact that I had already openly supplied Japanese pornography to my twenty year old daughter wrapped in Santa paper, I felt there really wasn’t a lot they could do to me I hadn’t already done to myself. I did wince at how often I visited the Net A Porter site for a little look, but Jason already knows about that, so we’re good.

The last three weeks has seen an avalanche of emails about the cure for erectile dysfunction. Last time I checked, I didn’t have a penis of my own. I have to ask Jason nicely if I can borrow his. He’s usually pretty obliging to be fair. I have no complaints in that department.

The thing about these emails, which I only ever read the banner headline for, before I delete them, is that they all start with some variation on the line, ‘Do this and you can go like a train for three hours.’

Maybe this is what men want. Is it what men want? Do they really want to be wandering around with a massive boner for hours, while all the blood drains from their head and they have to put their head between their knees but they can’t, because their ramrod stiff cock keeps jabbing them in the eye, and then they just faint?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that at all sexy.

I once had a friend whose husband had an allergic reaction to some anti-histamines. It caused him to have such an enormous erection that he couldn’t put his trousers on, and couldn’t get it to go down, and the Dr had to do a house call and saw him wearing his wife’s best kaftan because it was the only thing he could put on that accommodated his engorged member. It took hours to go down and he had a really nasty headache for days. Imagine starving all the blood to your brain because your cock is trying to kill you. Imagine dying of that? It’s a funeral oration I’d want to hear.

So I think it’s safe to say that the idea is entertaining, if you don’t own a cock of your own. But is it sexy for girls to have a man go at it for three hours at a stretch?

I can’t answer for you, but for me, the answer would have to be a definitive no. Three hours is a long time to have someone poking away at your innards with what is essentially a stick, albeit a sproingy one. If I rang you up and suggested that I come round with a wooden spoon handle and jabbed it up your hoo ha for three hours in the name of  sexual gratification you would blame too much Tokyo Lucky Hole and probably report me to the police. Even if I did offer to do it wearing sexy pants and a winsome smile.

It worries me a bit that sex seems to be synonymous with graphs that wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of the FT rather than Razzle. It’s all about the numbers, how long, how hard, how many hours, how many feet and inches etc. Imagine taking this to its logical conclusion. If we don’t change the way we think about pleasure, both giving and receiving it, in twenty years I’ll be getting emails about men with 12 foot long cocks who can have sex with you for an entire bank holiday weekend while they’re in the lounge and you’re pegging the washing out and putting the tea on.

I think I’ll send off for a shed blue print instead.

 

 

 

 

Body Matters

As you know, my day job is buying and selling pre-loved and vintage clothes. It is also about helping people find their style and their joy in what they wear. I have a Facebook page where I post about what I have for sale, what I like, what I find and what I’m wearing.

I don’t post what I’m wearing because I love having my photograph taken, far from it. I still struggle with this, despite the wonderful Matt Glover, who takes the best photos of me in the whole world and makes me feel like a goddess, helping me feel better about it. I post my outfits because I like to show people that I walk my talk. It’s no good me telling you to embrace wearing what makes you happy and live your best life if I’m sloping around avoiding the camera and panicking in a pencil skirt.

I am aware that when I post my photos, people aren’t always going to like what I wear. I am aware that when I post my photos, people might really like what I wear, but just not on me. I am also aware that some people simply don’t like me. That’s fine with me.

I wear what I like, not necessarily what suits me. I dress for my own pleasure and I hope that is really what comes across in the photos. I want people to see someone enjoying nice things without feeling like they have to look like Claudia Schiffer. It’s a good message to endorse.

In the past I have also written about how I post more photos of me now, because there was a time when I realised that there were so few photos of me around, and many of the ones that were were either formal or miserable or both, that if I died, the kids would forget what I looked like in no time. There was virtually no trace of me in their lives, and that made me sad. So I taught myself to endure photographs, and now I am much less stressed by the whole thing because I’d rather be remembered by my family than be invisible to them.

Whenever you put something of your life on the internet you run the risk of someone being hateful. I have to say that in the 12 years I’ve been using social media I have been really, really lucky in that respect, even in my blogging heyday.  It’s a risk I understand and I accept it as part and parcel of this brave new world.  Having said that, just because I accept it will happen from time to time, I’m not the sort of person who is going to go gently into that good night, so be warned. Don’t dish it, if you can’t take it. I’m trying to give up being a bitch, it’s not good for my blood pressure, but I will call you out if you start shit posting.

In the last few weeks I’ve had two women comment on two different pictures I posted, one on my page, one on a different group I am in.  Both times the women decided that because I had posted my photograph, what I needed was their opinion as to my bodily shortcomings.

There are many things to unpack here. I won’t go into all of them, but my first response to this kind of thing is and always has been the thought: ‘For fuck’s sake, don’t you think I don’t know that?’ It’s like people who delight in pointing out that you have a massive pimple on your forehead, as if you wouldn’t have spotted it when you got up that morning, or been hyper aware of it ever since. I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t know every inch of her body and almost certainly rates it far more harshly than anyone sitting behind a keyboard at home. That ship already sailed love. NEXT.

Secondly, it costs nothing to be kind. If you want to comment on something, and nobody is holding a gun to your head here, find something positive to say, or don’t say anything at all.

I posted this on my Facebook page today in response to what a woman I don’t know decided I needed to know about myself. Someone in the comments asked me to turn it into a blog post so it didn’t get lost.  Here it is. Some of you may have already read this bit. You do not have to read it again. There is no test. It is not compulsory.

‘As I write this, I am unapologetically eating my second bun of the day and enjoying every mouthful. Just to give you some context for what I am about to say.

I posted a picture of me on this feed earlier today. It’s me, wearing a clingy red dress. It’s moulded to my body. It hides nothing at all about my body shape and size. it’s all there for you to see.

A few years ago I would never have worn it. I would have felt too self conscious. I don’t have the perfect body (whatever that means) and as I have aged and grown, so has it. It droops and sags, wrinkles and folds. It is no longer taut. It has scars and stretches. It has curves and bumps where we are taught we should have flatness or better, concavity.

It’s a physical map of my life to date. It makes me feel vulnerable to show that. It’s raw and real in a way that other things about me aren’t.

It has never been the body I wanted. It was always just the body I got given, and my relationship with it has been ambivalent and at times downright war-like.

Of course, there are things I could do to it. I could starve it and exercise it, and feed it things that re-shape it. I could have surgery. I could wear restrictive, uncomfortable underwear. I have thought about all those things. I could wear clothes that hide my shape. I could become more invisible to myself and others.

In the end, for complex reasons I decided not to do any of those things. I decided that I would do something else. I decided that I would treat myself with radical kindness. I would teach myself to be nice to myself. I would teach myself to look myself in the eye. I would teach myself to look at myself in the mirror. I would teach myself to do what makes me happy over what makes me unhappy. I would teach myself that how I feel about myself is more important than how other people feel about me. I would teach myself to come to terms with the body I had been given and learn to like and then hopefully, one day, love it for everything it has given me. I would teach myself to take pride in this body and show it off any way I damn well want.

I would teach myself that I am not a film or a painting to be watched, or a morsel to be consumed by others. I am myself and it matters what I do to myself, what I say to myself and how I feel about myself. It matters that I am good to myself in the way that I understand goodness.

I’m still on that journey. It’s not easy. I say that in the full knowledge that I am, despite my feelings about it, very lucky that the body I have been given conforms more to modern beauty standards than many people’s. I’m not comparing myself to anyone else or minimising what anyone else feels. I’m just telling you my truth. I’m showing you my body.

Here it is. This is the body that offended someone on this page enough for them to comment that there were too many lumps and bumps.

What that says is that this person doesn’t want to see me. This person would rather that there was less of me. This person thinks that they have the right to police my body with their mind, their thoughts, their hang ups, their ideas of what is best for me.

We have all done this. I hold my hand up here. I have been a judgmental bitch. What I learned in a very hard way in the last two years is that what I say about your body is what I think about my body and what I say and think about my body is usually inherited from some truly fucked up shit that someone, somewhere didn’t want to carry themselves and gave to me.

I’m not doing that any more. Think whatever you like, by all means, but don’t give me your hang ups, your issues, your low self esteem. I have my own shit to work through and it’s heavy enough.

So, I’m not going to lose any physical weight to get the perfect body. What I’m doing is losing the mental weight so that I can finally learn to love the body I already have and understand it’s been perfect for me all along.

And here’s my lumps and bumps for you. Here’s the body that carried six babies and birthed three. Here’s the body that suffered with PMDD for decades, mottled with hot water bottle burns to scald away pain. Here’s the body with the stretched belly button from surgeries and babies. Here’s the body with ectopic scars and hysterectomy scars and severed muscles and stretch marks. Here’s the body that prefers cinnamon buns and cuddles to punishing gym routines. Here’s the body that chooses happiness and a life well lived.

Here’s my body. It’s beautiful to me. That’s all that matters.’

 

Modern Day Devilry

It feels like the end of days, don’t you think?

Maybe it’s me, to be fair. I went to a convent school so I’m pretty up on the bible. Perhaps I’m letting my knowledge of scripture and my off the charts anxiety play together too much. It just seems that ever since Boris Johnson was invested (does a PM get invested? Like the cubs? Dib dib dib etc?) that the signs that might be omens have been a trifle ominous.

We have had a serious storm, followed by heat so intense it has melted train tracks, and last night when I attempted to go for a walk, which was more of a slither, I was attacked by a herd of flying ants (flants as we call them). Surely this is the beginning of the plagues?  It’s due to rain later. If it’s blood I shall start the tunnel workings. By next week the underground bunker will be green for go.

If Jacob Rees Mogg does not turn out to be the anti-christ I am going to be sorely disappointed.

People think that the devil will be a writhing, red demon with horns as high as your eye, clopping about on cloven hooves, riding farm animals that are far too small for him and fornicating with witches in corners. Me, I think that would be far too much fun.

The devil will get Brylcream all over your antimacassars. He will dunk Rich Tea biscuits for too long and leave biscuit fur in the bottom of your cups so that you choke.

He will disapprove of suits that have too much man made fibre in them and consign you to a life (or death) of itchy, woollen vests that make you look like you have permanent chiggers. And a suspicious rash.

He will spend weeks picking your tax returns apart until you owe more money than you earned in a life time. When you contest this, he will put you on hold and force you to listen to 12 tone classical music played on the sousaphone while you wait. When you least expect it, he will interrupt it with short, recorded messages that make you think you’re speaking to a human being before sending you back to the sousaphones again.  The music will sound like something you know, but you will never quite put your finger on what it is. It will become your eternal ear worm. You will wake up in the night humming it.

The devil will send you important forms to fill in. You will be cursed by the need to give huge amounts of data but only have teeny, weeny boxes to put it in. You will not be allowed to append a sheet of paper with the overflow details. Your signature will always go over the lines on the box. You will be required to write in black biro, but all your black biros will have disappeared, even though you wrote yourself a note with one earlier.

The devil will make it so that your shopping list never has that one thing that you really went for in the first place. You will shuttle back and forth between your house and the Tesco Express and never get all the ingredients to make dinner.

The devil will look down on you for being poor, while making it impossible for you to get out of poverty. The devil will tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps but make sure that you can never afford boots. The devil will tell you that the only good man is a self made man, while sitting on inherited wealth of such eye watering proportions that it would ensure every person in your street could live comfortably for the rest of their lives. The devil will tell you that you make your own opportunities while accepting a bunk up the greasy pole from the friends he made at public school. The devil will tell you that you don’t need birth control or the right to have an abortion while his six children are looked after by a fleet of nannies and he never changes a nappy.

The devil will look after his own.

If you need me, I’ll be stock piling cuppa soups and sharpening my spade.

Womanferno and the Menopausal Heat Wave

It is an actual inferno out there. Wood pigeons attempting to fly over my garden are falling out of the sky, done to a turn. I opened the French windows this morning hoping for some sort of breeze. There was nothing. The air is just solid heat. It threw itself at my face and I immediately began to leak. I slammed the door shut.

I am not posting outfits of the day for the simple reason that the thought of wearing clothes is too much to bear. On the occasion I am forced to leave the house I am wearing table cloths and eschewing bras with a firm hand. They have now been reclassified as instruments of torture. The sound of the underwire screeking its way over my slick ribs is like the worst kind of avant garde jazz. I keep having to change my pants. I feel like shouting: ‘It’s ok! It’s not wee!’ Like that will help. Much better that it’s 38 gallons of woman sweat per cubic inch of cotton. Mmmmmm.

Last week was hot, but I was largely by the sea and I wasn’t combining the regular heat with the smelting blast of menopausal sweats. Sunday evening ushered in the start of a cluster of hot flushes. Imagine how hot it is now, and then imagine that in order to help you cool down, your body decides to propel you into the heart of a furnace every couple of hours, with no warning. That. That is what is happening to me right now.

I am in a permanent state of clamminess. I am the walking embodiment of a nervous handshake. When I am not clammy, rivulets of sweat are pouring off me. I have heard that we get smaller as we get older. I wonder if, in women, this is due to the melting heat of hot flushes? I am basically calving height like a reverse ice berg.

I also wonder if, and this is definitely too much information here, the amount you sweat out of other orifices as you menopause your way into death, accounts for the dearth of liquid in the vagina area, which during menopause starts to resemble the husk of a coconut? I am sure, when there are enough women scientists in research who are not being asked to pass round canapés and hang up coats by important men, that this could be a valuable PhD topic for someone.

I take issue with the term ‘hot flushes’ guys. I really do. It makes them sound so domestic. So contained, so weeny teeny, like a new born chick. I need something stronger to describe the womanferno I become. Something that conveys the sheer drama of what happens.

You’re fine. You’re fine. You’re fine. La la la. Everything is fine. Then. BAM. Your body starts to create this wave of heat that if you were a road, would see shimmers coming off it, it’s so hot.  This literal heat wave can start anywhere. Sometimes it starts at your ear lobes, which is one of the most peculiar feelings in the world.

It waves across you. Literally waves, like being caught in an actual, real life, cresting wave. You go under. You think you might die. You are certain sure that you’re actually liquefying and start worrying in case you’re standing near a grate and might slip through. Then it’s over and you’re up again. Sometimes it’s so intense it makes you actually dizzy with it. Sometimes you cool down so quickly, the drying sweat on your body makes you shiver with cold only moments after someone could have seared tuna on your belly.

It all happens before you have any chance to do anything about it. Although really, what can you do about it if you’re out and about? Run screaming up and down the 138 bus, ripping your clothes off and holding your boobs as far away from your body as humanly possible? (It is my contention that under-boob sweat is the worst of all sweats, but I am prepared to be wrong about this, after all I don’t own bollocks (thank fuck)). Call the fire brigade? Hurl yourself into that tepid metal bowl of water the pub owner has left out for thirsty dogs?

Nope. You endure. You might find a loo where you can run your dainty wrists under cool water in a futile gesture.  You might fan yourself feebly with a double glazing leaflet, but that’s about it.

It’s blitzkrieg on the body. That’s what it is.

Yes, I have tried magnets for my pants (stuck myself to the radiator, might as well have taken my £35 and set fire to it). Yes, I have tried eating various miserable things like kale and blueberries and the depressed tears of manatees etc. Yes, I have tried hypnosis, positive thinking, mindfulness, mood tracking and a whole host of other things. No, there is no discernible pattern to them. I do not seem to have a trigger, although being incandescent with rage does bring them on sometimes, and given the times we live in, it’s a real burden. Maybe if I go and live on a Hebridean island and become a modern day hermit, that will put paid to them. Unfortunately I would kill myself long before we saw the benefits of that, so I have decided against it.

They will pass. They are less regular than they were at the beginning, which is a blessing. Now I get them in runs of a few days and then they’re gone for a bit, and I am telling myself that those bits in between the clusters is getting longer. I am not measuring it using science and graphs because it will be too depressing if I am wrong. They will pass. All things do, eventually.

If they don’t, I have a rich career ahead of me as a menopausal freak show.  Roll up, roll up, for the luxuriantly moustachioed woman who can perform the human luge using only her own bodily secretions. Etc.

 

 

I eat my way round Devon and Cornwall

I have started this blog post four times already. How hard can it be to say good morning? Apparently really fucking difficult.

So, we had a wonderful time in Devon last week. We had great weather with the exception of one day, but even that was ok, because it gave us an excuse to stay in the house and read and binge watch telly. We are not particularly touristy when we go on holiday, because we are lazy and we don’t like queues, but we did do a few things.

Jason took us on a pilgrimage to Cornwall and toured the kids around the places he grew up, including spending the morning at Flambards triple theme park before Cornish schools broke up. The whole place was virtually deserted, which was a bit like being in an episode of The Walking Dead. I can’t remember what the three things are that make Flambards triple. There are rides and a weird Victorian village, which makes two, but God alone knows what the third thing is. Probably pasties.

It’s always fucking pasties in Cornwall. I am really not a lover of pasties and they are absolutely everywhere. I mean everywhere. I don’t understand it. I live near Melton Mowbray, which is the home of the pork pie, but I don’t have to navigate my way through hordes of people trying to sell me artisan pork pies every minute. What is going on, Cornish people? There are things other than pasties you can be proud of. Just put the pasty down and walk away.

Back to Flambards.

I used to love theme parks, but ever since I had babies, my centre of gravity has been absolutely buggered and if I go on any ride that is remotely swooshy and slow, I feel violently sick.  I thought I might have gotten over this since I had a hysterectomy. It turns out I haven’t, so unless I’m going on a huge, terrifying ride that goes at the speed of sound, you are likely to have me whizzing overhead, crop dusting you with my lunch. That was an unpleasant realisation.

I was also rather sad that my broken toe (and it really is spectacularly broken. I have the x-rays to prove it) precluded me from doing most other things. Basically I could go on about three rides and spent most of the morning being a glorified coat peg. I did get an ice cream, and a photograph of the pub in the weird Victorian village where they had decided it was absolutely fine to position a stuffed monkey in a fez on a bar stool and have the grinning waxwork landlord serve him a pint. As you do.

Jason and the kids absolutely loved Flambards, which made it worth going. My treat was going to River Cottage HQ for their Friday night feast. It was a labour of love from my husband who had seriously underestimated how massive Devon is and had three hours of driving to contend with. We also had to deal with an extremely drunk lady called Lesley who took a shine to Jason and the kids and spent the evening trying to get us to adopt her whilst taking endless selfies with them. I can’t imagine she remembers much about the evening and her camera roll is going to be a thing of deep mystery forever.

Everything else about the evening was splendid. Here’s a quick run down of things we poked into our faces. We had split pea felafel and scallops with crumbled chorizo as canapés. We had four courses for dinner, a medley of beetroot with creme fraiche and home made bread and butter, brill served with capers and girolles in a burnt butter sauce, tiny pink lamb chops and shredded slow cooked lamb with stilton potatoes dauphinoise and veg and lemon cream profiteroles with poached raspberries and hazelnuts.  We also had ganache flavoured with fennel and orange, and strawberry jellies for petits fours. It was delicious. You should go. I ate all mine and everything Jason and the kids didn’t like and had to be rolled home like a barrel.

Other food highlights included a sea bass Nicoise in a cafe in Tavistock that was surprisingly brilliant and a divine Thai crab claw curry from Supha’s Street Food in Plymouth. I also had a great mushroom burger from Bookoos in Helston, where they serve burgers as big as your head.

The absolute low point in terms of food was on our last day. We went to Cothele, which is a National Trust property and a real treasure. There’s a thousand acres to explore, a beautiful house, a mill and a quay thrown in for good measure. Go. Enjoy yourselves. Take sandwiches.  You can thank me later.

It was absolutely boiling hot, so I decided to have a potato and pea salad for my lunch. I had visions of a Nicoise type affair, with fresh petit pois and leaves dotted around waxy, Jersey royals in a light vinaigrette. Perfection.

Nope.

I got an entire soup plate of potato salad. As in chunks of overcooked potato dressed in about seventeen metric tonnes of sweetened catering mayonnaise. The peas were mange tout that had been cooked so long the colour had bled out of them and they were floppy and stringy, and also doused in mayonnaise. That was it. It was the whitest, most repellant meal I have eaten in years.

I am a lover of the potato, and potato salad, when it is good, is heavenly. This was almost as bad as a potato, pea and pineapple salad Andrea and I once had the great misfortune to be served in a London hotel and which remains the nadir of my potato eating experience.

Also, they had run out of pasties. This does not bother me, for as you know, I am absolutely and entirely over the pasty thrill (not that it ever was thrilling), but Jason, who is a Cornish boy, was devastated. After about twenty minutes they brought out a tray of pasties they had found and heated up. Bad times.

So, Cothele. Great for history. Terrible for snacks.

We visited some terrific beaches. We ate some quality ice cream. We did a lot of top notch relaxing. I did a bit of treasure hunting round the chazzas of Devon. I read a lot of books, watched some Glee with the kids and binged the first four episodes of Queer Eye whilst howling, snorting and covering myself in streaks of mascara. It was bliss.

I stayed off nearly all social media, which was just the ticket, because now we are home and the world is on bin fire in a dumpster fire level of awful, my nerves are shredded again. It was nice to get a week off though.

 

 

 

 

Tallulah is Sixteen

Darling girl, it’s your happiversary and you are finally sixteen. It’s an age you’ve been working up to for the last fifteen years or so, with great anticipation. For quite a few years you were adamant that when you were sixteen you would be spending the day packing your bags for a life of independence in your own place where you could do whatever you wanted. This could still happen, although your bedroom is looking really nice at the minute so I am hoping you’ll bide a while longer yet. If the removals van does turn up, will you stay long enough to come and have dinner with us this evening? I hope so. We are looking forward to celebrating with you.

You’ve had quite the year.

In years to come I want you to look back at the year you were fifteen and never, ever doubt yourself or what you can do. These last few months have shown what an amazingly strong and resourceful woman you are. You have lived through horrors and yet every day, no matter how beaten and broken you felt, you picked yourself up and started again. I know how difficult it was for you to keep choosing to turn up and stick around. It would have been much easier to lie down and give in, but you never did. You are astonishing. I am so proud of you.

I want you to know though, that you have always been astonishing. This is not something that has only developed in the last year of your life. I hope now that maybe you can see just a tiny glimmer of what I could see all along, from the very first day you arrived, with that fierce scowl and that determined glint in your eye.

You said to me once that you felt that we always saw your condition first and you second. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have always been resolutely yourself and I have always and will always be in awe of you. It is you that has doubted, not me.

I know that you are brilliant and beautiful and brave. I know that you are complex and thoughtful and incredible. I know that you are funny and fierce and passionate. I know that you are always, first and last, Tallulah. Nothing and nobody will change that, and quite right too. I hope that you are beginning to know that in your gut, in your heart, in your soul. Once you do, nothing on this earth is going to stop you, and I very much look forward to seeing what you make of the grown up world as you take your place in it.

For as you said last night, you really are, to all intents and purposes, grown up now. And the thing about being a grown up is that you can do whatever you want, just like you dreamed. And the thing I hope you learned in this last year is that what we want is complicated. For everyone. And it involves making choices, and those moments of decision making can be hard, because what we want is sometimes far more tricky than we anticipated. But when we listen to our gut, when we trust our very best self, when we make that decision, and the next and the next and the next, because there are always more choices to be made once that initial switch is flipped, we can live a magnificent life. You deserve that magnificence. Enjoy it.

And even when you’re grown up, the marvellous thing is that you don’t have to do it alone, unless you want to. The people you love, the people who love you, they’ll be there for you, no matter what, because that’s what love is, right? It isn’t just hearts and flowers and romantic gestures. It’s sharing the darkness and making it that little bit lighter. It’s forever. Not just for Sunday best.

So, my heart. I love you with every fibre of my being. Forever. I like you quite a bit too. I’ve been hanging out with you on a daily basis for the last sixteen years and I could get used to it, so I hope you keep me around for a few years yet. Things are about to get interesting, of that I am very sure. Let today mark the beginning of a kick ass year of being sixteen. Happy Birthday.