How To Eat A Peach

Last week, Amazon Vine (review programme) sent me a copy of Diana Henry’s new cookery book, ‘How To Eat A Peach.’

I love Diana Henry’s books. If you’ve never come across her before, I think of her rather like the female Nigel Slater. Her writing is beautiful and soothing. Her love for the food she cooks and eats is evident on every page and she makes everything seem possible in terms of the culinary arts.

I have an entire bookshelf of cookery books. I tend to divide them up into self-appointed categories. There are the books which are marvellous but you know you will never cook anything from. They’re rather like exotic travel brochures for far flung places you can’t really afford but you quite like to dream about.  There’s the books which are really about the writer themselves, so the recipes are somewhat accidental. I like these books a lot, because they’re readable, but a drawback is that the recipes can be rather vague and therefore difficult to actually cook. There’s the educational recipe books which gallop you through a cuisine other than your own. These are like a Hayne’s Manual for the Ford Cortina, but for Morocco. There’s the show off books, which I like the least, because who the fuck has time to make a pyramid of bouillabaisse with aromatic mist that reminds you of a fisherman’s pipe? Not when you’ve got three hungry children banging their spoons on the table like ersatz Oliver Twists, you don’t.

The ones which get most use in my own house are the practical ones. By this I do not mean those ones you get in the bargain book shops which are full of scary, colour drenched pictures from photo stock, which are entitled: ‘500 Salads.’ (WHY?) I think of these books as the equivalent of going to a foreign country, walking down the main tourist drag and seeing three hundred dubious eateries with sun bleached photos of paella outside. i.e. Terrifying.

The practical books in my house are the ones with foolproof, easy to make recipes which taste fabulous and which I turn to again and again. Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess (the spine is falling off I use it so much), Friends, Food, Family by Sasha Wilkins (Liberty London Girl) anything by Anjum Anand, and then there are my great loves, Nigel Slater and Diana Henry.

If you want somewhere to start with Diana, may I recommend A Bird in the Hand as her most practical book (as long as you are not a vegetarian)? It does exactly what it says on the tin and gives you ‘chicken recipes for every day and every mood.’

‘How to Eat A Peach,’ is a wonderful journey through Henry’s food memories. She talks about her love of putting together satisfying menus, and splendid meals she has eaten. She sets the scene for each menu with an anecdote from her life, and a store of knowledge about the food. Here she is talking about a menu inspired by Istanbul:

‘The food here is at the meeting point of lots of cultures too. On the surface it seems simple; most meals start with vegetables, cucumbers as juicy and taut as apples, firm chilled radishes, lengths of scarlet pepper. The counterpoints to these are tart or salty, the snow-white cheese beyaz peynir, clouds of pale creamy pink tarama, bowls of thick yogurt. The tarama is a dish shared with the Balkans and Greece. But look beyond these; acuka, a puree of red peppers, walnuts, garlic, tomato and chilli, is Syrian in origin; the chicken coated with a creamy walnut and garlic sauce is from Circassian; manti, little dumplings stuffed with spiced lamb and smothered in yogurt, are thought to have come to Turkey along the Silk Road from Central Asia. There are influences from all over the former Ottoman Empire: The Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus and parts of North Africa.’

Each menu is a history, a story, a small world in taste, texture and flavour. In talking about the meals she has shared over the years she emphasises the other important thing about cooking – eating and sharing food with friends and family.

It’s an absolute pleasure to read.

I’ve been dipping into the book every morning as I eat my breakfast. It’s my ten minutes off from the world before it starts incessantly knocking at the front door to be let in. It’s escapism of the best kind.

I wish I could put it into the practical section of my cookery books, but I can’t. Every single thing I’ve read about so far is something I would happily eat, or at least try. She describes even things I don’t think I’d like in such a way that I am persuaded that I might. It’s the kind of writing that seduces you into thinking that this type of cooking, eating, life is possible.

And it absolutely is…

If I lived alone.

I indulged myself today in fantasies of sitting outside at my big wooden table, a white linen cloth draped over over it, eating everything from the book, (with my fingers, in a casual yet not messy way). I pictured myself, slurping white peaches in chilled moscato, a shawl flung artistically over my shoulders as the afternoon dipped into evening.

This reminded me very much of the time when I was obsessed by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage, and decided I would have a small, but beautiful garden full of fruit and veg that I would wander down the garden to pick, in my very expensive sandals, with a trug slung casually in the crook of my arm, while the children gambolled about, looking dirty but artistic.

I attempted this and I learned the glaring yet unavoidable differences between fantasy and reality as I ruined my sandals (it turns out they’re very impractical for gardening in), got bitten, stung and filthy, shrieked at the children who looked dirty but not artistic and were little shits, and spent a great deal of time thinking resentful and bitter thoughts about Hugh. Not only that, but for my pains I ended up with a glut of courgettes that nobody but me even attempted to eat, and my broad beans got decimated by black fly.

With this in mind I think of Diana, and I think of the fact that each recipe will have to be vetted for the finicky and entirely annoying likes and dislikes of my family. It’s not that they all dislike everything, but each one of them dislikes enough things that make this kind of eating rather trying, if not downright impossible. It means that by the time I have worked round all this, all joy will have been sucked out of the things I can cook, and many of the things I would cook for myself would simply have to be abandoned entirely. By the time I might get to sit at my beautiful table, I will be grumpy, resentful, sweat streaked and burned, and peaches and moscato will be abandoned for an industrial strength gin and tonic and an admonishment to self to stay away from sharp knives in the vicinity of the loved ones that have ruined my fantasy.

I have several solutions. One is to send all of my immediate family away for the weekend and invite my mum to dinner, who I know loves all the same foods I do, and rarely gets to make them because she has similar issues with her nearest and dearest.  The other is to write a begging letter to Diana Henry to adopt me. It will show a picture of me, rubbing my tummy in a hopeful manner and the words: ‘Look after this bear’ written underneath it. I am sure she will take pity on me.

Bring me sunshine

Fancy having a bank holiday weekend that was actually hot, with real sunshine and everything. Surely this is a clear indication that we are truly at the end of days? Not that I am complaining. I have done ninety thousand loads of washing and thrown all the doors and windows open. Everything smells of sun baked laundry and the flowers that are suddenly popping up in my garden.

Do not be fooled by this last sentence. It is not a domestic idyll. The garden is full of things that we need to take to the tip but haven’t quite mustered the energy to do anything about. The flowers are the self seeding variety that push the dormant woodland that is the foundation of our garden into the foreground and fill all my borders with bluebells and forget-me-nots I never planted. The laundry is everywhere, given that I’ve had a lot of guests in recent days. It is all tolerable however, because the sun is shining. Although I really must clean the French windows.

Let’s see. What do I have to tell you?

Work is overwhelming me a little bit at the moment. I have so many things to do and I am at the point where I am somewhat paralysed by the sheer number of those things. I shall persevere and accept the small victories.

My health is on the fritz ( I am tempted to smack it with the flat of my hand, like you would with a wonky telly), which may be why things are a little overwhelming. Hot flushes are back, like the renegade master with their ill behaviour. It turns out that flushes coupled with boiling hot weather is not the funnest thing in the world.  Who knew? I have signed up with a lady I met who does hypnotherapy for menopausal women, and offers a programme around hot flushes. My first session is next week. I will report back.  Sleep is crap, and eye bags are rising, or indeed falling. I look ‘tired’. I am tired, that’s why.

My ribs are slowly improving. I went to see the Dr on Thursday afternoon after my mum very fiercely reminded me that if I went to the Dr it would turn out to be nothing, whereas, given that it was a bank holiday weekend, if I didn’t, it would be bound to be pleurisy or some such thing. The Dr had a good prod, which made me want to smack him with the flat of my hand, and announced gravely that it was my ribs. Thank God for seven years of medical school I thought, but didn’t say. Waiting is the best cure for ribs, so this is what I am doing.

Friday afternoon saw me back at the hospital for the second attempt at my gynae consultation. This time it actually happened, although I’m still not entirely convinced they were real medics, given that the whole place was like a ghost town because it was not only Friday, but the Friday of a bank holiday weekend.

I am to have a scan, followed by a camera to take internal, aerial shots of my failed uterus and a biopsy. While they’re there, they will also do a smear test, because why not combine all the agonisingly painful procedures into one heady bundle? I am considering asking them to put in curtains and a convection oven as well. To say that I am apprehensive about this is possibly the understatement of the year. I am fairly sure that because women are supposed to be tough, the closest I will get to pain relief is biting down on a chair leg whilst thinking of England.

In other health news, Tallulah ate a dodgy sausage roll on Sunday night on our way to see Amanda Palmer, made it through the gig fine (thank God) but spent the rest of the night and some of Monday throwing up. Fun times.

Now that the awful bits are out of the way, let’s look at the fun stuff.

I’ve finished reading a book (dismal, will not recommend) and am half way through another (Louise O’ Neill’s Almost Love), which is harrowing but very compelling. After this I need something that is not only good, but also charming. I shall sort through the 3000 books in my to read pile. There is bound to be something.

I went to London to see Andrea. We were meant to be seeing Macbeth, but it got such all round terrible reviews that we bunked off and went to the pub for lunch instead. We went to the Queen’s Head and Artichoke (Great Portland St tube) and had delightful seafood linguine. I had the nicest glass of wine I’ve had in about twenty years. It was a rose, something grenache. I don’t know why I didn’t write it down. It tasted like drinking a bunch of flowers, but in a good way. We puttered about in the sunshine, catching up, browsing for a lazy hour in Daunt Books, eating cake (chocolate cake, dark and not sweet at all, and with tahini buttercream. Surprisingly good). It was delightfully stress free, except for the drive home when I spent half an hour in the boiling heat stuck in a traffic jam near Dunstable.

My gorgeous friends, Alex and Connor arrived on Saturday while I was jaunting. They’re the official Merch Queens for the Amanda Palmer tour and had just come from the Gateshead gig and were headed off to Birmingham, so decided to break their journey with us. It was wonderful to see them. Despite the fact that we were surrounded by boxes of vinyl and t-shirts for most of it, we managed to catch up on all the news, eat lots of toast and laugh a lot. They had to set off to Birmingham before us on Sunday to set up shop, but we followed valiantly behind after picking up Tilly from work, and inadvertently poisoning Tallulah with a sausage roll.

The gig was great, but super long. Three and a half hours of performance was extremely good value for the ticket price, as was the support act by the surreal but brilliant Andrew O’Neil. We had the best time, despite getting lost on the way there and on the way back.

The way back was the worst, given that Tallulah was starting to feel ill, it was very dark, the roadworks were very confusing and we ended up on a road full of heaving night clubs with drunken brawls sprawling into the road and Nineties house music pumping out at ear melting decibels. It was all a bit apocalyptic at this point.

We did get home eventually, although at one point I considered abandoning the car and just taking the kids into the nearest club to continue their education and the devil take the consequences. We got home at one, and Tallulah finished throwing up enough to go to sleep by half two.

As an aside, I think that there should be an olympic event which involves sprinting for 100 metres whilst wearing stretch lycra skirts and five inch stripper shoes in pursuit of a kebab. I saw turns of speed that would put Mo Farah to shame.

Yesterday was more low key. We waved Alex and Connor off to their next venue in Liverpool, and I started grappling with real life again. This largely involved lists of jobs for this week, making sure Oscar was organised for school, Tallulah was organised for week two of work experience and wondering where Tilly was now.

Jason arrived home from a weekend of scamping with random bags of weird costume etc. Thanks to the weather none of it smelled too terrible, or indeed, clogged the washing machine filter with unspeakable lumps of mud. I count this as a victory.

Wonder Carol came round in the afternoon to organise us some more, and spurred on by her calm confidence, after she had gone I properly tidied my desk, shredded a ton of once important papers that are now no longer important, tidied the medicine cabinet, sorted some pottery to sell and cleared out the drawers in the bathroom cabinet. Nobody will know about these small pools of calm in the chaos that is my house except me, but every time I open those drawers I know I will feel better.

I may have to go and open one and stare into its calming depths now, as real work beckons.

Late Night Ramblings

It’s late, I’ve just been to see ‘My Dad Wrote A Porno’ at DeMontfort Hall, which was excellent. I did not win a wok, which was sad, but everything else about it was brilliant.

Everyone else is asleep and I have five whole minutes to myself while the house is quiet, so I thought I’d say hello.

So many things are happening, so much of the time, and when they’re not happening I am generally falling asleep. I am not even finding time to read, which saddens me, because life is extremely busy and full of strange events. Mostly they are good events, but they are also pushing me so far out of my comfort zone I am commuting in from Saturn. It turns out that living outside my comfort zone is knackering.

Let me catch you up.

The first day of taking photos for my friend Matt’s exhibition happened. He brought along his friend Caitlin who is a videographer, and now it transpires we are making a documentary, and we are taking photos, and this all happened rather spontaneously. I decided to say ‘fuckit’ and just do it, and now we are, and when I think about it too much it totally weirds me out, so I am just doing it, and not thinking about it, and it will be great, and who knew I would be making a documentary at the age of 46? I shall tell you more about it later on when I can think about it without running round with a tea towel on my head, screaming.

I went to the hospital, but the hospital did not deliver. It transpires that the clinic simply did not happen, for reasons which are inexplicable and were very annoying.  I got a phone call yesterday asking if I could possibly rock up on Friday afternoon as they have now thrown together an impromptu gynae clinic. probably being held by the local scouts for a new badge. So thanks to ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’, I am fully au fait with where my cervix is, and will probably be able to do my own tests using some simple household objects and the contents of my handbag.

I went to London for the day to do the film thing for the Huffington Post. Jason also had to go to London, not to talk about his vagina. He talks about graphs and gant charts and goes to meetings in pointy buildings with men who were born in pin stripe suits and wear shoes which are too pointy for their own good. There is a lot of pointiness going on in the cut and thrust world of big business. It’s probably very meaningful, but it is certainly very dull, so we won’t think about that.

I, on the other hand, did my filming and then went to spend half an hour in Heals, breathing in the scent of hand crafted furniture and money. It was really soothing.  After that I walked and walked until my feet fell off. I went all round my old haunts and explored some new ones. I bought two pairs of Chie Mihara shoes in a charity shop and nearly wept with joy. A lady bonked me on the head with a tray in Bills in Covent Garden. She was mortified. I was dazed, but also impressed that she didn’t fling sausages all over the place.

I got hideously lost trying to find Jason to have dinner, because they will insist on digging up Victoria and I completely lost my bearings. I wailed and wailed like Violet Elizabeth and he shouted ‘Don’t move. I can see your hair!’ and I didn’t move, and he did see my hair, and then I cried because I was very old and small, like Mrs. Pepperpot. I had to be consoled with noodles and tea and a rest of my weary bones and all was well.

On Friday I went to see SingalongaSoundofMusic, which was on my bucket list because I love it and it reminds me of my granny.  And I dressed in a dirndl skirt and was happy, but tired, and many of my friends came to support me being happy in a dirndl skirt. I loved a small boy called Arthur who was only nine, and who won a prize for being brown paper packages wrapped up in string. I sang with gusto, and booed the Nazis, and admired the Countess’ dress, even though she was a cow, and had a miniature crush on Christopher Plummer. It was all very exhausting, particularly as in between all that, I wanted to kill the people behind us, who were extremely annoying in every conceivable way.

On Saturday I went to a Swish event, which is like a posh bring and buy sale. I ate chocolate cake and got a dress with cockatoos on it, and as if that weren’t pleasing enough, Jason took us all out for dinner when I got home and I had a burger with a fried egg on top, and it made me very happy.

On Sunday our friends Nicki and Rob came, and we started planning mine and Jason’s not wedding, which is happening on September 22nd. The steampunk theme is back on, and I spent a happy few hours researching mobile cocktail lounges and ice cream vans in your front yard.

This week, Tallulah has been doing work experience. She is experiencing the deep dullness of regular work, and it is teaching her the valuable life lesson that she would be better off marrying an eccentric millionaire, or robbing a bank.  Tilly started her first week of actual real, Dolly Partonesque 9/5 jobs. She is working at Waterstones (praise be for the staff discount), and is currently training in Nottingham because the Leicester branch is the size of a shoe cupboard. Oscar is due to sit his SATS at any moment and is heartily sick of school because it is wall to wall tests and stressed teachers pulling their hair out, and even though he is the most relaxed child I know, even he is fed up.

I am still doing many patient panel things, and eventually will be able to go on Mastermind with ‘disappointing things you learn about the NHS’ as my specialist subject.

I have finished re-organising my wardrobe with Wonder Carol, who is brilliant at decluttering. We have now adopted her, and she is helping us with everything we can think of, because we are rubbish at being grown ups, and she is brilliant at it and never gets bored and wanders off to the biscuit barrel, or throws a blanket over things, shouting ‘fuck that noise, let’s go to the pub.’ Honestly. She is amazing. I need to write a blog post all about her, but you should definitely use her, for everything.

I am randomly throwing things on EBay and making some money, which is good, because I need some. My front room still looks like hell, but I trust it will look less hellish eventually. I think this is a lie, but I am telling myself this because what else is there to do about it all?

I have really sore ribs this week. I think I might have some kind of weird chest infection. Or maybe I got kicked by a horse when I wasn’t looking. I don’t know. It really hurts when I laugh, so this evening’s trip was a bitter sweet experience indeed.

I am quite grumpy about the rib thing. I need to be well. I am out with Jenn tomorrow. We have been promising ourselves a treasure hunting adventure for two months, and tomorrow is the day.  Friday I am hospital bound, but not for lungs, unless the gynae people really mess up. Saturday I am off to see the Rory Kinnear and Anne Marie Duff (terrible reviews, but I am crossing my fingers) Macbeth at the National with Andrea and Sunday I am taking all the kids to see Amanda Palmer in Birmingham. I do not have time to be ill. There is much living to be done.

The Relentless Glamour of My Life

The weekend is upon us. Everyone is either asleep, or out, and I thought I’d sneak in here and write a blog post before the demands of the day start piling up.

We have sunshine. I have been out in it. It is rather marvellous, although this is the first time I’ve experienced full on menopausal hot flushes with full on sunshine and I cannot say that the results are attractive. I slither and squelch and pour with bodily fluids. Sweat is rather like snot, while you’re producing it you have no idea how you’ve managed to store such vast quantities of it in your body.

I am still convinced that the 90% of the brain we don’t really understand is just an underground snot factory.  In my case, the extra 10% is primeval sweat soup. It explains why my head cannot retain any information at all at the moment and all I see in my mind’s eye is an eternal, Fotherington Thomas style panorama of birds and sky.

Also, I must be careful not to commit any crimes, because I am leaving DNA bloody everywhere. I could offer you a pint.

This week, because the weather is waking up all the plants and it is a bit windy, there’s pollen in them thar hills, so I have also been producing snot, and in between waking up in a oleaginous heap, I am waking up with impacted sinuses which are giving me headaches that make me want to take a small but practical toffee hammer to my face.

In my mind, I approach this kind of weather like a woman in a louche, Eighties, Cadbury’s Flake advert. In reality I look like Kathy Burke after a night on the town in Gimme Gimme Gimme. It may explain why despite networking my arse off this week, I am not going to be winning any success in business awards.

That and the fact that the work email I have on my new and fabulous business card has been suspended by Easily, the provider, for some bizarre reason which, of course, is really difficult to rectify, and so even if people are banging on the inbox to give me thousands of pounds, I am not currently in.  I have also cracked my phone screen and the printer has given up and shuffled off its mortal coil.

The psychiatrist is most definitely out.

All this will pass, as things do, and I am grateful that I did not have to take anyone to hospital this week.

I did have to help Tilly bring all the things from her art studio home, so that she could decorate the studio and get it ready for her end of year exhibition. This was about as stressful as going to the hospital, because it is absolutely impossible to park near her building, she’s on the tenth floor and had nobody to help her carry things and she hadn’t packed any of it. I couldn’t leave the car, because when I did find somewhere to park, it was on double yellows, and so I watched her struggle back and forth with an increasingly weird selection of objects, including quite a few ceramic pieces that she hadn’t wrapped up, and which were lobbed on the back seat of my car in a cavalier fashion.  All the speed bumps on the way home were rather challenging and there was a lot of clinking and clunking going on. Luckily everything came home in one piece, although we have to repeat the journey on Monday, in reverse. GAWDELPUS.

This will be after my gynae consult at the hospital, so Monday is shaping up to outdo itself in Mondayness.

Anyoldhow. Let’s be positive.

I finally managed to finish reading my book, Wyntertide by Andrew Caldecott. It’s the second book in the Rotherweird series. You will need to read the first one to make any sense of the second. It’s a sort of fantasy, historical book with macabre and weird happenings. It reminds me in places of Gormenghast, but with more Tudors. If this sounds like your thing, it is very good.

My wonderful friends Ben and Helen sent me a package of assorted halloumi cheeses made in Yorkshire (as seen and lusted after on Nadiya Hussain’s cookery programme), for my birthday. We had one glorious evening eating the regular, chilli and rosemary flavours, and although it didn’t do my sinuses any good, it was fantastic. I highly recommend you get some.  The company is called Yorkshire Dama Cheese.

Cunk on Britain continues to delight. This week’s highlight was the interview with Chris Packham. ‘Talk me through the events that led up to Charles Darwin inventing the monkey.’

I met my wonderful friend Matt and we spent two hours in a pub garden in the sunshine, discussing ‘work’. Actually we spent one hour and fifty minutes laughing our arses off, and ten minutes frantically discussing work, but it’s all good.  Matt is the photographer who did my gorgeous business cards and who will photograph my second wedding (much like the second coming, but possibly less apocalypse. I say possibly. Who really knows?).  We get on very well indeed, due to a penchant for mucking about and calling it a ‘career’.  We are going to put on a photography exhibition in the first week in July. It was decided after much arm wrestling, that I would be the model and Matt would take the photographs. I did suggest we mix things up, but he will have his way.  We are doing our first shoot for this on Wednesday, and I am so excited.  I will tell you more as things develop.

You should definitely come. It will be brilliant.

I have been doing lots of work on issues medical, for the Patient Panel I sit on. I don’t actually sit on them, that would be mean. Particularly given how sweaty I am at the moment.

Anyway, we are looking at the wreckage of the NHS and trying to shore it up against its ruin. That sort of thing. I have done some positive things for patients this week, which is always cheering. I also went on local radio to talk about children and internet safety in a strokey beardy type way.  And next week  I go to London to be filmed for the Huffington Post on behalf of the Wear White Again campaign.

Let me explain. This is not because I am in any way glamorous.  There are two things that qualify me for this job. The first is that I bled copiously and publicly for about 35 years, which makes me a shoo in.  The second is that I am on record as a woman who is able to say vagina on national radio without fainting. These are on my CV and therefore, I win the chance to look drenched in sweat on film. Hoorah.

I hope nobody wants to shake my hand.

 

Back again, like Slim Shady but not

Hello!

It feels like I have been wandering in the wilderness for years. Turns out it’s only been about a fortnight, but you know me. I do like to pack a lot into my days, so I reckon it’s been at least a couple of months of regular time that I’ve been away.

I am ok, by and large. Mostly I am finding it incredibly difficult to build a small business, deal with the domestic sphere, wrangle three teenagers (two and one almost to be truthful) and have an actual life that doesn’t make me want to throw myself out of a window. I can manage two of these things with reasonable amounts of success but not three, and absolutely not four. So I rotate through the days, flinging my allotted stuff high into the air, and vainly hoping I will catch some of the stuff that comes back down.

I am only grateful I never ran away to join the circus. After my initial glory I would undoubtedly be relegated to sweeping up elephant shit for the rest of my shifts.

The last week of the Easter holidays was embuggered somewhat by the return of a migraine. I have to say that I am largely migraine free these days. I certainly don’t get ones that make me go blind and vomit for twenty-four hours any more, so this is winning. I do however, get the odd one here and there when the stresses and strains of life overwhelm me. This one lasted, with intermittent relief for which I am profoundly grateful, a week. For the most part I was still able to function for the duration, just not well. Not weller than usual, and usually I’m at the barely hanging on by my fingernails stage of things, being ill equipped for normality as I am.

Although I was better by last weekend, the effects piled into last week, because I had been so useless the week before, and I am only just beginning to get back to any kind of normality. Hence the break in service. I basically slimmed life down to what was necessary. Eating lots of food, turning up for things I couldn’t cancel, and trying to keep EBay sales up so I could pay some bills. Everything else was optional and definitely extra.

My birthday, which was last Monday, was largely a write off for lots of reasons. The highlight was a pizza and a glass of prosecco. This was nice, but I am a woman who likes to make the Queen look shy and retiring when it comes to matters of birth celebrating, so I was not entirely satisfied. I decided that I would extend my birthday for the entire week, and take every opportunity to spoil myself and be spoiled. It made up for the Mondayness of the actual day and I feel I have now scratched the birthday itch sufficiently.

Let’s have some edited highlights of the last fortnight.

Free cake for my birthday from the lovely lady at the Tiny Bakery when I confessed it had taken me three days to get to her to actually buy it.

Finally clearing out my wardrobe. My stock room looks like it has been burgled by tramps, there are so many items waiting to be listed for sale, but my wardrobe looks fantastic.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so I did indulge in some new items of clothing including a wicked and decadent Jean Varon maxi dress that you could actually turn into a yurt and live in.

Finding two, beautiful Ozwald Boateng suits in a charity shop, one of which is new and unworn, and both of which currently need snapping up by someone who has exquisite taste and appreciates a bargain.

Tilly made me a small, Japanese geisha doll for my birthday which I have called Maureen.

Finding and binge watching This Country on BBC IPlayer, both series. Also Cunk on Britain. These have got me through some dark times.

Spending a morning making peg dolls with the lovely four year old Doris, when her mum needed to go to a meeting, and couldn’t find any other baby sitter who had already had chicken pox. The house was glittered to the rafters, but we had a great time.

Lowlights:

Migraine for a week. A fucking week.

Trapping my finger in a drawer whilst cooking and chatting to a guest, and then having to style out the fact that I had cut across the nail bed and was bleeding all over the place.

Finding Tilly lying on the bathroom floor looking grey and sweaty when I thought she was at college. She had a headache and crippling stomach pains and we ended up having to take her to the hospital, whereupon it transpired she had a migraine. This is great because we thought it was appendicitis, but was also shit because migraine and pain and being mildly terrified.

Everyone in my family except Oscar deciding to have some kind of major emotional crisis in the space of three days. Everyone except me, which is better than everyone including me, but still. ARGH

Anyway. We putter on through life, and hopefully things will be much more the thing shortly.

 

 

Easter Shenanigans

Happy Easter folks. I hope you’ve spent it face down in a bowl of roast potatoes, occasionally lifting your potato smushed face to fork a shard of chocolate egg in there. I have spent it mostly listing things on EBay and nursing a case of piles, which Jason has decided to call Frank.

I have been treated to Malteser bunnies, which are my favourite Easter snack, so it’s not all doom and gloom, and I did find some amazing Scandinavian ginger biscuits at our local pound shop when I went in to bulk buy sellotape, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

I have not done anything terribly Easter holidayish to be honest. I blame the fact that I totally forgot it was the Easter holidays. I was not prepared, m’lud. They crept up on me and took me unawares.

Let’s see.

I spent Monday afternoon at the opticians. Originally it was only Tallulah who needed a check up. She always has twenty twenty vision because she is some rare, genetic throwback, so we weren’t bothered too much about her. She only goes for eye tests so she can gloat at the rest of us speccy twats. Oscar had to come because like his mother, he squints alarming at everything and even though he wasn’t due for a test, it was plain to everyone that he couldn’t see past the end of his own nose. Tilly, who is now an independent woman in the manner of Beyonce, but with paint stains, was also not meant to come, but accidentally snapped the arm of her glasses on Sunday night, so we made it a family trip. It does make a change from the dentist, where we spend the rest of our quality family time.

On Tuesday I had to take Tallulah shopping because she is going on holiday with her dad soon, and needed clothes for warm climes, as opposed to three vests and a snorkel parka, which is what we are all still wearing here, due to the fact that it is always fecking freezing. I spent a lot of time trapped in H&M, New Look and Primark looking hunted, while she tried on nine thousand identical items in every shop in the quest to find exactly the right shade of yellow hoodie, and I lost the will to live. Interestingly, me and the ladies who work in the changing rooms bonded, because they too were in despair, and I actually did quite a bit of networking and handed out business cards and chatted up a storm.

I spent the afternoon in a cocktail bar, pretending to have a meeting about work. This was very fun, except for the fact that I couldn’t drink cocktails myself, due to earlier in the day, having committed to going on local radio the next morning to talk about ambulances, and needing to be in the studio at seven in the morning sounding bright and breezy, and knowledgeable about non urgent patient transportation.  Next time I will organise myself better so that I can drink gin slings until they dribble out of my ears.

Wednesday morning saw me getting up at the ungodly hour of six o’clock, throwing some clothes on, sloshing caffeine into my gaping maw, and hot footing it to the radio station, where I chatted to a lovely man called Martin. I managed to get all the main points across, but with a lot more saying ‘err’ than I would have liked. It reminded me of Simon and the Witch, and how the teacher at Simon’s school calls the Witch, Mrs Err, because she doesn’t have adequate words to describe her. Should I take up a late blooming radio career, I think I will go under, Mrs. Err.

I came home and went back to bed until the day was less hideously early.

In the afternoon a wonderful lady called Carol came to see me. She is a professional Declutterer, if there is such a word. I am a professional Clutterer, so we complement each other perfectly.

Her business is called Absolutely Tidy, and that’s exactly what she does. She absolutely tidies. She took me in hand, and we spent about three hours, wearing miner’s lamps on our head and deep diving into my wardrobe. I now have so much stock to sell, I may not need to go shopping again for about a month, and we have only cleared out half of it. She’s giving me some time to recover, and sell some things, before we tackle the other half.

It is very liberating, and she is incredibly patient, and very focussed without being bossy or abrasive. She is, frankly, just what I need. She may be just what you need too. I am going to write about the whole process over on Boostique in much more detail, but so far, I am smitten, and calculating how many striped t-shirts I have to sell to pay her to tackle my ceramic hoard.

Thursday saw me doing a lot of work on new stories for the patient panel. Given the parlous state of the NHS, there is enough to keep me going for a lifetime, but I am particularly interested in where social care meets medical care and there are some interesting things to pursue. I say interesting. I mean head bangingly depressing, but you know. Stuff needs doing.

Jason sailed off to Cornwall on a road trip, and I started and finished the day with a weird, stress migraine that kept creeping up on me and requiring me to lie down in a darkened room.

On Friday I went to visit my lovely friend Kim, who after months of living down south and missing Leicester, has finally moved back to her rightful home so that we can resume our cake and coffee, setting the world to rights mornings. I ran home to see Andrea, who after months of living near that there London, came back for a visit so we could resume our sitting in the pub, stuffing our faces lunches. And then my husband came back from Cornwall, and my Tilly came back from her recent foray into the world of not living at home, and all my lovelies were in their rightful places, and even though I still had a migraine, it was good.

Yesterday saw me trying to get to grips with the sliding pile of stock in the front room by actually listing some of it to sell. The day was improved by Oscar, Jason and I (the girls were out with their dad) testing out the new pizza place on Queen’s Road (Halcyon – very good. Would eat again) and buying a fresh supply of cakes from Simon at the deli. Today has seen much of the same, but without pizza and more chocolate.

I have been very sad today, for inexplicable reasons, but possibly related to lack of Simon’s cake and having piles called Frank. I am going to cheer myself up by going to read my excellent new book, Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott. I need to finish it, because I’ve been sent the second book in the series to review and I hate to read things out of order. I think you’d like it. Check it out.

 

 

Two blog posts in one day. I am spoiling you

It’s 2.15 a.m. and I am not yet asleep, nor sleepy. I am not entirely sure what is happening. I suspect I will feel it in the morning. It’s probably my menopausal lack of hormones. The lack is less aggravating than the not lack, so I will endure.

In the meantime, while it is quiet, and nobody is expecting me to work miracles, and it’s too dark to take stock photos for EBay, I thought I’d pop in again and have a chat about more funner stuff.

I’ve been meaning to recommend Mick Herron’s London based espionage novels about Jackson Lamb, for simply ages. I briefly alluded to them in an earlier blog post, but never really got round to standing on my soap box and telling you all to rush off and read them.  Ideally in order. Start with Slow Horses, and go from there. Each ‘thrill’ is a standalone, but the characters and their development and back story are carried on chronologically and to get completely hooked you really need to start at the beginning. I’ve read the first four, and am saving the latest one for a bit. It only came out last month and I don’t like to be too up to date with a series, because authors are very unreliable creatures and the next one doesn’t always appear just when I need it.

I must also recommend The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond. I got it from NetGalley and it isn’t being published until April, but you can pre-order. I recommend going for a hard copy, because then you get much better quality illustrations by the brilliant Alex T. Smith as well as the incredible writing. Long termers amongst you will already know of my deep and abiding passion for anything David Almond writes. He is a children’s author, but do not let that put you off. He is lyrical and beautiful and reading him is rather like a religious experience. He reminds me a little of Flannery O’Connor, but better. Sometimes is work is very dark, almost harrowing, but this is redemptive and lovely and made me cry in a good way.

Watch Queer Eye if you have Netflix. Honestly, I haven’t been as pleased with a show since discovering RuPaul’s Drag Race. Queer Eye is, I think, more enjoyable, because it is genuinely lovely television. I binged watched the season and am now pining. It really does restore your faith in human nature. Also, I love them all, and want them to come round to Boo Towers for tea. It would be a riot.

I’ve also been catching up on some films with Jason and the kids, much to their amazement (I watch very little). I watched Deadpool and Thor Ragnarok and absolutely loved them both. I particularly loved that almost everyone who was in one of my all time favourite films, Hunt For the Wilderpeople, popped up in Thor, which was unexpected and delightful. Also Idris Elba was in it, and I’d watch him open an envelope, so it was all good.

Before I go, I must also recommend that if you ever want to know anything at all about coastal erosion, you need to ask Oscar. I am almost as amazed to find out that it is his specialist subject as I was to find out that he knows all the words to ‘Can’t Touch This,’ by M.C. Hammer. There are strange depths to that boy.

He came to ask me, just before I got in the shower the other night, if I wanted to see his dance about long shore drift. At this point, all thoughts of cleanliness fled, and I stared at him like an idiot. He patiently repeated himself, and then, when I confessed that I didn’t even know what long shore drift was, rolled his eyes and said; ‘What is wrong with you?’ To which I didn’t have a single, coherent answer.

Anyway, he explained it to me in great detail, complete with dance, and then sat outside the shower telling me how rock arches on beaches are formed and how the White Cliffs of Dover aren’t even white, and they have to get a man in with 400 gallons of Dulux white emulsion and a roller on a stick.

It was almost better than Thor.