Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Nice Green Vin

At last! Something minimal and well designed: these reusable wine bottles from Borough Wines new shop on Church Street cost £2.50 and then you can fill them up as many times as you like at a fiver a go. No more shipping crates of bottles around the world, no landfill and no more embarrassing piles of empties outside the house on recycling day.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Fool's Gold

So, apparently Friday afternoon's activity at camp GB in the Olympic Village was collage: the team were kept busy sticking strips of white fabric onto their jackets to obliterate the slogan 'Better Never Stops' which had been embroidered on the back but at the last minute was deemed inappropriate by the IOC.
Better to have stuffed the whole ghastly consignment into bin-bags, dumped them outside Next and headed to Rokit in Covent Garden where the mannequins were sporting a stylish and elegant range of Olympic vintage fashion.

Friday, 27 July 2012

No Party Bags Then?

"Just writing, NO pictures or anything"
"But we always do a picture! Remember that cute one of Enzo in the sleeping bag when you had a sleep-over party...and the one where Daddy Photoshopped your head onto John Travolta's body?"
"Just the time, date and the address; in black and white, no fancy writing, no colour, no pictures."
"Okay...that sounds a bit boring though. We could put some decorations up? A few balloo..."
"What about the food?"
"No food - just Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Breezers."
"Don't be silly, you've got to have food at a party. I'll make a pavlova, I always make pavlova on your birthday."
"No pavlova. You don't have pavlova at a rave."
"How about pizza?"
"Order pizza then. Text me when it's here, I'll come up and get it. Just cheese and tomato."
"Or I could get the pizza bases and toppings and you could make you own! that's fun!"
"No it isn't, we're not babies."
"Gosh, haven't you all grown up!"

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Holidaying in England

Dew drenched grass on the way to the shower block; families of rabbits in the dawn mist; moorhen chicks having their first adventure in the long grass under the caravan; being trusted to leave payment for trays of gooseberries and redcurrants in a box on a garden wall; jam sandwiches; hollyhocks; shopping for Italian wine, French cheese and Spanish olives at Asda in Harwich; letting the kids chuck all their favorite snacks in the trolley - at Asda prices; hedgerows; poppies; winding country lanes; glimpses of the estuary, as blue as the Aegean; paddling; tiny crabs; dark oak forests and golden corn fields; friends jumping on the train at Liverpool street and arriving an hour later, just in time for an aperitif; making a campfire on the beach; watching bats; counting shooting stars in an unpolluted sky; laying in the quiet, still night with only your sunburn keeping you awake.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Our Street Torched

Much excitement yesterday as we took our seats for the torch coming down Lordship Park and right past our house...Capri wanders off
"I've seen enough, I didn't come here to witness a vulgar display of corporate sponsorship, woof!"

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Yesterday was a terrible day. It ranks as one of the worst ever. I’m not talking about the dismal weather; that would be reason enough to feel depressed but it was a day so sad that it had the potential to cloud my life forever.
At 11 am, my next-door neighbor, June called. She said there was a mother duck and baby ducks in her back garden. June is 80 years old. Jack her husband is also 80, he had gone to Wickes to buy a sink. She didn’t know what to do. Clueless about ducks ourselves, Brian and I waded in. John followed with the camera. Huddled under some dripping wet shrubbery was the mother, as sleek as an otter and gathered around her were eleven exquisitely beautiful, dark-brown, fluffy ducklings. I called the RSPCA – they said leave them alone; the mother would lead them to safety. What? across Lordship Park? on the zebra? and what about the cats, the magpies, the foxes? They must have come from the park, but why? I think they were heading to the reservoir. In a panic we decided to try and capture them and return them to the safety of the lakes in Clissold Park. John ushered them up the alley beside the house as Jack pulls into the drive. June, Jack, Brian and I lay in wait with a large towel and an old, fabric garden-bin. The family gave us the slip behind Jack’s Mercedes and somehow ended up in the deep gulley that runs around the basement bay windows. John jumped down and started to fill his pockets with tiny ducklings while the rest of us fretted in the relentless grey drizzle, watching. All the time the agitated mother was communicating in soft, urgent croaks while her offspring chirruped in response. Buses, cars and vans rumbled by a few yards away. I could hear our dogs barking in the basement next door. It was going to be much more difficult to catch the mother. With a couple of flaps she was out of the gully and pacing the edge. Then she was back in the gulley, frantically trying to round up her remaining chics. John calmly threw the towel over her, swiftly wrapped her up in it and handed the bundle to me.
“Here, hold tight while I get the rest of the babies.” She was panicking and I couldn’t contain her in the towel; she wriggled her way free and flew into the sky. With one hand John made a motion of pointing a gun at me and firing it, with the other he scooped up the final chic and dropped it into the garden bin. What now? We searched the sky and waited. The ducklings were going crazy at the bottom of the bin. It was my idea for Brian and Jack to take the babies to the park and empty them onto the bank near the lake in the hope that mum would make her way back there and find them. June and I would wait and see if the she came back to the house. John returned to the Xbox, tutting. We waited in the rain for ten minutes and then headed towards the park. As we entered the gates I could just about make out Brian and Jack in the misty rain at the far end of the lake. In the middle of the choppy grey water was the cluster of ducklings, bobbing about, helpless. A couple of pessimistic, dog-walking acquaintances were looking on in horror.
“They’re only a couple of days old, they wont survive out there without their mother!”
“The terrapins will pull them under.”
A heron stared at the fluffy knot as it drifted towards the island. This was all a BIG mistake.
“Call Trent Park Nature Reserve.” Someone suggested. I wanted to wade into the lake and scoop the babes back into the bin. I wiped the rain from my iPhone and googled Trent Park. There was a mobile number – I called it and gabbled the predicament to a sympathetic bloke at the end of the phone.
“I’ve been working with ducks for twenty-seven years. It’s hopeless. Once a duckling is separated from it’s mother and is in the water it will only survive for a few minutes. Their down isn’t like feathers; it’s not waterproof. It becomes saturated with water really quickly and they just sink. Even if you could get a boat out with a net you’d be lucky to save even one.”
“Okay, thanks, thanks anyway.” I staggered to a bench and watched as an adult duck approached the brood.
“Maybe that’s the dad!”
The duck gave an aggressive quack and the duckings skimmed across the water in fear.
“No, I don’t think he’s the dad.”
June and Jack were trudging home and as we followed them along the side of the lake the current was dividing the bunch and the fragile balls of fluff were dispersed amongst the reeds.
We returned in gloom. June and Jack tried to make optimistic comments like,
“I’m sure the mum will find them” and “It wasn’t your fault.” Brian didn’t say anything.
The rest of the day was dreadful. John was getting ready to go on holiday to Croatia and wanted a haircut. I wasn’t in the mood and accidentally had the clippers on the wrong setting and shaved a bald patch above one ear and he went spare.
I googled abandoned ducklings.
“Ducklings can become separated from their mother for a number of reasons but in the majority of cases it is due to human interference.”
Brian gave the dogs their evening walk around the lakes. He reported no sightings of the duck family but tried to make out that that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. They were probably snuggled up with mummy duck on the island.
I didn’t sleep last night. The image of the tiny, vulnerable ducklings adrift on the lake haunted every moment. As I shifted about in bed I had a horrible pain in my chest. I couldn’t bear to think about the grief of the mother duck and the gruesome death of her babies.
At 6 am I got up. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. Brian was in the shower. I shouted through the door,
“I’m going to the park to look for the ducklings. I know it’s hopeless but I have to. I’ll take the dogs.”
As I opened the front door both dogs tugged on their leads and pulled me down the steps; probably next-door-the-other-way’s cat. Then I saw her, the mother duck at the bottom of the steps near the gully. I ran back up and banged on the door and rang the bell. That was the most heart-breaking of all outcomes: the mother duck comes back to look for her babies and not a single one is here – because I took them to the lake and they’ve all been eaten by terrapins. Brian opened the door and I fell in sobbing.
“Hang on!” he shouts. All the babies are here too! Look! Huddled on the corner of the gulley. See, you were right. You were right to take them to the lake. The mother was watching all the time.”
Indescribable joy and more sobbing. John had left at 1am to catch his flight but Brian managed to get all the ducklings and the mum into boxes and Jack drove us up to the reservoir where we left them in the long grass. After a moment they slipped down the bank into the water and glided off. The mother turned and looked back at us several times before disappearing into the distance. When I called the guy at Trent Park to tell him of the happy news he said that all the ducks that he has rescued and released safely over the years have always looked back at him and he takes that as a thank you.
When I got home I asked Brian,
“What if they come back AGAIN? That would be awful.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll flood the gulley for them!”
“Brilliant! I’ve always fancied a moat.”

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Friday, 13 July 2012

Marie Antoinette Visits Lordship Park

Sarah! Sarah! Se reveiller, les saucisses pour les chiens sont arrives et ils ont besoin de congélation avant elles rancissent, ils est très important, réveillez-vous!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Junk Mail

Much excitement!  A scruffy, dog-eared box made from milk cartons and held together with an assortment of sticky tape and string, finally arrived this morning after kicking round in the hold of a ship that set sail from Vitenam three months ago. 
OMG! What does it look like? It looks like some thing that's been stuffed into a makeshift box, held together with bits of string that's been kicking round the hold of a ship for three months...

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Brian got caught up in the carnival as he dropped Ed at the theatre today - luckily he was suitably dressed!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

I have always loved the colour grey. Always. Here's me and B in Elle Decoration in June 2001 - the article is even called Glad To Be Grey.

I painted my house grey...
And filled every floor with grey things...

Then stuck a grey whippet in it...
I consider myself to be a bit of an expert on grey - I could probably write a book about it. Call it something like... Fifty Shades of Grey, but according to all the Italia Conti mums that were round here for drinks last night it's already been done. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

It Never Rains But It Pours

So, when I eventually got home, having -
driven Ed to school; queued at Hackney town hall for 50 minutes in order to hand over £260 for some parking permits; picked up John from Holly's and taken him to the Portacabin doctor's surgery where there was a 2 hour wait to be told he needed to go to A & E; waited with him at Hommerton Hospital for an hour in order to interpret his grunts to the duty doctor; nipped out in the pouring rain to move the car because you are only allowed parking for one hour; waited another hour, then was seen for 2 minutes; drove back via chemist to get prescription where they informed me that the doc had prescribed tablets that would be tricky to swallow with acute tonsillitis and should have written prescription for liquid penicillin - they would like to give me the liquid but were legally required to supply tablets, as that was what was written on the prescription. However, I was welcome to go back to Hommerton and get him to write out another prescription, which was probably the best idea because if I took this one and he couldn’t swallow the pills then I’d have to pay again to get the liquid stuff - £15; told them not to worry - we'd break the tablets in half and get them down there somehow; dropped John and his carrier-bag full of drugs outside the house and headed off to collect Ed from Mimi's -
Ocado had only gone and delivered 36 rolls of apricot coloured toilet paper. Well, I was ready to explode.
"What's that lot doing here?" Ed's horrified. "You’ll have to go and get some white ones. The Italia Conti Mums are coming round tomorrow night aren’t they? – you can’t let them see that stuff. I don’t want all my friend's mothers thinking you’ve gone mad.”
Who buys pastel loo roll? It says ‘natural pebble’ on the packet. Natural pebble?? – must be the new peach.
Did they deliver the wine? Better not be blush.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Monday, 2 July 2012

Hot Cold Cure

Brian and John have been overdoing it and have both come down with something, so today I went to Stoke Newington Greens on Church Street and got a huge box of fruit and veg. Now I need to turn this lot into something that they can ladle into a bowl while I go to Pilates.
Sore Throat Soup
Large white onion, 3 leeks, garlic, large piece of ginger cut into slithers, green chilli, red chilli, lime cut in half and chucked in, 3 sticks of lemon grass, 3 large carrots, fresh peas, fennel. Cook everything in a couple of pints of chicken stock for twenty minutes.

(We have had a houseful of excited brides-to-be getting makeovers today so I didn't bother to fry the onions first - thought the smell might not mix too well with all the hairspray and might linger in the silk tulle.)
Throw in  2 handfuls of rice and some left over chicken and cook for another ten minutes then add spinach along with any other greens at the end. Fish out the squishy limes and the tough sticks of lemongrass. Finish with chopped coriander. 
Ed is on his third bowlful. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Just Another Inch Before Bed

With Ed at the theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue several times a week I often find myself with an hour or two to kill in Covent Garden. My latest and current favourite discovery is Blackout - a vintage shop stuffed full of ball gowns, dresses, handbags, shoes, scarves and jewellery from the 1920s to the 1980s. They have a nice selection of ties and cravats too: handy if you know anyone partial to a bit of fancy neckwear....
On Saturday night we went to a lovely party on Lordship Park and the new tie was just the thing. Shame we had to leave sensibly early as Ed had a tap exam today but we not so sensibly carried on the party at home...
Have you ever tried sitting in a dance studio for two hours with a thumping hangover while a group of teenagers warm up for a tap exam?