I chose the more casual restaurant

Way back in 2000, fresh off the plane from Australia, I wandered the streets of Soho, where I’d found a flat, looking for restaurant work. Within the first day or two, I was offered two jobs – one as a waitress at a very informal Japanese, canteen-style place, Satsuma; the other, at a more upmarket, swanky place as front of house/ hostess. Money-wise, there wasn’t much to choose between them, but perks-wise, Satsuma was offering two free meals a day; the other place, a designer suit to wear.

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I was barely 27, and impressionable. I quite fancied the idea of managing bookings, assigning groups of moneyed (well, moneyed compared to me at least) types to their tables and engaging in a bit of welcome banter. And I very much fancied the idea of the suit. But I was, as I am now, greedy and, as I’m fortunately not now, pretty broke. Two meals a day. Japanese, to boot. Surely I’d avoid the Heathrow fat Injection (the legendary stone that Antipodeans gain when they arrive on these shores) if I took the job at Satsuma?

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So, guess what. I took the job at Satsuma. It was a proper laugh, and the food was fab. I made friends with people I’m still friends with today. And, 13 years ago today, a group of lads walked in to celebrate one of their birthdays. Which is how, in the serving of beer and ramen, I met my husband.

I’m certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he’d never have set foot in the other place. Which, incidentally, is no longer in existence – while Satsuma is still going strong. As, 13 years later, are we.

I didn’t have to get into the pool

I am Not Good with the cold. I feel it easily, and terribly. It makes me so miserable that it can move me almost to tears.

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I’ve been cold pretty much continually lately, despite valiant layering efforts with thermals and cashmere. Yesterday I made an error of judgement with footwear, which left me on the brink of desperation by afternoon. Today, I was taking no chances – three Uniqlo Heattech tops under a knit dress with a scarf and faux fur jacket, plus 2 pairs of tights (one thermal) and long boots. Better, much better. What a relief, then, to take my youngest to his swimming lesson safe in the knowledge that my days of Mother & Baby swimming lessons are a good 6 months behind me. No blue-skin inducing changing room antics for me, no tentative toe into chilly waters and no desperate turning of the shower tap wondering, angrily, whether this bloody thing gets any HOTTER??!! Just whizzing my son into his rash shirt and trunks, a cheery kiss on the cheek with a “have fun, love!” and then a steaming green tea to be sipped as I hunched into my layers in the enclosed poolside viewing room.

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Afterwards, we headed to one of our favourite cafes, The Dish & The Spoon, for lunch. It was warm, cosy and friendly in there; around us, people tucked into über-generous serves of steaming black bean chilli. I have no intention of getting out of these layers until immersing myself into my own scalding hot shower tonight – and then, rock and rollingly, straight into Hush flannelette pyjamas and bed.

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I saw my friend

I’ve been doing some life experiments lately. Would spending less time on social media mean that I would see/ talk to my friends more? Facebook is a habit that I developed through three or four back-to-back years of having tiny babies, spending lots of time at home, or up feeding late at night. It was a welcome outlet, a chance to banter and gossip, a chance to feel like I was still part of a bigger word. But with my three children now aged 6,5 and 3, I’ve taken a step back and wondered how much more fulfilled I might be doing those things in ‘real life’ rather than virtually.

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Take my friend Eve. I ‘met’ her on Mumsnet in 2009. We subsequently became Facebook friends and eventually, real life friends (we also collaborate, with some other Mumsnet friends, on a blog where we talk a lot about clothes). But so frequent and reliable was our interaction on Facebook that I became lazy: despite her living a 10-15 minute drive away, I’ve not seen her since last June, when she was heavily pregnant. So until today, I’d not even met her gorgeous (and I mean, utterly gorgeous) new bambina. But hearing about her, seeing photos of her, kind of lulled me into the false sense that I had.

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So. Today I am happy that I saw my friend. We met at Grind in Westfield Stratford, where the coffee is perfect (and oh my, the cakes look sensational). I cuddled La Bambina. We talked, and talked, and laughed, and talked. We wandered around favourite shops, tried things on, modelled them for each other, ventured our opinions, spotted things that we knew the other would love and suit. It was perfect. Facebook still has a place in my life, for sure – after all, lots of my friends are on the other side of the world – but hearing your friend’s laugh and seeing their baby smile and wave at you … well honestly, what could be better than that?

image from Grind website

image from Grind website

image from Grind website

image from Grind website

he was reading Murakami

Taking my youngest out this morning, we squeezed on to a packed commuter train at Crofton Park. Finding a seat and holding my son, in all of his puffa-jacketed squeeziness, on my lap, I found myself knee-to-knee with an older man, say in his 60s, reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. 

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“Oh I love that book!” I exclaimed.

He looked up and smiled; he had a kind face. “It’s wonderful,” he agreed. “Very inspiring,”

That was it really. Just a few more smiles for my son as he prattled gaily on about everything and nothing, and a smile and a goodbye for me as I got off the train. I wondered whether he was a runner; whether he’d ever run a marathon (or, heaven forbid, an Ultra; the mere thought of it makes me feel quite sick).

My own marathon plans (Paris, April 2012) were scuppered last year by pneumonia and, with my lungs still ‘not quite right’, I’ve shelved long runs for now and am running the British 10K London Run in July with my friend Steph – check out her blog, Mama Marmalade – for Tommy’s. Since we’ve both experienced the loss of a child, and considering that Steph is soon to leave the UK to head back home, I’m predicting that it will be an even more meaningful experience than hauling my family to Paris to watch me stagger over 4 times that distance could ever have been! And besides, if you don’t always achieve your goals, well, you can always set new ones, right?

we got some kulcha

Well I did say the other day that I wasn’t overly fond of trips to the park and in any case, it’s too blimmin’ cold to spend any meaningful amount of time in one.

Today, we took our three little ragamuffins to see Bringing Down the Moon at The Albany in Deptford, a Peaceful Lion production. Now, The Albany is pretty much the perfect theatre venue for kids – for the sake of an hour or so long production, you may not want to schlep into town, so its proximity to home is a bonus. As well as that, it’s a great space with good acoustics (we made the mistake of going to see something in a church hall recently .. oh my ears!) and a decent cafe. Suffice to say, we all – even my usually less theatrically enthusiastic husband – really enjoyed it.

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There were vague mutterings of ‘going home’ and ‘playing on the Wii” when it ended but no! Today’s the last Sunday of the month and that means that the Sunday Spot, a family-friendly, artist-led workshop, was in residence at South London Gallery. The activity usually ties in, in some way, with the current exhibition but the workshop leader cheerily informed us that it was ‘a bit heavy’ (certainly looks it) so they’d decided to go with the funner option of headdress-making, dressing up, makeup application, a photo booth and a catwalk. I do love my children having creative fun that I’m not going to have to clear up. We slathered ourselves with makeup – huge blue rings around our eyes, thunderbolts on our cheeks – made cardboard crowns, wristbands, neckpieces and belts and struck ridiculous poses in front of the camera. Okay, so maybe the mere fact of it being in an art gallery doesn’t make it ‘kulcha’. But it was fun, and it wasn’t the park, or the Wii. And it was time, all five of us, together, before school goes back tomorrow.

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she offered me a tissue

Seriously, what was I thinking? I’ve read Les Misérables several times and seen the stage production a few times on top of that. I’ve recounted the bones of the story to my children, and allowed them to watch excerpts of the musical on You Tube. Not once, not one single time, have I managed to do any of these things without blubbing uncontrollably.

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So why on earth did I go to see the film last night armed with not so much as a single tissue? I’m a mother of three for heaven’s sake – pocket sized packs of tissues are plentiful in my home. I was canny enough to take a tub of Inspiral kale chips with me (sooo much better than popcorn) but tissues? Nope.

Actually, I’m a bit cross with my husband on this score too – he knows that Les Mis is akin to a leaky faucet for me. Why didn’t he bring any tissues? Huh? Huh?

Disappointingly, a rubbish projectionist at the Odeon persisted in chopping the heads of characters off in almost every scene, but even so, throughout the film, especially during my various flashpoints (Javert’s suicide being a biggie) I sensed that the lady sitting next to me was glancing sideways at me as I sniffed and snivelled and surreptitiously tried to wipe away the tears that rolled helplessly down my cheeks. I was too emotional even to be embarrassed.

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She leaned in. “Would you like a tissue? It’s clean,” she whispered, reaching into her bag. Absolutely yes please, I would. And do you know, the other thing that I was pretty happy about is that I’m not much of a makeup wearer. Grateful for that tissue as I was, I don’t think it would have been sufficient to deal with a mascara-striped face. Vive the bare-faced look! Vive the kindness of strangers!

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we bought our daughter a desk

So the loft conversion has finally been completed and the Great Big Room Changeover has been effected. We’re in the loft, the boys are in what was our room, our daughter is in what was the boys’ room and I am writing this post from her old room, which is now the office/ guest room.

I well remember being six, and the pleasure I took in arranging everything just so in my own bedroom, so I’ve felt bad for my daughter that she’s been squished into the small bedroom for so long, with little space to display her treasures or hang out with her friends. Naturally enough, now that she has a big bedroom, she wants a bunk or trundle bed and sleepovers every night of the week. But a desk was also on her wishlist (blimey but they get a lot of homework already!) as she’s totally into the whole writing in journals/ writing notes to friends/ jotting down ideas phase. Tidying up the other day, I came across two separate notes, one saying “I love my Mama so much I would do enething for her,” and the other reading “my Dada is a DIY disaster and relly relly relly cuddly.”

Anyway, picking up the lamb from Flock and Herd on Bellenden Rd last week, I caught sight of a 50s-style school desk a few doors down at Worn Not Torn, the kind with the flip-top lid. I love these desks; so much more personality and charm than something from the likes of Ikea. It looked like it would fit perfectly within the ‘nook’; we measured, it would. So here it is, in all of its newly-arranged-with-juvenile-stationery-glory. Now she just needs a chair.

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