I ran in the sunshine

I had a bit of a disastrous run a few weeks ago: reached about the 4 mile mark and then, whump! my iffy knee totally gave out. Couldn’t bear my weight at all; tried to keep running through it (“Think of Joe Simpson” I told myself sternly) but to no avail. I hobbled all the way home. Via Brockley Market and a Dark Fluid coffee, mind you, so it wasn’t all bad news.

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Anyway, I’ve been wary of running outdoors since then: at least if I’m at the gym on the treadmill and my knee starts to play up, I’ve got low-impact options on hand so that I can get some form of a workout. Man alive, it’s dull though! Not so bad on the short runs, which are done and dusted within 30 minutes or so, but on the longer ones of 90-100 minutes it’s boooring. Which is why they have TV screens that you can plug your headphones into on the machines, I guess. So again, not all bad news: I’ve been introduced to the larger-than-life engagingness of Guy Fieri, salivated over (and subsequently made – I’ve included the recipe and a photo at the end of this post) his Ahi Poke and have chortled over a re-run of Ugly Betty (Wilhemina: “Well, of course I’m worried, Marc. But when someone gives you chintz, you can do two things: A) whine about the fact that it’s an upholstery fabric, or B) turn it into a fabulous bolero jacket.”)

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My knee has been pretty well-behaved on my last few runs and, having done a long one yesterday, it was only a shortish one on the agenda for today anyway. Plus, need I even mention it, the sun, the sun, the glorious sun! Gym, grim. So I ran in one of my favourite parks. It was ace. Golden light, blossoming trees, dappy dogs, happy people. And my knee didn’t bother me once.

 

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That’s a photo of my Ahi Poke, and below is the recipe that I used. I upped the amounts on the macadamias and chilli, and served it over rocket/ arugula and ribboned zucchini/ courgette to make it into more of a ‘meal.’ I’m not sure where you’d get Maui onions from in the UK but I gather they are a sweet onion so I used a red onion instead. Ask your fishmonger (I went to the wonderful F.C Soper in Nunhead) for sashimi-grade tuna.

Ingredients
1 pound fresh ahi (yellowfin tuna)
1 teaspoon finely chopped macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, optional
Salt
1/4 cup shaved Maui onion
2 tablespoons finely sliced green onions
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 cup finely julienned, toasted dried seaweed

Directions
Cut the ahi into 3/4-inch cubes and put in a large mixing bowl. Add the nuts, sesame oil, soy sauce, chili flakes and salt to taste. Lightly toss together. Then add the Maui onions and green onions and lightly toss to combine. Season with additional salt if needed and black pepper to taste. Garnish with the seaweed.

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we car-booted it

I love a detox, I do. I love the feeling of shedding things: weight, toxins, sweat, habits, possessions, even people. If it’s baggage, if it doesn’t make you happy, if it doesn’t benefit your life: it can go.

Obviously this isn’t always achievable, especially when it comes to people. But where I can cull, I’ll cull.

Unfortunately, I’m also prone to acquisition, which is a habit I’m working hard to break in this, my 41st year. But it’s easy to overlook just how much you acquire when you’re ridding yourself of things in drib and drabs. It’s like weight, I guess: a week of big meals and excessive drinking here, the odd pound there .. you don’t just gain 2 stone overnight, do you? I can see why people talk about their weight ‘just creeping up.’ It’s the same for me and, well, mostly clothes and books. A few in, a few more in, a few out, a few more in.

When we had our loft conversion done at the end of last year, we gained a gorgeous bedroom with a fab view, yes. But we also lost a whole lotta storage space. Time indeed for a cull.

As I said, getting rid of things in random trips to charity shops, recycling bins, the tip and the post office (I just can’t face eBay anymore, personally) doesn’t give you a real sense of the enormity of your hoard. Seeing it all in one place at the one time, at a car boot sale, was an education, and actually a rather humbling one. I’m going to try to be far less acquisitive in future (although I know, yes yes I know, full well that I’ve said this before)

And – on a completely self-indulgent and not at all earnest nor humble note – it was also very gratifying to see the extent to which people swooped delightedly upon my cast-off clothes. Good grief, can you imagine – bad enough to be guilt-ridden about how much stuff you’ve bought over the last year or so – even worse to think that it was all tasteless crap that no one liked!

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we chose the friendly, familiar cafe option

There was a lot of faffage about where to eat lunch today. I had both of the boys with me and they had all sorts of fanciful ideas about what they wanted and where they wanted it. Jamie’s Italian was mooted at one point, as was the Horniman Museum cafe. I’ve been wanting to check out Rocca, as it’s a popular Friday night post-school dinner hang out, and I always like to do a recce before committing to plans with others and their kids, since what I can and can’t/ will and won’t eat can make such arrangements tricky. But bear in mind that both boys have been afflicted with off-colouredness this week (less vague in the case of my 3 year old, who threw up, spectacularly, no less than 3 times earlier in the week and has been off his food ever since.) I figured we should probably go home, but they, euphoric with the ‘treatiness’ of being together on a Friday, insisted on lunching out.

Eventually they expressed a desire for a lunch that I thought sounded feasible and I took us off to a place where I knew we’d get it. The Dish and The Spoon is one of our favourite cafes, and the only reason I’d not suggested it earlier was because I knew we were going to be there for a party on the weekend.

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There are no words to describe how glad I am that we ended up in this sunny den of familiarity. Almost as soon as we sat down, my eldest son, already with a certain dullness in his usually bright eyes, started to look even more listless, leaning his head on the table and taking little interest in the food he’d been so excited about. I’m a major league scoffer,  especially since my preferred form of Intermittent Fasting means that I rarely eat before 2 or 3pm, so I patted him soothingly on the knee while wolfing my salad (the cauliflower, in particular, was amazing – really simple and tasty) and hoped for the best.

“Shall we just take this home and have it later?” I asked, gesturing towards his still-full plate at the side of my all-but-licked-clean one. He nodded. And then – eugh, that noise, that gurgly choking noise, you know the one, whether you’re a parent or not! – he vomited. I grabbed the nearest thing – a completely useless flyer, as it turned out – and tried to contain it, but to no avail; in desperation, I resorted to my bare hands. Youngest son, still off his food despite the fact that he’d been so keen to eat out, was goggle-eyed; no hope of him eating now.

I turned to the people at the next table – thank goodness we eat late, so the lunchtime crowds had dispersed somewhat. “I’m so sorry this is happening as you eat,” I said, lamely.

Within minutes, the lovely owner of the cafe and her staff had clocked the situation and materialised by my side with rolls of paper towel and plastic bags. I was so mortified; they were so sweet. My son seems much better tonight. And I know these things happen, and it could’ve been worse and all the rest of it. And I’m sure that anyone in any of the other places we thought about today would’ve been kind and helpful in the same situation. But I’m so glad that, if it had to happen at all, it happened in a place where the owners know us by name and made us feel one hundred times better about it than we would have felt if we’d been somewhere unfamiliar or – even worse – stuffy and disapproving.

And – strike me down for my greed and selfishness – I’m glad it happened after I’d finished my sald. Seriously, that cauliflower was good. 

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he was rocking a Mohawk

I could’ve been a bit miserable today. It’s my husband’s birthday, and the amazing day we’d had planned – complete with wonderful, reliable friends stepping up to collect our children from their various places of education, take them home and feed them, in order to give us more time to hang out in this long-awaited warm weather – was scuppered by work commitments. On top of that, it’s Anzac Day, which means that, celebrations (or lack thereof) with my husband aside, I’m more than a little homesick.

I salved my Aussie yearnings somewhat by baking Anzac biscuits rather than a birthday cake yesterday (yes, alright, alright, he’ll get a cake too – on the weekend, okay?) but with the sun blazing down and both of us at work – no child-free, young lovers day to enjoy, nor a game of Two-Up and far too many beers – I had to keep slapping that black dog away from my shoulder.

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And then I saw this chap. I was at Oxford Circus on my way back from work to pick up the children, and he was announcing the arrival of the next Tube service, sporting his high-vis vest, yes, but also a fantastic Mohawk and body art to rival the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I loved that we were right near Carnaby Street, loved the fact that tourists, hoping, even in the face of all of the uniformity of chains and brands, to suck up a bit of what made that area famous, would’ve relished the sight of him. I loved the way he casually reminded people to “mind the gap” as he himself slouched, one leg up, against the train carriage.

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I miss Sydney every day, but if I have to live somewhere else for now, then he, and all of the theatricality he represented – plus the lovely friends who insisted that my husband & I reschedule his not-curtailed-by-school-hours birthday mooch whenever – made me glad, and grateful, that it’s London.

I sang at the top of my lungs

My car started making some pretty fearsome noises a day or so ago. It sounded, according to my eldest son, ‘like a helicopter’. And typically, I had just had it MOT’ed last week.

By this morning, the noise of it had become more than just an irritation. It was stressing the life out of me, conjuring up visions of wheels clattering off into oncoming traffic as I navigated the school run; visions of pile-ups and injured schoolkids. Fortunately I managed to safely deliver all three of my children to school and nursery, but by the time I set off for the garage, I just couldn’t listen to that noise any more. Up to the max went the volume control on the stereo and before long, I was belting along to Blur’s On Your Own

I’ve got an okay voice, nothing brilliant but certainly nothing embarrassing (“I’m not that good but I’m not that bad…” Geddit?) But that was hardly the point. Man it felt good. Sun beating down, legs out (in a skirt) for the first time this year, just hyped enough on an a.m caffeine buzz to switch my sense of unease about the car over into reckless yeah whateverness. When the song was over, I hit the back button and played it all over again.

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he was discreet about the available choices

Some friends of ours are over from the States for a week or so; one of them is marking a 30th birthday while here. I am neither wailing nor gnashing my teeth about the 10 years that separates me from this milestone, however. Well, not much. And if I am, well, I’ve taken the edge off my chagrin by massively enjoying the celebrations that this weekend has offered. It started on Friday night with a large group of us having dinner at Julie’s in the banqueting room and continued on Saturday with a private party upstairs at All Star Lanes in Brick Lane. Plenty of fragile demeanours, lots of bad bowling and a menu perfect for hangover-soothing and hair-of-of-the dogging. (I can barely bring myself to say the word ‘dogging’ after the recent Channel 4 documentary; indeed, I can barely read Dogger to my children without wincing/ chortling, depending on my mood … but in any case, you know what I mean. Midday booze. Good stuff.)

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My boys had rugby at 11am so my daughter and I made our way to Shoreditch High St on our own, with my husband due to bring them to meet us later. Our usual ‘place’ is Fika, which has a cute little roof top terrace – so tempting on such an unexpectedly sunny day – but there was only time en route for a quick flat white, which we picked up from Street Coffee, also on Brick Lane. I’m highly amused by their motto of “come happy, leave edgy” but even were it not for the fact that it would take a shedload of coffee to make this hardened addict strung out, I actually left in fits of mirth, as my 6 year old daughter had clocked, for the first time ever, the iconic Athena tennis poster. Ha! Her horror knew no bounds and her voice, no decibel limit. “Mummy what is she DOING!! Oh my god, she’s scratching her BUM and she’s not even wearing KNICKERS. Why is she DOING that?!!” Her eyes were saucer-wide; terribly cute.

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Anyway, I digress from the point of this post. Although it is beverage related and also vaguely related to being strung out, albeit on sugar rather than caffeine.

So. We meet with our friends at the bowling alley and head to the bar. Other kids there are drinking Coke, so of couse my girl asks for one. Worth a try, but she knows the answer will be no: I just don’t let my kids have fizzy pop, not only because of everything you read about childhood obesity and lousy teeth but also because the sugar high and subsequent crash are just so vile. So. I say no, she pouts half heartedly, I ask the bartender what juices they have, he runs me through them. I’m about to order when he says “And there are some other options, but I’ll let you be the judge of those,” and points to a section of the menu where milkshakes and soda floats abound.

Well come on, I’m strict but I’m not that strict. Of course I ordered her a chocolate milkshake! They contain osteoporosis-fighting calcium, don’t they?!! Besides which, mothers need to be wary of too much pot-kettle stuff as their kids get older don’t they: “Yes, I am hungover and yes I am planning on starting to drink before noon but you, you Cinders my love, you may have a Still Mineral Water.” I mean, please. She’s seen the Athena poster now: innocence out the door and savviness in. I’m doomed.

But my point, the point of all of this is: how nice. He didn’t have to be so discreet about the other stuff on the menu. He could’ve shouted the options to a Jessie J tune while dancing on the bar. He could’ve winked alarmingly at my daughter and offered her ‘something special for a pretty girl.” He could have laid the guilt on thick with a “Oh go on Mummy, let her have a Coca Cola.” He could, potentially, have created a situation where Strict, Mineral-Water-Pushing Mummy had her afternoon sullied by a meltdown of massive proportions from Bratty, Sugar-Demanding Kid. We’re not those people, not exactly, but we could have been. He didn’t know.

Nice people, good service: amazing how pleased they can make you feel, even when you’re already feeling the glow of catching up with good friends for a rare second-time-in-24-hours, the sun is shining and your hangover is slowly but surely receding.

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I gave him my loyalty card

“Can you spare some change for a cup of coffee?” asked the man outside Caffe Nero. I smiled apologetically and went inside. But I felt a bit rubbish. You do, don’t you? But at the same time, life makes you cynical. ‘Yeah sure you want a cup of coffee buddy. Yeah sure you’re homeless.’ I blame TV. That, and the fact that, well, you can’t give money to everyone who asks for it, can you? Especially not when you’re a debit card devotee like me.

So I bought my black Americano. “Do you have your loyalty card?” asked the assistant. Oh! I did! I handed it over. Whaddaya know, there was space for only one stamp left. “Next time you come, it’s free,” she smiled.

When I went back outside, the man was still there. He glanced at me, recognised me as the mean-spirited, ungenerous, tight-fisted soul he’d approached a short while earlier, and didn’t bother to speak to me. So I walked up to him.

“Here you go,” I said, handing over my fully-stamped card. “You can get a coffee with this.”

Who knows whether he was pleased or not. He didn’t look it, not particularly. But I felt much better about the encounter. And – let’s be honest here – I certainly don’t need an excuse to consume any extra caffeine.

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