she called me a mensch

“Do you even know what that means?” she asks.

I’m on the phone to one of my good friends, staring blankly at displays of cards: on my way to post my mother’s 70th birthday present, I am suddenly stricken by anxiety over whether she will want a card saying 70 (“Oh god! Did you really need to remind me?!!”) versus cards that don’t say 70 (it’s a special birthday … will keeping it low-key be construed as a being dismissive/ uncaring?)

“It’s like a schmuck, isn’t it?” I ask, absently, picking up and putting down another card. “Or that woman who moved to New York and discovered the power of the pedicure?”

“No,” says my friend, firmly. “It’s a good, solid, dependable person. Someone who’s just there. You’re so there. You’re always there for me.”

I’m slightly stunned. All I’ve done is make sure she has a place to bring her kids for dinner over the course of the next few weeks: she’s having building work done, and her partner is away. And I am a schmuck – I’m still stressing over the frickin’ card.

I found a card eventually. Even made it to the post office. All of that felt good. But someone telling me that they could count on me, hot on the heels of a period of time where, as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve had to think about who I can count on felt (in the interests of keeping it Germanic) über gut.




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.


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.


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.

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.)


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.


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.