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.



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. 



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.


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.


he had the lead role

My eldest son was slower to talk than our daughter, and harder to understand when he did. He stammered, and substituted ‘w’ for a number of high-frequency sounds, including f, s, z and l.

Sod’s law that his own name contains some of these sounds; the number of times that he struggled to make himself understood in response to a well-meaning “What’s your name?” was heartbreaking, the more so when he eventually stopped bothering with trying and would simply answer ‘Nothing.’

I feared that he’d have a hard time at school; kids can be cruel. But, on the contrary, and combined with some Speech and Language Therapy, it’s been fantastic for him – he loves doing show and tell, reads aloud confidently and is now able to make loads of those previously missing sounds.

Although he did find the first day, when they had to go to every classroom in the (admittedly small) school and introduce themselves, excruciating. “Will I have to do that every day Mummy?” he asked, stricken, at hometime.

For the past three afternoons, my kids have been in a drama course, culminating today in a performance of The Gingerbread Man. And there could not have been a more chuffed boy in the world than mine when he was chosen, on the first day, for the main part.

Naturally he looked terrified when he was first on stage today, gazing at me with pleading eyes. And naturally his first line was almost inaudible. But he soon got into his stride, shouting mockingly, “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread Man” as he scampered up and down the stage.

Proud, moi? I was fit to burst.

I had the idea that I’d take them for a celebratory gingerbread man at the newly opened Gail’s Bakery in Dulwich Village. There were none to be had, but all three of them were very pleased with their hot chocolates and chocolate chunk cookies. Not to mention with themselves.




I went to the dentist

I mean, I don’t exactly love going to the dentist. But there comes a time between appointments, doesn’t there, especially if coffee and red wine have any role to play in your life, when you’re a bit more reluctant to smile, when you kind of want to talk from behind your hand, and when it seems that no amount of brushing can make your mouth feel clean.


Fresh from the reclining chair and the instruments of scraping, polishing torture, however, I’m always a bit reluctant to eat or drink anything that might compromise that just-been-professionally-cleaned feeling, especially when the dentist has (as they inevitably do) been asking pointed questions about caffeine and alcohol as they force foreign objects into your gaping mouth. Since my last visit, Arlo & Moe has opened up on the other side of the road. They do the best scrambled eggs and really, really sublime coffee. Seemed a shame to be so close by and not have one…

So I set off for my appointment a few minutes early, and had a coffee beforehand. Sensible, no?