some people know how to do summer dressing

 

Okay, so some people don’t.

But in town today, I saw so many people who looked warm-weather fabulous. Some somewhat conservative in their style, others more flamboyant. But lots and lots of eye candy; lots of women – mostly women, actually – who made me smile, if not outwardly, then at least on the inside. Just that sense of low-level elation that you get from seeing something that pleaseth the eye.

Now, I’m definitely not laying any claim to being a summer dresser of fabuloso standards but I will say that I was mildly pleased with myself for remembering, and putting into place, one of my Summer Commandments. Which is:

“Always have, in your arsenal of strappy flat sandals, at least one pair with a closed back.”

The reason being, you see, that there is bound to be a day when your feet, notably your heels, just aren’t quite up to scratch. So what, you say? Who’s going to notice, you ask? I’ll tell you who. The person, or people, behind you on the Tube escalators, that’s who. Think of them. Have some consideration for your fellow passengers! It’s surely enough that they’ve had a hot sweaty ride on a crowded, airless Underground train. As they head eagerly, gratefully towards the World Outside, don’t bring ’em down with the sight of your greying, cracked heels.

My own feet are looking less than lovely at the moment: despite the fact that I have the Soap & Glory foot buffer, I just haven’t been using it, I’m afraid. Lots of long runs combined with a lot on my plate and hastily snatched grooming time (in short: husband away working for a month, at a time when the activities and arrangements of our three children seem suddenly to have exploded in pace and volume). But shod in these coral & metallic babies, who was to know??

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for the record - not my feet!

for the record – not my feet!

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 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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there’s an abundance of berries

Oh, how I love berries. Raspberries and strawberries are my absolute faves, but I’ll never turn my nose up at a blueberry or a blackberry either. They were the one food I craved in all of my pregnancies and the one dessert that I’d struggle to give up.

Luckily, I don’t have to, since they’re one of the more acceptable fruits in paleo terms and, as one of the lowest-of-the-low when it comes to sugar content, they’re also fine for the carb conscious among us. I did give them up for a bit when I was doing the Balanced Bites sugar detox but they’re back on the menu now, albeit not with the honey and Greek yoghurt with which I used to smother them in pregnancy.

Anyway, the weather is still a bit iffy considering that it’s supposed to be Springtime but there are at least loads of berries around, and that always gladdens my heart. Today I’ve eaten them for breakfast, baked them into a cake (you can find the recipe here on this mouthwatering blog, The Italian Dish) ready for when we have guests tomorrow and given them to the children as an afternoon snack. I love the way they look in my new favourite blue bowls, which we bought for 50p each from Shiver Me Timbers in Penzance, a reclamation yard that we visit unfailingly on our annual Cornish holiday. I love the way they look, en masse, on a Central London fruit barrow. But best of all, I love the news that I got when I posted this photo on Facebook & Instagram.

Tiffany, one of my oldest and bestest friends from home (Australia), has a pathological fear and hatred of bananas. So her response to the photo was to express distaste for their presence on the barrow. But also to tell me that she is looking forward to some berry scoffage when she comes over to visit. In July!!!

Wooooooooo hoooooooo! So excited!!

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we’re so Over it

It’s a small thing. But I do love living smackeroo between two Overground stations. Even on a miserable night like last night, it was so quick and easy to get to Shoreditch High Street on the Ginger Line, where we met with our nephew for a fantastico meal at Hawksmoor. Really amazing food, great atmosphere and such a gorgeous, friendly, fun and knowledgeable waitress. And oh my, the size of those cuts of meat. Impressive. Just as impressive as the fact Husband and Nephew made short work of them, and that was with a starter and dessert parenthesising them. Not to mention a couple of Collinses and a few bottles of very nice Malbec.

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And tomorrow night, it’s the other nearby station we’ll head to, to meet friends on the top floor of Smiths of Smithfield. I worked the breakfast shift on the ground floor when it opened in 2000 under Masterchef’s John Torode  – surely one of the nicest bosses I’ve ever had – and could only dream of dining on the 3rd with a view over London. The staff have so far proved to be just as gorgeous now as they were then (my manager became, and remains, one of my dearest friends) and have been massively accommodating with all of our requests, both in terms of food and seating arrangements.

A great night and a great meal are marvellous things, no matter what. But sometimes, the mere thought of getting somewhere, especially when it’s cold (still! in April!) and rainy and the children have been less than angelic, can be a bit off-putting. I love our neighbourhood, but I love the ease with which we can venture out of it too.

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I caught up with two friends

Not just one, but two. 

Does that make me sound like a proper saddo? The fact that catching up with friends is so rare and special as to be worthy of a blog post?

But here’s the thing: I see friends – sometimes they could probably more realistically be called acquaintances – a lot. But often fleetingly, at the school gates. Or disjointedly, with children running around. Or en masse, at a party, where one to one conversation is tricky, even if my lousy hearing didn’t make conversation of any type difficult.

It’d been a long time since I last saw the friends I caught up with today, which made meeting up with them exciting enough. But added to this was the fact that I saw each of them on their own, one by day and one at night.

So from the Kaffe Fassett exhibition at the Fashion & Textile Museum while the children were at school and nursery, to drinks at Canary Wharf’s Plateau tonight, with good company, easy conversation and lots of laughs for both, I feel like I’ve had the best of both worlds today.

And on a different, but related note, I am feeling quite self-congratulatory about having resisted the lure of yet another grey sweater. It was Whistles, it was lovely, it was on a good markdown at House of Fraser. And oh, how I love a grey sweater. I’m embarrassed to put how many of them I own in print.

But after the riot of colour to which we were treated at the Kaffe exhibition, honestly, how could I have justified it?

(I have however, bookmarked the sweater on my laptop. Juuuust in case I need something to make me happy tomorrow …)

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I overcame my reticence

The nature of my husband’s job, plus the fact that my family live overseas, means that I do a fair bit of sole parenting. I’m pretty okay with this, but I won’t – can’t – deny that it gets a bit wearing and lonesome.

I’m not brilliant at asking for help or support, a fact that wasn’t helped by my midwife (who, make no mistake, was utterly wonderful in all of my three pregnancies and homebirths) saying to me that going from 2 to 3 was socially difficult, especially when the age gaps are smaller than the norm (my third was born 3 years and 7 weeks after my first). She herself is a mum of three, and a very no-nonsense one at that, so I couldn’t help but listen when she said “Going places is difficult … You’re constantly outnumbered, even when both parents are present. And going to people’s houses … There are just so many of you pitching up, all the noise and mess and fuss. It’s awkward.”

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I’m not one to sit at home (cabin fever) but I’m not one to seek company either. And weekends are sacred aren’t they? I figure everyone works hard all week and wants quality family time on the weekend; who wants a slightly frazzled and temporarily single mum of three in tow? I also tend to assume, wrongly, and probably just because I don’t, but wish I did, that everyone is spending time with parents and siblings. I probably have a very idealised view of the Lives of Others.

My husband thinks I do; in fact, he thinks I’m am idiot: on the rare occasions that I do something sans ma famille on a weekend, his, and the children’s day, is filled with meetups and get-togethers. “People like to hang out with other people,” he reasons. “And the more kids there are, the easier it is: they just muck about and it saves the parents having to entertain.”

Still, I shy away from ‘intruding’, unless I’m inviting people over, in which case I can salve my conscience about impacting on their weekend with offers of home cooking and a decent-sized garden on which to set the kids loose.

But this weekend was the third in a row that my husband’s been abroad. It’s been generally fine: the kids have had lots of parties, and we’ve had friends over for dinners and sleepovers. But I’ll not deny that I’m getting a bit tired now, not helped by this randomly Arctic weather (it’s colder and snowier now, at nearly Easter, than it was at Christmas). So I mentioned, tentatively, to a couple of friends that I was thinking of taking my three to the National Gallery this morning for story telling and an art activity.

And guess what- everyone was up for it. So from one parent and three kids, we became four parents and eight children, which instantly makes things like dealing with tantrums and toilet trips loads easier, not to mention the joy of just having a few moments, albeit snatched and fleeting, of adult conversation.

Botanical artist Sarah Simblet

Botanical artist Sarah Simblet

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my daughter's botanical drawing

my daughter’s botanical drawing

So they rode the Magic Carpet at the National Gallery and enjoyed the interactive story about the painting in front of which it landed. We listened to botanical artist Sarah Simblet talk about her art, and the children then had a go at creating their own botanical etchings, crouched on the floor of the gallery with huge, thick, creamy sheets of paper and boards to lean on (I am so excited for Sketchout; can’t even tell you). We wandered up to The Strand and had lunch at Leon (where they were, especially for a ‘fast food’ restaurant, fantastically accommodating about my paleo diet, making me a to-order salad without grains) and then into Covent Garden to see The Big Egg Hunt/ Action for Children eggs, where the children, to their glee, also got to hunt for Lindt chocolate eggs in a purpose-made garden.

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Yes, there were some frazzled moments and yes, the icy weather made the children a bit whiny at times. But if there’s safety in numbers, there’s also pleasure. It was a good day. I’ll try to remember it next time my husband’s away and the children and I have got no major plans.

Found! My son's chubby hand reaches for some Lindt eggs

Found! My son’s chubby hand reaches for some Lindt eggsphoto