I packed away the winter coats and shoes

Enough’s enough, right? I don’t deny that we might have several a few more chilly days ahead but by Jove, I’ve had my wintry outers up to the wotsits.

So today, I pulled out the storage bags containing my summer stuff, packed away the coats and boots and rediscovered my last-season sandals. It’s sad but true to say that many of them bear more than a passing resemblance to footwear I’ve already, avidly, bought this season but I’m nothing if not consistent; it’s completely in character for me to wander into a store wearing, say, a grey sweater and to walk out clutching a bag containing an almost identical knit. The worst example ever of this was the day that I stood in Cos swooning over a navy wool dress with leather patch pockets before it gradually dawned on me that not only did I already own the dress in question: I was in fact wearing it at that very moment.

Anyway. The only thing that’s better than having summery shoes to wear is having the weather and the occasion for wearing them. Yesterday morning? Not so much: I did an MCC Promotions-organised 10km run on Peckham Rye with two other mums from school, where footwear of a functional, rather than fabulous, nature was the order of the day, especially since a gait assessment at Runners Need revealed my hideous overpronation. My trainers are practically platforms, yes, but running in heels has never felt so good.

Unknown-33

In the evening, however, we had dinner at The Begging Bowl with some of our friends, and it was bare legs, Sam Edelman Flynn sandals and fantastically flavoursome food. Today, my husband’s uncle and his partner took us out for lunch at Le Querce, for which I wore winged Ancient Greek sandals bought from Net-a-Porter last summer (along with a Zara dress in a good-to-be-alive shade of green)  The monkfish was amazing and the children seated at the next table were fairly hideous, which had an unhappy effect on noise levels and our ability to converse, but a brilliantly positive impact on how we, and the uncles, regarded the behaviour of our three. Now, I don’t know about other mothers out there, but to me this is pretty much the Holy Grail of a day out: eating delicious food, enjoying the company you’re with, feeling proud of your children and not feeling that every stitch you’re wearing has been chosen purely for matters of “I’m with the kids” practicality but also because you a) actually like them and b) the sun is shining after far, far too long of doing anything but that.

Would I be jinxing matters if I booked a pedi for next week, do you think?

Unknown-34image1xl-3zara-green-gathered-dress-product-1-6588709-450961104_large_flex

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.

photophoto

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.

photo

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.)

Untitled-1_0010_Layer-22

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.

brick01tenniis

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.

chocolate-milkshake

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.

20130418-221447.jpg

I’m a city girl

Say what you like about the invigorating properties of country life. I went on a nursery trip to a farm today and, if I didn’t know it before, then I know it now: I am far more Margot than I am Barbara. 

Barbara

Barbara

 

Margot-The-Good-Life

Margot. And that cobalt blue rocks.

It was a fun day, it was, it was, truly. And I love having quality time with my children, any or all of them. But please could this not involve mud, nor the need for ugly wellies, with that irritating sensation of my jeans twisting inside them? Please could there not be sweet (at first glance) little piglets rubbing their noses enthusiastically in their own poo and then coming over to snuffle through the bars of the fence?

Please could it not smell? And please, please could there be decent coffee?

Thank god I’m a city girl!

Unknown-21Unknown-22

I started as I mean to go on

Monday is a bit of a special day, isn’t it. Well at least it is for me, although I accept that I tend to subscribe to the bad juju school of thought, where a falter means a fall, and setting the right pace from the get-go is the virtual guarantee of success.

So Mondays are important, as they have the power to shape my entire week. Going to bed and beating myself up for various shortcomings accumulated throughout the course of the day pretty much means that Tuesday will dawn with the black dog camped out on my shoulder. And so it continues. Vicious.

photophoto

This was my Monday. I was up early, and getting the children well-breakfasted and to school for their 8am gym club wasn’t stressy. I picked up some fruit & veg, and then dropped my youngest at nursery. I went for a run. I ran into a friend. I resisted any temptation of a food-related nature. I returned some ill-conceived purchases (that’s always a good feeling). I mooched around in the inspiring loveliness of the Liberty haberdashery department, and went to check out the new & other stories store (it’s amazing. Slightly disorganised, but it’s early days… and the stock more than compensates). I made calls that needed to be made, paid bills that needed to be paid. Ran into another two friends in town. Picked up the kids, did homework, read stories, fed them a decent home-cooked meal and got them to bed happy and not too far past what might be considered a reasonable time. The cleaner had been, the Nespresso order arrived (could’ve hugged the delivery man!) and my neighbour popped over. Texted my mum. Watched Broadchurch.

0156234001_2_4000000155869004_2_100011photo

It all sounds so terribly prosaic doesn’t it?!! But this was a Good Day. And my bet is that tomorrow will be too.

Unknown-20

so many nice things happened

I don’t mean to sound trite, but truly it was a good day – lots of little things that combined and expanded to even more than the sum of their parts to make me beam. Everyone cooperating this morning and us getting to school, on time and stressless-ly. The sun coming out. Meeting my friend in Covent Garden. Puzzling over a levitating Yoda street performer. Having someone confide in me, in a way that made me feel not only touched and honoured, but also immensely proud of them. Having a lady tell me, flatteringly, that she was buying a pair of Gap shorts on the strength of having seen me try them on. Trying on lots more gorgeous things, and perhaps buying one or two of them. Seeing my friend try, and subsequently buy, a leather jacket in Massimo Dutti that was swoonsome enough on the hanger but instantly transformed to 10x that when she put it on. Having a virtual stranger think of me in relation to what sounds like a totally covetable role as a writer for Harrods.

photo

In the midst of these lovely days, I often feel a pang, a twinge of maternal guilt, about the fact that my children are off at school and nursery; that my relaxed days with them are now few and far between, and my role with them far more Chief Bossy Boots/ Nag than Chief of Fun & Entertainment. So how lovely was it to get to nursery and behold my youngest’s chubby hand laid trustingly on the knee of his teacher, his shining face looking eagerly into hers as she told them, with her usual energy and enthusiasm, what sounded like a completely bonkers version of Goldilocks. Rapt and totally engaged; how good is it to know that your child is so joyful and secure in the place where you leave him while you venture off and have some off-duty enjoyment of your own?

photo