Cartilage

Well, hello! Here I am, at 38 and a good half, face dropping and furring around the edges, able to walk into a room and have not one straight man notice me, even the lonely-looking ones, and it is all a bit joy-depleting. SIGH. So today, I went to Westfield with Mark and Otis in order to

a) get coffee from the NZ-ish kiosk Sacred, where I accidentally ordered the lolly cake and ate all of it at 10am, and

b) to do something boring with a flicky iphone screen at the Apple store, and

c) to fix a watch face which had been severely wrecked by the intersection of a boy and his bike and the pavement.

But then, in pursuit of buying more drawing paper for Noah (more on that later), I was drawn into Claire’s Accessories ostensibly to buy plastic rings and bracelets for Otis so he would leave my plastic bracelets and rings alone, and then

I DECIDED TO GET MY EAR CARTILAGE PIERCED LIKE BEYONCE.

So I did, and I came back to the Apple store where Mark was doing something that looked suspiciously like buying a new massive iPad, and I was all nonchalant and cool-like on the surface, but inside, it was all CHAOS! Excellent, feeling alive, adrenaline CHAOS! All fired up and pulse-racing because I felt like I did something very transgressive, and bad, and secret and rebellious, although, of course, no one yet has noticed. And it hurts a bit and I am not sure what to do with the long earring stem tonight when I try to lie down and it will sit awkwardly and perhaps cause me some serious pillow recalibration. But oh the joy of doing something a bit off! I’m like a new lady, still with the coarse greying hair at the temples and some sort of burgeoning eye infection, hitching up the too-tight jeans to cover the mum pouch which creeps out over the waistband regardless of how hard I shove it back in – but inside, with my shiny new golden ball stuck halfway up into my ear, I’m about 14 and full of the sass. My inner dialogue is full of self-aggrandising nonsense and maybe a little bit of Beyonce-talk. I totally recommend it – it is much less work than an affair and once my psoriasis calms down, I’m going look HALF my age, I reckon.

On drawing paper tales, my darling Noah drew these two nights ago:

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Ok, so on one hand, this is clearly an open-mouthed toothy python who is rearing up and wants to kill you, and the other is very obviously an eyeball with tentacles and hands made of forks. But on the other, this is a clear case of vagina dentata, which, as urbandictionary.com says, is the Freudian concept that all men are subconsciously afraid that their wives want to cut off their genitals. You decide. It does make me wonder what those boys and their father all talk about when I am at Waitrose buying stuff for dinner.

Latest Instagram Photos To Remind Me What We Have Been Doing:

Cliveden National Trust. A popular little Sunday excursion:

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Handsome dog, bit fat:

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A birthday again. This is not my cake – Mark was very kind and asked for a Patisserie Valerie monstrosity and you can see how BEYOND HAPPY everyone is about it:

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A dramatic expression of Otis’s internal struggles with accepting that he was given a takeaway babyccino, not a sitting-in version:

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How we get home these days now that Otis refuses the buggy – very slowly, and often in the wrong direction. These stairs lead us back to school where we had just dropped off four children. There was no reasoning to be had – I just waited patiently for his return and played on my phone, hoping he wouldn’t fall into any puddles of sick or wee:

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The only other thing to report is that I am trying to sell some stuff on eBay, which is what I do when the unworn sample sale things start angling out of the wardrobe, shaming me for my inability to Just Say No Because It Doesn’t Fit Or Frankly It Is Ugly, and so I raided the wardrobe and spent an afternoon photographing and listing things and selling some off. But on Monday I got a terse, crabby message from the new owner of a nearly new Mulberry blouse who wanted an immediate return because it was dirty. DIRTY! And so I replied, why, yes, ok, though I don’t know what you mean because it was hardly worn and then she sent some photos and it did look a bit grubby and then I was reminded about how I am a bit slovenly and bad at being clean and particular, which I think is part of my charm, but she was OUTRAGED and once I accepted the return, she gave me negative feedback! My first. And so I spent about 24 hours in a state of total shame and rage and depression over it and the lady, and then I thought I need to learn to be tougher.

And now I have multiple piercings (well, three) and I think that that is probably a very good start.

BRING IT ON, FUSSY EBAYERS AND THE LIKE! I’M QUITE LIKE BEYONCE NOW.

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Morning pain

On Wednesdays, I get up, have a shower, get half-dressed into some hopefully-but-probably-not matching underwear and a glamorous robe from the sale at Coco de Mer in order to keep my work clothes free of egg, butter, and cereal smears. Then the lovely babysitter/cleaner/best person ever comes just before 8 and I walk the kids to school (but importantly not the baby, who instead can stay at home languishing in his pyjamas all day following Verna around asking for biscuits) and I drop the kids off and keep going to the tube, and I get to work with a nice flat white in my hand and all day I do little tasks that have a beginning and an end and I stay clean and for lunch I get to go to Pret by myself to buy the exact same lunch of kale chips and the gherkin and ham roll and it feels very good. As well as this UNNATURAL ORDER and SILENCE, I get paid. AMAZING.

So this is in stark contrast to the other days, the days where I only have home to go to, and a baby to keep from running out onto the road or using all of my makeup. And you just know everyone thinks that you have these stupid lazy days at home and that by extension, you are a bit stupid and lazy but really, You Do Not, and mostly, You Aren’t.

So this morning, we have the usual shouty dramas where someone won’t let an other one into the bedroom to get dressed because someone has decided to hit everyone, and Ned hates all of the uniform shirts that are left and Casper will only get dressed up to a point – the point of no socks or shoes, and Noah insists on making his own three tiered peanut butter toast tower but keeps burning himself with the fiery toast and is quietly crying when I catch up with him because the toast is so hot that he keeps dropping it into the full sink and drowning each slice. And then we run out of toast entirely. So he makes do with a two tiered peanut butter tower but he eats so slowly that I want to  shake him a bit roughly. It is sloth-like and painful to witness.

Anyway, we get out of the flat, five minutes too late but I have set the clocks ten minutes too fast so we are ahead of ourselves, sort of, dog on a leash attached to me because even though it is Noah’s paid job, he wants to take his skateboard to ride down Bishop’s Bridge sending all the people at the bus stop flying, and I think:

WHY NOT

and I have the buggy in case the baby is a handful, and the baby starts screaming that he wants to walk, and we have four kids in school bags and uniforms walking ahead and I do let the baby walk, although he insists on wearing the spiderman flip-flops which do not stay on, but they have been bigged-up by his dad because his dad deems them to be manly – a better choice than Otis wearing my heels, anyway.

So we start walking, but Otis is not great with sticking close to the buggy, and the others are too busy telling me that many people actually have tails, and that they just shave them off when they get too noticeable, and Otis walks out in front of a car. So it is all SCREAM and panic, and he is forced to hold the buggy, but then the flip flops trip him up and he faceplants onto the pavement and I get sweary and mad and shove him into the buggy, even though he would RATHER DIE than sit in it. So he screams and cries for 20 minutes, all up in my face about getting out and walking, on and on and on. And he turns around and dumps the lower half of his body into the buggy sleeping bag thing, so the buggy is unbalanced and is nearly tipping, and keeps on with the desperate pleas to get out and all the Marks & Spencer’s elegant youthful head office staff look a bit alarmed at the baby who is so obviously in some sort of pain. But we do get to school, and I tell him that when we get there he can hop out and walk. And so he does, and the tears dry up and the shouting and screaming ceases and we start to walk home and he says sorry for being silly. We walk home by the underpass and he decides to walk along a low wall and I hold him by the hand and I think:

I’M A GOOD MOTHER BECAUSE I AM LETTING HIM TAKE RISKS

and an old man looks out from his window and he eyeballs me in a kind of ‘high-five, you good old fashioned risking-taking mother’ type way and it is sunny and we are snatching back the morning. Then he falls off the low wall while I am rescuing the buggy which doesn’t have a brake because it is broken, and he loses his spiderman flip-flops into the estate garden on the other side of the low wall and scrapes his chin and screams and so I think:

THAT WASN’T HOW THIS RISK-TAKING AWESOMENESS WAS MEANT TO GO AND THAT OLD MAN SAW

And so we recover and we walk along, spiderman flip flops back on the tiny feet which look a little blistered by the plastic straps and then he walks into a massive muddy watery patch and he cries and says he won’t wear the flip flips anymore because they are wet. So I’m like:

OK IT’S ONLY FEET AND WHAT DID GOD GIVE US THICK SOLES FOR IF NOT TO WALK ON PAVEMENT SOMETIMES AND IN NEW ZEALAND WE DON’T ALWAYS WEAR SHOES TO THE SUPERMARKET SO IT’S REALLY OK EVEN THOUGH ENGLISH PEOPLE FIND IT EXTREMELY DISCONCERTING

And so we walk to the nice place with the nice coffee and I get a flat white and Otis gets a babyccino and we walk home with the no shoes and many, many people, mostly those who are nicely dressed and about to enter into various child-free offices look askance and worried and not-amused at the shoeless child and some of them make massive swervy detours to avoid getting close to the shoeless child in case he is catching. And we finally get down the Bishops Bridge to the construction part at Paddington and we just miss the green light but I rush us anyway because I don’t want to spend longer getting home because it has already been about an hour and a man shouts at me for NEARLY KILLING THAT CHILD BECAUSE QUITE FAR AWAY A BUS IS COMING AND IT IS NO LONGER A GREENMAN and I just want to punch his face.

Also we stop a lot to look at ants.

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And so I think that sometimes this parenting lark is terrible and tiring and I wish those people who are lucky enough to swan off into a nice office with a tidy desk, probably with many tea breaks and a bit of harmless flirting with Tony from IT should just stop with the parent-judging. And get over the bare feet thing.

Here we are, doing something else that I think some people might assess as dangerous and verboten – sliding down loose scree getting your shorts really dirty and probably ripped:

 

Here we are at Cliveden on the weekend:

And eating sugar at the Paddington Cavalcade. Lots and lots of sugar. Which makes me REALLY bad:

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Anyone else out there a terrible parent who is a) objectively bad at their job by the standards of strangers and who b) prefers the office?

 

 

 

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RIP everyone

Remember last post when I was talking about theoretically being a conspiracy theorist? And how obviously I am not, but if I was…yada, yada, so much yaddering. Well, there is more on that, because of course that tiny beautiful Prince died, which seems so completely wrong and apocalyptic, and it lead me to a further thought about all the people who have been dying this year. And here is my thought:

What if there was someone wealthy and wise and concerned about humanity and who valued culture and comics and magicians and Eurovision, kind of like a Batman for the entertainment sector, or a Richard Branson-type fella who had some sort of handy luxury island (stay with me here…). What if this person made a plan to squirrel away everyone who has been meaningful and impactful in some way over a cross-section of artistic endeavours for a gloomy Year Of The Dead, a fake Year Of The Dead, because it would make us all stop listening to bad music and spending too much time looking down into our phone screens instead of investing in vinyl records and staging Bowie appreciation nights and laughing at old clips of Open All Hours? What if Alan Rickman has been taken away to be fake dead just so we would watch him in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and marvel at his wonderful voice and Kevin Costner’s mullet? What if, somewhere near Necker Island, Terry Wogan and Prince and Victoria Wood and that guy from Motorhead are lying on sun loungers with drinks and sharing funny stories with David Gest about Elizabeth Taylor’s diamonds? Paul Daniels could be doing card tricks and Howard Marks would be taking drugs and Harper Lee would be saying: I TOLD THEM THAT FIRST DRAFT WASN’T MEANT TO BE PUBLISHED. HOW EMBARRASSING. They might well be sharing a chuckle about the outpouring of twitter-grief and they could at last see the youth pay attention to how great the old stuff is. The kids would listen to Sinead O’Connor singing ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and wonder at the beautiful lyrics and watch the music video and cry with Sinead and be jealous of her bald head.

It’s just a thought. In any case, I don’t think they are going to come back.

Anyway, that’s enough about sadness and death. Let’s talk about broken ruined things! As loyal readers will know, I have a thing for Tom Ford lipsticks and as you also will know, so do my boys. They are like little naughty magpies, attracted to the black and shiny gold of the lipstick cases, and delighted by the swivelling tube and even more enervated by the squishy pigment which gets spread over carpets and cupboard doors. Friends, it happened again. Otis took Flame and made reddish orange scribbles on our bedroom carpet:

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This photo was taken after some exhaustive googling about the best ways to remove expensive cosmetics from cheap carpet. I rubbed and tutted and scrubbed and then gave up because the carpet is pock-marked with unidentifiable patches of green and pink patches anyway. At some point, you just have to give in to the filth and recalibrate your standards. (Mine aren’t very high to begin with, but you knew that). Then Otis did it again, but this time it was my lovely Lipshine in Frolic. It wasn’t just used as a fancy floor crayon this time – Frolic was instead expertly scooped out with fat little fingers and then pasted onto our cupboard doors. There is no more for me to scoop out of the plastic little nub. And Mark says:

YOU REALLY NEED TO KEEP YOUR LIPSTICKS UP HIGHER ON SOME SORT OF SHELF

and I’m like:

I’M NOT BREAKING. THEY NEED TO LEARN TO RESPECT MY STUFF

and then Otis came out of the bathroom looking like this:

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and I reckon I broke.

So he was properly told off and I went to great pains to tell him that touching my things was a big fat NO NO and so he sat at the table and had to wear the TEA COSY HAT OF SHAME:

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THINGS I AM FINDING CHEERIER THAN RAVAGED MAKEUP:

  1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. First season fun for the whole family, except when the jokes veer into ‘foot slut’ territory, which can get a bit awkward.
  2. Always, the Lisboa Patisserie on Golborne Road.

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3. The Scottish hunk in Outlander with the sexy billowing blouses and kilts and virginal ways and proper erotic chest. His hair can get a bit ‘Prince by way of Farrah Fawcett’ though.

4. Youtube clips of Prince, especially in the rain at the Superbowl.

5. Vietnamese baguettes in the Acklam Road part of Portobello markets – our new Saturday love. Porky and spicy and crunchy and coriander-y. Though the children here are eating £6 waffles with cream and terrible chocolate sauce.

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QUESTIONS ABOUT EARS AND A CONFESSION

I will leave you with this. I have a single diamond earring stud because the other one fell off while I was running in the park a few years ago. I often feel like getting one of those ear piercings at the top of my ear, in the curly bit of cartilage. But I have red scaly psoriasis behind my ear. Is it weird to stick a shiny diamond in a place which is very close to my secret skin shame? Kind of counter-acting my twin needs to show-off and hide? Shall I just adorn my blistering red ear-skin anyway, in an act of body activism? Opinions, please.

Also, I went to a parent council meeting tonight and I discovered that sometimes, even though we can be running over time, I like to talk about things that are slightly off topic, because I really like talking, and having other adults listen to me and nod their heads and murmur encouraging words. I think this is a negative trait I should attempt to control and it might have something to do with the fact that at home, my voice is a vacuum, existing in some sort of powerless tunnel of silence, audible only to me. Anyway, I’m working on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Camping & the youth

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would be

a) even more boring than I am now, obviously; and

b) would suspect some sort of insidious, crafty, brazen Youth Army was taking over the world.

There are various factors which would lead me to believe in the Youth Army, were I some sort of anxiety-ridden worrier. Not only are those career pages in the Stylist magazine always showcasing those grown up, properly and interestingly employed people who are still 3oish, but my new boss is 24.

Which is just a bit awful, although my friend Vicky said that, at some point, you have to suck that kind of stuff up. So what if he was 14 when I got married? So what if every single cultural reference of my youth is entirely lost on him? So what if I see us as sort-of equals, but he sees me as someone’s mother who insists on wearing young people’s clothes? He can see all of my grey hairs from the side of me where he sits, and he doesn’t know that it just happens to you, without your consent. He doesn’t know that it is an accident that my eyeliner gets stuck in creases, because these creases are new – they just appear, and I think well-groomed people who are not in denial are supposed to recalibrate their eye makeup situation to accommodate. But I don’t know how to stop the eye shadow from shifting up my eyelid into the new, gaping folds, because I am a makeup dunce and watching youtube tutorials about Mature Skin Eye Make Up Application seems a bit like giving up. And so the new boss is just too young and too blond and too millennial to understand all this of course, and it feels a little creepy (crepey?) to be 38 and so junior.

And anyway, where did the millennials get all of their fancy chutzpah? Running empires from their laptops and staying awake all night and never suffering from the nerves and imposter syndrome? Eh? EH?

It is a bit worrying, all of this. I went out to a work thing last week and sidled up to the gang of Youths, and I am sure I was fine, though they seemed to handle the champagne reception with much more maturity that I did, and my new boss was apparently concerned enough to bundle me into a taxi at the end of the night. I was TOTALLY about to grab an Uber, with the dexterity of a little monkey, all over that app with total panache and nimble fingers, but I may have been obviously wobbling and so he GOT ME A CAB. This is embarrassing, yes?

This was me, attempting to practise making eye flicks for the week before the work thing:

I decided to open those eye pallets that have been given to me for free over the years, and I  went nuts for the purple and the bronze and the gold glitter. And then obviously instagrammed it.

In other exciting news, I tried to sew these patches onto Casper and Noah’s cub uniforms last night and it is fair to say that I am not skilled in that area:

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I find sewing to be a painful process. I always get a needle shoved up into a nail, and there are issues with getting the thread through the needle, with thick fluffy cotton and tiny little holes and the needle always breaks at some point and last night I ran out of thread when I was nearly ready to tie it off, and so I just cut it all off and hoped that no one fiddles with the bits of sticking-out cotton too much. I find sewing cub badges makes me angry and mean. Is fabric glue the answer? Or does that just make me slatternly?

We went camping in Wales in the last week of the holiday and it was cold and in a paddock, but lovely when the sun came out. We were taken to Tenby, which looks like this:

 

We all slept in a massive tent with beds and rugs and hampers full of the eating gear, and it was the right mix of roughing it, but in a nice, clean, easy way. So much better than setting up a tent with a cranky dad telling the kids to STOP MOVING THE TENT PEGS WE NEED THEM GO AWAY RIGHT NOW DONT TOUCH THE TENT BECAUSE IT WILL LEAK GET OFF THE ROOF DONT ROLL YOURSELF UP IN THE AWNING THOSE ROPES ARENT FOR TYING AROUND YOUR NECK etc etc.

Here is Otis getting repeatedly out of bed to tell the others to get back into bed even though they were staying in bed the whole time:

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So camping in Wales was a triumph, and Mark wants to buy a caravan there. I have no idea how that fits in with moving back to NZ, but I’m going with it.

The Carhartt jumpsuit arrived, and it is a little tight on the thighs. And it picks up dog hair in the most ungroomed way, but I think with a little bit of squatting and dog hair removal, I am going to look ten years younger. Kind of as young as my boss.

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Easter, etc

Want to see some Easter craft?

Ok then. Below you shall find the boys making tiny hot cross buns from Nigella’s recipe, but doubled, because I thought that everyone would love them because they would be fragrant and soft and warm and buttery and better than the shops, and of course if you make your own hot cross buns when you are a child then you are bound to want to eat them, because that is what the Annabel Karmel-type people tell you. They say the same with salads, I think. Anyway, no one ate them but me, so for days and days I dutifully heated up two for breakfast and broke into the burnt sugary crust with my little enamel-deficient teeth, wondering why they were so little and hard and doughy. It’s a baking mystery, I tell you. Also, those boys no doubt had very bottomy hands when they mixed up the dough and I will have eaten all the bottomy-hands residue, for sure, but I am my mother and father’s daughter (obviously) and I don’t let a thing go to waste. Especially when the thing has been proving for days and I went so far as to infuse the milk with cardamom pods and orange zest. Honestly.

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Then we boiled eggs in vinegar and gel pastes but it didn’t work: all it did was turn the brown eggs kind of darker brown, so we blew out some other eggs and painted them in acrylic and Tiger stickers. And I made a massive pot of scrambled eggs with the blown-out innards but I didn’t have any, because of the communal spit. To be fair, I had my share of bottom-hands, as above.

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I do try, I really do. See the bowl of blown eggy insides and collateral fluids just waiting to be turned into a wholesome thrifty breakfast for my beloved brood. HAHA, SHE CACKLES!

And then on Saturday we went to Portobello where we found people dressed as vegetables who were attempting to get the 5 A Day message across to the impoverished Notting Hill kids (*eye roll*) with such inventive means as Make a Fruit Kebab and Eat It, and Throw a Bean Bag at a Stuffed Fabric Vegetable to Win A Sticker. Excellent fun and good intentions all round, but surely this is preaching to the converted? To the privileged converted? This is Clean Eating Central, after all, with some very stupid-looking new restaurants popping up all over the neighbourhood recently, all screaming about their clean virtues. So, we already get it, Giant Benevolent Veges:

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But, you know, there were balloons and I did finally work out how to use boomerang:

So that was Easter. Also we had a hunt in the communal garden, but the hailstorm interrupted things and then when it got nice again, the other families got there first and so we had to wait for them to find their own eggs before we invaded the garden with ours. My kids still think the Easter Bunny hides theirs, so it got a bit tricky with the complicated subterfuge and then when they went for the hunt, they found eggs that I hadn’t hidden. Which meant that they were from the other families, but I wasn’t sure how to tell them that M’s mother must have hidden that one, because our Easter Bunny only had eggs that were from the Pound Shop – it was all a bit close to shattering their childhood innocence. So we just let Ned take an enormous expensive rabbit and we really hoped M and his sister hadn’t seen Ned traipse out from under the bushes with their massive bunny. Later we saw M and his sister searching under the same bushes but it all felt a bit too little, too late.

So in other news, I went out to Electric House with Liz on Tuesday, who is always gorgeous and cool,and she was wearing the most excellent jumpsuit and, upon inquiry, I found out it was Carhartt – proper workwear cotton, all stiff and sleek and fitted. She wore it with her curly hair to the side with a magical assortment of necklaces which never seem to get tangled, like she has some necklace untangling spell, and it was unbuttoned and sexy and I swooned. So we ate and talked and drank Negronis, but really, for the evening, and the next day, even though I was ostensibly doing other things, my mind was like this:

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And so I could stand it no longer and I ordered a pair of my own. Because I am impulsive and a bit obsessive.

OK I have to go because the kids are watching Goosebumps and they are probably terrified and they very well might start down a path of trauma and teenage badness unless I take them outside and away from early 90’s crap TV.

I hope your Easter was ace and your buns were edible.

 

 

 

 

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Old Napoli

Ok, so, last weekend we went to Naples in search of Elena Ferrante for REALS! Though she wasn’t immediately obvious, because she is anonymous and mysterious and so we went looking for the characters in her book (you know, the tetralogy beginning with My Brilliant Friend, a sell out everywhere, a massive epic tale of two best friends who support each other but who also have these festering underlying jealousies and wish each other dead fairly often, and all about education or the lack of it, lovers, careers, babies, other actual dead people, the Neapolitan mafia, pizza, the way you can’t do lots of good work if you have kids to look after, etc) and we didn’t find them either.

We did convince a raffish and mildly handsome cab driver to take us into what is believed to be the setting for the neighbourhood where the story is set, though the cab driver was very dubious, and said:

“Why do you want to go to the shit zone? The shit zone is shit! We will have to drive extra fast and it’ll cost you ten more euro”

and of course we were all exhilarated like pumped up old book club ladies out on the town (which we totally are) and we nodded and were like:

“GIVE ME SOME OF THAT ITALIAN DRAMA, Sexy Cabbie”

though we didn’t say that out loud, you could just tell, because all of us had shining eyes and were a bit sweaty.

So we drove around to the shit zone, and it was a bit shit, and even though the sexy cab driver had amplified the sense of danger, there wasn’t much more than ugly estate housing and some nonnas shaking rugs out of their stories-high windows. But, you know, it was probably pretty dangerous. *coughs*

We stayed in an airbnb place for my first time ever, thanks to the airbnb wizard that is Celia, and it was just as excellent as you would hope for. An original mid-century modernist apartment five stories up in the old centre of Naples, with motorbikes zipping around every corner and fish mongers hawking their still flapping fish and shellfish in giant shallow pans of water down at street level , and corner shops selling the most ridiculously camp easter eggy things. Everywhere was graffitied, everywhere looked old and dirty and buzzy and alive. We all loved it.

Here we are, in our apartment, worrying about no one but ourselves and our stomachs. Where to eat? Is it time for another aperol spritz? Shall we try on each other’s clothes? Swap lipstick? Finish the fourth Ferrante? Not think about anyone else? Yes. Reader, it was very good.

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Here is the street outside with the motor bikes and the european-ness:

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AND THE FOOD

Well. It was all cheap and so good, so dreadfully good. The aperol spritzers were very frequent, as were the lattes and MORE PASTRY. We learnt from a handsome Milanese fella that when you go out to eat at a trattoria, don’t order appetisers, primi, secondi, side dishes, and dessert, or you won’t sleep. Just go for the secondi, because it is usually better, and side dishes to share. Otherwise you will be an ungainly digesting fatty, lying awake all night with the pasta sweats, and the dry mouth, reliving the aged goats cheese and oily tomato sauces, despairing over your inability to PUT THE FORK DOWN. So we took on his clever ordering strategy, but too late. We were leaving by then and we were still digesting.

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Obviously the seafood thing was a bit traumatising, and I really tried to man up about it, especially when we went to a place called The Miracle Of Fish which was pretty much only fish on the menu. I suppose that is kind of obvious. Anyway, the lovely Miracle of Fish family learned of my seafood phobia through Sue, who did some excellent Italian-speaking from her year of being an Italian babysitter, and they were thrown, frankly, that a) I was scared of fish and b) I went to a place called The Miracle of Fish for my lunch. But they accommodated my glamorous New York-y off piste menu ordering and gave me a steaming plate full of aubergine pasta which was delicious and did not have any fishy smells to it, though I was cautious with every bite, like a terrible food bore with an imagined food allergy.

Here is Sue, with consistent good lip, sunning herself in the sun after doing some Italian and awaiting a huge plate of fish, miraculous fish (see above):

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And then the pastries. Well. Because it was Palm Sunday, there were San Giuseppe’s zeppolla in every bar which are round choux pastry circles dusted with icing sugar, with custard and cherries on top. They were in every restaurant, in every bakery, every food stall, all slightly different, some more eclair-y, some a little like portuguese custard tarts, all with a hit of sour cherry and lemony custard. We just ate them and ate them. This is about the seventh one, found in a little bar across the road from the Museo which held the Pompeii mosaics, made by the bar proprietor’s mamma who lived upstairs:

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And these, which were also found everywhere, all crunchy and buttery with a lemony orange-blossomy ricotta custard inside. Amazing. Life-changing. Ouchy when the sharp bits stabbed your gums, but totally worth a little gum-bleed:

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Here is Vesuvius and views from the apartment terrace, enhanced quite nicely by filters, obvs:

And we did a little spot of shopping because it was sort of research for the book, and because Italian boutiques are tiny and brilliantly curated and cheap, compared to London when you aren’t at a sample sale. I got tiny coral earrings from an old man on the Vomero who was carving out cameos and other lovely things with his chisel, and this dress, a proper vintage number. I am also shimmering from the sunburn and aperol:

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Here we are eating out on the first night, in instagrammable surroundings:

It was very female and bonding and lovely. We didn’t find Ferrante, or Lenu or Lila, but we did get a bloody rest from everyone else. And that was perhaps finding Ferrante after all.

 

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Solo: cleaner, quieter, lonelier

So I have another five days of solo parenting to go, and it has surprised me. I have never actually ever looked after the children on my own for longer than two days and that was only once and I am sure there were less of them. And Mark and I are a bit co-dependent in general, usually a bit clingy and couple-y and always prefer to do things together. And so this 17 day break has been actually very good as an exercise in learning a few things. Like these things:

  1. I am not cooking elaborate Ottolenghi meals every night in an effort to keep both of us culinarily sated/happily married. And as such, I have much more time and much more money. I eat what I give the children, which is generally dreadful, or I eat some classy combination of eggs and kale/broccoli/spring greens, which I happen to actually love, as opposed to being hypnotised by the clean eaters, and everything is done and cleaned up by 7:30 and I have a long evening in which to do stuff.
  2. What stuff? Well, indeed. I don’t know. This is where it all comes apart somewhat disappointingly. I could read, but I leave that until later. I could watch documentaries with Barnaby, which I did at first but after Making a Murderer we switched to more age-appropriate stuff like The Secrets Of The Tower of London and The Secrets of Scotland Yard and they were badly made and boring. Of course, that was once we could access Netflix again, after we had to order a new Apple TV remote because someone had lost the second one down the crumbly, sandy, hairy sticky side of the couch, which, once you shove your hand down there and dredge it back up, yields fistfuls of detritus and scratchy dried-up things which go under your nails and make you bleed and then you think THAT’S IT I WILL JUST ORDER ANOTHER ONE BECAUSE THIS IS REVOLTING and then I tried to watch The Night Manager on Sky but there was a mysterious PIN number needed and Mark wouldn’t respond when I sent desperate texts asking for the PIN and so it turned into evenings of wistful sighs and many lost hours biting off my split-ends. Also, some shameful hours spent watching Gentlewhispering open plastic packages and tap boxes, boring me rigid but enchanting me in equal measures, all with a tingly head.
  3. We, the remainders, are cleaner, tidier and less yelly than Mark and Casper.
  4. I sleep better by myself but still need to wear earplugs because the silence bothers me.
  5. The dog rejected my advances and still sleeps on the floor, even though I ask him again and again to come up on the bed and I enthusiastically pat the space next to me and I reassure him that Mark isn’t here. He just snorts a bit and sinks down back into his bit of the floor, kind of embarrassed for me.
  6. So it is a bit boring. Today the neighbour walked the dog, another neighbour took two kids and the school took Noah to see Fulham vs Bristol and I was like THANKS EVERYBODY but really Otis and I were very sad to see that everyone was gone. We see a lot of each other, and he isn’t really that keen on hanging out with me because I don’t like elaborate games involving crocheted blankets and hiding. And I wander around the flat, the cleaner, quieter flat, feeling like reading Vogue would be wasteful and self indulgent and so I should sort out things to take to the second hand shop, and Otis is deep in some solitary kind of game about spiders, and it’s really a bit lonely here.
  7. You would think all that kale would make me thin, shining, white in the eye and glossy of the hair, but actually I have spots and conjunctivitis. I have to wear my glasses constantly which slip down my nose all the time and give me tension headaches, and obviously my eyes are un-magnified through the thick blind-person lenses and so they look tiny and wrinkled and weepy and red. And everyone stands quite far away from me once I point out the sickly eye in case I give them the conjunctivitis just from existing. I want to shout NO YOU CAN ONLY CATCH THIS IF YOU STICK YOUR FINGER IN MY EYE JUICE AND THEN YOU STICK YOUR FINGER INTO YOUR OWN EYE JUICE but I don’t because I am weary of medical ignoramuses.
  8. Word on the street was that solo parenting is kind of fine throughout the week, because of the egg/kale situation and because of husbands usually being at work, so no difference, etc etc, but the weekends are a bit long and dire. So last weekend I primed them and bribed them with the 10am cheap movies and brunch at the Skandi KUPP and packets of star monsters, provided they were good and went to kick boxing without crying the whole way there. There is some ‘issue’ with the 100 pushups and sprinting and sweating bigger guys hitting them. Anyway, they went and then we did our movies/brunch/buying extravaganza and it was all kind of calm and good. This is what it looks like in the kick boxing gym, with an added wall of humid kid-sweat.

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Here is Otis running up the three stairs at Paddington Basin after our pancakes, in a homage to Rocky Balboa:

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And when it wasn’t about children, it was, of course, about me. Luckily I have glamorous women friends who are BAFTA members because they have done some important filmy contribution thing, so they get to watch new movies for free, and they get a plus one, which it quite often me. So last night I went to see Anomalisa at the BAFTA place and there was a veerrrrry dirty cheeseburger and twice-fried chips to get through first and a lot of prosecco to wash it down with, and I got excited and took a photo like a tourist:

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So Mark and Casper get home on Thursday, right after I have left to spend a few days in Naples, because of the Ferrante novels. It’s a bookclub Ferrante-hunting-holiday.

To finish, a very profound video of Otis vacuuming in a terry towelling Elsa dress/bathrobe:

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