Sunday, 27 February 2011
I haven't actually had a hot flush yet but I'm told it's only a matter of time. I used to say it as a joke a few years back but as the reality got ever closer I stopped. The other day I thought I might be having one but a glance across the office at my 26 year old colleague, stripped to her bra and vest.....honestly, you have to be 26 to work this look......fanning herself violently, revealed the heating had got stuck on Bahrain. So, the removal of just one layer of cashmere quickly put an end to it. But, I have experienced getting more than a little hot under the pajama collar at night. This is apparently called 'night sweats'.....nice......and works well with the nocturnal anxiety attacks also (unknown to me) a symptom of 'the change'. Really, going to bed has taken a Hitchcockian turn for the worse. And, it's a bit like taking drugs. Why? Well, the thing is, the tingle of heat that sweeps through you from the tip of toes to top of head, reminds me, if memory serves, of 'coming up', as we called the first tingle of a drug-spiked evening of frivolity, back in the halcyon days of my misspent youth, so long ago now that even the psychedelic hallucinations were in black & white. So, just for a moment, I'm back on the grassy knoll of Knebworth, arms aloft, watching a tree turn into a helter skelter, while singing along to 'White Punks On Dope'. And then I'm back; kicking off the duvet while the wardrobe turns into a monster, spilling forth all the worries of my world, to terrorise my dreams and rattle my ever loosening grip on reality. Still..... just for a moment.....
But.....in lieu of the renewed use of mind-altering drugs, this week I drank Martinis. When I lived in New York a night out always seemed to involve drinking cocktails: Manhattans, Cosmopolitans, a Dirty Martini, and every barman new how to make them. Properly. Many's the night the three olives found floating in my drink actually constituted dinner. And drinking Martinis on an empty stomach in the fabulous Rainbow Room, atop the Rockefeller Centre, still ranks as one of the best evenings I ever spent with my parents. Anyway, I had reservations for Yotam Ottolenghi's soft opening of his new restaurant, Nopi......means north of Piccadilly, what can I say...... This meant 50% off everything. Yes, absolutely everything. Even the drinks. So this meant we couldn't get a table till 9.45pm but frankly, for the chance to eat Ottolenghi's food at half price I'd have sat down to diner at midnight. My friend, whose friendship I forged when we both lived in New York, decided we should meet at Dean Street Townhouse because a) we needed to pace ourselves therefore drink proper drinks ..... slowly, and b) they saucer-up an endless supply of quality nuts and delicious olives so we wouldn't go hungry. The plan worked and we arrived at Nopi in a relatively good condition. The restaurant is a long and narrow room of white, brick-work tiles, like a New York bathroom, with gold accessories, like a Bahrain shopping mall. The bathrooms are worth the trip alone, mirrored from floor to ceiling on every surface, for a moment it was touch and go as to whether I would ever actually find the door out. And the food. Designed to be shared...possibly one of my favourite ways to eat, no chance of plate envy.....we feasted on scallops with chili jam, grilled mackerel, juicy beef brickets and sweat Ossobuco on creamy polenta, braised winter greens, crunchy brussel sprouts, oyster mushrooms and quail eggs, vanilla ricotta, blackcurrants and my new favourite pudding, bite-size sultana financiers with brandy cream. We drank a bottle of 'how much?' and two glasses 'no really' dessert wine, because it was ALL half price and we could. And just as soon as I've saved up, I'm definitely going back.....
Top tip: Re-instate the Martini hour and fill every room with a rainbow.
Monday, 21 February 2011
Last week started well with a screening of West is West, the dung and dusted sequel to the brilliant East is East, although as a movie it does stand alone. It's been more than a decade since we first met George and his unruly Salford-raised sons. This time around it's the youngest, Sajid, who's the focus of his father's ire. Om Puri, a man whose nose must surly have it's own agent, reprises the role of the troubled George; watching him is like slipping one's foot into a well-worn pair of flip-flops, he just fits. Back too is the fabulous Linda Bassett, a woman who looks like her name sounds. Having deserted his first family, George now despairs of his second. The boy is his last hope and a return to Pakistan his only chance to save the rude young adolescent. Again drawing inspiration from his own life, the writer, Ayub Khan-Din, spoke eloquently about the loss of ethnic identity, cultural change and exchange. But this is no politiscised-God-baiting-soul search for the truth behind the lies of today's fundamentalists. There are no answers to the problems in Pakistan nor indeed are there any questions. He has instead, written a refreshingly comical romp through the heat and dust of the Punjab.
Next up was press night at the Hampstead Theatre to see Penelope by Enda Walsh. Apparently this went down very well off-Broadway. In fact the Sunday Times said:
...... if only. Personally I found it to be a load of gentleman's genitalia, of which there was rather too much on show in an ill-fitting, orange speedo, sported throughout by one of the four ensemble cast. But quite frankly, if I'd wanted to spend an evening listening to four Irish blokes shout at each other, I could have gone to Finsbury Park station.
Finally it was off to The Chocolate Menier Factory, to see the singer Judith Owen co-star with the comedienne, Ruby Wax, in Ruby's one-woman show...... as she put it ......Losing It. This is a jolly romp through the American star's life of ups and downs and depression. This is not a show for everyone, hence the small but perfectly formed theatre, but it is a show for me. The second half has Ruby and Judith on stage for a Q & A, a bold move considering the audience was made up primarily of celebrities, people with mental health issues and celebrities with mental health issues. Really, it was like one of those weired dinner-party-wish lists: Nigella Lawson and her dad Nigel, AA Gill and The Blonde and Samantha from Sex And The City to name but a few..... and for the record, Nigella in the flesh, of which we know there is plenty, looks amazing. Honestly, at 51 she looks like a fabilous 41. Really, I know she's had a bit of botox, but she is blessed with incredible cheek-bones and a jawline to die for..... Some of the comments and questions were tear-jerkingly moving. Ruby is quite genuine about her mental health and who her people are, but one woman, who clearly had not read the poster properly, said she'd found the whole thing so depressing and why would you want to talk about your depression? Oh how the rest of us laughed........
Top tip: M&S Pistachio and Almond Cookies.......I am quietly becoming addicted.....
Friday, 11 February 2011
For me, February is always the worst month of the year. I know many who think it is January. They believe the post-Christmas-dark-presentless month is the depth of winter and that February heralds the end of grim despair and the beginning of spring. They are optimists. And they are wrong. It's February. I try never to make a decision in February. For me, it is the month of dump, ditch and flee, an un-endingly dull-dank-relentlessly-depressing, gloomy month of long faces and short days. I've left good men and better jobs in February. I once sold my home and took my 2-year old to Mexico after one too many postcards from Koh Phangan interrupted my morning porridge....... but that's a whole other story. And this year is proving to be a bumper February with 2 funerals in 2 weeks, while the rain seeps up out of the pavements and drips down from the bare-spiked trees; the kind of damp, gray weather that blurs day into night and a good reminder why God invented long-haul travel...... And then, right in the middle, there's Valentine's Day.....
The joy of Valentine's is obviously dictated by the amount of lurve in your life on that particular day: at the beginning of a relationship it will be full of cute, funny, fluffy, handmade-never-let-this-fuzzy-feeling-end gifts and cards. Chocolates will be special, flowers big and champagne abundant. There will be ribbons and hearts and expensive dinners booked weeks in advance to fill restaurants offering 2-for-1 on every other day of the month. Or at least that's what you hope. I once hid delicious little chocolate hearts amongst the possessions of my loved one: behind his razor, in his underwear drawer, tucked in his wallet to be uncovered at work. Only to discover he didn't believe in what he referred to as a 'hallmark holiday' and gave me a supremely tacky card, bought hastily and without irony. I have however also enjoyed the gifts of love in the form of homemade-compilation CDs, heart shaped boxes of chocolates...... an instant way to secure my devotion...... a heart drawn in blood...... and yet still I was surprised at the outcome of that relationship........ monumental flowers and once a trip to Marrakech....... yes that was a good year.
Unfortunately, like the very chocolates and flowers themselves, this level of commercial love will be greedily consumed, wither and die........have you seen the utterly brilliant, if some what depressing, Blue Valentine? So to fend of the distress of this particular loveless February I shall turn the heating up to eleven, leave the postcards unread and wear my brand new, second-hand-Armani jacket ....... pinstripe, flared sleeve, Westwoodian style collar for only £30....... everyday. And on Monday I shall go to a screening of West is West, the sequel to the excellent East is East, with the screen writer himself, Ayub Khan-Din ..........I say with, I mean he'll be in the same room.
Top tip: Nurse Jackie is back, Saturday night on BBC2 and 30 Rock, Thursdays on Comedy Central....... add that to all those half-priced-post-February 14th-heart-shaped chocolates and who cares what month it is.
Sunday, 6 February 2011
The weather, as we all know, has not been good and the knock on affect means getting stuff done seem harder. So, I thought, I'll channel John Mortimer, who I believe believed, a glass of champagne every morning was the way to a long and happy life. And as I had some urgent stuff to complete before a looming deadline, who better to channel. And as my mate Dave had been given an enormous amount of champagne for his birthday..... what better way to start a Sunday?
The night before Dave's darling husband had treated us all to an evening at the theatre: we saw A Flea In Her Ear at The Old Vic, a bawdy farce involving a lot of doors, a case of mistaken identity, Tom Hollander twice and a man in rather revealing long-johns ........ terribly silly and very funny. I stayed the night at Dave's to enjoy the planned birthday breakfast, mindful that I had work to do and a bit worried about the amount. Breakfast become brunch and one glass soon became two. I began to feel better about the day. We had creamy scrambled eggs, toasted muffins and bacon, hot coffee and more champagne, croissants and buttery brioche. And finished the bottle. But this was good I thought, no need for lunch. In fact no need for anymore food all day, more time to get that work done. I was feeling a lot better.
I finally left, full of good intentions and quite a bit more champagne, and took the tube from south to north, the whole afternoon a head of me to get stuff done. But first, I thought, I'll just nip into Tesco, pick up some bread. And milk. And then, fuelled with new found energy, I thought I might as well get a few more things, save time, no need to do it later, and I'd have food for the week and that would give me more time to get more work done.
With so much extra time I thought I'd have a cup of tea, take the edge off the champagne, and a quick glance at the Sunday papers where I saw a recipe for slow cooked lamb and Puy lentils, all of which I just happened to have. So then I thought, even if I wasn't hungry the son would be, so I thought I'd just stick that in the oven first....... and then I wouldn't have to think about it later and that way I'd have even more time.........to get the important work done.
However, as the champagne high dipped along with the sun, day became night and after my efforts in the kitchen and all that reading, I felt far too exhausted to start any work. Clearly John Mortimer was made of sterner stuff...........still, the lamb was delicious.
Top tip: drinking champagne for breakfast may not make the weather any better but it does make the day feel a whole lot sunnier, do try it.