Monday, 29 July 2013

Not doing a Nigella


My feet have hardly touched the ground this week. As predicted - too much caffeine and driving half-asleep, long days and short nights. Right now things feel as if they are in suspended animation, events wrapped in the cellophane crackle of imminent departure. I have definitely taken my foot off the brake food-wise this week (too much eating already on the run half-way out the door) and my move to London has left me absolutely flat broke so I’m on a strict budget at the moment. Luckily cheesecake always finds a way to balance the books. A friend invited a few of us over for dinner this evening in his new flat – obviously a great excuse to make dessert. I went for the Mascarpone Tart that my sister blogged about here. The only thing I changed was to add a tsp of lemon juice in the place of the vanilla essence (I thought I had vanilla but I didn’t ... improvisation!) but apart from that I kept it the same and it was delicious. Incredibly smooth and somehow lighter than cheesecake, she’s right. I managed not to do a Nigella and eat the whole thing in the car on the way to the party (although I will admit to licking the bowl, raw eggs and all.)




The weather has turned stormy here, clouds finally boiling over into torrential downpours that slow our cars to snails’ pace. I can’t stop listening to this and this and I’m still trying to pack. Thoughts all squeezed into the corners of the room.


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

London

My lazy Sunday feels like a life-time ago! I have just had two very jam-packed days filled with moving most of my worldly belongings up to London. I’m not properly moving into our new house until August 1st, but I now have two new house keys jangling on my key ring and I’m itching to re-join my books, my bike, and my best friend, all of which I had to regretfully leave back in London yesterday. We did pick the hottest day of the year so far to move house (clever), and our housewarming turned more into a house-cooling as we had to provide our guests with frozen flannels for their poor tube-traumatised sore heads. Luckily our living room has big French doors and about half an inch of balcony, which we definitely made the most of last night.


House-cooling

 We also have a gorgeous wooden kitchen table, which I love. This year I’m living in a house with no dining table, so our only options or al fresco or al sofa, one of which is great, but only in hot weather, and the other of which isn’t really great in any weather. I’m so excited to be able to sit down to eat (with friends) around a table.


Welcome home!

I went for a walk to explore our new neighbourhood the evening we moved in. It was sweltering but I managed to scope out at least two running routes, and kept passing tempting little shops and cafés that I can’t wait to try. (Acton has definitely shot up in my estimation since my one and only previous visit – waiting at a night-bus stop at 4am a few years ago, nervously hoping I wouldn’t get stabbed... How times change!) I can’t believe how much there seems to be going on just a few footsteps outside our door – big contrast to sleepy Surrey. I can’t wait to start getting to know London properly.


I’m squeezing this post in before work as I have a feeling this week is going to be a busy one. I’m working the next six days straight and I know they’re going to be manic (or they should be, if we’re going to hit our targets this month...) I have only a hazy idea of when I’m going to fit in my next run, too. Last night I went running carrying a problem. A few posts back I wrote about running as anaesthetic, the way that a good run can drain your brain of everything, and that’s definitely what I need sometimes. Other days, though, it’s a problem, a frustration, a little niggle that propels me into my running shoes and out of my front door. I give my feet and my brain half an hour to solve the problem and it works a surprising amount of the time. Normally while running, I use the MapMyRun app on my iPhone (http://www.mapmyrun.com), which I hugely recommend. But last night all I took was my battered old sports watch – no distractions, no targets, no interruptions. When I set out my brain felt like a big, tangled ball of string; running can be the slow process of letting it out. Teasing your way out of a problem. I ran a route I have run countless times before, the one I started running when there was snow on the ground – therapeutic auto-pilot. String unspooling at every step, Ariadne in the maze, but all you find at the centre is yourself. Run complete, mind made up, ready for the week ahead.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Lazy Sunday/Endimanché

 endimanché, adjective: in one’s Sunday best.

Of course the French have an adjective just for Sundays. I discovered this gem while reading Proust’s À La Recherche du Temps Perdu in my third year of university. God knows that experience taught me countless absolutely useless pieces of vocabulary (if you need someone to come up with fifteen synonyms for hawthorn flowers, I’m your man), but endimanché has always stuck with me. Not perhaps the most useful word, but I’ve always found it satisfying. The little pre-emptory “en,” the casual flourish of the acute accent – it speaks to me of Sunday’s quiet extravagance. The French certainly do know how to do Sundays in style: while living in Paris on my year abroad, I was surprised to find out that supermarkets and even the boulangeries do actually close for most of the day. I found this out the hard way, waking up at 1pm one Sunday morning, a little worse for wear, and being unable to procure any food beyond the radishes in my fridge. That story doesn’t end well and I haven’t eaten a radish since. Anyway, it all meant we had the perfect excuse to sample the many different brunch offerings that abound in Paris. One of our staples was Eggs & Co (http://www.eggsandco.fr/) – overpriced and we often had to wait until 3pm to get a table, but serving up the best eggs benedict I have ever eaten. Breakfast in America (http://www.breakfast-in-america.com/main/) hit the same kind of spot.


Eggs Benedict at Eggs & Co., circa 2010

Sunday is the first day of my weekend now (I work Saturdays) so it feels even more special. I have to admit my day started a little slower than usual, paracetamol and a pint of water for breakfast to counteract last night’s red wine. But after a sluggish start I managed to put together this little brunch feast for one:



I actually woke up craving yoghurt (unconventional hangover cure?) so a strawberry Danio was the star of this show, topped with frozen cherries. Crumpets are my new best friend since starting Weight Watchers – a pudding that is Filling & Healthy? Almost too good to be true. Can’t say the same about the Nutella unfortunately but hey, they say you never forget your first love – I used to eat that stuff out of the jar off a spoon when I spent my first summer in France as an au pair. It is a very effective cure for home-sickness and has helped me out of some tight corners in the years since.

Right now I am sitting in a very bare bedroom surrounded by boxes and pictures wrapped in newspaper. Tomorrow I am starting the process of moving house. I am leaving Aldershot and moving to London, and I am unbelievably excited to be moving in with two of my friends from university. Before I leave swap the suburbs for the big city, I have been trying to squeeze the most out of the beautiful scenery that surrounds us here. Last night after work I went for a bike ride in Caesar’s Camp, a military test ground just down the road from my house. The entrance is a little ominous:




But once you’re inside, it’s absolutely beautiful. I have been running here a few times but haven’t managed to climb the biggest hill. Of course my housemate and I decided that yesterday was the day – we must have looked like total lunatics, pushing our bikes up a near-vertical gravel track, through nettles, brambles and gorse. But the views from the top were more than worth it. I think I’m going to miss Aldershot more than I expected.