Not quite

IMG_2051_small

It is that time of the year all right, and in spite of it being Monday, I am glad that it is. Only because I finished and dispatched my 3000 words to PP, and I only have one more programme to mix (code for “my work is just about done”) – tomorrow. So, it’s like being not quite on holiday,  which helps one cope with the end-of-year madness that would otherwise frustrate one if one still had serious work to do.

Like, for example, the fact that everybody and their aunt is forever out-of-friggen-office having a celebratory booze-up somewhere. Our little open-plan broom cupboard felt a like a tomb this morning – one where the corpse had come back to life and is off somewhere sucking the blood out of people with deadline stress. Not like me. Monday has never been so rosy.

In anticipation of this halcyon dream and because I have not seen them for ages, I had lunch with the girls at Ciro’s  yesterday.  I have not really been there much since my last birthday supper, perhaps three years ago, when the duck was dry, and Ciro unapologetically put it on the bill. Before that I went there regularly. Not anymore.

And yesterday I remembered why not. Look, it’s hard to find a better place to have good food under cool trees made cooler by that fine-mist cool-down spray contraption in the summer. The tables are prettily laid with cloth tablecloths and real serviettes. And mostly, Ciro’s food is still very good. Jacques says that Ciro makes the best risotto in Johannesburg after mine. (OK maybe he did not say that, but this is almost certainly the case.) But I do not think that the food in a restaurant that charges R110 for a starter that does not – at the very least – contain truffles and foie gras or Alaskan king crab, should be “mostly very good”. It should be consistently excellent, and Chiro’s is not.

I had the chicken, stuffed with couscous, crumbed with polenta and served with a delicious cream sauce of some kind (but not too much). The chicken had a great range of textures (the polenta really crisps on the outside) and was sufficiently full of flavour. I chose the chicken, perversely, because I knew the cost-to-labour ratio was low. I know how long  it takes to make little roulades out of chicken breast, to crumb them, and deep fry them.

By comparison, slapping a curry-like sauce on top of a piece of salmon is a one-hand-behind-your-back job.  And I did not like the salmon. I thought it was a waste of a good piece of fish, and other than the curry splat on the top, did not really taste like R175,00.  Ruth shared a bit with me, and she said she liked it. Jules, lactose intolerant, had pizza with prawns and capers. That was also excellent, not a crumb remained.

And  then it was time for pudding. I ordered the tarte tatin and Jules the crème brulee. Ruth likes to share when it comes to dessert. The crème brulee had separated: none of that silken, dense, melt-in-your-mouth vanilla custard stuff. I took us quite a long time to get someone to take it away, and by then the bit where we dipped our spoon was looking quite watery, as if you added some scrambled egg to dishwater. The tarte tatin was a pleasant apple-tart kind of a thing, but not quite a tarte tatin, which, as we all know, has golden, deeply caramelised apples, rich and moist, on top of a crisp pastry. To see what a beautiful mini tarte tatin should look like, go here. Or even  here. What a beautiful tarte tatin looks like is no mystery.

Ciro’s version is more like  a small stack of sweet, pale, slightly dry slices of unpeeled apple on op top of a crisp pastry. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the pastry. It was served with some custard, and it was, as I said, a pleasant apple-dish-thing.

I felt vindicated, a little, that we took our own bottle of bubbly. (Has anybody noticed that when you take your own MCC to a restaurant that they always give you the most amazingly cheap glasses?)

I know Ciro’s is very popular in spite of the dazzling price tag, but I suspect, nay, FEAR, that the bulk of Johannesburgers may not always have palates equal to those of our snotty compatriots of the mountain. There really is no other explanation.

Anyway. I am off to PE on Thursday, where I will practice mini tarte tatins in my mother’s kitchen and put pictures on the blog.

Aluta Continua.

According to the Daily Maverick this morning, most people spend 12 minutes every Monday complaining. Just saying.

Jou ma se solanum melongena

So the reason I went to Cape Town the other weekend was Ofer’s fiftieth, and Nicola organised a surprise party for him. Mika, Ruby, Josh and I subterfuged off early in the evening, ostensibly going to a movie, while we rushed to Anatoli in Greenpoint instead and pinned glittering decorations to the light fittings and the carpets on the wall.

Clusters of people arrived and we waited, drinking lots of excellent wine and later, when Ofer had been duly surprised and loaded with gifts and witty cards, eating way too much excellent food. A happy time was had by all. I hope. I thought everything was wonderful.

So when I got back to JHB I recounted the weekend in broad strokes to Carl – except for the part about the restaurant and the food. I thought anybody that regularly commuted to Cape Town knew Anatoli, but it turned out, not. So I elaborated: about how the waiter comes with a tray the size of table mountain brimming with delicious meze. The cold dishes – olives, hummus, marinated octopus, hundreds of luscious concoctions – he leaves with you as you choose, and the hot ones are on order – pastry filled with soft cheese, spicy meatballs and many other lovely things. Then they load piles of hot pita on the table. It was quite cruel, actually, when our guy came round to take orders for the main course, but I was brave.

I had the vegetarian option. It was aubergine in a way I had never eaten it. I think it was boiled, but the texture was silky, it was fragrant, still firm and covered in an extraordinary tomato sauce. I make a pretty decent one myself, with cinnamon and garlic, but this one had small dark berries, the size of pepper corns, squishy and sweet. I was quite taken with the discovery of something so unusual, and at the same time, delicious.

So, charmed even by the memory of the dish, I guess I did go on about it for a bit. Carl looked a little puzzled, and I did not, considering the recentness of our er… liaison, understand why. I thought that I was perhaps explaining badly, so I tried harder… texture, taste, colour, fragrance. But the look did not quite go away. Eventually I stopped.

And then he said… “Eggplant?”

And he looked at me, still puzzled.

The moment was both funny and illuminating. I guess one person’s aubergine is another’s eggplant and no yummy tomato sauce is going to change that.

Anyway. The other thing that was funny recently was the banner a rugby fan waved at the Bokke-Italy game on Saturday. It read, “Jou ma se pasta”. I would have liked it even more if we did not quite thrash the Azzuri the way we did. I so hoped for even one try, and when it came, was very pleased relieved.

Losing it

When my brother Douw was a little (like six or seven, I think), and I was a teenager and constantly on diet, he once said to me… “I know how you can lose ten kilograms of ugly, useless fat overnight.” It was never going to be a solution to my utterly imagined but nonetheless ghastly obesity, but I had to ask, “How?”

“Cut off your head,” he giggled.

I reminded him of this when Jurie and I went to his wedding in Taiwan two years ago, and he thought it was at least as funny, then.

I have a vague notion* that I have started losing my mind.

On Monday I locked myself out of my flat at 07h00 and I had to wake up the caretaker to let me back in. The caretaker is about seventy and wears a sexy white see-through nightie. It was very traumatic. I could not stop saying how sorry I was and she tried so say it was not so bad but really she wasn’t looking at it from my point of view.

Yesterday I walked halfway between the parking lot and my office three times because I kept on forgetting things in the car. My access card, the books I wanted to return to the library, and once because I was sure I forgot to lock it.

In the afternoon I missed my writing class because:

  • I completely lost track of time, both of the day and the hour (I thought it was still Monday for most of the day, actually);
  • Even when I told people I could not make meetings, etcetera, because I had a class on Tuesday afternoon it did to register that THAT day, was indeed Tuesday; and
  • On the way to class, forty five minutes late, (my neighbour asked me, “Are you going to you studies?” when I was, in fact, going to gym, so I screamed off in the opposite direction) I convinced myself that there was no class on that particular Tuesday, so I turned around in the peak-hour traffic and came back home.

I did an extra 20 minutes on the bike to pay a penance of sorts.

Later Ruth phoned and in answer to the question “how are you” (early on in the conversation, as you can imagine) I spent 20 minutes telling her how I missed my class, what an idiot I felt and how I thought I was going nuts. “What? YOU?” she asked, in THAT tone of voice. I feel I should use the capitals here just to underline the fact that my best friend finds such behaviour in me incredibly surprising. “Stress,” she declared. “You are stressed.”

And then I think I spent another 20 minutes agreeing with her. (One can tell, I have decided, that I am stressed when I don’t update the blog for two or more weeks.)

So I forgave myself for the current flurry of madness, and resolved to no longer go about the place like an absolute airhead. I am smart and together and in control of my life. I am smart and together and… etc.

Today, however, I completely confused a member of my Reading the Media class with someone in my Investigative Journalism class, and did so in his presence, and unambiguously. “Margaret has been looking for you,” I said after we chatted for five minutes, and then Margaret walked past and I said to her, “Margaret, haven’t you been looking for Wale, here he is!” upon which they both looked at me like I had lost it and she said, “This  is not Wale.” And he said, “I am not Wale.” And then of course, I knew that he was not Wale. “That was unbelievably embarrassing,” I said to him and he was kind enough to point out that black people often also thought that all white people looked alike.

Which of course made me feel much better.

Anyway. I had a story to write so I had to get over the squirm pronto.

But driving home this afternoon I had to muse over the alarming events of the last few days. I wondered if I was in the grip of early-onset Alzheimer’s and/or menopause, and if anything could be done about it. Should I go to the doctor? And if he confirmed my self-diagnosis, how would that help? These conditions are not reversible and the former is incurable. And frankly, who can afford to get THAT sick these days? Would I have put stickers in my shoes that say, “Toes first?” Would I have to listen to a looped soundtrack that reminded me to “breathe in, breathe out?” Would I start putting stamps on faxes? Would I have to lose the blonde hair colour to hide my shame? At what stage, I wondered, should I shoot myself in the head in order not to be a burden on someone who would feel sorry for me? How long before I forget to do even that?

I didn’t think of these as dark thoughts, actually, I thought of them as practical ones. Really, who wants to be less than the sum of their whole memory? (Although I could really do with forgetting the last three days forever.)

And then, as I sat down at the computer at home and opened the web page of my food diary (I started keeping one as I could not FATHOM why it was impossible for me to lose the (#) kilograms I gained in the last three years – now I know, and it makes a difference) and something wonderful was revealed to me.

The little weight I lost in the last three weeks came from my brain. Except that it was, unfortunately, not “ugly useless fat”, but working brain tissue, which is unfortunate. On the brighter side, however, I am an exceedingly smart girl with brains to spare, so I am confident that regardless of the loss, it will require only a short period of adjustment and rewiring for my smarts to come back and then I will be thin AND clever.

If the “adjustment/rewiring” period is shorter than two weeks, it would have been totally worth it. If not, well, perhaps at some stage I may get used to being thin and an idiot and forget what a smart cookie I used to be.  As a bonus I will then also be sure to find a man who would want to marry me.

So, having discovered the reason for my current diminished capacity, I am relaxed enough to write a missive on the blog and clearly, for the moment, relatively stress free. It was Douw’s birthday on Sunday. Sometimes I miss him a lot.

__________________________________________________________________

* It is impossible for me to use this phrase without thinking of my best Calvin and Hobbes strip ever. Calvin meets Lucy at the school lockers, and he asks her, “What is it like being girl?” She is surprised. “What?” And he continues, “Is it like being a bug?” She is taken aback. “WHAT??” And then he explains: “I think both girls and bugs have a vague notion that nature has played a cruel trick on them, but they lack the intelligence to understand the magnitude of it.”

 Then of course she beats him up and he gets the last word in, “I must have put my finger on it.”

My all-time favourite, really.

Suspense of disbelief

I am sorry, but that Robertson’s Spice ad where the mama tucks her chicken under her arm, scales the highest mountains and sails the roughest seas to get the best spice for it, is just incredible. Like, not credible. Like no sane person can believe it. I watch her shuffle to the quaint little shop next to her house with the chicken, uncovered, I watch her in the row boat and later, climbing majestic mountains in, perhaps, China or somewhere, and all I can think of is… salmonella. I am ready to bet my bottom dollar that the agents of Satan came up with an idea that their client hated, and bullied them into buying said terrible idea for hundreds of thousands during a very slick casting session… or something. Either way, Robertson’s should fire its communications manager or whoever approved the “ends of the earth” pitch. No food product should be that intimately associated visually, for an entire 30 seconds, with possibly gazillions of air-borne- and other pathogens.

No, really. The optimal temperature for pathogens to double in number every 20 minutes is between 5°C and 65°C. I would guess that the chicken in the ad maintained an average temperature of about 26°C for roughly four weeks. (Obviously I don’t think for a second that she rowed ALL the way to China or somewhere.) But let’s move along.

The other thing that is harder to believe than yet another Hollywood ensemble romcom (I have a strong feeling that Valentine’s Day is going to be at least as nauseating as Love, Actually) is how JZ is handling the 20th child debacle. Or 19th child debacle, according to the M&G.

It’s ongoing, it’s still being debated fiercely by radio hosts, callers-in and media scholars alike, and the papers just don’t seem to tire of it. So JZ apologised on the weekend, but nobody seems to buy it. He has apologised, the feeling seems to be, too many times in the past. For frack’s sakes (OK, I confess, I had a little BSG lapse on the weekend) the nation isn’t simply a big happy Catholic church. You don’t get sent home with some Our Fathers and instructions not to sin again every time you leave the confessional.

I really think our prez should get his very own ad agency and an image coach. And if he suspends Julius’s security detail, it won’t even cost the tax payer a cent.

Supersize me

Reuben had simple values and basic needs.

(I have decided that I have to start writing fiction, and liked this very much as opening sentence for a short story. The rest of the story will come, I hope. But never mind that.)

Yesterday, for about ten minutes, I actually wondered what it would be like living in Boksburg.

I was driving with my folks down a road called something like Noordrandweg from Game to Builders’ Warehouse. From the right, aeroplanes of various sizes were flying in at 90-second intervals to land at OR Tambo. It is always a thrill to see a huge aircraft descending from fairly close quarters. And there, over Noordrandweg-something, they were coming in as if a really big person was shaking out his aircraft piggy bank in slow motion.

Earlier we had lunch at the House of Ribs Family Restaurant, where you can have eat-as-much-as-you-can carvery for R80 per person. Even the more modest version for R55-a-plate meant you could have soup and bread to start, as much salad as you like, and then as much food as you can pile on your plate – and it was quite astonishing to see what was possible – and then, just in case you were still peckish, a couple of slices of pizza. The pyramids of food that were carried to the tables by people of all sizes were really impressive. It was impossible to imagine that people could actually go back for seconds without keeling over of a heart attack en route. Impossible.

The carvery is the earliest version, I think, of “supersize me”. I don’t know if anybody else who grew up in a small town remembers going to the local hotel for the Sunday lunch buffet, and seeing evidence for the first time that if you keep on giving people food, they will keep on eating it way beyond any bounds of decency or reason.

Not surprisingly the place was abuzz from quite early on. I would guess that it seats about 250 people, and I thought that they turned their tables about twice while we were there. Seven hundred and fifty plates… I think they make a lot of money.

But that was not the amazing thing. What I really liked was the loud swooshing of jet engines that powered towards the landing strip while we ate. That and the electric train that did continuous rounds near the rafters right around the restaurant.

Anyway. The House of Ribs and its toy train is not a reason to live in Boksburg. The aeries passing very close overhead and the shopping you can do at supersize-me versions of every supermarket experience you can dream of, these might be reasons. I think living in Boksburg must be a little like living in middle America.

It was a thought. But it did not last very long.

Egg on my facebook

Of course I do not mind eating my words every now and then. Especially not when I am this relieved. I felt such dismay when I was under the impression that the current draft regulations (No. R. 658 of 11 June 2009 relating to the FOODSTUFFS, COSMETICS AND DISINFECTANT ACT, 1972 (ACT 54 OF 1972)) required that “[coffee] must have a kick” that discovering this to be completely untrue is of far greater value than my embarrassment over the flying off the handle over a half-baked bun in the oven. I am so relieved I am randomly mixing my metaphors.

I really thought for a moment that our minster of health and with him, perhaps, the whole world, had gone completely insane.

The article on IOL reported that “[coffee] had better have caffeine in it, even if the package says decaffeinated” (my emphasis), and this was repeated, subsequently, by Jenny CW. It turns out that this was one of the best examples ever of how you must never believe everything that you read in the newspaper. Du-uh. What was I thinking?

I should know by now that when reports sound like they were penned by an imbecile, they most likely were. Maybe I just had too much coffee that day.

I did say in my post (mounting a sort-of defence here) that I was going to look into the whole thing. Unfortunately I only managed to do that today – thanks Fil for the info – as I have been subjected to the horrors of regular employment, for up to 10 hours a day, since I got so excited by the craziness of the story as reported and was so rude to Mr. Motsoaledi. (Look, I stand by my comments on the NHI… explain THAT, please… eh… sir.)

But to clarify for everybody, here follow the draft regulations verbatim:

Decaffeinated Ground Coffee

2. Decaffeinated ground coffee shall not contain more than 0.1 % caffeine and shall be labelled “decaffeinated ground coffee”.

Decaffeinated Instant Coffee

3. Decaffeinated instant coffee shall not contain more than 0.3 % caffeine and shall be labelled “decaffeinated instant coffee”.

This does, of course, make complete sense, as it protects the consumer from unscrupulous vendors who only pretend to sell decaf coffee. I am sure the folk who do see the sense of taking the caffeine out of coffee are happy to know that, by law, they will soon be able to get their money back if their phony decaf has kept them up all night. But seeing that they say you can never catch up on the sleep, I would personally recommend that they just have a cup of Rooibos tea instead.

The regulations appear to be firmly in the interest of the anti-caffeine consumer. Apparently your average Starbucks decaf can contain up to 2% caffeine. Those Americans are so deluded, I think. I support the regulations with the same conviction that I opposed them before I knew what the hell they actually were. If the label says decaf, the contents should be decaffeinated. This is what I believed all along. (I think it is time to let this go now.)

So that is all for today. I was going to write about Julius Malema and his beef with Sonke Gender Justice Network but I thought the erratum should take precedence. There is not much to say about Julius anyway. Apparently he refused again to apologise today (for saying that the woman who laid a case of rape against JZ had a “nice time”), because the hate speech case against him was driven by whites who are against black leaders. He is such a crazy shit. And frankly, counter-revolutionary.

And I might as well admit that even though I SWORE that I would never ever post a profile on facebook, I have now done so. Well, my mother has always said why do you have a mind if you can’t change it.

That’s it. Our health minister is officially off his f*cking head.

One would have thought that it is impossible to achieve a more insane appointment than Manto Tshabalala-Msimang in the national health portfolio. Turns out, not.

What is Aaron Motsoaledi thinking? And WHERE does he find the time to produce draft regulations LEGISLATING THE AMOUNT OF CAFFEINE IN DECAFFEINATED COFFEE? Proposed legislation would, apparently, make it mandatory for ground decaf coffee to contain “not less than 0.12 percent caffeine”.

…WHY?

This question rang in my head, like a crazy bell, the moment I heard Jenny CW mention it on 702 at lunch time. And then I read the story in the Star when I stopped at Vida for a take-away between Atlas Studios and Interbrand Sampson. And then I googled it when I got home tonight. And nobody, NOBODY has provided an answer. Is this an international standard? Does Illy’s water-method decaf actually contain that much caffeine anyway? You would THINK that any journalist worth their salt (WE ARE SO DEVOID, IT WOULD SEEM) would ask WHY?

WHY? WHY? (It’s on the front page of the biggest daily broadsheet in the country. You would hope that the story would get more attention than a 5 minute edit by a junior sub.)

How can this possibly be important in a country where the doctors are either on strike or filling in work application forms for Canada, where the public hospitals are a disgrace, where no working strategy for dealing with HIV and Aids have been put in place and where the concept of primary health care is, well, like… prenatal.

AND WHY?

What does Aaron DO in Pretoria? He has devised an unworkable, unaffordable national health plan that has everybody with private health insurance queuing at the Canadian embassy right behind the doctors. Not since then-minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula told people to stop “whingeing” about crime or leave the country did the government inspire such horror in me.

Well, maybe I exaggerate a tad, seeing that not much has been heard of the NHI in the last few weeks. But still.

And now… CAFFEINE IN THE DECAF??? ARE YOU COMPLETELY INSANE? WHY?

The single article that has been doing the rounds today reports that consumers have until September to comment or object, or something. But not one word of WHERE this can be done. Where does one log on, write to, call? It is all very upsetting.

I am a big supporter of caffeine, don’t get me wrong. But the principle is so crazy. Why, Aaron, why? Time and resources… and just… sanity… dictate that you should spend your time… better.

I have to go to bed now. I will gather information. This is big. Bigger than Royal Canin and the cat sanctuary scandal. Maybe. And maybe tomorrow I will rework this piece and take out all the capital letters.

Sex, real custard and the counter-revolutionaries

Does everybody out there read Hayibo? Well everybody should, because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to take anything one reads in the newspapers these days seriously without taking to drink at the same time.

For example: there is a thing such as World Hypertension Day? What? You send cards and flowers to people with high blood pressure? You eat boring food in solidarity? If it is an awareness campaign, I would like to argue that the people who suffer from hypertension probably know it already, and I am not sure what the rest of us should do. We should certainly not cook the recipes on the Verve pages.

We know that hypertension can lead to heart trouble and kidney failure, and, quite possibly death and/or having to pee into a bag through a pipe for the rest of your life. So, it’s very serious. But I don’t know if I could work my way through Angela’s low sodium recipes even if I was a death’s door and just won the lotto. Cottage cheese with meringues and raspberries? No! I am sure you don’t save a single mg of sodium by not using cream. And custard… Angela makes “custard” with 15ml of custard powder, 15ml of castor sugar and 180ml skim milk. How horrifying. Everybody knows that skim milk tastes like half-milk-half-water, and I would be surprised if the decrease in sodium is even the size of Julius Malema’s brain. What is the point of low-fat custard? Eat a nice, fresh apple if going large in the custard department is not your scene. You need three egg yolks for every cup of half-milk-half-cream, or just leave it alone.

(The polenta triangles sound quite good. I always try not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But not being a baby person, I admit that I have failed in the past.)

Ruth’s ex, in spite of the good and even imagined reasons why we should have an aversion to both him and his memory, once said an interesting thing that I remember. He said (not verbatim, I am the writer here) that choosing to live sensibly by eating and drinking only healthy things, may not necessarily help you live longer, but it is certainly going to feel like that.

In the famed and ancient Washington Post Style Invitational that has been recycled in the SA blogosphere since at least 2006 as “THIS year’ neologism competition” (I have a very old post to prove how old it is) someone entered “decafalon” (entrants had to change, add or subtract one letter in a word and give it a new meaning), which is the “gruelling process of making it through the day consuming only things that are good for you.”

With her low-sodium proffering, Angela tried to condemn us to not only a long life, but clearly a miserable one. I am more a Dusty Springfield kind-of-a-girl: “being good isn’t always easy, no matter how hard I try” and a believer in the old adage that good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go everywhere.

Which brings me to Helen Zille. Ah.   Continue reading

Something really light for a change

Today I made my first ever pot of soup that had pearl barley in it. I love barley, I don’t know why I had not done it before. Just like that time Ingeborg and I drove to Maputo… we just got in the car one day and drove there. It did not take very long, in spite of the border being chaotic and us losing about an hour and a half while doing some bureaucracy. It meant that we only got to Maputo after dark. Even so, we kept on thinking, why haven’t we done this before? It was a bit depressing to have to wander around the crumbling city on the first night looking for a place to sleep, but that was an adventure too. In the end, I loved it.

I remember sitting on the balcony of the hotel on the Avenue (some day in) September when the May 1 Workers’ March came crawling past, droning with mass exuberance and vibrating with, of all things, outfits in a variety florals and Scottish tartan. It was like having a front row seat to an Ionesco play. Across the road was some shop with a deep doorway and men kept on dashing in there to squirt out the excess water from the 2Ms or Laurentinas, which were flowing freely. I felt somehow that this was not quite in keeping with the  revolutionary spirit reverberating down the street. But then again, I was the tourist on the balcony eating hotel breakfast, so what did I know?

One of the best things in Maputo was the bread and butter. Soft rolls with crisp crusts and lightly salted real butter.  Perhaps it was the only thing the Portuguese left behind intact, other than a national language. That and Pasteis de Nata.

And the only thing I ever wrote and lost, and have no idea how, and am sad about, was an account  in Afrikaans of our weekend there. I was very pleased with it, I remember. It took a long time to write, just like anything to do with serious literature. Not that it was serious. It was just in my mother tongue, which I find increasingly difficult to be coherent in. But I think it was good, and I am sorry that it’s gone. I think I sent it to a magazine who ignored it. No wonder magazines are dropping like flies in the face of the economic crunch.

Anyway. The barley soup. Continue reading

Happy birthday to me

So I had a birthday.

Seeing that I do not have a real job, after my mother called at 07h00, I could stay in bed. I had some tea, I finished reading a novel. Then I made some calls about work.

I paid most of my outstanding bills, I negotiated with Julian (my neighbour above whose plumbing problems are causing fungus to grow on my bathroom wall) and his plumber, did some  actual work, made headway on the rewrite and styled a beetroot ring so that my incredibly talented little brother could take some photographs of it.

That was fun.

Then we went for lunch: same as last year – fish cakes and a bottle of Graham Beck Brut at FSH. (I think their fishcakes are gradually less and less spectacular).

Later I watched The Bank Job on DVD (honestly, get it, it’s fantastic). And Ruth I went out for dinner at Ciro’s. We saw some lesbians, and had a lovely chat with them on the way out.

I really do like getting older.