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Archive for June, 2014

The time has come to write of Alexandra “Binky” Felstead.
I have been a long-time follower (and let me be very clear: “follower” is entirely different to “stalker”) of Ms. Felstead, the Sophia Loren of “Made in Chelsea” and I have had nothing but admiration and enthusiasm (and frankly, old school lust) for her – but I fear that things have changed.
When first we met, all that time ago in Series One, I liked her. Yes, she was strikingly pretty (and while she is no stranger to a dab of make-up, she is clearly working with very good raw material), which helped – but she also seemed very open, very kind and (probably central to her appeal) very close to her family (her mother – who is probably more age-appropriate for me is also staggeringly attractive and has that heartening quality of seeming ready to rip the throat out of anyone who even dreams of crossing her daughter for a second). She was honest about her feelings for men, frank without being gross about her desires and acted in what seemed to be an entirely fair way in what is a very normal, albeit reasonably privileged, life.
As the series moved on, I saw nothing to make me less and a lot to make me like her more. Her BETRAYAL at the hands of the duplicitous, peroxide-haired gonk Jamie Laing had me ready to mobilise a mob of pitchfork-wielding vigilantes with a keen sense of justice and a readiness to hang out in The Hollywood Arms waiting for the little turd to come bouncing in with his cry of “Hey Boi!”.
This was, however, as nothing compared to the recent revelations about multi-fornicator Alex Mytton (brilliantly described to me as “looking like a Postman Pat garden gnome”) who has been cheating on her on any number of occasions and compounding the offence by claiming to have alcohol-induced “mind blanks” on the nights in question. Obviously, given Ex-Wife’s fondness for, and keen practice of, adultery, there are certain things that press my buttons more than others – and cheating is one of those things. I think (to divert for a second) that whilst it’s always wrong, it’s a good deal worse when you’re in your forties, married and with three children, than it is when you’re single, in your early twenties and the only people involved are adults – but the added layer of his lying about it (and again, that happened to me – so I am not being dispassionate or objective here) made me think far worse of him. In the words of Lucy (who has undergone a transformation from “Utter Cow” to “Straight-Talking Oracle”): “You don’t forget putting your dick in someone else’s vagina overnight.” – so I see Mytton as a double sinner.
My father (who is a very keen follower of these sorts of programmes, and is mourning the absence of “The Only Way Is Essex” from our screens at the moment) is also disgusted with the behaviour of the cliff-haired Mytton, so we have been able to whip ourselves up into mutually-supportive rage, so this has not been a lonely crusade – however, recent developments have rocked the very foundation of our feelings for Binky, and nerves are kicking in about how the narrative is going to play out.
The problem is this: Binky has taken Alex back (fine: some people can do this; some people can’t), but what she has also done is turn on those friends who have taken the position that he is a preposterous bell-end and she is probably not doing the smartest thing. The chief victims are the aforementioned Cassandra of SW3, Lucy, and horse-faced doom monger Cheska.
Cheska is hard to warm to. She does tend to want to take the dark view, see the worst in people and to catastrophise situations – and I can imagine that she’s probably not the kind of person whom one would want to be landed with running the tombola at a country fair. She has history of throwing stones into ponds and standing back with an (even longer) sad face as the inevitable misery unfolds – which is an aspect of Schadenfreude that no-one is likely to want to be famous for. And yet, and yet…there doesn’t appear to be a malicious intent behind what she does: there is probably a bit of naiveté, and a fair dose of “misery loves company” in her behaviour – but Binky has been harsh, dismissive and (I fear to say) selfish and unkind in her treatment of her in the last episode.
My hopes, of course, are that this will prove to be a temporary blip – a fleeting, out of character outburst brought about by some very real unhappiness – and that we will see a return to the Binky whom I have formed such an attachment to in the next episode. If we don’t, then my father and I will have a lot of “Not angry, but disappointed…” work to cover off, and I dont’ think Binky could withstand that.

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We live in Chiswick – and it’s never been exactly “with it”: it’s more strongly associated with leafy wide streets where solidly middle-class, ever-expanding families wheel pushchairs that cost about the same amount as a small car past a bewildering variety of candle and skincare emporia, estate agents and delicatessens to one of the four hundred coffee shops in which slyly competitive games of “Who’s MOST tired by the nanny’s latest exploits?” are played.

But recently, Chiswick has got (to quote Terence Rattigan) “des idees au-dessous de sa gare”. Maybe five years ago, High Road House and The Cowshed led the charge, to the evident delight of all the (other) media people who live in the area. Two Vietnamese restaurants, a good Tapas place and a “South African deli” (I know – me too) have also popped up and appear to be going great guns. If Chiswick is a barometer of the nation’s tastes (and I’m sure that we can all agree that it is nothing if not that), it seems that the more cooking programmes are put on TV, the more likely it is that people will give up cooking altogether and eat out at every meal, on every day.

The most recent additions to the High Road have been the fleeting stay of a Jamie Oliver restaurant (OK food, RIDICULOUS prices – you can’t charge five quid more just becuase you’ve put soemthing in a Kilner jar instead of in a bowl), Bill’s (which seems to be doing a roaring trade in “Greasy Spoon Food at Michelin starred prices”), Byron (which has transported my children to a level of delight that I would have thought it would be impossible for a hamburger to achieve) and – newest of all – Jackson and Rye, a New York style bar and diner that has yet to open, but looks pretty cool.

So, where next for Ritzy Chiswick? McDonald’s has shut – which is only a shame if you need to lay your hands on twenty gobby schoolchildren in a hurry – and the bets are on for what will replace it. Pret-A-Manger appears to be the current favourite, but I’m wondering if we might not find ourselves hosting something EVEN COOLER! These are exciting times.

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When people say “I like cooking” (or even when I read a CV, which I seem to be doing a lot more of than I would like, and it features “cooking” as an interest) I think “Ah – you like eating, eating with other people. Good.”

I like eating with other people, and given that I can’t afford to do that in restaurants (because I have decided that my disposable income, such as it is, will go on the theatre, rather than on eating at places where “spume”, “foam” and “mist” appear on menus and drive the prices for very ordinary food up by at least 60%), I have to do it at home.

Mainly, it’s family who come here – or at least family who form the backbone of the guest list – and people who know them (and would be pleased to see them) who swell the ranks. The reason for this is simple: there is a list of things that are made much more complex when you’re single than when you’re part of a couple. Chief among these are: “Carrying IKEA furniture up three flights of stairs”, “Assembling IKEA furniture”, “Hanging a seven feet high mirror” and “Cooking while also entertaining/carrying on a conversation”.

If I were content to have people lean on the kitchen work surfaces, making expansive gestures as we discuss Edward St Aubyn, describing wide arcs with the glasses of Kir that I have overfilled (out of a combination of nerves and a desire to render the environment into which the food will be introduced more forgiving) as I do interestingly modish things with beetroot, then the problem wouldn’t be so severe – but I am not. I don’t know why, but I have a (ridiculous) belief that when people come to eat at my house, they should enjoy drinks and canapés in a separate room to the one where I am swearing because I have forgotten to chill something that needed to be left in the ‘fridge overnight; so that, when the food is eventually ready, they don’t feel as if they have been as deeply involved in the preparation as I have, and that if ANYONE is going to accept praise graciously for the petits pois a la Francaise, then it ought to be them. As a result of this, there are any number of people whom I just don’t have over: people whom I like, people whom I would love to spend an evening with, people whom I owe an invitation to – I have decided in my crazy way that it’s better not to have these people over for an evening for a meal that I think we would all enjoy, than to leave them on their own every ten minutes for five minutes at a time while I go and marinade and get the steamer going.

It’s ridiculous. I know it is. Whenever I have seen cookery programmes – and, like everyone else, I can’t seem to turn the TV on nowadays without some media-friendly poppet who has a soundbite quirk to them (“She’s got a tiny kitchen!”, “He’s Australian and keeps going on about the rain in London!”, “She fellates wooden spoons!”, “He approaches cookery like a DJ!”, “He swears but he loves his children!” etc. etc.) looming over a set of achingly cool graphics – there is a compulsory reminder that I shouldn’t get hung-up, shouldn’t worry about the food, need to remember that it’s me they’re coming to see, shouldn’t drive myself mad over dinner…and I nod along to it, thinking “Absolutely”.

And then, when the time comes to see people whom I haven’t seen for far too long, I think: “I can’t invite them. They’re not coming to see me. They’re coming for dinner.”

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