Posts Tagged ‘Richmond’

The last time that I had my children (Half-Term: brilliant), one of the things that I promised Youngest Son was that we would play football on Sunday. After Church, and after “I’ve bought a few things for lunch” and after “I’ve got the lunch under way.”.

In readiness for this, we went off to Argos and chose him the football of his dreams (bright orange, covered in Nike swooshes and Premiership endorsements), which came what I can only describe as “flat-packed” – or, I suppose, a better descriptor would be “uninflated”. It was the work of but forty minutes to get in the car, drive to Richmond (where my parents live), borrow their pump, get back in the car, and get back to Chiswick – so that was GREAT. By the time we had a workable (playable?) football with us, there was only going to be an hour and a half for the football itself, it seemed.

Never mind: he’s only seven and even he’s not up for a full ninety minutes.

Daughter put the brakes on: “What am I going to do?”

“What would you like to do, darling? You’re very welcome to play football too.”

“I don’t like football.”

“Well… what would you LIKE to do?”

(The likelihood of her saying “Play on my DSi” had already been addressed through a previously negotiated, adhered to and mandated “Electronics Embargo” for Sunday – so that wasn’t going to be a problem.)

“Can I bring Baby in her Push-A-Chair?” (This is Daughter’s phrase for her doll’s pushchair, which, it has been decreed, will go EVERYWHERE that we do).

“Of course you can, Darling – but we need to go now.”

With this, Daughter responded with a look of horrified urgency (as though she’d just been informed that the house was on fire and we needed to get DOWN these four flight, through that locked door, and out into the streets, carrying only what we most valued) and bolted up to her bedroom. She came bumping back down, with Baby, Push A Chair, Umbrella, Changing Bag, Changing Mat and Travel blanket. Baby had enough kit to see her through a month on a cruise liner, rather than an hour in the park. However: we were ready, and so we left the house, with Youngest Son jumping along like Zebedee with his new ball.

Daughter was not ready for the trip to go slowly. In fact, it soon became clear, that Daughter had envisioned this trip as the sort of excursion that would make Shackleton blench and think twice.


(The men all wait)

“Her blanket has come loose. She’ll get a cold.”

We pause and look on as she re-arranges the covers with a fair bit of clucking and tutting – ensuring that Baby is toasty warm and safe. Eventually, the caravan moves off again.


Another break: I turn around to see her, feigning anxiety and resignation.

“The sun is in her eyes.”

It becomes clear, relatively quickly, that Daughter does not have a plan on this one. It’s simply a statement of fact and one that she is looking to her father to solve for her.

“Could she close her eyes until she gets to the end of this road? Then the sun won’t be in them.”

“She’s not tired.” (This is said with all the dreadful finality of a hanging judge passing sentence.)

“Why don’t you turn the chair around and walk backwards until we get to the end of the road?”

She’s dubious: she has to confess that this MIGHT work, but I don’t think that she was necessarily really looking for a solution. She gives it a go.

Our progress is now slowed to the rate where we would have packed a light meal “for the journey”, had we only had the fore-warning and Youngest Son’s Zebedee bounces are getting more like Eeyore’s; but with the critical end of the road in sight, we are ready to re-manoeuvre Baby around until she’s facing the front and Daughter is pushing her once again. We’re almost at the park now.


There’s no disguising the boys’ frustration now. Indeed, Eldest Son (who likes to paint things in as emotive a way as possible) does all but fall to his knees, crying out “WHY??????????????????” at this next interruption.

I do my best to keep my voice concerned and level.

“What is it now, Darling?”

“She’s cold.”

“But her blanket’s wrapped around her.”

“This is her Summer blanket. I need her Winter blanket. Can we go back?”

We don’t go back, of course. Instead, I persuade Daughter of the health risks of Baby over-heating, and we plough on to our final destination.

The football was great, by the way. Friends of Eldest Son were all in the park and we rotated who went in goal and every single person scored (yes: including me – I’m pretty nifty when pitted against players with an average age of eight and a half) – so that was great.

And yes: Baby made it back alive.

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Having anything to say about Waitrose is almost as difficult for me as wearing a hat in Church would be: it feels wrong, I know it to BE wrong and it makes me feel desperately uncomfortable.

And yet, and yet…

Until I move into Future Home, I am still living with my saintly and fantastic parents, and part of my residence has been my insistence that I buy the food and wine. This has meant my going to the local Waitrose (can you imagine the combination of Richmond and Waitrose, it’s like an upper middle-class apocalypse) every Saturday morning at 8am, before the local retired majors and actors turn up.

Now: if your heritage combines Scotland, Ireland and Italy, you’re going to get a group of people who like a drink. This means that on most weekends I am buying at least six bottles of wine for the forthcoming week – and this is where the problems begin. There is a woman (and there is no nice way to say this) who works on the checkout, and is the spitting image of the dwarf from “Don’t Look Now” in a tabard, and she combines this with an eternally downbeat manner – which is kind of understandable, and if she is ever on the tills when I am waiting to pay there is a ritual which she always goes through. She sees two bottles of wine hit the conveyor belt and enquires, “Oooh: are you having a party?’ (delivered in the exact tones of her asking “Are you chemotherapy?” and every time I see her, I have replied “Yes” – because it’s quicker.

But this morning, I got bored of the thought before I was even asked and started thinking of possible responses to “Oooh: are you having a party?’ and at the moment my top five intended are:-

  1. “No. I’m an alcoholic.”
  2. “Just drinking to forget. Drinking to forget.”
  3. “THEY put them there. THEY MAKE ME BUY THEM.”
  4. “It just makes Communion go with more of a bang if we use a bit of the… you know…”
  5. “Yes – seven for seven-thirty. Bring a bag of crisps and a goat on a bit of string.”

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Fantastic day with Best Friend, Talented Art Director with Monkey Arms and Gifted God Daughter – so fantastic that I arrived at 12 noon and left just before 11pm, adding new nuance, richness and meaning to the phrases “Out staying your welcome” and “Shit off back to Richmond, Eiljert, for the love of GOD!”.

Gifted God Daughter sifted through her so-late-they-look-sarcastic Easter presents with all the speed, dexterity and clear judgement that I have come to expect of her: quickly sorting the wheat from the chaff and hooking into the chocolate; and spent the rest of the day proving the fact that she is so dangerously intelligent that a new school will have to be built to TRY and educate her in (if they can find teachers who are up to the job, and can keep pace with her forensic analysis of shapes and animals – which I doubt).

Later, we joined the Dalston Massive and I was (by sheer dint of location and company) about 400 times cooler than I had been in ages. As we walked, Talented Art Director with Monkey Arms entertained Gifted God Daughter with various caperings, and Best Friend told me something so “Six Degrees of Separation” that I also couldn’t believe it. I won’t take you through the specifics of it all, but it turns out that Attractive and Funny PR Woman (whom I’ve met a couple of times with BF and TADwMA) is good friends with a woman whose children attend the same school as my children. They were out for dinner and (unbelievably) the friend mentioned Ex Wife.

“Oh my goodness!” said AaFPRW “I know her ex-husband, Eiljert!”

“Really? Is it the same one?” asked her friend.

“Oh yes,” began AaFPRW, and then illustrated the fact that she knew of whom she spoke, mentioning not just the children by name, but also Ex-Wife’s affair with Man Who Looks Like Steve Buscemi and the events surrounding. She stopped when she realised that her conversational companion had gone quiet.

“I didn’t realise she’d had an affair.” (No surprise here, Ex Wife is very keen not to mention that, which I suppose shows some level of morality). And then – apparently – her face changed to that of a woman who has just won the lottery: the lottery of Playground Currency, as she realised that she was going to be able to get in with a couple of exciting pointers on Monday, as the children filed into class, to the rest of the waiting mothers.

The truth will out, as the saying goes…

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On the weekends when I don’t have my children, and if I’m not bound for Madrid (where Unfeasibly Attractive Girlfriend) is temporarily based, I prefer to be busy (busy as in “bordering on the “Up phase of a manic-depressive” “), and so I have been looking at ways of doing something that I can devote a lot of time to.

This has meant that I have devoted time to the following labour-intensive activities:-

  1. Painting a climbing Rose on the outside of the dolls’ house that I built for Daughter, according to her strict brief on type of Rose, colour of Rose, distribution of Rose across architectural features and other sundry issues.
  2. Moving rocks. Not in a Prisoner of War tribute, but as part of a plan to make my parents’ garden rather lusher, brighter and less full of (frankly) rubble than it has been to date. This involves “going to the tip” – which I love, as well as digging (which I also love).
  3. Finding new ways to get from Richmond to Stoke Newington. No mere flaneur’s hobby, this: Stoke Newington is where Best Friend, Talented Art Director and God Daughter live: so I have been improving what my fellow world-class athletes would recognise as their “best time” in completing this task. So far, I am down to 57  minutes and am prepared to share my secret with fellow cross-London travellers – just leave details below and enlightenment can be yours.
  4. Writing a novel. I know everyone does this: especially English Literature graduates. More to the point, I’ve already DONE this twice before: the first time I actually finished it, and (on re-reading it) am so disgusted by how self-aware it is (and so embarrassed by the sex in it – I even used the phrase “he pushed himself inside her, urgently”) that I have locked it in a strong box and set gryphons to guard it; the second attempt is about a third of the way through – not too bad, but not brilliant. THIS attempt, though, is simply amazing and the best book ever written (INCLUDING “How To Be Topp” – so you can imagine how brilliant it is) and I often manage to churn through twenty pages in a day, with nothing but coffee and the pretence that I am in a film (played by John Cusack) as a tired, idiosyncratic, but epoch-crowningly brilliant novelist, dedicated to his craft.
  5. Drawing. I am quite poor now (well, comparatively to how I was; not compared to rural China), so there has been more of a focus on drawings and paintings as gifts – and people genuinely DO seem to prefer them. The details of this are the same as above, except in this film I am played by Tom Hardy, and Penelope Cruz plays my girlfriend/undraped model.
  6. Making Marmalade. This is the crowning glory of “Things that make you busy, take a long time, and leave you with something to show for it at the end of the task” and I shall tell you, dear reader just what it is that positions it here in top slot:-
    1. Marmalade is delicious.
    2. Home-made Marmalade is better than shop bought – and yes, I am including Wilkins & Sons’ Tawny Marmalade in that, of course I am. What kind of fake comparison would it be if I were to leave out this king of preserves?
    3. It is simple and mindless. Cutting up the shred of the fruits is methodical but mindless and can be done whilst listening to Radio  4 or an Audiobook (“The Complete Sherlock Holmes”, obviously).
    4. There is a bubbling cauldron involved. My mother has a proper, copper preserve pan and it is beyond great to pick up something that weighs as much as my legs, apply fire to it and then see a great, bubbling lava scream away inside it.
    5. There is a weird kind of urgency to it, as Seville Oranges are only available for five weeks in a year.  Once one has subtracted weekends with children, and weekends with Unfeasibly Attractive Girlfriends, this leaves relatively little time to make Marmalade: but one can make more than one batch a day! And one can make full use of the fact that a weekend has not one, but TWO days in it.

As I am such a big-hearted, generous being, I am prepared to share the secret of my Marmalade successs (for success it was, and with a variety of fruits, flavours and additional touches that will make your head SPIN) with you – but I shall sign off with one piece of advice gratis and free of charge: “When you make Marmalade for the first time, don’t forget to stir it and let it burn. It will taste horrible and you will end up saying “Fuck!” a lot.”

That said, I am evangelical about the stress-relieving, mind-absorbing properties of this joyous task (to say nothing of the world-class product I have created) and urge you all to set January (all of it) aside as “The Month In Which I Make Marmalade”. You won’t be sorry.

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I’ve been living in Richmond for the last six months or so: a beautiful place and home to my parents, sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece – so a great place to be. That said, there are some observations that I have, which I feel should be recorded for posterity.


  1. How is it possible to accommodate branches of Max Mara, Joseph and Brora, and yet not have a butcher?
  2. Why are all the restaurants “shit”?
  3. Is the fact that every child here is dressed in Bonpoint, Ralph Lauren, Petit Bateau, (or if you’re slumming it) Boden, Jack Wills, and Joules an enforced bylaw?
  4. Would it be possible to re-open the ice rink? I only ask because my children absolutely loved skating at Christmas, so it would make it a lot easier for me.
  5. Is the woman who shouted in a packed railway carriage to the eight year-old girl sitting right next to her “Catherine! Catherine! Have you done your Sanskrit homework?” a fair representation of local, stressed motherhood?
  6. Is there anywhere nicer in London (well, Surrey – but you know what I mean).

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