Emilio made his first fashion blog! Check him out here.
Category Archives: Kids, parenting… Non-mums may want to move along
So moving, yes. It was two weeks from making the decision to move to being in the new place, which I think is some sort of record. Is that a record? I dunno, it’s been so long since I last moved maybe these days that’s average, but it feels pretty bloody quick to me.
The new place is a five-bed, 18th-century lodge nestled in a South Downs village, which, hilariously, is about £400 a month cheaper than our 700sq ft, one-bed flat in Shoreditch. It’s a big change, obviously (no streetlights, nothing open on Sundays, and the silence is deafening), but I’m throwing myself into country life, to the point of making apple crumble with fruit picked from the garden (I know, I know). That said, I’ve a horrible feeling I’m simply playing out a role, like Madonna in her lady-of-the-manor phase. I told Misha that I was looking forward to my inappropriate-toyboy phase, but he didn’t find it very funny.
On Sunday I took Emilio to the Apple Festival (more apples – I think this is what they mean by embracing the seasons.) This was better than it sounds, with a fairground and petting zoo alongside the morris dancers and cider/hog-roast stands, and an impressive turnout thanks to the nice weather. It was all a bit Birkenstock, as these things are wont to be, but I particularly liked Mouse Town, an olde-worlde shopping street populated by mice:
The place was chock-full of Boden children, barefoot and facepainted. I know this was when I was supposed to feel all smug for taking my son from the polluted urban jungle and bringing him to this green, wholesome place, but instead I kept worrying that he won’t grow up to be an urban sophisticate, but some earnest, fleece-wearing type, who thinks Brighton’s a big city and juggling an acceptable career choice.
Now that we’re leaving the area, naturally I’m dwelling on all the things I like about it: the narrow, Dickensian streets, the Barbican, the coffee stand in Fortune St park run by the nice Aussie bloke and the girl I thought was a Kiwi but who turned out to be a Geordie (such is my ear for accents).
And, as always with East London, there are new places popping up all the time. On Saturday I checked out Story Deli in Redchurch Street, which has relocated from its old premises off Brick Lane. Run by a former Vogue stylist and her husband, it serves what are hands-down London’s best pizzas (way better than Pizza East, or that place in Brixton everyone bangs on about). At £15 apiece, they’re also its most expensive, mind you. I was quite huffy about the price until I tried one:
The shit iPhone picture isn’t really doing it justice. They’re also massive – we found that one between us was plenty.
Despite the ELLE Deco décor, it’s the most child-friendly eaterie I’ve been to in a long time (ever?) thanks to one ingenious touch… A box of Brio. The owners have left one in a corner, meaning that my two-year-old – the kid who would have been shouting/running around/generally pissing you off – was silently engrossed in trains for the duration of our meal. Heaven. If only all café owners would do the same.
I’m going to miss the people here, too. When we were set to move to Battersea, I was slating South West Londoners (for being thickie minor-public-schoolkids with an inflated sense of importance, penchant for spotty Emma Bridgewater crockery, etc), when my friend gently pointed out that there were some people who thought that Shoreditch, too, was chock-full of idiots. Oops, point taken. If you haven’t seen this already, it sums them up far better than I ever could:
Instead of endless insights into the author’s tedious dilemmas, some blogs provide useful information, such as recipes. I haven’t offered any recipes up here, largely because I’m a shit cook. And I’d only be lifting them from Jamie or Nigella’s websites anyway, which frankly you can do yourselves.
But recently I’ve been trying to address the whole being-a-crap-cook thing, because, like every other guilt-ridden mother, I feel bad stuffing Emilio’s face with fish fingers and baked beans and want to give him sepia-tinted memories of home-baked cookies and Sunday-morning pancakes.
So I’ve been buying cookbooks and following the recipes with my finger, like a remedial seven-year-old. But recently it struck me that the books I’ve been buying are not by professional chefs, but pretty celebrities. I’ve got Gwyneth Paltrow’s, Sophie Dahl’s and the other day nearly bought Fay Ripley’s (OK, not quite in their league looks-wise, but still attractive, and not best known as a cook.)
The Gwyneth Paltrow one I’m really into, actually. People give her stick about her aspirational and slightly wanky website, Goop, but I like that, too (except for the boring cod-spirituality section). When we moved to LA I tried all her restaurant recommendations in the low-to-mid price bracket and there was only one dud. So I knew I’d like her cookbook because we have a fairly similar approach to food: She is neurotic about white sugar and industrially produced meat; I am neurotic about white sugar and industrially produced meat. She has kids; I have a kid. I mean, it’s like we’re the same person.
I’ve now made her banana-walnut muffins and basic tomato sauce (I told you I was a shit cook) several times, and can confirm they were a hit. Her turkey ragu, chicken Milanese and take on crumble also worked for me.
In general the book isn’t as mental and health-obsessed as you might expect – there are recipes for French toast and fudgy chocolate brownies, along with a lengthy burger section – but let’s just say it helps if you’re the type inclined to spelt flour and agave nectar. If you’ve ever found yourself trawling the ‘free from’ section of the supermarket, this one’s for you.
Anyway, yesterday I saw it knocked down to £8 (from £20) in House of Books on Moorgate, which I think is a bit of a bargain. I suspect it’s floundering about in loads of discount shops, because people think that she’s a bit of a tosser and they’re better off buying recipe books written by, y’know, trained chefs. More fool them, I say! But seriously, her food is pretty good.
So we made a lowball offer on the Sussex place, which has been accepted. You’d think this would be cause for celebration, but I’m now fretting about whether or not this is a terrible idea and I’m going to spend my life weeping into the laundry with only a two-year-old and the Archers for company.
The advantages are: it’s a proper, grown-up house, double-fronted and everything, with a massive garden and enough bedrooms that Misha and I can have an office, and we can invite friends (plural!) to come and stay for the weekend. Having spent about six months studying Rightmove, I know we’d never get anything like that in London for the price.
Emilio would have masses of room to play and do all the baking/art-type activities I currently pretend don’t exist because they’re too messy. And if we did stay down there, I could send him to the local school and know he’d get an education. No 13-grand-a-year fees, no renting an overpriced shoebox next door to the school, no pretending to find Jesus. Just sending him to the nearest school, like normal people.
BUT with the exception of my Mum, who is admittedly a draw, I don’t really know anyone in Sussex. And I don’t know if I can face hauling my arse around playgroups trying to latch onto other mothers. It all sounds a bit bleak, like the rural landscape in winter. And although the countryside boasts lots to do with kids on sunny days (petting zoos, steam railways, that kind of thing), I’m not sure what you do with them when it rains, when you don’t know anybody.
I don’t know *sigh*. I should probably mention that we’d be renting this place, not buying, and only for six months at that (the short lease is the reason it’s so cheap). Which makes it not so much moving to the country as taking a sabbatical there. An extended holiday, really. But just thinking about it makes me miss the Tube and Topshop and Ottolenghi and other people and…
So it looks like we are finally – finally! – moving out of our one-bed into something a bit more family-friendly. Not sure where that’ll be yet, but we are trying to be open-minded, and yesterday I went to look at a place in the Sussex countryside, outside Lewes. It was beautiful, unnervingly big (where would we find the furniture to fill it?) and cheaper than anything we’d find in last week’s area of choice, Battersea.
But, like anyone who’s lived in London for a long time, I’m slightly terrified of living anywhere else, and assume the world outside to be a backward, parochial place where everything shuts at five o’clock and the food runs the gamut from pub grub to the Panda Chinese takeaway.
I know, I know, this is misguided prejudice and these days you country folk have Daylesford Organics and literary festivals and everything. And it would be nice to see the sky and the seasons. Plus there are other things to think about these days, boring things like schools, parks and sufficient bedrooms.
I’m still not sure where we’ll end up. But although there’s lots about Shoreditch I won’t miss – the dirty main roads, the pollution, the endless fucking scaffolding – having lived here for so long, there is loads I will. Such as:
We have three within easy walking distance: the Barbican, the Rich Mix and the Aubin. They are all great, the problem being that, once you factor in babysitting, the cinema becomes gob-smackingly expensive. Not so long ago, we went to see Attack the Block in Leicester Square, which ended up costing about 70 quid. I wouldn’t mind but it was crap.
Babies are a test to one’s sanity and exercise is how I preserved mine. Namely at this place, which considerately runs a crèche on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. They do fun classes, like ballet to rock music, and tribute Jane Fonda aerobics, and Joan and Pip, the girls who run it, are lovely.
Columbia Road, Brick Lane and Spitalfields. On Sundays there’s no better place in London to be.
My friends in other parts of London often comment that they rarely leave their West/East/South/North comfort zone, which always strikes me as a shame because no one part of London is so uniformly great there’s no reason to go elsewhere: to West London for its schmancy boutiques and rich-person people-watching; North London for Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill and gastropubs; East London for creative edge and comedy hipsters; South London for…
Anyway, what’s great about living where I do is that, with three walkable Tube stations, it’s easy to get anywhere else (except Fulham). And in 2017 there’ll be Crossrail, which means it’ll take six minutes to get to Bond Street and 30 to get to Heathrow. Only six more years to go…
Having proper bars/pubs/cafes/restaurants
Lots of people think that the cafes/pubs/restaurants where they live are nice. They are wrong. They’ve just lowered their standards. Shoreditch has no shortage of rank venues popular with the skirt-n-shirt brigade, but there are still some goodies if you know where to look (and don’t come on a Friday night). The Albion, for instance, or Bottega Prelibato, or the Princess for Sunday lunch.
So – sniff – Shoreditch I will miss you. Thanks for the memories. But I’ve a boy who needs a bedroom, and room to run.