Wednesday, 19 April 2017


My friend Kay is having a house-warming party in Clapham on Saturday night. I want to wear my new boots with flowers on them but all my dresses have flowers on them also and the combined effect, when I try them together, is much too much The Mamas and The Papas.

"You need something in a block colour," says my friend Jai over a flat white (one shot, extra hot) in a local cafe on Monday morning, when I explain the problem. "Preferably a LBD (little black dress). My husband is taking the kids camping on Friday so let's go shopping."

Friday afternoon, after her husband has taken her kids camping, Jai and I go shopping. We start with tea in the RA and end with drinks in the BFI via cocktails at the Royal Festival Hall and dinner at the Tate Modern with roughly six hours of trying on clothes in between. Jai buys two tops and I buy two dresses. One of them is a LBD from French Connection with a narrow sheer section in the middle at the front.

On Saturday evening when the doorbell rings I've just ended a long call to my mother and the phone has rung again. I answer the door with the phone clamped to my ear. Jai is standing on the doorstep looking stunning in skinny jeans, new top, and very high heels. "You're not changed for the party," she says.

"Who's that?" says the voice on the other end of the phone.

"It's Jai," I say. "We're going to Kay's party."

"Kay's party?" Says the voice on the other end of the phone. "Don't take drugs."

"I won't take drugs," I say. "I never have. Except for once when I lived in Norwich. But you have to take drugs if you live in Norwich."

"Don't take coke," says the voice on the other end of the phone. "I won't take coke," I say. "I never have."

I come off the phone. "Was that your mother?" asks Jai. 

"No," I say, "that was my son."

I go upstairs and put on the LBD with my new Summer of Love boots. "What do you think?" I ask Jai, walking back into the kitchen.

"Whoah," she says.

"I'll try it with a camisole," I say.

I come back downstairs with a camisole on underneath so that the sheer section in the middle at the front isn't sheer any more.

"That's sort of spoilt it," says Jai.

We drink champagne cocktails made with prosecco and then I go back upstairs and take the camisole off. Fuck it, I think, it's not like I'm going to take drugs.

At the party I find lots of alcohol and my friend Sas in the kitchen. "You're Cheryl Cole!" she says, when she sees the LBD with the sheer section in the middle at the front.

"Thanks!" I say. Then I remember Cheryl Cole headbutted someone in a ladies toilet.

As we tour the house while drinking more prosecco Sas is behind me on the stairs. "You have a pert arse in that dress," she says. 

"Thanks!" I say. 

Then I bump into Kay on the landing and in lieu of hello she rubs her nose in the sheer section in the middle at the front of my dress. "You're a MILF in that dress," she says.

"Thanks!" I say, because that sounds like a compliment. 

My body is being objectified, I think, because of this LBD, which is great, but any more acronyms and I'll span the whole alphabet.

A group of us kick off the dancing in the living room, and then stay there. After about an hour I head for the kitchen in search of more stuff to drink.

"Rock and roll!" says a man as I pass him in the hallway, a bottle dangling by my side. "You've got a whole bottle to yourself!"

"Yeah," I say, "of Badoit."

By 1am I've drunk the whole bottle of Badoit and my hip is killing me.

"My feet are in literal agony!" shouts Jai. 

"So is my hip!" I shout back.

We tell the host we have to leave because we are in literal agony. "You can't leave!" he shouts, pushing us back on the dance floor. But we leave anyway, when his back is turned.

In the taxi home Jai texts her eldest son, who hasn't gone camping. "He thinks we're leaving early," she says.

"Tell him bits of us are in literal agony," I say, "and I've normally had three hours sleep by now." 

I text one of my sons. My text says: I don't have a door key. Are you still up? I'm on my way home. I don't have a door key.

His text back says: Your text just began and ended with the same sentence. And I'm in bed.

After what seems like a very long time standing on the doorstep ringing the bell, one of my sons finally opens the front door.

"What time do you call this?" He says. "And what the fuck are you wearing?" 

Love E x


P.S. The little black dress -

My little black dress, which according to the above might not actually be one -

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Spring breaks through in South London.

"A light exists in spring."

You can keep autumn with its rotting leaves and mellow fruitfulness. You can have summer with its brash, kiss-me-quick and give us a lick of your ice cream. And winter? Winter, with its crazy Christmas centre piece, is for kids. For me, it's spring. Spring is the beginning of things, the promise of things, the journey before we arrive. We spring forward into spring. Spring leaves unspring themselves. Spring bulbs spring up from the ground. Even the verb is a happy one. Here is my Ode to Spring in pictures for while I'm away on a spring break. See you next week.

Love E x


A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period -
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary hills
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to me.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay -

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.

Emily Dickinson.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

For the love of socks.

Sock it to 'em.

This is the story of Mr and Mrs Sock, who were made for each other. He was left-handed and she was right-handed so they had this yin and yang thing going on. In the beginning they were inseparable, in fact they were attached: a piece of nylon held them together plus a plastic strip with their sizing on it, which was the same, and they were happy that way. They didn't want to do their own thing, they didn't want to hang out with other socks, they only wanted each other.

One day they were bought and taken home and the thin piece of nylon that held them together got broken and the plastic strip ripped off but still they stayed together as a pair, somehow. Even though they went in the wash separately and got thrown about in the lather, nevertheless they found each other at the end of every day. And they were happiest then, wrapped in a tight ball - she inside him, he inside her - all cosied up in the drawer.
Then the inevitable happened: they lost each other. He looked for her in the washing machine - surely she was in there with him? They went in together, didn't they? He looked for her in the dryer, tumbling around in the heat. There were lots of socks in there for sure, but where was his sock? Where had Mrs Sock gone? He looked for her in the clean pile where he lay upside down with a pair of kid's Y-fronts stuck to his sole.

Each time he saw another sock that looked a little bit like his sock his heart skipped a beat. It was her! They were back in step, reunited! But no, it wasn't his sock. On closer inspection it was a sock that looked very much like his sock but it was just that little bit wrong: too big, too small, too completely a different pattern with a massive tear in the toe.

I'm afraid to say this story doesn't end well because Mr and Mrs Sock never did find each other again, even though they lived in the same house. He often wondered if he'd put his foot in it somehow, but the truth was they just drifted apart. They were worn on different feet, on different days, by different family members. Sometimes he thought he saw her under the table, stuck on the foot of another, but the glimpse was always fleeting and then she was gone, forever. Neither of them could put their finger on how it happened. It was a total mystery.*

Much Ado About Something.

This is a true story that does have a happy ending and was told to me some time ago. Apologies if you've heard it already because I do love telling it. A friend of mine's husband left her because he said he fell in love with someone else (that's not the bit I love, by the way). They had two small children and she was blindsided. Broken. Devastated. Crushed. All the usual adjectives. She cried all the time and wouldn't leave the house. After a few weeks another friend stepped in and said she needed to snap out of it and dragged her off to the theatre - I don't know what play it was, she never told me that part - she did tell me there was a guy in this play, an actor, she couldn't take her eyes off. She just sat there in the audience thinking: I have to be with that man. She wrote him a note and left it at the stage door, suggesting they meet. And they did. Somehow or other he didn't think she was a complete lunatic and he met her for coffee one afternoon and they hit if off and started dating and now they're married and have two more children and live just down the road from us. 

The person this happened to told me the story herself at playgroup many years ago. Truth really is stranger than fiction, I thought, because if you wrote that in a novel it would sound implausible. 

"We only had one hiccup very early on when he moved in with us," she told me, "and it was about his socks."

"His socks?" I said.

"Yes," she said. "He put his socks in with the family wash and then he went crazy because he couldn't find them again."

"Ah," I said, "they were lost in the system!"

"Yes," she said. "I told him he would probably never see his socks again and that it was a small price to pay for love and he seemed to accept it," she said. Then she added, "actually, ever since then he's done his own washing."

Love E x


P.S. * Not a mystery at all apparently, here's the equation - (L(p x f) + C(t x s)) - (P x A).

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The South Downs Way.

I've slept with my friend Kay before in Accra in Ghana. I say 'slept with' but what with the heat and the constant noise from the street below, combined with the unfamiliar sounds from my new bedfellow (gentle sighing with occasional delicate farting) I got not one wink of sleep that night. On that occasion we were in a double bed in a flat above an undertaker's in the midst of a West African city. On this occasion we're in a twin room in a 4 star hotel with a spa in West Sussex on a last minute deal from 

It's Saturday, and we've come away walking because we both love to walk and the weekend promises great weather. Kay suggests we do eight and a half miles near the hotel over the South Downs, from Cocking Hill passing through the village of Singleton near the racecourse at Goodwood.

"Eight and a half?" I say, pulling on my wellies (I always walk in wellies unless it's really hot, just like that lovely Hunter Davies). "That's quite a lot. I'm more used to five, which turns into six because we got lost."

"I think we can do it," she says. "You're only as old as you feel."

I feel old, I think, and she probably feels about five years younger than me because she is. Then I think about the feel of my dodgy right hip which has been giving me a lot of gip lately and my legs that feel a bit achy.

"No worries," I say, "I feel fit as a fiddle. Age is just a number."


As we climb the first gentle rise up to woodland, I tell her I need something to happen. "You know," I explain, "on the walk, or back at the hotel, so I have a something to write about this week in my blog." Then I step on a branch strewn across the rutted path, causing its end to rise up just as she's taking another step forward so her foot catches it and she's flung to the ground, face first.

"Will that do?" she asks, wiping the mud from her cheeks.

"Sorry," I say. "But not really."

The remaining eight miles pass without incident as we walk in brilliant sunshine, traversing beautiful countryside, while not getting lost even once. I just ignore the pain in my hip which is becoming ever so slightly worse each time we strike up a hill. Back at the hotel we head for the spa, which is deserted, save for one chatty man.

"I warn you," he says, as Kay and I enter the sauna together, "it's hot in here."

"Okay," we say, settling back on the bench below.

"Mind you," he adds, "I was just in Budapest where the thermal pools are 38 degrees."

"Nice," we say.

"And I went to the House of Terror museum there," he goes on, "expecting it to be, you know, like Hammer House of Horror, all spooky with ghosts and that, jumping out at you."

There's a brief silence.

"But it wasn't," he continues, "it was about what the fascists and communists did to the Hungarians during and after the war, torture and shooting and stuff."

"Awful," says Kay.

"Oh dear," I say.

There's another brief silence.

"Right," says Kay. "Too hot, I'm off for a swim."

After she's gone the chatty man asks where we're from. "South London," I reply, suddenly feeling spectacularly tired and achy, all over, "sort of Tooting/Balham." 

"My son lives in Balham," he tells me. "Bedford Hill."

"Everyone lives in Balham now," I yawn, "it's cool." And it occurs to me he might think Kay and I are a couple and live there together.

"Funny thing is," he continues, "thirty years ago you wouldn't stop at the traffic lights in Balham for fear of being stabbed."

"Shanked," I say.

After about ten minutes sweating it out I leave the sauna and head for the hot tub. As I'm climbing in I feel things beginning to seize up - a lot - my hips and legs mostly, but also other bits of me I wasn't aware I had. Oh dear, I think, maybe I should try a gentle swim to keep things moving, so I do, and it helps, then I go in search of the steam room.

"Is that you?" asks Kay's voice as I open the door to the steam room. "I'm in here and I can't see a thing."

It is indeed incredibly steamy in the steam room. I can barely see the paint on my own toenails.

"Yes," I say, "it's me, and I don't know what you've done to me but I'm a wreck, I can hardly walk. God knows how I'll feel after tonight."

"I'll show you some stretches," she says, "when we get back to our room."

"Just to warn you," says a third disembodied voice from somewhere at the back of the steam room, "it's very hot in here."

Love E x

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Big up the pub.

According to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) twenty-nine pubs close down every week in Britain because pints are too pricey for the punters and they've stopped coming*, but you wouldn't know it if you lived in Tooting. In the twenty-odd years we've lived here the area has gentrified its socks off with newly-renovated pubs and wine bars springing up all over the place. Now even our local has joined ranks and come over all craft beer, retro lighting, and full to the brim with people. Consequently I was in there on Wednesday night last. And on Friday night last. And on Saturday night last... 

"WHERE WERE ALL THESE PEOPLE BEFORE?" shouts a friend, over the roar of the rugby-watching crowd as we stand at the new bar, perusing a new set of pumps sporting a brand new assortment of beers.


"WHAT?" he shouts back.

"I SAID..."

"OH, RIGHT," he shouts. "ME TOO."

I look around. It's changed beyond recognition. The fruit machines have gone and so has 'Polish Elvis,' as my boys called him, who played here every Thursday, apparently. I never actually saw him myself, I only saw his advertisement on the window. I've no idea where he's gone to, hopefully not all the way back to Poland. Perhaps he's found a pub only slightly further down the Northern line where the demographic is only slightly less millennial. Morden maybe. 

I say millennial but in truth there's every age-group in here, including families. I can see frazzled-looking parents with toddlers playing chaotic games of Connect 4, bright-eyed hipsters with gleaming beards, middle-aged soaks with too many drinks in front of them and too many years behind them and even elderly people, in the form of a couple who have been coming here for years, according to the bar staff, still resolutely clinging on in the midst of this new swell of people. I've seen them here every time I've been in, tiny and frail and looking more than a little surprised by the changes wrought around them. They sit side by side near the back, marooned in the middle of a huge leather sofa, their matching pints on a low table in front, unable to hear themselves think - or each other speak - over the boom of the slightly-too-loud music, and on this occasion the rugby. Not that they ever seem to say anything anyway. On Saturday evening I noticed he was holding her hand, quite tightly, perhaps for anchorage. 

"Have you seen those two over there?" I say to a different friend, having battled my way back from the bar with her glass of sauvignon blanc.

"I know!" she exclaims, nudging her husband. "Look, so sweet, that'll be us when we're old."

"If I'm still with you," he replies.

I look at her crestfallen face. "Tell you what," I say, "when we're old and our husbands have left us, or died, let's sit in here together and hold hands."

"Thanks, mate," she says.

On Monday I'm in the kitchen working on my laptop when Eldest comes in to make his morning coffee. He has a train to catch back to university later that afternoon. 

"So," I say, "and your plans for today are?"

"Well," he says. "I thought I'd hang out with you and we could go back to the pub and have a pint and some pizza."

Love E x



Here are ten more great pubs and restaurants in Tooting.

The Little Bar -

In memory of Martin Pannett whose bar this last one was.