27 January, 2007

adventures in babysitting



































Remember that movie? I thought Elisabeth Shue was the living end. My goodness, I've just read that someone is remaking that movie. I find it very depressing when films from my childhood are being remade. When is someone going to remake me?

But I'm getting away from the point. I had a lovely lunch out with my friend Dalia at Zoom in Marylebone, shivering a bit from the front door that refused to stay shut, but greatly enjoying my salad of chicken livers, avocado, creme fraiche and frisee, and chatting up a storm. She is what she described to me as a true Scorpio, which gives me food for thought since Avery is as well: fiery, opinionated, stubborn and passionate. It makes for very good lunch conversation! She and her husband (who she casually describes as a former model who once won a "James Dean lookalike" contest, can you imagine? I've got to meet this guy) just came back from a holiday in New York, which makes me slightly homesick. But we're headed there for Avery's half-term break in February, which will be fun.

After lunch, I strolled over to school, and the rest of the afternoon turned into one of those situations when good old Hilary's "it takes a village" comes into play. We turned up at school, petted somebody's ferret on a lead, and packed Avery and Kimia into little Emmy, not easy to do with backpacks, PE kit bags, violins, skates and skating outfits times two, but in time we were off. The girls took to the ice and up came Becky with her eldest, Ashley, plus Anna and Ellie, and Ellie's playdate Ella. Got that? All were decked out, skates tied up, gloves pulled on, and even John and I got onto the ice. But truth be told, I hate to skate. I really do. My ankles turn in, it's cold, and I know it's only a matter of time before I fall and then I'm not only cold, but also wet. So I decided to go keep Becky company looking after all the enormous piles of stuff that accompany six girls. Within minutes Ashley was struggling off the ice, holding her wrist, in tears of pain. "It's not getting better, it's getting worse," she sobbed, and Becky told me that she had broken that same wrist twice before, so there was definitely a been there, done that sort of feeling to the event. It was clear that a trip to some medical professional was in the offing, so amidst several phone calls to the GP, a potential orthopedist, Becky's husband's office to get him home early, Ashley bravely held onto her wrist and listened to my lame attempts to entertain her.

In the end, an appointment was secured at the doctor's, plans were made for me to take Avery and Kimia home, and John to get Anna, Ellie and Ellie to their house in time to meet Becky's husband, and give him the house keys. John and Becky fought over the money she tried to give him, and then poor Ashley trudged off with her mother, and the rest of the girls alternated between teaching each other complex skating moves and commiserating about their fallen comrade. Avery had her lesson with Nicky, but Level 9 is still out there, not yet attainable. Five girls were given hot chocolate, croissants and French fries, countless napkins dispersed, skates adjusted, hair rebraided, falls sympathised with, ketchup packages opened, socks adjusted, tales of other rink users' iniquities absorbed. Then it was down to five pairs of skates being removed, bags packed, coats on and out the door.

Avery and Kimia and I headed to La Caricatura, a new restaurant in our neighborhood, while John took the other girls to Anna's house, and I admit to a certain nervousness when both girls in my care simply put their heads on the table and fell silent. That's Friday evening for you, in this world where they all work so hard all week. But food arrived, and John arrived, and everyone perked up considerably. The service was simply terrible, everything arriving at different times, pineapple juice instead of apple, pizzas given to the wrong people, my "vodka on ice" a scary tall glass of something that tasted like saccharin, but the food was lovely. So we think we'll give them another try, maybe wait a bit to let them get their staff under control. I had a delicious salad of beef carpaccio with totally fresh rocket and huge shavings of parmesan, Avery had lasagne and Kimia and John each had a wood-oven pizza, very thin crust, beautiful tomato sauce, large fresh leaves of basil.

I can't actually remember the last time I had both lunch and dinner out! What luxury. Avery and Kimia recovered their energy to the point of singing excerpts from "Joseph" all the way to St. John's Wood, where we dropped Kimia at home and came home to collapse ourselves. And update: Ashley's wrist was only sprained, not broken, thank goodness.

Saturday we discovered, alas, that as much as I adore it, Borough Market is not for everyone. The trouble began when we decided to drive rather than take the tube, and we arrived to find that of course the market was mobbed and John and Avery (never really farmers' market devotees under the best of circumstances) went off to park and meet me later at Neal's Yard. Well, I did some fruit and veg shopping, but when I finally met up with them they were in a joint foul humour. Car parked far away, too many people, and someone jostled Avery and made her drop her last bite of cheesecake. So I packed them off back home and stayed for another blissful hour on my own! I really don't mind crowds, especially with interesting people to look at, but Avery was so far down that people just kept stepping on her.

Can you believe, purple brussels sprouts? I think I will submit them to the same treatment as at Thanksgiving, shredded and sauteed. Oh, and my suspicion that Cherie Blair's recipe for sprouts would be heinous was justified: a nasty floury roux and lemon juice, gloppy and not good. Much better to keep it simple.

I sampled everything in sight! And came away with glorious things. Delicious peppered smoked mackerel, bought from a man in a kilt (I find it tastes better that way) from Jolly's Fish and Farm Produce, a creamy Caerphilly cheese from Wales, and just listen to the address: Gorwydd Farm, Llanddewi Brefi, Tregaron, Ceredigion, Wales. It just has to taste good. A new potato, called the "Estima," from my favorite potato stand. I can't say I can tell the difference among them all, but it's fun to try them. And for tonight's spaghetti with asparagus and ham, I bought two luscious gammon steaks from Sillfield Farm, from a man I wish I could have taken a picture of: round, cheerful, simply crazy slippy teeth, the most gracious manner. "Any two in particular take your fancy, my love?" I want England always to have a generous number of these men, but I don't know if they make them anymore. Oh, I've been rereading Helen Hanff's The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, and while it's nothing like as wonderful as 84, Charing Cross Road, it's a lovely memoir by someone who may well rival me in my love of London, and all things English. What an evocative book, of a time when London was changing so quickly, and it was so important to hang onto everything that made it London. I love what she says about English money, and why everyone was so angry to change the system: "It has to do with the Englishman's need to be different. The decimal system is much simpler than the old ha'penny-tuppenny guinea tenner tanner system, but the old money was theirs; no other country had it and nobody else could understand it." Can you imagine what these lovely old English people would think of the European Union? I myself simply hate the Euro and would possibly not have moved back to London had there been no pounds sterling. I'm such an old fogey.

Finally, what do you think of Avery's crazy Raiha's-birthday hairdo? It's a funny thing for birthdays here: so many girls have hair-and-makeup parties where professional ladies come in and do them all up. We took her up to St. John's Wood and dropped her at Raiha's big, gorgeous double-fronted brick house, and two hours later Becky dropped her back to us with what you see here. And eyeliner! And mascara! Tattoos! They all had a wonderful time. Such a funny child: I came down into our bedroom last night to find her, bespectacled (or "bespeckled" as some Mrs Malaprop I know has said), perched on the end of our bed, clutching a bowl of raspberries, bananas, pears and blueberries, avidly fixed on "Top Gear," sighing, "It's the Hamster!" when Richard Hammonds arrived on set. A new series starts tonight, and I'm sure the studio will be all agog to see him, fresh from his near-fatal accident last summer. She and her father will be in heaven...

1 comment:

alberto barbieri said...

Hi Kristen. i am the owner of La Caricatura restaurant you commented on. i appreciate your comments on the service and believe that we have made a positive impact to it. Glad you liked the food though and hope you will come back again. Aberto