Lamb shawarma, chickpeas and Hump Day.

What did I do today? The day seems to go by so quickly when I write or when I think about writing. I don’t seem to be fit for anything else these days.

1. Shawarma in Exmouth Market. My hunt for the perfect Lebanese eatery continues. This is good and perfect for a mid-week lunch. Still not great though. We kept it light and the lamb shawarma was delicious.

2. Roasted chickpeas. This is easy to do. Rinse and drain a can of chickpeas. Tip into a bowl and dress with olive oil, salt and cumin ground. You could also add paprika and lemon juice. Spread the chickpease on non-stick oven paper, lay it on an oven tray and put it in the oven at 190 degrees if you have a fan oven for about ten minutes but do check after five as ovens and chickpease vary. They should be crunchy but not completely dry. Perfect to add to salads.

3. Today is the birthday of one of my closest friends. We were together middle and high school and amazingly we stayed friends even when I moved to London. I’m very grateful she’s in the world. I’ve got a splendid picture of her grinning like a lunatic at my wedding.

4. It’s terrible to say but since my mother passed away in April I feel more solid, more grounded, less transparent. It’s ugly to say but it’s the truth, and I’m grateful for it because it means that I’m healing. Slowly but I’m healing.

5. Happy Hump Day. It’s Wednesday. We’re half way through the week. Well done, us! Where are we going though? Are we wishing time away? Are we making the most of our time on this planet? That’s a genuine fear.


A runaway bride, a bohemian rhapsody and sauteed mushrooms

My study of the romantic comedy canon continues.

1. Runaway Bride. It never appears on any list of best romcoms and I’m not sure why. The chemistry between Richard Gere and Julia Roberts is undeniable and we knew that given the obvious precedents. It’s not just that, though; her character arc is original. She keeps standing guys up at the altar because she doesn’t know who she is. The movie has a false ending and SPOILER ALERT at the end she proposes to him.

2. Bohemian Rhapsody. The song and the biopic. The trailer looks epic. Rami Malek is a perfect Freddie Mercury. As good as Michael Fassbender playing Steve Jobs. Seriously guys, I’m weeping just watching the trailer. One of my closest friend cannot stand Queen or their music. Heathen! She threatened to walk out of a club once. She didn’t in the end but only because it was my birthday.

3. Sauteed mushrooms. Tesco sent too many so I’m sauteeing them as if there were no tomorrow. Problem is I need to cut down on garlic and chilli for a bit as per the doctor’s orders. This gave me an excuse to use the truffle salt as if I needed an excuse, so you know . . . it’s not all bad. Here’s what you do: cut each mushroom in thirds or quarters, just make sure they’re not too small, and wash them thoroughly. Heat up a decent quantity of oil or butter. Lower the mushroom in the pan and stir to coat them in oil. Add salt, truffle salt if you have it. A lot of water will come outm that’s ok. Stir occasionally to ensure they’re cooked evenly on all sides. The water will evaporate and the mushrooms will start colouring. When it’s the shade of brown you like, they’re done. Garlic, chilli, thyme and balsamic vinegar, all go very well.

4. Dreams. What’s the difference between dreams and projects? Have I ever had dreams? Have I ever dared to have dreams? It’s weird: I don’t think I’ve ever allowed myself to have big dreams. Or maybe the dreams I had became reality. Or maybe my pessimism took care of them. But I do believe in dreams. Maybe I should start dreaming them as well as believing in them.

5. The friend who sent me this to send to people who are making my day difficult:

Beef steak sandwich, short hair and make-up free days

1. I’ve got 99 problems but culinary cultural appropriation ain’t one. Do I get mad if people ruin a lovely Carbonara by adding cream, or olives, or parsley or anything they fancy? Yeah, I do, but do I shout at them they’re being direspectful of my culture? No because they’re not being disrespectful, they’re being stupid by ruining something that was perfect to begin with. But it’s not skin off my nose; after all it’s not me who has to eat that garbage. I knew this was going to happen. I knew sooner or later somebody was going to start complaining that profiting by cooking food from other cultures ‘disrespectfully’ was cultural appropriation. Whatever that means. To be fair, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. As far as I’m concerned, you can knock yourself out and cook Italian food badly to your heart’s content. People have way too much time on their hands. Moving on.

2. Rare beef steak open sandwick with caramelised onions and stilton at the Larrik tonight. Heaven! Whose culture did they appropriate by cooking that? Anyone? It was bookgroup night and we discussed Gulliver’s Travels. Not big fans of the flowery, turgid prose but considering it was written in the 1700s it was rather impressive. It was before novels, before sci-fi, before anything. And it’s rather modern in language. The guy was obsessed with bodily functions, let me tell you.

3. I was late for a doctor appointment but they were late as well so that’s great. And they requested the tests I need to do, no questions asked, to check hormonal levels to ensure everything is how it should be.

4. Short hair in this heat. It takes me 45 seconds to haidry it, I checked.

5. When I’m tired and suddenly I realise that I haven’t make-up to take off. Yes!! I hate having to take make-up off. So much! So much that I don’t put it on if I can possibly get away with it. If I go out out and I know it’s going to be a late one, I’ll put de-make-up wipes in my handbag so I can take it off in the taxi on the way home. Genius!

Romancing the Stone, watermelon days and a pub lunch

Exhausted after three very full on days. The brain is fried. I barely know what day it is but I know I have a lot to be grateful for.

1. I’m home. After a weekend away, I’m home. I can shut the door, double lock it and tell the world to sod off for sixteen hours until I have to get up and go out into the world once again.

2. Romancing the Stone. I can sit down in front of a lovely movie and do some work while pondering how impossibly young Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas look in that film. Apparently the producers had so little confidence about its prospects that the studio fired the director (a chap called Robert Zemeckis) from another project they had in the pipeline even before Romancing the Stone was released. In fact the film went on to be very successful, which meant Zemeckis was the free and had the cache to direct Back to the Future. Not bad huh?

3. At least we weren’t the ones getting thrashed by France!

4. I didn’t embarrass myself. When you feel really out of place but somehow you pull it off without making an absolute fool of yourself. Go me! I live in fear of saying something so incredibly stupid and embarrassing that people won’t be able to conceal it and will look at me with that look that say ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe she’s just said that!’ I call them my ‘watermelon moments’.

5. A pub lunch. It was a scampi and fries kind of day.


Pretty Woman, paté and writing

1. Someone at the end of a phone line who’s going to be there for you. Why do people not give thanks for it every day of their life?

2. I’m going home tomorrow. I miss my husband it’s actually painful. We spend way too much time together and enjoy each other’s company to the detriment of our individual social lives. We’re making an effort to see other people. Not that way.

3. Pretty Woman. I went to a talk about story structure this morning and the speaker used this film for her examples. It really made me want to see it again. The chemistry between the two of them is insane. I remember when I went to see it for the first time at the cinema. I was with my godmother and her daughters. Was my mother there? Strange, I can’t remember.

4. Patè. Possibly one of the clearest signs that I am getting old is that I actually like paté now. And oysters. I’m totally over the hill. Life is pretty much over.

5. Writing is such a gift. Not in terms of talent, but the act itself is more like a secret stash of [insert favourite food here] you can access any time you want. There are very few things I enjoy or have enjoyed as much as I do the outlining of this piece of writing. And although I moan about the self-imposed structure of writing a blog every day, there’s no doubt in my head that it is a gift. How can people possibly complain about writing every day?

Leeds, train journeys and a bed to myself

I’m off colour. I’m not myself. I hide what I think, how I feel. But I feel the mask slipping. Lying is tedious and exhausting and bloody hard work. I’m finding even hard pretending to care.

1. Leeds. Away for a work conference, I’m staying in student accommodations. I didn’t go to university in this country and I wonder what it would have been like. How different would my life be if I had had the courage to insist and come to England or America to study? My mother refused because she didn’t want to make the same mistake she had with my sister.

2. Sometimes having the bed to myself isn’t such a bad thing after all. Even though I miss my husband. We’re trying to learn to be more sociable rather than spending all our time together.

3. When somebody says: don’t worry I’ll take care of it. It’s something I didn’t hear enough growing up. I was very independent and self-sufficient and more often than not I had to attend to my mother’s emotional needs. And then I grew up and I kind of have to be the adult in this scenario. But when somebody says it to me I still cry.

4. Train journeys. Suspended in time, I can read for pleasure. Plane journeys count too.

5. Alexandra Sokoloff is an absolute genius. Her book Writing Love is a game changer. If you’ve got ambitions as a writer you could do much worse than reading that one or Stealing Hollywood.

Dissidents, a young Harrison Ford and a yoga retreat

1. The freedom to pursue my dreams. Sometimes living in the West we take for granted some of the things we’re able to say and do regardless of who we are, what we look like and the family in which we were born. Things are not perfect; some things are less straightforward for some than they are for others but there are legal barriers or systemic obstacles. Things are not perfect but they could be a hell of a lot worse. And it’s absurd to me that we never stop for a moment to appreciate that our life, our happiness, our success, all depends on us, on our abilities to make the most of the opportunities we were given. It’s a good thing. We can make of our life what we want. Not everyone is that lucky.

2. Dissidents. People who have the courage to speak up and have a different opinion. Even if it’s an opinion I disagree with. Because it takes a great deal of bravery to stand for what we believe in against a mob of friends, family and/or strange ready to withdraw their approval if you don’t fall in line. Do you have the courage of your unpopular opinions or do you censor yourself? Courage comes in various sizes, shapes and forms.

3. Pictures of a young Harrison Ford (and the fact that somebody said he looked like Francesco Totti!). You’re welcome! And like somebody said, I love the fact that Carrie Fisher refused to leave this world without telling the whole world that she had sex with Harrison Ford.

4. My legs. They are not long, they are not thin and there’s obvious cellulite. But there are strong enough to take me though 75 minutes of Vinyasa practice at 9.30 in the morning. I could hardly ask for more.

5. A yoga retreat. News has just reached me that my beloved yoga teacher has a retreat next summer in a crazy beautiful place in Greece, which means I have long enough to save. I’m so jealous of myself right now.