Thursday, 29 December 2016

My new friend

The air smelt like ash trays and electricity this evening, melded with whatever cooking aromas the various cafes and restaurants I passed were launching into the ether. The cause was almost certainly the heavy and somewhat romantic mist which descended on London today, trapping all smells in a thick blanket which prevented them from escaping into the air. There was a haze everywhere, which had even swept its way into the ticket hall at Highgate tube. People talk about smogs in the 1950s creeping like smoke into buildings - cinemas and things - and until today I had no concept of how that might be physically possible. Perhaps there was a lot of smoky pollution in today's fog. Campaigners say that the quality of air in London is really poor at the moment. I've even heard talk of it being partially the fault of Parisians. Apparently their bad air floats up to London... or something. Never let actual facts get in the way of a sweeping statement! 
Many readers of yesterday's blog managed to identify the curious seed pods I was writing about in the Chilterns. Wild clematis. And apparently it does grow in the Midlands. We actually had a clematis in our back garden. When it was in full bloom, we'd stand next to it for a family picture. I don't remember the seeds ever looking like that in winter, but our plant was never backlit, and I'm told the clematis we grow in gardens is an altogether more refined creature, which doesn't grow like wild fire along hedgerows. Mystery solved. Many thanks to everyone who entered the debate so knowledgeably. 

I have started working again. I figure working between now and New Year is found time, so I took myself off to Old Street to sit in a couple of cafes whilst working on the script for Em. I went to Starbucks and then a swanky, independent cafe where I nearly fainted to hear that a little pot of tea was going to set me back an astonishing £3.15! Almost twice the cost of a pot of tea at Costa. It's water and a tea bag. Enough said. 

Shoreditch looked rather charming in the fog, however. There was a hint of sun in the sky which made everything glow in a soft, impressionist sort of way. That part of London always reminds me of the village in New York, both visually and because of its "coolness." Graffiti in Shoreditch feels every bit a part of the vibe, as cafes, street sellers and junk shops. I think it's probably a result of the vitality an area gains after wave upon wave of immigration, but I'm not sure that argument would hold up in a court of law! 

We had a horrible night last night when it suddenly became clear that fraudsters had taken upwards of £7000 from Nathan's Paypal account and that the same rat bags were then attempting to clear his current account of funds. It was terrifying. We could see payments for huge sums marked as "pending" and the money was literally disappearing in front of our eyes. We phoned the non-emergency police who took everything very seriously but sadly Paypal don't offer round-the-clock fraud surveillance. A company that size absolutely should do. It's pathetic that they don't. I don't think anyone takes "virtual" money seriously enough. 

In the end I had the bright idea to phone PayPal in the US, who were able to help, and certainly put Nathan's mind at rest about being able to claim the money back, but we spent scores of minutes on hold and worked out afterwards that my mobile company would probably be charging me close to £80 for the call. Yes, it would have been cheaper from our landline, but Nathan was using that to call his bank, and, in high panic, you just don't think about these sorts of things...

We've just got back from Earlsfield where lovely Abbie was celebrating her birthday in the Wandle Pub. It was a charming evening. We played a board game called the London Game which my family played regularly in my childhood. The board is basically a giant tube map which players have to navigate to reach certain destinations.

What I would say about the Wandle pub is that it's absolutely not worth visiting if you're a vegetarian. There is just one vegetarian main meal on the menu (a burger) - and that was off today. I ended up with a minuscule starter-sized portion of macaroni cheese (described in the menu as "served as it should be - epic") and a portion of chips. Literally all I could eat. No soup. Nothing else. And staff didn't care two hoots. The manager blamed the chef for not ordering enough burgers in, and Greene King, the pub chain, were blamed for not putting enough veggie food on the menu in the first place. I have to say, I'm getting royally fed up with arriving in pubs to discover they're run by Greene King, and therefore that they have the same menu - often as the pub next door. I've never noticed before how awful these menus are for vegetarians. With up to 2 million Brits opting for vegetarian diets, this is utterly inexcusable. 

We went back to Abbie and Ian's house after the pub and marvelled at the size of their Christmas tree, which is, without a word of a lie, the most rotund tree I have ever seen! 

We caught the last tube home and were visited as we sat in the station by the cutest little baby mouse. I wondered if he was ill, because he seemed supremely inquisitive, which may have implied an element of docility. I fed him chocolate from my pocket and he ate it out of my hand. Happy Christmas little fella. I hope you make it to the end of 2016. I also hope that Debbie Reynolds pulls through. She seems to be the latest celebrity in trouble.

My new friend


  1. OMG that's Stuart Little, please tell me he was okay when you left??

  2. Post happy Xmas Ben (and Nathan of course) what an adorable little mouse, you are brave and kind feeding him. So many people get scared or hate these poor little sweet creatures. £3.15 for tea ! I'm glad you share my outrage for overpriced hot drinks. Interesting blog ! Hope to see you soon. X