It’s still quite quiet around here, although it is hard to believe that this is only the end of the second full working week since the holiday period ended. (My Christmas tree has gone, but I’ve still haven’t got around to putting the decorations away.)
I’ve been holed up in my Camden apartment most of the time, working on my big project, and am really only supposed to leave under cover of darkness. (Going off to yoga on Tuesday at 655am definitely fell into that camp.) Thankfully that makes my New Year resolution of having a social life easier to keep, because, unlike my usual routine, where I have breakfast meetings and other external stuff going on during the day and always feel like I need to carry on working in the evenings, I am not talking to anyone in the day bar Emily, I’m twitching to get out and about by 7pm.
So on Wednesday I drove over to Highbury to see Miss P and Mr New Generation for a late supper. Goodness it is so very very nice to be cooked for. Blissful in fact. P is the best cook I know (trained and all), and everything she makes is always stupendously delicious.
Thursday night I went off with Richard to BAFTA on Piccadilly to see a preview screening of The Wolf of Wall Street, as a guest of Lancome, one of the BAFTA Awards style sponsors. I’m still processing exactly what I thought of it, although I give you fair warning: it is long. Bottom numbing, rush for the loo the moment it ends long. Pack emergency snacks, hell, pack supper.
I squished all my meetings for the week into today, Friday. I started in Shoreditch in East London, with lunch at Merchant’s Tavern, Angela Hartnett’s newest place, with her her partner Neil Borthwick, which I throughly enjoyed. Comfortable padded seats, lovely airy room, pleasingly earthy and winter-y menu, all dark leafy greens, squashes, and pork belly.
Above is my plate of Baked Celeriac, Jerusalem Artichokes & Shaved Cauliflower. The others had, respectively, Roast Pork Belly, Ironbark Pumpkin, Cimi De Rapa, Pumpkin Seed Pesto & Sage, and Jacobs Ladder (beef rib), Root Vegetables, Lentils, Capers & Dill. Oh there must be a mention in dispatches for the mashed potato. Sure, you may as well spread it on your thighs and be done with it, but it is a poem of a thing in a little copper pot.
Then it was a double time trot up the street for an atelier appointment with Karen Millen’s Chief Creative Offive Gemma Metheringham. KM use the most beautiful fabrics (mainly from Italy, but some sourced from British mills), design all of their clothes in the UK (instead of using buyers, and branding pre-made pieces from Chinese factories), and, unusually, cut all their own patterns. It’s always one of the great pleasures of my job to get to see behind the scenes of the garment trade.
Appointment done, it was a very rapid triple time canter on heels back to my car, and a dash across London to a very productive and pleasing meeting with Gordon, my literary agent, and others in Charing Cross Road.
That done, I wandered off for a quick restorative peek into The National Portrait Gallery, and into the National Gallery, just around the corner in Trafalgar Square. (My mother needed a new 2014 diary, and the Gallery ones are always so lovely. And if anyone else is looking, the NG ones are half price in the sale.)
As I stood on the balcony of the NG, looking over Trafalgar Square, through the crepuscular gloom down Whitehall, towards the luminous face of Big Ben, I reminded myself that living in London is a quite extraordinary experience. To be able to just pop into a national cultural monument, for free, on a whim, because it is slap bang next to an office where you had a meeting is a glorious thing. I take so much of this city for granted.
After all that adrenalin fuelled dashing about, I have the spent the evening offline, reading a book, and desultorily chatting on Twitter. It has been lovely. I may also have knocked up my takes-a-minute hot chocolate sauce to eat over one of my homemade brownies. I start a no sugar regime tomorrow (I get terrible taut headaches and my skin erupts when I eat it), so am bowing out in style.
Merchants Tavern www.merchantstavern.co.uk
36 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PG. Telephone 020 7060 5335