The first bluebells are out on Hampstead Heath, up by Kenwood
A friend – although I use that term lightly in this context, remarked to me yesterday that it must have been lovely being able to take a four-day break over Easter.
The only break was one from the ceaseless ping of the inbox. Any self-employed person, entrepreneur, or small business owner knows that work doesn’t miraculously cease to exist over a public holiday, in the same way that any retailer, restaurateur or customer-facing employee knows this too. And then there’s all the non-work tedious stuff that never seems to get done…except on Bank Holidays.
So what did I do? I had one day off – sort of, and the rest was dealing with (the temptation here is to use that hideous portmanteau word life-min) all the things that never get done in the working week.
Good Friday is always a glorious oasis of peace in London. Many, many people have either left the city like rats off a sinking ship, or are holed up at home luxuriating in England’s only Friday public holiday.
I wanted to put some stuff from my conservatory and hallway into the new flat to which I have been given keys a few weeks before my move in date (oh, yes, I’m moving house, more of that later.) As my ancient two-seater convertible pretty much fits Lettice, one box, and me I tried to hire a ZipCar. Sadly all those departing rats had efficiently booked their escape transport weeks in advance so I could only snag a 1hr30 window at 0930hrs on Friday morning. So, no lovely lie in for me. Not that that really happens with a Tiny Dog in residence to jump on one’s head at 6am.
Getting things out of my house is quite the logistical challenge. It goes something like this:
Walk to car which is parked a street away, drive car around tortuous one-way system, park illegally a few doors down from my building as there is a row of Boris Bikes directly outside it. Lock car, run down street, unlock building door which opens straight onto a steep staircase, run up stairs, grab boxes/bags/lamp whatever from landing, wobble down stairs, try to open street door whilst not dropping boxes/bags/lamp whilst balanced on stairs, exit, try to shut door without catching latch or dropping boxes/bags/lamp, shuffle down street avoiding crocodiles of tourists/tourists stationary in street photographing god knows what/small dogs/large dogs/idiots cycling down pavement, balance boxes/bags/lamp on car roof, try to unlock door without idiot dog escaping into either the road to be mown down by the 214, or onto the pavement to be crushed underfoot by a hefty French tourist, decant boxes/bag/lamp into car.
Then repeat until car is full to gunwales.
Fortunately my new place is just around the corner. Literally. My current flat backs onto the street to which I am moving. So I can drive the car around the block, park up and move things into the new place with a minimum of stress, as it, happily, has its own entrance, a front garden to act as a box/bag/lamp staging post, no tourist crocodiles to block the street, and no breakneck staircase, being as it is on the ground floor.
It should have taken an hour or so to move a single carload of stuff out and in on my own, but I spent half an hour wandering around the place imagining my life in there, and trying to work out where I would place my furniture. Answer came there none. Somewhat alarmingly I did however realise that I need to find a sofa, coffee table, armchair, area rug, hall rug, garden furniture, bedside table and several lamps. (I turned my current sitting room into a home office within weeks of moving in, so I have very little furniture at present.)
I spent the rest of the day examining random stuff in my office, reading old press releases, photographing beauty stories, uploading images, emptying out boxes and carrier bags of junk, and photographing shoes and clothes for Ebay.
[There’s nothing like an imminent move to motivate a wholesale reassessment of one’s possessions, both work and home. I am a hideous squirrel – nothing is too insignificant for me to keep it just in case it comes in. I still maintain that this mindset can save you money in the long run – although you do have to be rigorous and do an audit of the stuff every six months or so. You’d be amazed at how much becomes irrelevant by that time and can be chucked.]
Then I spent the early evening photographing, uploading, writing and editing a blog post. I spent an hour or two emailing whilst I caught up on Masterchef on the iPlayer and then fell asleep around eleven. So that was Friday.
On Saturday I had organised a Sausage dog meet up on Parliament Hill to walk across Hampstead Heath. (You probably know that Lettice has her own Instagram, but I have also set up a Lettice the Miniature Dachshund Facebook page to facilitate walks and meet ups.)
Dachshunds are very tribal and as so many of us live with just one dog it’s an excellent idea to get them out and about with their own kind. We often meet up with lovely Phil from the Sausage Dog Hotel for walks with twenty or more dogs, but he had a full house this weekend so we organised our own.
So I got up very early on Saturday morning, made a chocolate cake (the milk chocolate one from my cookbook) for Easter lunch and tested a recipe for shakshuka, packed up a few boxes and emptied another cupboard. Then more hamster action with the car and stairs before I dropped off some more things at the new flat, and headed to my lockup to drop off a few boxes of catering equipment that got left in my flat after my last job.
Handily the lockup is by my sister’s house and both are en route to the Heath, so I collected her and Maisie and we were on Parliament Hill Fields at 11am to meet the sausage crew.
Two exhausting doggy hours later we returned to the car. I arrived back home at 1342 hungry and wanting a sit-down, to find two red missed delivery slips from the postman on my doorstep. The Post Sorting office shuts at 1400 so I barreled off to Eversholt Street to collect an extraordinary amount of PR parcels. (It seemed sensible to pick them up so I could unpack and deal over the weekend.)
It then occurred to me that it would possibly be a good idea to buy the food for lunch the next day on the way home. I’m usually more organised than this but sometimes things slip through the net.
I’d love to say that I bought my lamb for Easter lunch at the independent organic butcher up the road, but I mislaid my debit card somewhere in the packing chaos, so my choices were limited to stores that could take contactless American Express (because I’ve also forgotten my PIN). So Waitrose it was. Of course all the legs had long sold out. (Question – why would a store not order extra large quantities of legs of lamb knowing that it was Easter? It’s like forgetting to order the turkeys at Christmas).
I could see a man stealthily approaching the lamb section in my peripheral vision so I grabbed the last two lamb shoulders in the nick of time and beat a strategic retreat.
Switching from leg to shoulder meant a change of menu – legs are best served roasted hot and quickly and served pink, shoulder needs at least three hours at medium to dissolve all that connective tissue and should be falling off the bone, so I decided to forego the trad English meat and veg, and look to the Middle East instead.
That meant more shopping – I could only spend £30 in Waitrose using Contactless, so I added three cartons of their excellent high fat Greek yogurt for labneh to my basket, checked out, and headed to M&S for everything else.
I then had a lovely, lovely nap with Lettice, and spent the evening listing shoes on Ebay.
All of the glamour, all of the time.
Easter Sunday – rise and shine. The aubergines were roasting at 0830hrs, I returned to bed with my breakfast and Lettice, and at 9am I swapped the aubergines for the lamb which I had smeared with a paste of smashed garlic, ras el hanout and harissa paste, and started laying the table.
I had finished my prep (homemade labneh and houmus, a tomato aubergine stew, jewelled couscous,) and the table by 1130, so I dropped off some more stuff at the new flat, ran back to the flat to swap the lamb for the potatoes in the oven, and then headed to Regent’s park for a little light squirrel chasing before my guests arrived.
Of course this is the point where I realise that if everyone turns up on time I am absolutely buggered because I’ve forgotten to chop the herbs, and ice the bloody cake. I’ve never showered or done my make up quicker. Happily everyone arrived more towards 130 than 1, and no one caught me in my knickers with one eye made up. You may laugh – it’s happened before.
The last lunch guests left at 9pm. Yup, that was an eight hour lunch party. Happily I love washing up when under the influence of Champagne, so I woke on Monday morning to an almost immaculate kitchen – we’d even put out the shame-making, wine-bottle-clanking, bag of recycling.
I spent Monday morning in bed listing yet more clothes and shoes on Ebay and editing photographs, before heading to my lockup for what I though would be a light tidying session to allow me to fit in more stuff from this flat rather than moving it to the new place.
Three hours later I was still there, throwing out stuff, and discovering all manner of things. Basically for the past six months I’ve been whisking through my office once a week, filling carrier bags with filing/ gifts/ books/ equipment/ padded envelopes that weren’t needed imminently, and throwing them into the black void of the lock up, instead of taking a few minutes to empty them out onto the shelves. Shame on me. Four filth-covered hours later it was relatively organised and I rescued Lettice from my long-suffering sister, (she’s dog-sitting Meryl the Sheltie and Ziggy the Mini Sausage (below)) and headed home for a curry.