As I write this lying in bed, I can feel a dull ache in my hips and knees. This afternoon I swam two laps of the West Reservoir in Stoke Newington with Philippa. So far this week I’ve swum one sedate lap each session, some 500m in around 35 minutes. Philippa, who does yoga once, and sometimes twice a day, persuaded me that a second lap would be a splendid idea. And, after all, we hadn’t seen each since weeks before the lockdown so we had plenty to talk about whilst swimming.
She was right: It was wonderful and I didn’t feel exhausted afterwards, just incredibly refreshed. But a couple of hours later the fatigue began to set in.
The sweltering heat has continued today. I was up early to take advantage of the cool of the early morning hours, and had two loads of washing on the line for 9 am before continuing the Sisyphean task sweeping the damn pollen that showers down on every breeze from the Tree of Heaven that towers over the back garden.
By 2 pm the heat was such that I retired into the living room. Sitting on a velvet sofa is preferable to scorching one’s body outside. I didn’t look up from my computer for three hours until I realised I was going to be late for swimming with Philippa.
Mid morning a courier dropped off a big box from The Wasabi Company, containing a dozen bunches of delectable English watercress, wrapped in paper and fresh as a daisy. They also threw in a thumb of fresh wasabi with which I’m looking for with which I am looking forward to experimenting.
Earlier in the day I decided to tackle the ten or so pounds of onions sitting in a wire basket on the floor of the kitchen, the result of many home delivered vegetable boxes over the course of the lockdown. I peeled and quartered maybe half of them, before pushing them through the slicing blade of my pro Magimix, and then caramelised them in the oven. I’ll freeze them to use on pizzas over the rest of the summer.
The traffic was abysmal on the way to collect Philippa – it’s clear that the empty streets of peak lockdown are but a distant memory in the more residential areas of the city. Central London is still very quiet, but in the areas where people actually live and do local shopping it is mayhem.
Philippa and her family live close by the reservoir, so I joined them after our swim to eat in the garden. It was the first time I had eaten at a friend’s house since lockdown and I cannot tell you just how unconfined was my joy. And the bliss of eating food not cooked by me…
We have very similar ideas about food so it’s always a joy to eat around her house. Andy had been to Mercado Metropolitano for a lunch meeting and came home with a pot of straciatella, a huge bunch of basil, and a loaf of sourdough bread. So we started with a kind of anti-pasti: tapenade, the cheese in its plastic tub without ceremony on the table, a simple salad of quartered plum tomatoes with pickled red onions and a sharp dressing.
Then we had linguine with a pesto that Andy made with the basil in a pestle and mortar and enough garlic to keep the vampires at bay. Pudding was a large platter of sliced peaches, raspberries, and pineapple with some creamy yoghurt.
Truly the perfect summer dinner. My only sadness that I couldn’t have a glass of rose.
The weather was already changing by the time I left for home, so I hoicked my emergency sweater out of the depths of the boot, and put the roof up on the car. I made two quick detours on the way home, firstly to collect an ecstatically happy Lettice, and then to Morrison’s in Camden, to collect some shopping for my mother who I am visiting tomorrow.
It was disconcerting to see empty shelves again the supermarket: I’ve heard rumblings online that people are stocking up again in anticipation of a second wave. Bleach was still a restricted quantity purchase, and there were no medium eggs, or any flour whatsoever on the shelves. Sugar is still in short supply.
I had great plans to write once I was settled under the duvet, but I was so exhausted I fell asleep with my laptop on my knees and a bedside light still on. (I am finishing this post the next day.)