Monday, 27 April 2009

Some Light Relief for Scarlet

Scarlet has been through the mill and needs some light relief and I can't think of anything more lightly relieving than shoes. The right pair works wonders for the legs, will see you through from dusk till dawn, and will garner many an admiring glance. It doesn't matter how much weight you put on, or lose, your shoe size will (usually) stay the same. They are easy to try on at the shops: no skulking off to changing rooms and having to strip off your thermals, and there are plenty to choose from for all budgets.

When I was about nineteen my future in-laws said you can tell a lot about a person from their shoes. I was only just being initiated into the ways of the middle-classes and this was news to me, but it must have worked its way in as for a time in my early thirties I was pretty obsessive when it came to shoes. The way I see it, it all began when I bought my first pair of Jimmy Choos

in the Frasers of Glasgow sale. I couldn't get over the fact that they were comfortable from the off. That, and everyone commented on how gorgeous they were. They seemed to take me to a new level of stylish, whenever I wore them I felt grown-up and in control. They gave me a kind of unquestionable power. Suddenly people listened to what I had to say; shop assistants and waiters seemed drawn to serve me. Having always been pretty invisible I reveled in my new status as noticeable in a good way.

After that I was hooked on 'good' shoes and rarely deigned to give even a sideways glance to the cheap shops. I wanted comfort and style, I didn't want to spend weeks breaking in someone's tacky efforts at providing the masses with fashionable footwear. I bought Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Dior and all number of others. Wherever I went I was praised for my shoes. It didn't seem to matter what else I was wearing or whether I'd washed my hair, my shoes said all that needed to be said about me: I was the right sort.

All this changed, of course, when I entered academia. Suddenly my shoes felt like fripperies. One needed more than a pair of Prada trainers or Jimmy Choo slingbacks to prove one's worth. And although a beautiful pair would still draw the desired comment from most women on the campus, that was no longer enough. Shoes had lost their shine. I spent my money on books instead.

For years I didn't buy shoes at all, I had enough to last a lifetime after all. But there's more to shoes than quantity, and recently I have begun to treat myself to the odd pair again. There are two reasons for this: my trainers have become embarrassingly smelly, and my heels are too high and wobbly for my aging sense of balance. Well that's what I've been telling myself, but I picked these up the other day in T K Maxx.

They are irresistibly soft and delicate, elegant and fashionable. Lord knows when I'll wear them, but they were a bargain and they make me feel like Carine Roitfeld. To compensate for their ridiculousness I bought these on Saturday.

They are high enough to do what only a heel can do for a leg, yet low and sturdy enough to not hinder walking. I will wear them all summer, they will give my old dresses a boost. I also got a pair of plimsolls for proper stomping, just to make doubly sure that I'm not an air-head.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Onion Knowing

For the last little while the lines, 'What fun/ My thumb instead of an onion', have been a constant in my head like a favourite pop song. So I was rather surprised this morning on taking down from the shelf the book – Ariel – to find that Sylvia Plath actually wrote: 'What a thrill – / My thumb instead of an onion.' A thrill indeed.

Yesterday I delivered the final draft of the thing that was new and difficult to the people who after reading it will tell me things I already know about my weaknesses. But I don't care, it's done and I'm free to go back into the kitchen. Or play with my birthday presents. Or read a book.

Last night, by way of a small celebration I made Tortilla for supper which we had with my latest favourite drink: an Australian sparkling wine that actually does taste of pear-drops. The first time I ever ate Tortilla was from a deli in St. Albans: a thick slab of cold egg the colour of butter liberally dotted with fried potatoes and onions. I couldn't believe how delicious it was: salty, oniony, oily heaven. I've been making it ever since, though we tend to eat it hot straight from the pan, too impatient to wait for it to cool down. Lucky Bob gets to have it cold for his packed lunch the next day too.

500grams of waxy spuds
two large onions
6 large eggs
olive oil (not extra virgin)

Boil the spuds til they're softish. Heat a good layer of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the spuds to the hot oil and brown them all over. Slice the onions as you like them, über-fine isn't necessary, and add them to the pan. Let the onions catch a bit in places. Break the eggs into a bowl or jug and with a very delicate hand cut the yolks into the whites until all is yellow. Sprinkle salt onto the spuds and onions then add the eggs. Keeping the heat low so as not to burn the egg leave it until the egg has set. Sometimes I faff about lifting the edges as they cook to allow the runny stuff to hit the pan, other times I just leave it and then put the whole thing under the grill to set the top. Last night I faffed cos I was in full kitchen mood, I wanted to feel thoroughly involved in the process of getting supper on the table.

I like to serve this with a salad of mixed peppery leaves dressed with mustardy vinaigrette, and maybe a hunk of crusty bread for mopping purposes.

I meant, this year, to try and grow my own onions, but what with one thing and another I didn't get round to organizing it. I wonder if it's too late now? What I really need is an allotment where there are people who know these things all around.


The sun being over the yard arm and all

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Thank you

everyone for you kind birthday wishes, I had a lovely day but am now back in the thick of hideous research. You know that thing where you write one small paragraph, know you have just the thing somewhere to add the desired authoritative weight to it, but...?

The thing has to be handed in on the 23rd after which I will celebrate by visiting all your blogs, glass of wine in hand. Until then I'm doomed to sift through the same papers over and over, hunched like a fossilized toad over my desk.

I didn't have time to bake myself a cake but Stevie bought me one. Here you can see me stuffing myself with it:

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Back Soon

You know what it's like trying to do something new and difficult, it takes up all of you. Well it does me. I'm glad breathing is a natural reflex and I don't have to remember to do it. Anyway, it will soon be done and I will be able to get back to normal.

Meanwhile it's my birthday tomorrow and so today I'm trying to tidy the house so I don't have to begin my new year in a shit-hole, cooking tomorrow's supper so tomorrow's birthday self doesn't have to think about it, and will at some point bake a cake as a gift to that self. I know Friday's self will be distressed at my taking the time off from the 'thing that is new and difficult' but I can't think of everyone.

If anyone out there has time to give themself a break here is something that will reward. My last day of being this young gift to you: