Summer drops in for tea

The Hill Garden, today.

The Hill Garden, today (view from the Pergola), Hampstead

We’ve had rubbish weather lately. London has been grim and grey and cold. It’s nearly June, and the rain has been truculent – a guest who has over-stayed his welcome.

But today, the sun hefts the heavens aside and strides out into the full swell of our desperation, dropping in for tea. An old friendship resumes. With a reassuring smile, the sun intimates it might be here to stay – for a weekend, that is. Continue reading


Right around the corner from us

So, Ben has moved closer to us. He’s about 10 minutes away by bike. This has meant more frequent visits from him, although he rarely stays over. He’s still in sheltered accommodation, still on benefits, still in recovery. It hasn’t even been a year, so early days yet.

He comes round to spend time with Rosie (and me, he says, though we say very little to each other) and do a bit of maintenance work on the garden and flat. It’s his way of contributing to the upkeep of our property. And he does something he never did before – he makes time to spend with us as a family. Continue reading

“And then he smashed it over my head”

I was talking to someone I know. I can’t tell you who exactly, so I’ll just say she’s a friend. She was telling us (my mum and me) about her new job, how she’d been given a verbal warning for the equivalent of brushing her hair briefly at her desk.

She was in shock when she got back home. Her husband, she said, told her it was probably time to just pack it in. Her children told her to apologise to the directors, since there was nothing else she could say to justify her actions (not that her actions were particularly inappropriate). She took the latter option. The directors were sympathetic. She was a temp. They made her permanent. Continue reading

Happy birthday, Rosie


Yes, I made this. Beneath all that confection lurks a jam and cream-filled Victoria sponge.

Rosie turned five today – her first birthday with a sober dad. We celebrated at a pottery painting cafe in Muswell Hill with nine of her friends. My mum was there, too, all the way from Canada.

Me being me, I was tense throughout, though I managed to chat to a few parents here and there, and survey the children, hoping none of them would break free from the work table and send a shelf-load of unpainted pottery crashing to the floor (they didn’t). Continue reading

Inheritance of loss

These are the things our parents give us (and that we, in turn, bequeath to our children). There are the deliberate gestures – the passing on of certain attitudes and behaviours:

  • no shoes in the house
  • a love of good cheese and chocolate
  • an appreciation of literature and classical music
  • frugality that morphs into a penchant for recycling
  • disdain for flashiness and the pursuit of financial gain at all costs
  • the pursuit of education at all costs
  • a deep sense of justice and fairness
  • a secret love of meringues

And then there are the accidental loans  – the unconscious drip-drip of patterns and behaviours that leak out despite (or in the absence of) the best intentions: Continue reading

Stupid lonely me


These past few weeks have been unremarkable (aside from my brief reincarnation as the Incredible Hulk a few days back, that is). Ben comes and goes, much like the postman, only he camps out on the futon for a few days in between the coming and the going. He also takes Rosie to gymnastics on Sundays and collects her from school on Mondays.

He does more than that – much more. He cooks and does some essential cleaning – stuff I would never have time to get to, like mowing the lawn or cleaning the oven (yes, he really did clean the oven). Continue reading