Tin Foil Hat

I’ve turned into a bit of a squinty-eyed, suspicious person of late. I hesitate to call myself a ‘conspiracy theorist’ because those people are nuts but I am increasingly sounding a little like one. It is boring everyone, especially me. I left Facebook without a word because I wasn’t sure the world needed another post declaring that someone was ‘taking a break’ from social media because WHO CARES but if you are looking for me on there and I am absent, it’s because I’m sitting with the conspiracy theorists in our tin foil hats, warmed by the light of obscure alarmist websites and sweating a bit with all the collective anxiety.

It’s a cold odd world out there and apparently that’s the way I am finding my way through it all. I’m listening to scientists on podcasts I had never heard of, stomping through the park in the bright cold sun throwing the ball for the dog and patting the baby’s head while becoming enormously worried about faulty PCR tests and the inefficacy of vaccines. I can’t read The Guardian anymore. Admittedly, I am also intermittently fasting every day until 1pm so maybe some of all this is just that I’m hangry.

Why are you fasting, I hear you say? Well, you’re more likely actually spending a moment worrying about my descent into paranoia, but if you have skipped that bit, I’ll tell you about the fasting. The fasting is because I can’t quite fit my shirts around the upper arms. Before I had that delicious baby I had intermittently fasted and I lost that pesky 3kg that ruined the line of my jackets and silk blouses. It worked that time and it was quite…addictive. You stop eating at 9pm and don’t have anything else food-y until 1pm the next day. You feel a bit hungry when you wake up and at 11am-ish, but then you go all manic and clear-eyed and kind of twitchy. You get shit done at warp speed until you collapse into a bowl of softly scrambled eggs on buttery toast with slices of truffled brie at 1:02pm on the dot. Those Clarence Court orange yolks are what I live for. Them for lunch and a glass or two of some sort of wine in the evening post-dinner while lying on the couch with a kid at my side and a kid at my feet and a dog stealing food scraps from the bin. That’s my jam right now in these uncertain, dull, stressful times. And that’s how those shirts began to fit me properly without the fabric getting its own kind of stretchmarks. Upper arm fabric stretchmarks.

But this time around the fasting isn’t doing much and that might well be because of my advanced age. And the bars of Sea Salt Green & Blacks that I stuff into my gob at 8:58pm every night in another manic frenzy before the food curfew kicks in. I don’t know. The fasting feels a bit fruitless but then you have to do something, right? Perhaps it’s the scales that are just not telling me the truth about my fasting results. Perhaps I am very muscly from the Saturday yoga classes that my dear husband and I are doing. That could explain the stubborn 81kg situation that oscillates only slightly one or two kgs over the week.

Now, is there anything more boring that reading about someone’s weight? There isn’t and for that I apologise. It’s just that with this second pseudo-lockdown there isn’t much else to report. I can’t tell you about restaurants or cafes or shops or outings with friends. I can’t tell you about exciting job opportunities or school concerts or any new exciting floor-length frock purchases because no one does that now. We have nowhere to go. It is quiet and gentle and boring all at once.

I’ve started baking a bit more than usual because of Bakeoff and because of general malaise. We’ve made babka, coconut and almond cake, Dorset apple cake and Barnaby made biscuits. Actually we got all of the buggers baking over halfterm which was close to being a triumph. Each of the kids except for that delicious baby had to choose something to cook and something to bake; they had to make a list of ingredients, shop from them, bake and cook by themselves and then feed the whole family.

Then I ruined it by making it a competition. Everyone had to vote but it got complicated because there were two categories and Otis teamed up with bigger different brothers each time because he is only seven which made the winners kind of fuzzy and then the prize, which should have been a lovely trip with me to Ottolenghi to buy loads of very expensive cakes, turned into some sort of order-your-own-individual-takeaway and it blew the budget. It also erased the joy because there is very little joy in watching someone eat ten Korean-fried chicken wings when you were envisioning an Autumnal wander down Westbourne Grove with your big DIY Cook-off and Bake-off winning son/sons with you, talking about Important Stuff on the way to buy little cakes and lattes while peeping into the closed-down shops which used to be fun and now probably won’t ever reopen. I mean, those kids stole my tart and pastry dreams from me. Deliveroo stole them from me too.

The kids made sushi, tacos, spicy chicken wraps, dumplings, lentil soup and cornbread and for the baking they made pancakes, chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, babka and Victoria Sponge. It was *quite* the week. The washing up sucked, but I didn’t have to think about that infernal question of what to have for mother-truckin’ dinner for SEVEN WHOLE NIGHTS.

Here are some photos of the Victoria Sponge made by Ned and his friend Anna (yes, we had emergency baking expert child ring-ins) and a masterful babka by Noah:

Here is our baby feeling very Autumnal and joyful in our garden (and in a very wonderful jumper knitted by Loretta’s mother Lynne that has passed through about seven kids):

Here we are in between Lockdowns #1 and #2 on halfterm swimming at 7:30am in the Serpentine. It was extremely cold – so cold that it hurt and made breathing difficult for about a minute and it made us very pink and sort of frisky afterwards. It was a joy – but a shortlived joy as now the Serpentine Swimming Club has closed in case we all spread Covid to one another like mouth-breathing infected monsters. There were about four people there, in the open air, but still. One mustn’t be too complacent:

Do I sound fed up and cranky? I think it’s because I am. But even in the midst of a pandemic, there are delicious things to be found everywhere – like oversized chesterfield sofas and a husband who loves online auctions as much as I do. Just this weekend we have bid on and won a Scandinavian three piece set of leather and bent wood armchairs by Oddvin Rykken – kind of awful but maybe cool if I figure out how to make them look stylish and not just…really ugly…and a 1970s Murano pendant light which is PURPLE (I hate purple) and a four bottle champagne ice bucket thing which seems a bit hefty and ill-thought-through. Mark got excited about a brass sculpture of an ape wearing a baseball cap and bid on that but THANKFULLY we were outbid. I think our downfall might lie in auction houses.

More lovely things though…babies who are beginning to talk and all these teenagers and boys who spread on the couch and talk amusing rubbish to each other all day. Sometimes they do kind things for each other – Ned has been helping Otis with his handwriting and Casper has been walking the dog at least twice a day. I tell them that they must never leave as I will die of the grief and then I realise how creepy that sounds and I tell them that it is ok to leave as long as I can visit a lot. How are we supposed to disengage from our children who keep growing up? I am hoping that having a bunch of them might make it easier but imagine how weird it will be when I lock the baby in a small room when he reaches 18.

Luckily the aliens/climate change/covid vaccine/robots will have gotten us by then. PHEW.

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6 Responses to Tin Foil Hat

  1. Clare says:

    Wow – amazing bakes, those boys are going to have serious life skills! I’ve also developed serious sausage arms since turning 42, the metabolism is definitely slowing down and I really don’t have the oompf to do anything about it just now.
    Wishing you much cheer, Christmas is coming with tinsel and fairy lights, Nigella’s back on the telly, and there’s a vaccine on the way (& it will be fine). Hope the book’s going well x

    • theharridan says:

      Nigella! I forgot she is back and what a perfect tonic. Mmmmm tonic..gin and tonic….there are plenty of good things in store. Thanks for the kind words xx

  2. rose says:

    Much support on the shifting of size problem. If you decide the fasting effort does not work now for you I can share that I have been surprised by dropping foods that convert after eating to sugars (from any grains to fruits and avoid sugar alcohols and any syrups/real sugars) took 6 weeks and all at once my body said OK and let go some unneeded stuff, provided i remained focused. On rare occasions I can sample now. But RARE is a key concept. Given the activity level of your family size and composition simply cutting back on those foods might….. Well. Of course it could also cause you to decide the effort is not all that important in the overall reality of living your own best life and new blouses/shirts could also resolve the issue.
    Huge thank yous for writing. You have gotten me through some VERY trying and difficult years and we still have several months of trauma to go and that on top of the virus isolation. Life without your help would have been far bleaker and harder to manage. PLEASE keep writing. Even grocery lists orbuying children’s shoes is helpful and a treasure trove of assistence.
    Stay safe, be careful, laugh and love wildly. YOU ARE MARAVELOUS.

    • theharridan says:

      Oh thank you! For the food advice (it’s worth a try) and also the kind words of encouragement. I do plan on writing more regularly once this novel is finished. I think I’ve got a month more of heads-down and then….I’m free to be free again. Would obviously like a job to fill that void but we shall see…difficult times indeed.

  3. rose says:

    Re-reading YET AGAIN today. Finding so much support in your pictures, the amazing ways your boys are growing up and becoming wonderful soon to be adults, the joy in your ability to make magic with your words. If this were on paper I think I would wear holes in the paper. Yupe, still hard on this side of the water and I think it will remain so through the next year. THANK YOU for being wonderful.

  4. Elizabeth Woodworth says:

    You never disappoint my dear Jo. I am transported into the warm, noisy, comfy kitchen every time I visit this blog. If only you could offer me a cappuccino again as you so often did now 13 years ago…Sending you big love from lockdown in the US. xx

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