Wise words

Every two weeks I’m at the hairdressers for a treatment, wash and blowdry. It’s my fortnightly refresh. I really missed it in the lockdown. I can manage my own hair but it’s much nicer for someone else to do it. It is, I’m sure, one of the most therapeutic things in the world to have somebody wash your hair. I feel rejuventated and much more myself after these appointments. As far as I am concerned hairdressing is an essential service. My hairdresser is based in central London, The Hair Bar on Warren Street. So for me it’s a lovely opportunity to go into town, wander around my old university haunts (UCL) and just see a bit of my beloved London.

My Hair Bar

Since the lockdown has eased, while I have embraced getting back into the swing of hair appointments, I’ve been a bit more hesitant at eating out. I guess I am just nervous about being around so many people. I’m not sure why, the hairdresser is physically closer to me than any other person I might sit in a restaurant or cafe with. There are however fewer people in the hairdresser and everyone is wearing some level of PPE. Anyhow yesterday on the beautiful Saturday afternoon that it was. I decided that perhaps I should just be brave and I should enjoy eating out in a way that I have simply loved in the pre-COVID days.

I made my way from Warren Street towards Oxford Circus station, just before I got to Oxford Street I was passed by a crowd of young people, I’m not sure if they were on a demonstration or something else but there were many. I froze because my first thought was ‘too many people!’. However I composed myself and decided that I would take a left turn onto Great Castle Street. There I came across a lovely little square with a few places to eat. ‘Jolt’ caught my attention, did not look to busy so I went it.

“Modern, streamlined cafe serving cold brews & pistachio lattes, plus fancy pastries & sandwiches”

It looked nice inside, cosy and inviting. I ordered a fresh mint tea and chicken and harrisa toasted sandwhich and made myself comfortable in a corner. It’s been a long time since I have done this. It was just so nice to just sit by myself and just be. I was not on my phone (only to take these pictures) and I did not even take out the book I had bought with me (‘Joy at Work’), I just sat. It was just what I needed after the week at work that I had just had. I just sat and enjoyed being in the present moment.

It occured to me that I would like to do this more often. It feels like such a luxury. But maybe it’s essential for my well-being. Now that we have resumed face to face to work, the busyness has just gone up a notch. We were busy in the lockdown but now with the added strain of commuting the tiredness is creeping in. In addition to that, there are even more requests from parents and services, now that children are back in schools and settings. My ‘task’ list and unread email list has reached triple figures and does not like I can whittle that down any time soon. Then not to mention the ongoing tensions and microagressions that continue to occur, most of which do not involve me but, as we have learnt, what affects one team member affects us all. At the end of the week I’m starting to feel that ‘crumpled’ feeling that I used to experience when I was a registrar and I had just completed a week of nights. It used to take me the whole weekend and perhaps some, to recover, involving lots of sleep and general rest. A decade later, I need more than a weekend.

Next week is my last week at work before I am off for two weeks of annual leave. I’m not sure I even have the words to let you know how much this is needed and how much I’m looking forward to it. The other weeks of leave that I’ve had were at the beginning of lockdown and in the height of lockdown. So therefore we couldn’t enjoy that time off. Rightly so, we were and are still in the middle of a global health emergency. However it is becoming clear that even if you and your loved ones have not suffered directly from the viral illness, then the fall out in other ways emotionally mentally and financially is pervasive and still quite damaging and is likely to get worse over time. There does not seem to be any escaping from it. And while it seems that governments have given the apperance of doing their best, it is clear, that the pre-Covid decimation of many services, did not help. It’s a little bit off topic, But I am minded that as relatively privileged as I am, still in a full-time job still, getting full-time pay still able to meet my financial commitments, although yes I am working in the national health service and seeing patients, so therefore at risk and in a demographic group that so far has also proved to be vulnerable, I’m struggling in my own way, so anyone else with less than favourable conditions it’s going to be worse.

During my day at work on Friday I took the time to call a colleague from another Trust. We were talking about how to complete autism assessment in this new environment (I am the ASD lead in our service so this is very much our area of concern now). We got round to talking about ourselves and how we were and how we were coping. We came to the conclusion that we need to take care of ourselves as individuals as a priority. We had both realised that we were working very hard in our respective jobs but if we got sick and couldn’t continue, we would easily be replaced and the system will just carry on without us. My colleagues words to me as we ended the phone call were “take care of yourself Francesca, please take care of yourself”. They are wise words that I should heed.

Vermicelli, rosa harissa, capers and olive

I thought I would try making another Ottolenghi recipe this evening. Ignacio was working so I was making dinner. I thought I would revisit the pasta recipe with capers, rose harissa and olives. The one I made before, I think was quite nice but I did wonder if it might benefit from more tomatoes. The recipe I managed to put together this evening was based on the food I had left in the cupboard. There was no pappardelle, so I used a bag of vermicelli. There were no cherry tomatoes so I used 2 cans of plum tomatoes. I had no yoghurt and there was no parsley.

The cupboard (and fridge) contents

The result was OK. I think I’m going to have to admit that I’m not a really big fan of capers. I’m not sure they really excite my palate and perhaps the way they are meant to. They don’t bring anything to the table for me. They certainly do not “spark joy”. I think I’m going to admit that I am done with them for now. I will make sure that we finish off the jar in other recipes but that’s it for now. If I made this again I might substitute the capers for anchovies, more to my taste and liking.

I feel like, at some point I will have to actually brave the outdoors and go out to eat, not just a quick snack, but I full on meal. And I feel like that might have to be at and Ottolenghi/Ottolenghi inspired restaurant. I’ll have to check whether they are open now. It has not until this moment occurred to me that perhaps that might be Where I could explore different tastes. Although with the R number slowly creeping up I wonder how long it will be before we will have further restrictions on going out. We are currently a day away from the mandatory, law enforcible “rule of 6”. Lockdown by stealth, but we need to reduce spread of the virus through communities especially for those in whom their inherent vulnerabilities means that this is a high risk situation for them.

For now I’m happily eating at home. Meals for two are the order of the day.

Breakfast

Today has so far been pretty lazy.

However I’ve managed to make some breakfast for Ignacio.

He is not a big porridge fan but we have run out of bread that he would normally eat. I added chia seeds, grated one cocoa nib, and cooked with oat milk. Then I broke up one banana and scattered over the top and drizzled some runny honey over the whole bowl.

I’m pleased to say, he liked it!

Now we are two

I’ve just finished writing a post about the drama that was making a birthday cake for my four year old niece. I also made a cake for her two-year-old twin brothers. This was somehow less dramatic. A simple vegan Victoria sponge cake topped with vegan buttercream icing and fruit shaped into the number 2. raspberries for one and blueberries for the other. Quite simple, no dramatics.