Let them eat zucchini
When visiting friends who have daughters rather than sons, I notice how the contents of their kitchen cupboards and fridges differ from mine. They have quinoa, multiple varieties of herbal tea, calorie-counted breakfast bars, heaps of darkgreen and purple vegetables and fresh white fish with spiralised courgettes for tonight’s supper.
I have nutella, Bonne Maman jam, packs of Choco Leibniz, great loaves of medium-sliced hovis, vast bags of potatoes, Kettle Chips, white pasta, broccoli as a token vegetable and, for supper, a Le Creuset pot of Bolognese sauce minus the mushrooms or carrots—the token greenness will be the parsley on top, which the husband will eat, but the sons won’t. I’m counting on onions and tinned tomatoes to provide the necessary vitamins to get them through the night.
Boys! The straightforwardness of their diets! I’m proud that I manage to live in a house with such calorific temptations and only enjoy them in moderation—a few crisps, one slice of toast slathered with butter and jam. I’d definitely be healthier and thinner if I only had daughters.
I admire friends whose daughters are on diets (or, worse, who are vegans) and whose sons need feeding up. how do they please both camps? I get the impression that meals are swayed towards the daughters’ tastes—the men and boys just have to learn to love beetroot and zucchini ribbons.
I’m a waif and stray now that my youngest son has left the Oratory Junior Choir. My life as an almost-catholic is over and I must return to being an Anglican. I miss the Oratory terribly: the beauty of the great domed building, which makes you feel as if you’re in Rome (and is a spiritual antidote to harrods down the road); the way the choir goes straight into exquisite plainsong as the dingding signals the beginning of Mass; the beautifully dressed French children whose jerseys never have words or pictures on them; the way Catholic families go to Mass every Sunday with their whole brood, as opposed to Anglicans like me who just turn up when we feel like it; and how high Catholics take the liturgical year seriously, wrapping up statues in purple cloth during holy Week and decorating the place with wall pennants and flowers for festivals.
What I won’t miss is the hymnsinging or, rather, the not singing. Why does the congregation just stand there while hymns are going on? Is this what all Catholic congregations do? At first, I tried to buck the trend by singing out in lusty Joyce Grenfell fashion, but then felt horribly self-conscious and had to stop.
I’d love a country cottage, but one advantage of living in London and not having one is that you become good at seeking out the countrified bits of the capital. Last weekend, four of us plus dog took the train from Imperial Wharf station to headstone Lane and walked across the fields to Pinner. We passed an actual farm with actual cows and cowpats, as well as buttercups and a five-bar gate.
This (plus farmyard smell) is what I look for in my rus in urbe.
Richmond Park and hampstead heath aren’t quite enough because they have too many informative noticeboards and dog-poo bins, which prick the illusion. I need proper cows swishing flies away and the cowpats that go with them.
Arriving in Pinner, we sniffed the interior of the parish church —that cold hymnbook smell you never quite get in central London churches—and had lunch at a lovely 16th-century pub in the high Street, the Queen’s head. not ploughman’s, however, much to my sons’ relief—the menu comprised varieties of pizza.
‘ I’m counting on tinned tomatoes and onions to get them through the night’
So emmanuel Macron turns out to be an excellent amateur pianist who likes to play Liszt and Schumann in his spare time and knows by heart entire scenes of Molière plays. Politicians go up in my estimation when I discover they’re also good musicians—it suggests depth of personality, self-discipline, imagination and the stamina to see things through.
nixon wrote a piano concerto, Condoleezza Rice is a consummate pianist who once played in a Brahms quintet in front of The Queen and former Shadow Chancellor ed Balls started piano lessons and got himself to Grade V.
Last month, Vladimir Putin was filmed playing Sovietera songs one-handed, pretty badly, before his meeting with Xi-jinping. That wasn’t quite so impressive. Which leads us to the inevitable: could Donald Trump’s hands span an octave?
Ysenda Maxtone Graham is the author of Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls’ Boarding-schools, 19391979 (Slightly Foxed). She lives in London
Next week Kit Heskethharvey