Let them eat zuc­chini

Country Life Every Week - - My Week -

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

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