Friday, 24 August 2012

Island Hopping

Well, not exactly. We're off to Guernsey in the morning for a week but the children insist on telling anyone who'll listen that "we're going to an island for our summer holiday". Admittedly, the Maldives it ain't, but with miles of sandy beaches and coastal paths, fish 'n' chips on every corner and best of all NO HOUSE OR GARDEN TO WORK IN (was that maybe just a little too enthusiastic?) it will be a wonderful week.

What's your favourite part of a family holiday? Among mine this time round are: timespend with loved ones, one little girl's eighth birthday, one 40-something's excitement about sea kayaking, five Farrows frolicking freely (sorry) and one 26-miler on Sunday morning.

Or maybe the lie-in I've promised myself on Monday morning!

Sunday, 12 August 2012


I am so incredibly proud to be British right now. Granted, this is my adopted nation and I will always, always be a Saffa deep down (I can't help it: my accent refuses to budge). But this is where I live now and I love this country. And at this moment, the culmination - the forthcoming Paralympics notwithstanding - of a fortnight of emotions coursing through our collective CNS, my heart is bursting with pride and utter joy.

The pomp and ceremony of the opening ceremony, the glamour and celebration of the closing one - and everything in between. How fabulous were our athletes? But more so, the welcome London gave to its visitors. British stoicism? Pah! Personified in the closing ceremony, it seemed that the world put its differences aside for half a month and united in a shared moment of glorious sporting achievement. (I said "it seemed"; I'm not naive. Though, like Lennon, I dream of a world without borders.)

Right now, the world is united at the hippest pah-tay ever. Oh to be there. Oh for the feeling to continue forever. Perhaps we should oust the politicians and allow the natural order - the musicians and artists and sportspeople and the rest of us - the honour of running our world.

Free fruit

Some of the best things in life are free, actually. Like air, hugs from small children and of course fruiit foraged from the incomparably beautiful and bountiful British countryside. Suburbanside too, especially in Milton Keynes, which might be sniffed at by my compatriots in Ye Quainte Olde Villages but row upon row of hedging at every turn yield the most incredibly delicious edibles which is certainly not to be sniffed at. Wolfed down, more like. 

Unlike my friend Sarah who's a dab hand at turning bitter sloes into a decadently sweet gin, my imagination - so far - has stretched only to making apple and bramble crumble, or simply shovelling in those fat, juicy, bruise-coloured blackberries as quickly as I can pick them (my son taught me the art of picking with one hand while ingesting with the other; a boy of fabulous talents, evidently). This year I'm determined to try to sloe gin, purely for experimental purposes you understand. Any other recipes gladly accepted, and I'd really appreciate some help in identifying the various edible offerings on eye-catching display this autumn.

I'll swap you for my world famous crumble topping recipe.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Who is Larry?

I've been thinking. The Larry of "as happy as Larry" - who was he? And why was he so happy? So in the time-honoured tradition of googling everything (as yet another gilt-leaved tome chokes under a layer of library dust) I found out about Larry. And while the answer is interesting (no, I'm not going to tell you) and will be committed to the mental filing cabinet from which I one day plan to drag 15 ridiculously obscure facts in succession to win a million pounds, the more fascinating question of the day is this: Why are we all so unlike Larry?

This is, after all, the age of abundance, at least for all those I know personally. Tables groaning under the weight of food, wardrobes bulging and coat racks swamped, a plethora of activities to which we can drive our kids in the gas guzzler. Turning our noses up at bread crusts, the 'wrong' flavour of ice cream, last year's curtains and a skirt that doesn't fit quite right. In other words, we are spoiled, not only for choice but with the quantity of stuff to which we have access.

And instead of - as portrayed in the media - all of us swanning about enjoying our (relative) wealth and savouring the sheer magnitude of our luxurious lifestyles, we're persistently dissatisfied with everything. Where most of the third world would fight to the death for the slightly floury apple or the crusts we consign to the compost bin, we're scouring the tabloids for the latest fad diet or quick-fix surgical option. For the majority of the seven billion earthlings among us, a stained t-shirt would present a body covering; for the spoiled brats among us nothing less than the perfect jeans will make us happy. For a day, anyway, till the next quest is on.

Is it precisely because of this eternal wandering around in the desert of discontentment that we're unhappy? Could we possibly learn something from the smiles and songs of the really poor of the world? They might not know what too much food is, but they have no debt; insurance and burglar alarms are unknown entities; envy is replaced with neighbourly concern and sharing what little each has with the next family. This is not intended to condescend and yes of course I still feel for these people, but I would also like to learn from them, and teach my children what it means to be truly 'starving' (i.e. not two hours past lunch time when all the other children in the park are eating lollies but I didn't bring any) and to look after their possessions.

So maybe if we were really poor we wouldn't be quite as happy as Larry was, but perhaps we could try to be content with whatever it is we have, or don't have.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Help. Please.

I know my audience is really small, but I would like to continue writing - purely for self expression and not altruistic illumination, you understand - and need to know (a) if you're remotely interested in what I have to say and (b) what I should write about. Jury's out.