Perimenopause, HRT, Sexual Harassment, Misogynistic Abuse from Peter Hitchens? Who’d be Female? Also, a Lemon Cake.

Perimenopause, HRT, Sexual Harassment, Misogynistic Abuse from Peter Hitchens? Who’d be Female? Also, a Lemon Cake.

Sexual harassment stuff – beyond depressing. And it is complicated by the fact that my generation grew up watching Benny Hill and The Generation Game. Women with their tits half out giggling while men in suits made lewd comments. I remember feeling confused about it. Wondering how I was going to manage to be like Anthea Redfern at the same time as liking books. I had goofy teeth, was skinny and anxious, I wet my bed until I was 11. How was I ever going to get men to fancy me (clearly the be all and end all of life). All the men I knew, led by my father, made it very clear that women and girls needed to be “cute” and sexy and were otherwise to be derided. But, hey, I got my teeth fixed and both my parents were hot so I turned out hot too. Turned out I could look like someone half-naked on telly and read books. Who knew? So, by the time I got to work I was wearing short skirts and hoping to be fancied by men in the office – it was at least half of my worth, I thought (brainwashed bitch that I was). Probably more. I didn’t want to be assaulted or touched, obviously (though I was both – not in the office), but I did think I was supposed to be sexy. The whole fucking culture was and is sick. And, men? Seriously, fuck off.

Peter Hitchens (poppet) wrote a sweet piece in the Mail about how women shouldn’t “squawk” about sexual harassment in case they end up even more oppressed and wearing the hijab. Twitter went nuts. I joined in. But, of course, he’s asked to say offensive shit. If people like him and Katie Hopkins write offensive shit, we all talk about it, they get more page views and, therefore, more advertising. If he wasn’t a dick they’d sack him and hire someone who is.

The menopause (or perimenopause to be more accurate) has dominated my life and health since I was about 43. Apparently I’m still years away from the actual thing, but who cares because the symptoms of it not quite happening yet have been horrific (Sweating at night so much I have to change the sheets every day, a horrible smell and so much blood loss I go blue, and I also have other nasty stuff – endemetriosis and adhesions and general hell that means the hysterectomy I still might have comes with a 5% of them piercing my bowel…). So, I had a hideous and terrifying (but, actually, fine) injection that brings on the menopause and then went on add back HRT. Not taking progesterone, as I’ve been doing in some form or other for about five years, is fantastic. The puffiness that was making me look pregnant went down immediately and I look normal again thank fucking God. No sweating, got my own smell back (never noticed it until it had gone). I can’t drink because I’m also on high blood pressure meds and am now officially the cleanest-living person in the world. Not so much as a Pringle. And every time I tell someone female about this they tell me all their awful stories – so angry and weepy, ruining clothes with sudden blood loss (I’ve thrown so many pairs of jeans away), scary scans, can’t remember anyone’s name, operations, drugs, toughing it out. All these stories told in a whisper.

I was sitting next to an old man at a dinner. He was famous and fun and the woman on his other side was great too. Afterwards I said to her: “We had such a fun corner!” She said: “Ooh, doesn’t he have piercing eyes. Quite sexy.” I was shocked. “No,” I said. Later I took my shoes off walking through the foyer and told her they don’t fit because I’m all swollen on norethisterone (the progesterone I’ve now stopped). She told me her menopause was horrific but the HRT she’s on and loves makes her really randy (her word). “I think that’s why I said that about his eyes. It’s quite an unsettling side effect.” We laughed and went off to find our cars. But there is this wierd bonding, camaraderie that you wouldn’t get talking about a bad back and the treatments you might be having. We don’t like talking about it in public because we want to pretend we’re still young and sexy as per the above (otherwise we are worthless and shit, right?) and not weeping in pain and a supermarket toilet (zeugma there) over a terrifying lake of blood like I was doing half an hour ago. Outside again, sitting in the car in the rain, just felt very old and lonely and nothing at all like Anthea Redfern. Well, the Anthea of fantasy anyway. In reality, of course, she’ll have been through her own hell with misogynistic wankers and menopause. Obviously.

I feel like I want to put a lemon cake recipe here but it seems inappropriate….Oh, but it was delicious. It’s a Honey and Co. recipe as usual. You caramelise sliced lemons with sugar, saffron and turmeric so they go really, really yellow. Then you make a lemon and almond cake mix. Line the tin with parchment paper and then the lemons, pour in the cake mixture. When you turn it out it looks like the photo above. Tip over the rest of the syrup. It’s just amazing.

Recipe –

For the syrup
  • 3 or 4 lemons
  • Enough water to cover the lemon slices plus 400ml water for syrup
  • 250g sugar
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • A big pinch of saffron
  • 140g semolina flour
  • 3 tbs plain flour
  • salt
  • 1/2 tspn baking powder
  • 200g butter
  • 270g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g ground almonds
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • Zest and juice of one lemon


  1. Pre­heat the oven to 350˚ F/ 175˚C/ Gas mark 4.
  2. Butter  and line a cake tin.
Prepare lemons and syrup
  1. Slice lemons, cover with water and boil.
  2. Add sugar, turmeric and saffron and make a syrup for the lemons.
  3. Arrange the lemon slices around the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Save syrup.
Make the cake
  1. Blend all the ingredients together and pour the mixture into your cake tin already lined with lemon slices.
  2. Cook until it’s golden brown and not wobbly. Don’t forget a tray of water in the bottom of the oven to keep it moist. Cook for ages on a low heat. Keep checking.
  3. Turn out. Gawp. Eat.

Talk to me about your menopause and anything else that troubles you. Therapy via Skype or email:


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The Draining Narcissism of Yoga, Best Cheesecake Ever, Fuck Unsolicited Advice/Information


IMG_3201Look, I know I will be losing friends like….I don’t know, lemmings off a cliff or something, but I just really hate the thing of yoga. I’ve done yoga – good stretching. Quite liked it. Almost everyone I know does yoga, likes it, gets something out of it. Great. But there’s something SO annoying about it. “I’m just going to yoga, bye.” (You know who you are…) There’s some sort of smug, evangelical deal with it like it’s not just exercise. Like an addiction or (usually) a cure for addiction. And even though you do it in a room full of people it’s totally solitary and narcissistic – oooh, focus on yourself, focus on your breathing, focus on thinking about your own arsehole. As if the people who do it need to focus MORE on themselves and their arseholes for the Lord’s sake. I mean, tennis, you’re having a relationship with your opponent. Horse riding, you’re having a relationship with the horse. (NB. These are both things I do and are therefore inherently worthy and good). Yoga? You are almost literally having a relationship with your own bumhole. Ugh.

Want to know what else I hate? Of COURSE you do. Unsolicited advice/information. Everyone who ever comes to the Casa Rosa says the same stuff. (Men ask how high we are up here. Every man, every single one who has ever walked through the door has asked. Occasionally I know because another man says it. But the information won’t stay in my head because I don’t give a fuck. Like, what does it mean?) Everyone else says; “You should rent this place out.” And then; “You should make jam out of those pears/plums/grapes.” It’s as though I’ve never come across the idea of renting a property out (“Why, what a novel idea! How might I go about such a thing?”) and I’ve spent 16 years staring at the fruit trees, baffled. Hmm. A pear. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of produce I could make from them. But what? What, I ask you?

So, that’s the advice (“You should write a book about that! Or, about this story I’m about to tell you”). Then there’s the information. You know how some people talk to you as if you’d said: “Please, please tell me exactly what route you selected to get here. Please! Quick!” or “I must know exactly how you became as successful as you are, why you moved to Dubai, how you came up with the idea for the really boring thing you do. I beg you. Tell.”  A man came round the other day and started telling me I should defrost my fridge. “Should.” Like it has some sort of moral imperative. God loves a nice defrosted fridge. “Oh, is it icy? Thanks so much for the tip.” I mean, a woman would never wander around someone else’s house telling them what to do and a man wouldn’t tell another man. Ugh. God, blokes. NB. Italian ones do this the most. They really, really think people need to hear what they think about stuff and want the advice they are dying to give poor helpless women.

True, I am quite crabby today (slash always). Suddenly it’s winter. Blazing unbearable heat to freezing rain, empty village, low cloud, chimneys smoking and mushrooms blooming (they get VERY excited about mushrooms in Italy). Do mushrooms bloom? Anyway, it’s bleak out there in a dramatic Wuthering Heights sort of way and I’m inside cooking. Soffrito in the oven right now (short beef ribs in dates and onions and date molasses cooked for 6 hours) and everything smells wonderful. Lately I’ve been doing chicken pastilla a lot because Esselunga near Lucca suddenly stocks filo pastry! Hooray. I’ve put the recipe in before but it’s actually even easier than I’d thought, so here’s my totally simple version.

Chicken Pastilla 

Fry some skinless (or not, but I would) chicken thighs in oil with onions, garlic, cinnamon, ral al hanout (or not), and a packet of stoneless dates. Salt, pepper, of course. When the meat is nice and golden cover it all with water and a lid and cook on a low heat for 3 or 4 hours. You can ignore it apart from the odd stir. Then pull the chicken off the bones and chuck the bones away. Butter an oven dish (I use those Le Creuset frying pans, but anything is fine) and then lay filo pastry in it and brush that with melted butter too. Spoon the chicken mix into the pastry (not too much liquid but some) and then close with more pastry so it’s sealed. Brush with even more butter. Then put it in the oven until it’s golden and crispy. (10-20 minutes). It’s SO easy.

Serve with parsley salad (chopped parsley with pomegranate molasses and lemon juice, salt, pepper) or orange salad (oranges, mint, parsley, chilli, lemon juice, spring onions, salt).

Best Cheesecake Ever

So, this Honey and Co. Cheesecake that demands shredded Middle Eastern pastry. Too hassly (just noticed they say kadaif pastry OR shredded filo so will try it next time). So, make their cheese mixture and use a digestive biscuit base.

160g full fat cream cheese

160ml double cream

40g icing sugar

40g honey

50g feta cheese

vanilla seeds or essence

So, that’s the cheese bit. Mix the stuff together. For the base, crush a packet of digestive biscuits with a rolling pin, add some thick, dark, sticky sugar (150g?) and two teaspoons of ginger powder, a teaspoon of cinnamon and enough melted butter to bind it all together (probably half a pack -ish).

Lay the biscuit base out, spread the cheese stuff on top, put in the fridge for a couple of hours and then put masses and masses of berries on top and some mint. This IS the best cheesecake ever.

Okay, the other picture is lemon drizzle cake that my son Lev made. Mary Berry recipe. So good. So easy. I won’t include the recipe ‘cos it is unadapted and you can find it online. Nice pic though, no?

Then there is chicken salad. This is fried chicken (lemon juice and garlic) on spinach, spring onions and avocado in lemon juice and salt dressing. Also nice with salmon (then add feta to the salad) or roast chicken. Actually, that might be roast chicken in the picture.

Therapy via Skype or email:

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Dreams of Trump, Hot Hot Hot, Salsa Verde, Prawns and Peas, Easy Pomegranate Chicken with Kasha

IMG_2769IMG_2752IMG_2768IMG_2780Dreams of Trump, Hot Hot Hot, Salsa Verde, Prawns and Peas, Easy Pomegranate Chicken with Kasha

Okay, so it’s hot at La Casa Rosa. Really fucking hot. 41 degrees in a high mountain village, five degrees hotter down in Lucca and just the proper fiery abyss of hell in Florence. I have gone into my slug coma mode, where I swell up and sort of hobble about in the dark with the shutters shut. The fan, aimed at my head at all times, pumps hot air at me like a hair dryer. I haven’t slept for a week, regardless of the number of bevs consumed (many). My kids have been lugging cellos and double basses around Lucca in the thumping heat and there are concerts in pretty churches where I fan myself menopausally and wonder if I should take antibiotics for my infected mosquito bites. My leg won’t bend – they got me on the least leathery area – behind the knee. I am taking the antibiotics.  The tourists are burnt and fat and they wear stupid hats for no apparent reason, middle-aged women wear little girls’ dresses, the men in shorts and t-shirts two sizes to small for their huge paunches and they all look angry and exhausted, sweaty and bitten. I fear I look like them. I do look like them.

HowEVER, before it got apocalypse hot my sister and her boyfriend were here and nice food was consumed in the garden. The days when you had to put a shirt on in the evening feel like a hundred years ago now that this boiling soup has descended. I dreamt about Donald Trump again (okay, okay, so I slept for five minutes) and we were on a Dreamliner to New York which seemed scarily vast and overpopulated and the press were all wondering who I was and why I was with the President. I was reading him a story about sharks. One of the journalists, who I knew from Moscow and was a friend of John Donvan’s, asked me what the significance of the book was and I said; “Oh, I don’t even know if he understands it’s about sharks.” She wrote it down in shorthand in her notebook and I said; “No, don’t say that. It’ll make him look stupid.” So, THAT’S how mad I have gone.

I see my patients on Skype with my feet in a bowl of iced water. They do not know this.

Prawns and Peas – a classic for when there’s nothing in the house to eat except frozen crap. Fry the prawns in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Boil the peas in salty water. Mix them together and add parsley, spring onions, salt, pepper and grated cheese.

Chicken in Pomegranate Molasses with Kasha and Mint –

This was another slightly desperate supper with scrags of chicken out of the freezer. It’s from a Honey and Co. recipe and I’ve written it up properly before but this is a very quick version and it was good, actually. Fry the chicken from frozen in olive oil and pour some pomegranate molasses over it while it’s cooking, some chopped garlic, salt and pepper, a chilli maybe. Once it’s brown and sticky, add a lot of spinach and let it all wilt. Pretty. Boil the kasha (had to look up the English word – buckwheat! (who knew?) But this could be rice, couscous, farro, whatever) and then chop or tear some mint into it, salt, spring onions, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, parsley. Toss the salad and put the chicken on top.

I made a Cucumber Salad with this. Cucumber, salt, sugar, Japanese rice wine vinegar….sesame seeds. Nice.


Whole, gutted fish. These are sea bream and a sea bass in the picture, but also good with trout. Or salmon. Or anything. Put a sprig of rosemary, some salt and a clove of garlic in the gutted fish. Pour on olive oil and lemon juice, more salt. Bake until the eyes are white and the skin is crispy.

Serve with

Salsa Verde

Parsley, anchovies, garlic, spring onion, vinegar, capers, olive oil (not much), salt and pepper in the blender. Lemon juice if you like. Also nice with watercress or spinach.

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Sorting People on the Basis of Their Genitalia, Legal Definitions of Madness, Painting the Kitchen, Coconut Milk Panna Cotta and Almond Fruit Tart




I drove to Florence to meet an old friend and his daughter. They had come in this kind of hellish way to spend two days sightseeing in the blistering heat with a billion other tourists. Even Florence is vile like that. Crowds and heat and the strong smell of faeces that pervades the city in summer (Italians are not big pooper scoopers). (Having said that, I bought cheddar at the Mercato Centrale cheese place – can’t complain). ANYway, his daughter is going to a girls’ school in September and we were talking about how she felt about this. I went to a girls’ school (City of London) for four years but I’m not sure it was typical – it was particularly odd and I don’t think any of us there were happy. I would say I’m probably projecting but I still know a lot of them and I don’t think I am. But this may not have been a gender-based problem. Probably wasn’t. In any case, I was thinking how amazingly odd it is to sort people on the basis of what kind of genitalia they have. Penis? Off you go that way and get muddy. Vagina? This way and make sure you look pretty – everyone will comment on your looks, good or bad, every day for the rest of your life. It’s because of your vagina. Really? Oh. Also, you will probably have to do a lot of menial shit and clean things and nobody will think it’s weird because of your vagina. My daughter once had a Russian mouse and it had a billion babies. We wanted to keep one or two and give the others to the pet shop. The vet sorted them, peering at their genitalia, desperately trying to sort the girls from the boys so they wouldn’t reproduce on us again. “Pipi?” “Pipi!” “No pipi!”  The boys’ school/girls’ school separation reminds me of this. It’s such an arbitary distinction. Not much different from separating people by hair or eye colour and sending them to different schools to do different jobs, wear different clothes and be paid differently (blondes less? I bet). I mean, look, I’m not mad (or, at least, not like that) – I do get that female mammals have the babies and someone has to look after them. It perhaps makes sense for the female that carries them to look after them. But why that should mean anything else, why it should dictate where she sits in synagogue or mosque and what jobs she is or isn’t allowed to do, why her views might be taken less seriously and why she’s less likely to hold forth at a dinner table (Why the fuck do men do this? Italian men do it even more) – I have no idea. Makes no sense. Then again, what does?

Not this. Same friend. He’s a barrister. He was talking about a murder case where he was planning to claim diminished responsibility on grounds of insanity. I was thinking how odd that you have to be basically psychotic and delusional during the attack to be considered insane. Surely it’s far madder to plan for a year while maintaining an ostensibly ordinary life. But the jury wouldn’t go for that. You have to be in a psychotic state. I thought I’d write about it for Prospect and starting talking to psychoanalysts and barristers all of whom think the system is ridiculous. It’s a big issue and someone wrote a long piece called “Are All Murderers Insane?” (the answer being yes). Anyway, strange how some madness is forgivable and other madness is not.

So, I have to write a book which means I painted the whole kitchen the other day (meaning only to go over some of the yellower, greasier bits, but, obviously, once I started I couldn’t stop because then the whole rest looked yellow and greasy) and threw away four wheelbarrows of crap. Then I bought huge jungly plants for a sort of crap bit of the house that usually just has broken hoovers in it (why? why?). My son is stuck in London because his passport vanished. You would think that once he’d missed his flight and the money was wasted he’d have found it again. “Oh, NOW I remember where I put it!” But, no. So me and Mo are waiting for him. Well, I am. She goes to work at Canyon Park every day – a zip wiring and paddle board place down the mountain where they get paid an amazing fortune.

Here are some recipes.

Almond and Fruit Tart. This is a Michel Roux Jr raspberry tart recipe, bastardised for convenience.  It is the best thing you will ever make. You will now make it all the time. Easy too.

600g sweet pastry – 180g butter, 375g flour, 90g sugar, 2 egg yolks, 1tbsp double cream. I add vanilla essence.

Almond paste – 100g, butter, 100g icing sugar, 100g ground almonds, 2 eggs.

Then fruit, ideally raspberries but really doesn’t matter. At all.

Roll out your pastry and put it in the tart tray. Here’s the thing – I never roll pastry. I line the tray with baking parchment so as not to have the buttering faff. I put the lump of pastry in the middle and then push it out with my fingers until it’s lining the tray. Then I freeze it for ten minutes, I can’t remember why and there’s probably no need. It is less pretty but, then again, it’s for eating, right?

Almond cream – beat all the ingredients together and tip the result into the pastry case.

Cook in the oven until risen and golden (about 25 minutes) on a low-ish heat.

I don’t usually bother with this bit, but….Boil some of your fruit with sugar to make a syrup. Brush the cooked and cooled tart with it and then put your fruit on top. Often, I just put the fruit straight on. Not mad about sticky syrups. Dust with icing sugar.

Coconut Milk Panna Cotta

I resent calling this panna cotta. I mean, Italian panna cotta is boring. This is delicious. Plus all cultures have some cooked cream/custard recipe, right? Anyway. Bleaurgh. It’s really nice. Makes six in standard ramekins. Do this…

2 x 400ml cans coconut milk, 400ml full-fat milk, 100g caster sugar, 2 x 12g sachets powdered gelatine, or five leaves of leaf.

Boil the milks and sugar either with a split vanilla pod or some vanilla essence. Leave it to cool a tiny bit then add the gelatine. Pour it into ramekins (or whatever, one big dish, doesn’t matter) and put it in the fridge to set. This all takes two seconds. Honestly.

It would be nice with mango on top, either just like that, or you could boil it in sugar for mango syrup for a bit. I did it with peaches because I’d used the mango for a tuna thing. I put a chilli and some salt in my syrup too (Mo nearly choked to death on a big bit of chilli though). So, when the puddings are set, slop a bit of your fruit stuff on top and a sprig of mint might be nice (I forgot).

I also boiled sugar until brown (do not add water) and tipped sesame seeds into it. Poured it out onto baking parchment to set into brittle. Put the sesame shards in the puddings. Cool huh?

This was pudding to a supper I forgot to take photos of. The starter was seared tuna and mango salad. Sear tuna in pan with sesame oil, add soya sauce and sesame seeds when it’s really hot. Cut up the tuna and toss with the mango, a chopped red chilli, some parsley and coriander. Dress with lime juice, soya sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, sugar and salt (easy on the oil and the fish sauce). Da dah! I made this up – it was REALLY good.

Okay. Enough for now. xx

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Instant Curry, Shepherd’s Pie, Apricot muffins and No Rambling – just the food


I spend most of my time up this Italian mountain making curry. Anything that tastes of SOMEthing. This is my quick curry recipe. Takes ten minutes, always delicious. So, if there are going to be three big onions in it then it would serve about four people. But, obviously, it’s all adaptable and you’ll make it how you like it.

Very Easy Curry

Onions, garlic, chilli, ginger, whatever spices you like (have got), chicken, can of tomatoes, cocunut milk….

Put three large-ish, chopped onions and six peeled cloves of garlic in the blender with a peeled thumb of ginger, one small red chilli and a couple of glugs of cold water. Blend to a paste. (Honestly – I don’t usually bother to blend this but just chuck the chopped ingredients into the pan with the chicken and I don’t brown and then remove the chicken usually either).

Fry your skinless pieces of chicken (thighs are the tastiest, I think, but it doesn’t matter) in some oil until browned then take them out of the oil and put them aside.

Put your onion and garlic paste into the hot oil with whatever spices you like. I’d go for – a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and coriander, ten peppercorns, a couple of crushed cardamom pods and then, honestly, anything – poppy seeds, mustard seeds, garam masala, curry leaf powder, whatever you’ve got.  Sweeter? Dump a few handfuls of toasted, dessicated coconut in there and add some cinnamon. Makes it a bit milder.

Fry until the spices look a bit browned, lob the chicken back in and add a can of tomatoes OR a carton of coconut milk. OR BOTH! Then simmer for….five minutes if you’re hungry, half an hour if you can bear it.

You could use prawns or lamb instead….or potatoes and cauliflower, aubergines.

Then plain rice and a tomato, cucumber and onion salad with fresh coriander. Also salt and peppered yoghurt. Want to chop some cucumbers into it? Why not! Oh, wait. I usually make chapatis. Brown flour, water and salt. Roll it out, fry it dry in a hot frying pan, then take it out and put it on top of the gas flame to puff up. Want to be fatter? Brush with melted butter, fold and roll again, do this a few more times then fry in butter (don’t puff up over the gas ring, the butter will catch fire). This really is delicious but, you know, not that low cal.

12 Muffins – This recipe is in a book I bought for the kids and it has photos of all the ingredients and photo instructions. This page is the most splodged and sticky. This is what we make the most.  My daughter’s got a little muffin machine and sometimes in the morning I wake up to the smell of muffins. Sometimes. Not that often. Pretty rarely.

115g butter, 285 plain flour plus a tablespoon of baking powder (why? easier to use self-raising), 85g caster sugar, 220 ml milk, I add vanilla essence, whatever fruit or chocolate you like. Blend everything except the fruit or chopped chocolate. Then stir in the latter. Bake in muffin cases until they’re raised and golden.

Shepherd’s pie. I KNOW you know how to make shepherds pie. But just in case. Make a bolgnese sauce (wait, is this cottage pie? whatever. beef or lamb, same process), frying garlic, onions and minced meat until brown, adding a can of tomatoes, salt, pepper, a spoonful of Bovril or Marmite (or a stock cube or both), some soy sauce. Put mashed potatoes on top of this, mashed with butter. Controversially, I don’t both to peel the boiled potatoes for mashing. I mean, life is short, etc. It’s just as nice, I promise. Put a lot of grated cheese on top and grill or bake the whole thing until the cheese looks like the photo.

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Birthdays, Pea Soup, Thai Crabcakes, Chocolate Fudge Cake and the Unthought Known

I’ve had two patients this week who’ve been bowled over by realising something they already knew. It’s funny in therapy and analysis that you rarely have huge epiphanies that involve things you’ve never thought about before. All those recovered memory cases in America where people suddenly remembered their dad murdered loads of people or that they were horribly abused are, actually, incredibly rare. You already know the stuff, you just haven’t quite articulated it. Christopher Bollas called it “the unthought known”. I have one patient who is miserably frustrated all the time with his mum whose demands are endless and never satisfied. “I wish she’d just tell me what she wants me to do!” he said. Did she want him to go to the supermarket or do the washing up? Both seemed to make her angry and he’s spent his whole life desperately trying to find out what the rules are so that he can finally obey them and get the praise he’s always longed for. I said something like: “You want to her to tell you things she doesn’t know herself.” He thought about this. “She doesn’t know what she wants. She doesn’t know the rules because there aren’t any. She’s just angry,” he said, totally amazed. Five minutes later he said to me; “What was the thing that was so huge it made my head hurt?” The censors are good. They’ve been working hard a long time. Even once he’d known it they charged in to try to block it out again.

When people remember abuse in therapy, it’s not that they’d forgotten or really didn’t know, of course they did. All the signs were there. They were just really careful not to slide the pieces of the jigsaw into place, because allowing the truth would be too awful. With this patient, the fact that his mother’s agenda was to criticise and demean him, not to get the jobs done efficiently, was a horrible, but, hopefully, liberating truth.

My children (ha) turned 17 and 19 this week. Birthday week. Cakes, presents, beach, water park, guitars in the garden, beers, margaritas in paradise at Sunset Cafe in Pisa. Big week in this household, comemmorating the two weeks (a week each, two years apart) that I spent in the St John and St Elizabeth hospital all those years ago, off my face on morphine, eating off the Lebanese menu and watching wimbledon. Bliss.

Birthday Cakes

Hope got the amazing marble cake from the German baking book. It’s in a previous blog. Lev got a chocolate fudge cake. Mary Berry’s fantastic chocolate fudge cake recipe (Google), BUT, instead of cocoa powder, 100g of melted dark chocolate in the cake mix and no hot water. Slightly undercook it for brownie-ish goo in the middle. Also, a teaspoon of Malden salt in the icing. Properly amazing.

So, the food in Italy is mainly quite crap (I know, I know). Every bar and every restaurant serves the same thing. No need to look at the menu. Very hard to get free range or organic meat, a lot of sad veg and salads, overboiled green beans, tinned sweet corn, huge preponderance of carbs and pork. A lot of the stuff I make starts in cans or frozen. I make a lot of curry. Anything that tastes of SOMEthing.

Pea Soup

Peas, stock cube, onion, garlic, bread, cheese, bacon

Fry a chopped onion in some olive oil. Add a bag of frozen peas and some boiling water from the kettle. And a stock cube. When the peas are cooked drain them but keep the water. Blend the peas to liquid in the blender with a ladleful of the water and then put the mushed peas back in the water and reheat a bit. Salt. Pepper. (For thicker soup, obviously, chuck some of the water away).

Toast some slices of bread and rub with a clove of garlic. Bit of olive oil on the toast. Grated cheese on top. Put the cheese on toast in your bowl of soup with a couple of rashers of crispy bacon on top.

Crab Cakes with a sort of Thai sauce thing

I made this last night after staring at a can of sweetcorn in the cupboard and wondering what to do with it. I feel like crab cakes with sweetcorn are thing but I might have made it up.

Sweetcorn, tinned crab, egg,  flour, coriander, spring onion.

Sauce – soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, chopped chilli, sugar, sesame oil.

Salad – chopped up crunchy stuff (carrots, cucumber, lettuce, peppers), toasted sesame seeds, toasted nuts (I did pecans but cashews might have been better). Dressing – a version of the dipping sauce, maybe without the chilli.

For the crab cakes, strain the sweetcorn and crab meat (canned in this case) and mix in a bowl with an egg, chopped coriander, salt, pepper and a bit of flour. Coat each one in flour and then shallow fry. Or deep fry.

So good.

Thin Beef

On top of the crunchy salad above, chuck some strips of beef marinaded in the same sauce (maybe add ginger and garlic). Also mix noodles in. Nice with crispy fried and very, very salted onions.

Therapy via Skype or even email:

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Home at La Casa Rosa, Black Spaghetti with Clams, Dreaming of Putin, Dystopian shit and Politics (only briefly, I promise)

Home at La Casa Rosa, Black Spaghetti with Clams, Dreaming of Putin, UK Politics (only briefly, I promise)

So, I’m home at La Bella Casa Rosa. Both kids in the house and the other night some of their friends came round and played music in the garden all night. Like, actually, all night. At 6.30am I closed my shutters and put my ear plugs in. My son on double bass, daughter on cello, two people on guitar – improvising around Coldplay and stuff. Actually not enough Coldplay. Must mention this to them. Aha made an appearance at about 3am. How do Italian teenagers know Aha songs? Good old Morten (sp?).

So, I am clearly having a world leaders problem. There was the Trump dream and now last night (my excuse is the extreme heat) I dreamt I was having a thing with Putin. He was madly in love with me and wanting me to fly out to his summer house and move to Moscow. He sent me some beautiful clothes in a box with tissue paper and there was a bit on a train in Russia. I woke up with that feeling (long since unfamiliar) that someone really loves me and is thinking of me, longing for me, and tried to go back to sleep. Even if it was a very, very sleazy old man with serious mental health issues. Hmm. Psychoanalyse that. Don’t. I already have. Ugh. God help me.

Okay, if anyone ever describes anything as dystopian again I will kill them. Surely it would put ANYone off watching or reading ANYthing. “A dystopian world in which blah…”, “A blinding vision of a dystopian future in which blah” oh, fuck off. Shut up. I mean, firstly, just fuck off, but secondly we LIVE in this weird dystopian (oh, stop) world, so reading about one or watching one is just silly. It couldn’t be as surreal as real life under Trump and May (thank God the French are suddenly sane, and those nice Canadians of course, but then they’re known for their sanity). It’s a bit like political satire and comedy. Everything has to be rethought in terms of comedy because they’re all satirising themselves. How can you take the piss out of someone who tweets “covfefe” or someone who calls an election and won’t meet anyone or debate anything? Have you seen the photo of David Davis with two women wearing “It’s DD for me” T-shirts over large breasts? How can you satirise that? You can’t.  They’re doing it themselves. They ARE the comedy. This IS the dystopian (fuck. shit. sorry) world. We’re in it so don’t make any fucking drama about it. It’s like those Day After Tomorrow films or White House Down. If it’s happening you don’t want to watch some awful Hollywood film about it, featuring shouting and people whose teeth are too white. Well, I don’t know why I’ve lapsed into the second person. I mean, I don’t. You will, of course, watch whatever you like. Please do. Free country….(ish).

So, peas and cheese. The kids’ comfort food. Two minute supper.


Peas/Butter beans/Both



Spring onions or other onions


Cheddar cheese

I think that’s it.

So, fry the tuna or pancetta cubes with the butter beans and garlic in olive oil. Boil the peas in water then drain them and chuck them in when the tuna/bacon is nice and crispy. [ Basically, if spring onions then put them in at the end and put the chopped garlic in at the end too. This is a summer or fresher verion, I suppose. If big onions then fry it with the garlic at the beginning with the tuna/bacon and butter beans. ] Add the spinach and keep it over the heat until it’s all wilted. Put parsley on top. Grate cheese on top. Eat.

Black Spaghetti with Seafood


Fresh chilli




Can of tomatoes or fresh tomatoes or neither

Put your black spaghetti on to boil with lots of salt in the water. Put clams and mussels in a pot with a bit of olive oil, put a lid on and cook until they’re all open. Chuck away any that are still closed. You could tip a can of tomatoes in here too and some chopped onions if you like. No need though. Good without. You could also put fresh tomotoes in at the end. Could be nice.

If prawns, fry them.

Drain the spaghetti and mix it in with the seafood. Chopped chilli and garlic – in it goes. Parsley in now. That’s it. This takes as long as pasta takes to boil and it’s beautiful and delicious. So easy. Quick!

Therapy via Skype or even email:  





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