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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Slow-cooked beef, terror attacks, parsley salad, double bass strings and Dreams of Donald

Slow-cooked beef, terror attacks, parsley salad, double bass strings and Dreams of Donald

Terror attacks, just really briefly. Sorry everyone. I caused them. Apparently. I have been clearly told that –

A) I am stupid and it is my failure to properly calculate statistical probability that makes me worried.

(I would say this isn’t true – I don’t change my kids’ actual behaviour or my own, and I worry insanely whether there is an actual risk or not. Love is the risk taken. It always means fear of loss. We make it concrete, project it outwards, in order to manage it). (ALSO, you phone someone to make sure they’re home and back safely not because you actually think they might be dead, for fuck’s sake, but because it is reassuring that everyone is safe and sound however low the risk).

B) The very fact of worrying about my kids when they go out causes the terror attacks. Because then “they” win and that’s what “they” want. Yuh.

So. I caused the attacks. I profusely apologise.

I hate  everything I read about this. I hate the “We can’t let them win.” It isn’t a win or lose situation. Nobody wins whatever happens. The only way to deal with terrorists, historically, the only thing that has ever worked, is to negotiate with them. Eventually. Somehow. Very, VERY difficult in this situation, but we won’t beat them any more than they’ll beat us. It’s not that kind of thing.

The idea that “they” want anything is completely absurd. They want to kill some people and they do. They don’t want to divide us. In what way? These are not sophisticated thinkers (at least not the poor boys who blow themselves up and get themselves shot in the name of fuck only knows what). They want us to hate them, perhaps? If so, this is working very well indeed.

Also, it seems really obvious (and this has been said more eloquently than I can say it) that these suicidal boys who feel totally useless and unwanted would join pretty much any gang – Isis, street gangs, whatever. Violence is attractive to bored young men (and probably young men who aren’t bored) and if they are wanted and adored for it, even better. The Nazis were similarly attractive to people who wanted to belong and have a sense of purpose. And street gangs offer the same. Obviously, I don’t know what the answer is (National Service…., but no..) but trying to put them all in prison isn’t the answer. Oooh, fun fact. America has a bigger prison population (this is per 100,000 of the population) than was ever in the gulags even at the height of Stalin’s terror.

Covfefe. God, that was fun.  Wait! I had a dream about Donald Trump. I was at this outdoor restaurant with him and there was a jazz band playing at the front. Though there were candles and twinkly lights in the trees, deferential waiters in white, champagne and oysters type of place, we sat in the dark so he wouldn’t be recognised. I felt as I do feel about him – sort of sorry for him, compassionate towards him, fascinated by what the hell is really wrong. I was listening, wondering, sad. Suddenly, dancing started and our table was lit as the dancers, can-can-ish or tango-ish, came near. He quickly slapped a weird brown wig on his head, just slapped it on as if he already had it in his hand, so he wouldn’t be recognised. We moved out to the dark back of the garden and then there was a really awful rapey, bloody bit that I won’t gross you out with. I can psychoanalyse it and it isn’t about Trump, but so weird to have him off the television/Twitter and into my mind in this totally surreal way.

Double bass strings are very, very expensive. That’s all. My son needed some (according to his new teacher). Man alive. Who knew? £200.

My labradors are nice. Here they are on a blue beanbag.

So, short ribs are delicious. This is ANOTHER Honey and Co. recipe that I kind of cheated with, but please make this immediately. In a pan that can go in the oven, or in the roasting tray (I did), fry the short beef ribs to brown them in olive oil (or whatever) along with salt, pepper, some new potatoes or cut up big potatoes and some (very) roughly chopped onions. This takes less than a minute. Okay, three minutes max. Then add some dates. Any kind. Chuck them in. A tablespoon of tomato puree, some powdered cinnamon or a cinnamon stick, 200ml of water and put it in the oven with a lid on or wrapped in foil – FOR FOUR HOURS OR MORE.

Eat it with this parsley salad I copied from a Lebanese restaurant in Marylebone. Chopped parsley and mint, spring onions, pomegranate seeds, salt, pepper, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice. Heaven.

Therapy via Skype or email:


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Feminism and Psychoanalysis (dickhead misogynists), Cherry and Pistachio cake (again), Romeo and Juliet, The Importance of Being Earnest, Chicken Pastilla (again) and Prawns with Oranges and Tomatoes

Feminism and Psychoanalysis, Cherry and Pistachio cake (again), Romeo and Juliet, The Importance of Being Earnest, Chicken Pastilla (again) and Prawns with Oranges and Tomatoes

Need to go out to a barbecue in the rain now, so abridged version of stuff.

Went to a seminar at the Institute of Psychoanalysis to hear a talk on feminism. Freud is often slagged off for his hopelessness where female sexuality and women in general are concerned. I feel he gets us right, including penis envy and being more narcissistic than men. I am in a tiny minority of women here, but I do think he’s right in the sense of perceiving ourselves in sexual situations more than perceiving our lover. Nurture, sure, but hard not to self-objectify where sex is concerned. Anyway, a feeling that psychoanalysis is a feminist movement on the whole. All good. Afterwards I was forwarded an email from a man who had been present. He’d sent it to the male panel member (spouse of the speaker and there to introduce her and field questions) and he slagged off the comments I had made in discussion. Briefly, a discussion on why there are more female leaders on the right than the left. Why? Dunno. I feel capitalism is more of a meritocracy – bring the cash and we don’t care what you look like. I worked at the Guardian, posh white men, and at the Sunday Times, varied ethnicities, class backgrounds and genders. Odd, huh? The left is an ideology you have to fit in with, the right doesn’t care what you think if you provide the page views. Someone else felt it’s to do with the right having more to gain with a female leader. The speaker that we turn to authoritarian mother in a crisis, the real leader of the traditional family in a child’s early life. This guy, the emailer, didn’t speak at the event but wrote to another guy to slag me off, saying I am so posh and from “male money” that I felt class solidarity at the ST. Actually, the opposite was true. The posh ones were at the Guardian. Though, yes, the ST people were nicer, less judgmental. Anyway, he decided for me what I felt and thought and then explained (mansplained) it to me. Except not to me. To another man. He also accused me of being ignorant about left-wing politics. I was not posh until I decided to be (not saying it’s not a pretty convincing act at this point) and there was (sadly) no money, male or female. Anyway, the news is, girls: misogyny lives on. Not news at all, of course.

Romeo and Juliet at the Globe!! Fucking incredible. How do you make a play we know so well fresh, make the lines mean something? And after the Baz Luhrmann film too? Well, like that. Wept when Juliet died, mainly because Lady Capulet did such devastating grief. Also, my own girl had just flown back to Rome. You know there’s a line saying “I’d had you at your age” so Lady Capulet is under 30! Never played by a twenty something.  And wept, actually, at the first kiss at the party. So long since I kissed anyone like that. Perhaps never again. Sad and wonderful. Also loved the violence of Romeo killing Tybalt – always overlooked that murder, like it’s an accident or understandable. But he really kills someone and that was explicit in this production. Interesting.

Similar – my son’s BTEC group put on the Importance of Being Earnest as their last ever play together and I was slightly dreading it. I find Oscar Wilde a bit exhausing. An hour and a half of glib. Ugh. BUT. BUT. Teenagers doing a very, very mad, high-intensity version WITH SONGS was just incredible, my son as Dr Chausable, hilariously insane. Even “a handbag” sounded fresh (well done, Lola) and we roared and stamped. These kids have never met anyone who talks like this, is like this, probably had never heard of Oscar Wilde before they did the play. Perfect and amazing. So, things can be new again. I suppose.

Here’s some food.

So, this cherry and pistachio cake is in an earlier blog if you want the recipe. It’s the plum and pistachio cake from the Honey and Co. cookbook, but I put tinned cherries on instead of plums and used extra ground almonds instead of coconut here too. It’s just so pretty. Then the chicken pastilla is from the same cookbook. You basically fry chicken with dates, onions, cinnamon and ras al hanout, then add water and simmer until the chicken falls apart. So, I did this but then wanted to eat it instead of doing the filo pastry bit. It’s so good. No need to wrap it up at all. For a salad, boil bulgar wheat, add spring onions, mint, salt, lemon juice, pomegranate seeds. Perfect.

Also Honey and Co. (I’ll change soon, it’s just all quite exciting still) are these prawns. Takes five minutes. Fry sliced oranges, tomatoes and prawns with some cardamom, salt, pepper, chilli, garlic. Add a bit of water. I added spinach and parsley. Eat. Maybe with the bulgar wheat salad. So good.

Real Therapy for Lasting Change:

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Sue Perkins/Marilyn Monroe, Almond Cake with Cherries, Chicken in Pomegranate Molasses, Three Sisters, the Freedom not to Look Pretty (ffs)


Sue Perkins/Marilyn Monroe, Almond Cake with Cherries, Chicken in Pomegranate Molasses, Three Sisters, the Freedom not to Look Pretty (ffs)

So I was getting ready to go to a work lunch last week and I looked in the mirror. I mean, fucking hell. Even three or four years ago I was still basically good looking. Now I look okay “for my age”. And that’s if I make some kind of effort. But, so what? Right? Were the blokes going to this lunch arseing around in front of the mirror wondering if they looked okay? Were they smearing crap all over their faces? They were not. And for whom exactly do I want to look like some sort of simpering idiot? Why do I care if these people think I’m good looking or not? I don’t, is the answer. I decided to dye my hair grey and have a short back and sides. Put a shirt and trousers on and go to fucking lunches like a normal person. Eat food. Chat. I mean, it’s not like I’m trying to get laid here. At said lunch I’m talking to a hugely successful City type person who says she’s on sabbatical and might do more grooming. This sounded a bit paedophilic, but wasn’t. “I don’t know how to pluck my eyebrows,” she said. She looked great. I mean, would a selection of random men have wanted to have sex with her? Who knows. And who in the name of crap cares? But she looked happy, friendly, not shit. I told her about my short back and sides plan and we laughed about being old and the idea that women are supposed to look…what? Pretty? Ugh.

I went to the hairdresser and a nice Jordanian man did me a wash and blow dry. More Marilyn than Sue Perkins. So, I didn’t do it. I remain blonde and coiffed. I remain cowed. The tyranny wins again.

I went to see Three Sisters in Russian the other day with another all Russian crowd (even the signs in the theatre were in Russian, so disconcerting that I ordered my bottle of water in Russian and got a baffled look). Anyway, the Russian women seem to have it. They are seriously done up, but somehow they look tough and cool, rather than pathetic and simpery. How is this done? I don’t know. I also had Lebanese food with an ex-boyfriend who had a grey beard and a tailored suit on. “Do I look old?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “We are old.” We talked about Dostoevsky. I mean, that would cheer anyone up, right?

Okay, it won’t. But this will! Chicken in pomegranate molasses!

Marinade chicken thighs (no skin) in pomegranate molasses, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli. Fry in oil slowly on a low heat until all black and sticky. Boil some bulgar wheat, drain, and add lemon juice, a spoon of pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds, mint, parsley, spring onions, salt…what else? Oh, spinach, watercress, anything. This is a heavenly supper. Quick!

Almond cake. With marzipan. I’m still with the Honey and Co. book by the way but I mess with the recipes so I’m telling you what I did, not what they tell you to do. They have these as individual cakes with roasted plums. I made one cake and boiled cherries in vanilla.

100 butter, 110 sugar (light, dark, whatever), 3 eggs, 50g flour, 80g ground almonds, 25g or more of chopped almonds with skin on, 50g of marzipan.

Mix all the ingredients apart from the last two. Chop the marzipan and stir in with the chopped nuts. Cook the cake/s until golden. Top with cherries or any fruit boiled or roasted with sugar and vanilla. This is properly just paradise.

Therapy via Skype or even email:

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Baryshnikov, Russian Poems, тоска, Pretty Salads and Dim Sum


Baryshnikov, Russian Poems, тоска, Pretty Salads and Dim Sum


I went to see Baryshnikov reading Brodsky at the Apollo the other day. Completely sold out and packed full of Russians. Misha, whose beauty has in no way been diminished with age (and he took his clothes off to prove it), read his dead friend’s poems, sitting in front of and dancing inside of a kind of greenhouse that looked like an abandoned railway station somewhere in Russia. The surtitles glanced off the top of the building like smoke, words of emptiness and despair, of pain and loneliness. And, of course, Baryshnikov is not young, the Soviet Union, from which both he and Brodsky escaped, is gone, but so is so much that was wonderful about Russia and the whole performance seemed to be about loss and decay.  This is what I wander around feeling all the time and for that hour and a half I was not alone. When everyone jumped to their feet with a roar, tears streaming down their (our) faces, I was one of the people who understand this abyss of sorrow in which there is great beauty. I know – in England I’m a weirdo. But in Russia I’m normal. Hooray! It’s SUCH a relief to be allowed to bleak!

There’s a Russian word “tosca” тоска with the stress on the a, unlike the opera heroine, that means a kind of melancholic longing. It doesn’t have an English equivalent but you can use it casually for nostalgic sadness or just a sense of bleakness, sadness. If you’re staring out of the window at the endless snow and someone says, “What’s up?”, you can just say; “тоска”.

That emotion isn’t really allowed in England. There is this feeling in the West that somehow we’re supposed to be happy and content. We’re supposed to find the right partner and a fulfilling job, to keep healthy, stay attractive. Then we feel crap when we fail (as we must). So many of my patients, and, I’m sure, everyone else’s, are mainly appalled by their own failure to have a blissfully perfect life. Russians or, at least, Russian poetry and literature, seem to understand that loss, suffering and crushed hopes and dreams are what life IS. They mourn openly. Or, possibly, ‘it’ mourns openly – the canon.

The night before this an old friend (who lives a life so conventional it’s actually weird and who has tried with all his might to repress his existential grief behind a facade of money and familial duty) sent me a Yevtushchenko poem – Goodbye Red Flag. The last line is “and I weep” “И плачу”. He weeps for the loss of something that he never wanted or loved but the loss is great anyway.

ANYway, mad Russian stuff aside, look at the fabulous dim sum we had before the Baryshnikov. Chinatown being delicious – the fug of smells is so fantastic as soon as you get near. Couldn’t pay for it though because my son had taken my purse out of my bag to get twenty quid for bevs the night before. I am so unsuspicious-looking (never, ever get stopped or searched ever anywhere) that it wasn’t a big deal. Went back to pay later. Oh, but CUSTARD BUNS. Can I just say CUSTARD BUNS.

The food photos above –  roasted salmon on spinach sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, toasted nuts, spring onions, avocado, sugar snap peas…what else? Well, everything. It’s everything salad again. I think lemon juice, salt, spring onions and parsley make life delicious.

The rhubarb cake is the German one I’ve made before and the recipe is a few blogs down. But I can’t stop making it. It’s so beautiful and stupidly delicious. I’ve added vanilla essence and yoghurt to the recipe lately. Seriously, it’s just any simple cake recipe with grated lemon rind in it and you push a lot of rhubarb in. Bliss.

The other salad I sort of Waldorf’d. Spinach leaves and spring onions, watercress and probably some grean beans or peas or something, but then I thought I’d lob some chopped apples in (do not peel them, do not peel anything) and grapes. Then toasted some walnuts and made a yoghurt dressing. Yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Oh, and mustard! I know a real Waldorf salad has cream in the dressing but that just seems gross. Then I put sausages on top but it wasn’t pretty so no photo of that. Could have been any meat or fish at all. I live off these salads.

Therapy for lasting change via Skype or even email:

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Chicken Pastilla, Cherry and Pistachio cake, People who think Everyone Fancies them and Tinder’s men called Glen

Chicken Pastilla, Cherry and Pistachio cake, People who think Everyone Fancies them and Tinder’s men called Glen

I hadn’t realised when I posted my last thingy that it was so confessional, or that I was saying anything difficult. I’ve always had a weird thing about writing where I write just kind of to myself or like an email to a friend and don’t ever imagine that other people might actually read it. I mean, with a little blog, of course, that’s usually true, but I did the same thing in my Times column a hundred years ago and was always really shocked when people quoted something very private at me as if I’d told them, which I never would have done as they are a complete stranger. Etc.

ANYway, it was really touching to get so many kind messages and comments about my impending operation and how odd it is to get to the end of fertility.

I wonder how I might be attractive still, just from a mammalian point of view, and how it will feel. Glanced at Tinder again as I occasionally do and am appalled by the number of men called Glen. What’s with that? Though this is the least of their worries, obviously. Seriously though, there were four Glens on my last scroll. Is this WHY they’re single? Or is it the yellowing teeth, greyish complexion, motorbike in the background, description of themselves as “fun-loving” or the list of negatives – no time wasters (what the fuck are you doing with your precious time, Glen?), no heavy drinkers (oh dear), no one night stands (you should be so lucky).

Speaking of being so lucky, I’ve got a few friends who think everyone fancies them. This has always been a source of great bafflement to me since no supermodel could guarantee (or imagines) that everyone fancies them and none of these friends is that.  Also, who cares if that fat, old, drunk man wants to have sex with you or not? I was thinking about this in terms of being beyond sexual notice (re. hysterectomy) and remember being pregnant and feeling – God, who am I if I’m not foxy? I don’t even know.  When I sat next to men at dinners before I was pregnant they looked fucking delighted, if a bit nervous. Once I was pregnant they looked up blankly and only what I said counted. Clearly a lot of people live like that all the time but I hadn’t before. I now realise, that like my weird friends who think everyone fancies them, I was used to being objectified, took it for granted, objectified myself, encouraged or forced it. I hated it and hated not having it. I kept my eyes down a lot and was rude a lot, just to get people to back the fuck off. So, it’s not really that they think everyone actually fancies them, it’s that they only see themselves as either fancied or not fancied. There’s no other category for women who view themselves in the male gaze and are resigned to, or encourage, objectification. Okay, long and heavy, but maybe post-fertility will be this liberating area of total post-objectification (though psychoanalysis pretty much put paid to that anyway).

So, back to hormonal comfort food. Both these things are from the Honey and Co. cookbook. The cake is really easy (blend and cook) and the pastilla is way easier than they make it sound. You just fry chicken and onion in spices, wrap it in butter-brushed filo pastry and bake it for fifteen minutes. Honestly, it’s that easy. There is no need for all the pan swapping and stuff the recipe insists on.

Cherry, Pistachio and Coconut Cake

190g sugar (they suggest half normal, have light brown, but, seriously, any is fine)

180 ground almonds, 30g ground pistachios, 45g dessicated coconut, 50g self-raising flour, pinch of salt

1tsp of mahleb (crushed cherry stones, for sale in Middle Eastern food shops but I’m sure it would be good without this and you could just put vanilla essence in)

150 melted butter, 3 eggs

300g cherries (I used 1 and a half tins of Waitrose stoned cherries drained of their “light syrup”, really delicious and a hell of a lot easier)

50g chopped, crushed or whole pistachios

So, mix everything except cherries and chopped pistachios together in a bowl or blender and put in a parchment-lined cake tin, heavy frying pan or whatever. Chuck the cherries and pistachios on top and bake until golden on a middlish heat with a pan of water in with it. Best cake ever.


6 chicken thighs (pigeon? anything probably), salt, pepper, 100g dates, 3 onions, a cinnamon stick (or some ground cinnamon), a chilli, 2 tbsp of ras el hanut spice mix, 240ml water, pack of filo pastry and some melted butter.

They make it sound complicated and have you frying chicken, removing it, doing other stuff, putting stuff aside. No need. Fry all the filling ingredients in olive oil until the chicken and onions are nice and brown, then add the water and simmer for …half an hour? Longer if you like. Cut all the chicken up or pull it apart. Line a heavy frying pan, baking tray, cake tin, with buttered filo pastry. Add the filling (drain it first if too wet), close the pastry so it’s a pie, patch up with more buttered filo if it splits (mine did) and bake in a hot oven for fifteen minutes. This is so easy and so delicious. Eat it with watercress in salt and lemon juice. I did.

(The recipe says for 6 normal people or 4 shameless ones – me and my son at the whole thing in one go….)

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Everything cake, Hysterectomy, Being a Therapist doesn’t mean I’m happy, Sorrentino

I was having dinner with a friend at Satura in Lucca (boring restaurant with lots of deep fried stuff) and telling her how weird it is to be having a hysterectomy (soon) and how sad. Only a couple of years ago I was hoping to have another baby somehow or another and even browsed some donor sites, but it was all really expensive and I wasn’t sure enough to do it. I was aware that part of wanting another baby was to do with the doors closing and not wanting to move into a different phase of life. Also, I suppose I wanted another bash. Marriage over, kids very grown up and I wanted to scream; “No! Wait! I haven’t finished! I didn’t get it right! I want another go!” So, I didn’t do it and now there is such a mess in there that it all needs to come out. And I will be past fertility, empty inside, and on towards the grave. I was devastated when it started looking like this would happen, but now I’m just looking forward to not feeling like quite so much shit all the time. My friend said; “Well, you’re a therapist so you must be able to process it.” Sure. Kinda. I mean, the trouble with having studied psychoanalysis is there’s nowhere to hide. I can’t adopt ten kids and pretend it’s altruism or buy a motorbike and have my breasts enlarged or anything defensive like that. I have to face the loss, the grief, I know what it’s about, and then be sad. Is it better? Well, probably, but it doesn’t mean the loss and grief isn’t there. It just doesn’t get wrapped up in other crap where it doesn’t belong, doesn’t get messy. But it’s there. Or, rather, here. As, for now, is my defunct womb. Ugh.

So, more happily, Sorrentino. Loved La Grande Bellezza and the same friend of bad Lucca restaurant told me to watch Youth and The Young Pope. Hate Michael Caine, no interest in Jude Law, wasn’t very excited. Until I watched them. Youth is incredible and sad and made me feel I’m at the Michael Caine, Jane Fonda end of things when really I’m probably the same age as Rachel Weisz, but I don’t look it. I look at least twenty years older than her. Anyway, endings, new beginnings. Sad. No new beginnings for me, I think now. The Young Pope is, at least on the one hand, one of Sorrentino’s beautiful love letters to Rome. My daughter is at school in Rome so I like watching the city in the pink light, especially in Sorrentino’s passionately romantic hands/eyes/lens.

This is everything cake. Leaving La Casa Rosa for a month in London and wanting to make the house smell of comfort before deserting it, daughter already gone back to school, suitcases in the hall, dogs anxious. I wanted to use up the fruit and dairy stuff. So I did.

A bar of any chocolate (though this is dark 70%, but milk or white or no chocolate would be fine), sugar, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla essence (I add loads of this to all cakes) ricotta or cottage cheese, or philadelphia, yoghurt or none of the above, apples, pears. I guess at the measurements and just see how it looks in the blender but it’s probably something like this.

200g flour

150 butter

3 eggs

200g cottage cheese (or whatever)

200 sugar

teaspoon of baking powder

100g chocolate, chopped into little bits

slug of vanilla essence

any number of apples and pears cut into pieces and tossed in dark sugar and cinammon if you like.

Blend everything except the chocolate and fruit. Then stir the chocoalte in. Put mixture in tin (or roasting tray or iron frying pan or whatever) lined with baking parchment and chuck the fruit on top. Cook until it looks lovely. Put a dish of water in with it so the bottom doesn’t burn.

Feel wistful. Eat hot.

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My Birthday, Forte dei Marmi, The Augustus, Cheescake, Oysters and Omar Sy


My Birthday, Forte dei Marmi, The Augustus, Cheescake, Oysters and Omar Sy


Omar Sy, just gratuitous because I love him. Look how handsome! I kind of force myself to dream about him by thinking about him as much as possible before I go to sleep. Or maybe I’m kind of hallucinating since I’m often quite pissed at that point. ANYway, happy birthday to me, I am very old indeed. I made the Honey and Co. cheesecake, oh God, it’s fantastic. So, I’m in rural Italy so whatever complicated pastry they use who even knows and you can’t get it here. So I made crispy vermicelli (boil, then fry in butter until golden and crispy) and used that as the base. I put some honey in the fying pan too. The cheesecake was Philadelphia with vanilla essence, 50g of crumbled feta and some honey. Then toasted pine nuts (didn’t have pistachio nuts) and pomegranate seeds. Heaven. Went to Forte dei Marmi and the Augustus hotel. My birthday’s on the 11th but Boris Johnson and the other G7 foreign ministers were in it that night so I had to postpone birthday until the 12th. We were the only guests on the first night of the season and the staff weren’t tanned yet, putting the canopies up on the beach tent things, painting all the white slatting, doing the flower beds. We know the owners which always makes me think there’ll be a discount and there never is, but somehow it’s comforting to wander around in a bikini and see Titti in his tweed suit, tie, brogues and v-neck cashmere (Italians are still freezing when English people are swimming in the sea and sunbathing) directing builders around the place, air heavy with orange blossom or honeysuckle or jasmine or something that smells of summer and laziness. The dogs were allowed on the beach as it was just pre-season and they went nuts fighting the growling surf. IMG_1557Went out for oysters to celebrate being ridiculously fucking old and they served wine in a green plastic bucket, the kind you make sandcastles out of. Pleasing. Had a massage from a Chinese lady who works the beach all summer, 10-20 people a day after Easter (just us and the very beautiful German family next to us, though not very near across the meticulously raked sand [saw the blonde afro boy doing the raking] with a newborn baby [jealous] on April 12th) and was thinking about being touched. I’ve read about massages for the very elderly in homes and how wonderful it is just to be touched by another person. Was feeling this myself and melting under the bliss. Very rare for me these days and strangely lovely. I was wondering about the incredible loneliness of the mentally ill and how rarely touched most long-term mentally ill people are. It must be important for sanity. Assuming one isn’t a physical abuse victim, but maybe even then, when it’s controlled and seen.

Therapy via Skype or even email:



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Easter at La Casa Rosa, Full Nest, Asparagus wee

Easter at La Casa Rosa, Full Nest, Asparagus wee



Asparagus wee is the main problem at La Casa Rosa this time of year. Big bunches of really thin asparagus are everywhere and I use them instead of lettuce as a salad base. When everyone has asparagus wee the whole bathroom smells quite gross all the time. I remember reading an Iris Murdoch book where she writes in the first person as a man and says his “urine was deliciously scented with asparagus.” There is nothing delicious about it. Well, about the asparagus there is. The kids went out together in Lucca, which they hardly ever do, and they came home in a taxi through the thick fog up our quite scary mountain, nine minutes before curfew at 12.51am. I was upstairs in bed listening to them laughing in the kitchen and eating lamb and prune meatballs (from the Mamushka cookbook – recipe in a previous post). I’m so close to empty nest that full nest is incredible bliss. So, hot cross buns with cranberries and figs from the Waitrose magazine (and Sheba Anvari’s put-a-pan-of-water-in-the-oven-with-the-bake tip meaning cooked in the middle but not burnt bottom) on Good Friday. I mean, seriously, when they’re hot and you can taste the cardamom, dip in melted butter… and just….yes. Then Easter Sunday roast potatoes (don’t peel them or boil them, but cut them small, toss in lots of olive oil, garlic, rosemary and salt and cook until crispy) and lamb from the Honey and Co. cookbook. Well, I cheated and used Marco Pierre White too. Basically, Honey and Co. have you marinating the lamb in rose petals, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, ground coriander aaaand….garlic, olive oil. But there’s lots of naffing around with plums and taking the lamb out four times to do stuff to it. Marco just puts it in covered with foil for four hours. So I did that. Oh, and half a bottle of white wine, I used Prosecco. And cook forever. That’s it. The whole house smells SO good. Oh wait, chuck a lot of parsley over the meat before you serve it. It should just fall apart. Pomegranate seeds would be nice, but I didn’t.


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