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.

Therapy via email or Skype: annablundy@gmail.com

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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: annablundy@gmail.com



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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.


Therapy via Skype or even email: annablundy@gmail.com

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Coming Home, the Mont Blanc Tunnel, Steak, Chips and Asparagus

Coming Home, the Mont Blanc Tunnel, Steak, Chips and Asparagus


It’s a really, really long way from London to Lucca. Got in the car with son, two dogs, a lot of stuff, left at 6.30am and got halfway, Rochefort sur Nenon, at about six. Thierry runs the hotel there, the Fernoux-Coutenet, and he lets me stay in it even when it’s shut (The Shining). He is always in a bad mood, but he has lent me his car, pushed mine, had me over for dinner when the restaurant was shut, and generally been home for ten years. When people talk about French people not being friendly, I have no idea what they mean.  Swallows, blossom, an otter by the canal, fat lady running (me), labradors swimming. Then thundering off again in the morning through the Mont Blanc tunnel. Last time I drove through it I broke down in it. Bastard tunnel. On the other hand, stopping for real coffee in Aosta on the Italian side is the first bit of the welcome home experience. My son watched films on the laptop, and I listened to S.Town, the podcast sequel to Serial, though not about Adnan or anything. In fact, it started out as a murder investigation, downgraded to a treasure hunt and eventually just profiled a guy in Alabama who may or may not have had mercury poisoning and got addicted to eroticised pain. Basically, a profile of mental illness without really looking at the mental illness. Annoying. Whatever. Getting bored by stories of America. I mean, enough now. I want to hear a profile of some rural Chinese man or something. America, America. Still, I carry on consuming it. Speaking of consumption – got home to La Casa Rosa and paradise. Pear blossom smells incredible, both children are here (neither of them children any more) and we lit a fire, had baths and I made steak and chips. This is me crowd-pleasing for the kids and hardly needs a recipe but here it is anyway.

Steak, chips and asparagus

Fillet steak, garlic, mushrooms, red wine, potatoes, asparagus, parsley, spring onions, lemon juice.

Slice the potatoes quite thinly and boil them in very salty water. I never peel potatoes. I mean, let’s face it, we’ll be dead for the whole of eternity. If I were immortal, I might peel one one day just to see what it’s like. However…etc. Seriously, they’re nicer roasted, fried whatever, with skins on anyway. I even mash them with skins on, so there.

Rub a bit of olive oil, a lot of pepper and some salt into the steaks and put them in a bowl (or whatever) with chopped up (or not even chopped up, but peeled) garlic.

Boil the asparagus for less than a minute, put them on a plate with chopped spring (or normal) onions, parsley and lots of salt and lemon juice. In spring I use very thin asparagus, sold in big bunches here in Tuscany, as salad base instead of spinach leaves. Every day. Obviously, you could have beans or peas or anything. Feta too if you’re hungry, but that might slightly interfere with the Frenchiness here.

Fry the boiled potato slices in olive oil and roughly chopped garlic until they’re crispy-ish.

Fry the mushrooms in a bit of oil and garlic and when they’re brown, throw the steaks in. Lev, my son, likes his blue, so ten seconds either side. Get the steaks out and chuck a glass of red wine into the frying pan with the garlic and mushrooms. Reduce it a bit, or don’t, pour it all over the steaks.

That really is it.

Therapy by email or via Skype if you like: annablundy@gmail.com

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David Bowie, Cats, Everything Salad and a Patient who Hides

IMG_0870Slightly lurid picture of Everything Salad there, but the only one I’ve got. Wait. Has it got some weird filter on it? Possibly.  So, I was watching a picture of David Bowie flash up on the TV yesterday, all bony and glazed-eyed (him not me), and wondering why it is that I have always hated him. I mean, not him personally. I didn’t know him and am sure he was lovely – everyone says so and I believe them. But I never really liked the music (except for the obvious few that real fans probably hate – Changes, Modern Love….the easy ones to like), they aren’t coming on my desert island, and I’ve always found his face too hideous even to look at. This occurred to me. He doesn’t like me. Aloof. Distant. Other worldly. He doesn’t beg for our love in the way that Elvis did, the way most singers do. His seduction (at least in public) is the type I hate most – “I am really fantastic and I don’t give a shit about you.” A lot of people love that. I hate that. How is that attractive? I don’t know. It isn’t. I want someone in this world to show some vague flicker of interest in me (by the way, this is not going well as a goal so far). It’s the same as people who like cats. They always say; “They’re so cool. They just don’t give a shit about you.” Right. Okay. Cool. “Dogs are so pathetic because they love you so much. So needy.” Right. Okay. Cool. I want to be adored! I’m needy! I need to be bounded up to and loved. And I want my celebrity to love me, to need me, to ask me to love them. This was my David Bowie epiphany. I know everyone will hate this.

I had a patient who cancelled because she’s too sad to talk to anyone. I wrote an email saying she doesn’t have to talk. That I’ll be here during her session time if she changes her mind at any point during her hour (that mean 50 minute hour) and we can just sit here if she likes. That spending time with someone (albeit on Skype) with someone who is thinking about you and with you can be really helpful. Sounds so unconvincing, doesn’t it? So many people feel like they have to keep talking to the therapist, that they have to feel vaguely sociable to go to their session. But it’s your space and you’re allowed to sit there in silence, fall asleep (there’s a great Stephen Grosz chapter about a sleeping patient) or be rude and aggressive. It’ll get interpreted (“You can’t find any words today,” “You want me to watch over you while you sleep,” “You seem angry today” or whatever) but you’re allowed to do it.

Everything Salad! 

Here is my recipe. Find all the food in the house. If it needs cooking, cook it. Put it all on a plate with lemon juice and salt on it. Eat. I make this all the time.

It’s not as good without: toasted nuts, spring onions or crispy fried salted onions, crunchy fried garlic, a big handful parsley (I can’t be bothered to chop parsley. I mean, why?).

It’s good with any combination of these: spinach, watercress, asparagus (cooked very briefly, still crispy), chopped peppers, beetroot, lettuce, sugar snap peas or green beans (blanched), peas, fried halloumi in chilli, crumbled feta, boiled eggs, crispy bacon, baked, grilled or fried salmon, prawns fried in garlic, fried mushrooms, butter beans or any canned beans either raw or fried, new potatoes, a handful of cooked pasta, rice, chopped apple. You get the picture.

Therapy via Skype or email: annablundy@gmail.com

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Dealing with trauma from online viewing, Chekhov’s Black Monk and Azerbaijano-Armenian (I know, I know) lamb meatballs.

Dealing with trauma from online viewing, Chekhov’s Black Monk and Azerbaijano-Armenian (I know, I know) lamb meatballs.

The Black Monk! I went to the Pushkin House to watch a play, filmed in Moscow, based on the Chekhov short story. There weren’t many people there and we were on kind of school chairs watching a small pull-down screen. The volume wasn’t turned up loud enough and the actors came on, pretending to be someone else, you know how they do, and I was thinking, ugh. I’ll leave in the interval. But there wasn’t an interval and, by the end, I was weeping while Sergey Makovetskiy died mad in a hotel room on the way to Yalta. I love Russia for not doing happy endings, not trying to pretend that life turns out okay if you want it to enough, not pretending we all have the power or ability to be happy and well. I love the truth that Russia faces head on. The lonely agony. So…(meatballs soon).

Later, I was talking to a friend on Skype.  She wondered how to deal with someone potentially traumatised by things she’d been asked to view online as part of a project. My friend didn’t feel qualified to be any kind of counsellor. I said; “Don’t worry about that. We’re not qualified to be mothers either.” Obviously, in some cases this is a disaster and some training might have been helpful, but, anyway, I was trying to say that counselling, and all the variants of talking cure, are really about listening. I emailed this to her after we’d spoken but then, while I was making the above meatballs, I went rushing back to add something. “Listening and bearing what you hear. It’s really important to be able to bear what you hear without needing to try to cure it, without trying offer a different perspective (especially the imagined motives of someone else) or somehow water it down to make them or yourself feel better.” Maybe that’s what’s hard about listening. The just listening and understanding and bearing without needing to do anything.

Then I made the most delicious meatballs ever. A mush of various recipes, just so, so good. Here! Try!

Minced lamb, prunes, coriander, parsley, onion, rice, chickpeas, cinammon stick, chicken stock, can of tomatoes and/or tomato puree. Egg.

Boil a cinammon stick and a can of chickpeas in chicken stock. Make sure, if it’s from cubes or whatever, that you use enough of the stuff for the amount of water. Not loads of water because it should be dense-ish by the end. I’m using a kosher chicken soup powder at the moment. It might be full of crap but it’s delicious. Put salt and pepper in and chopped chilli if you like, then a can of tomatoes and/or some tomato puree. Or not. It might be nice just in the broth too.

Make the meatballs – chop the onion and and prunes and mush into the lamb mince with your hands. Also chopped parsley, salt, pepper, egg and a handful or two or bastmati rice, raw. (Cooked rice would be fine too, I’m sure).  Then make little meatballs and boil them for twenty minutes in your stock. This is the most delicious thing ever. I just had it with asparagus and pitta bread, but am sure it would be lovely with rice, pasta, baked potato, anything. Oh, wait. Chuck coriander on top. Quick.

I will therapise you on Skype or via email: annablundy@gmail.com


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QuarkBrötchen, Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina in German and mini-Daims.

QuarkBrötchen, Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina in German and mini-Daims. Last night I discoverd that the whole of the 1948 film of Anna Karenina starring Viven Leigh is watchable on YouTube. But, in German.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7b_go4F1n0

Even though the only thing I can really say in German is Ich habe einen großen schwarzen Hund (and I’ve actually got two), I watched it anyway. I mean, I know what happens. My husband wouldn’t let me rent it from a video shop in New York 20 years ago because he hadn’t read it yet and didn’t know what happened (what kind of maniac doesn’t know what happens at the end of Anna Karenina???), but now I feel free to see it and I’m not sure if he ever did read it. Watching it in German, in grainy black and white with the soundtrack sounding like it’s being played on vinyl (maybe it was?) gave me the feeling that this really was Anna, that we really were there on the train, Vronsky with his weird moustache, Ralph Richardson (no, seriously) playing Karenin. Amazing. So, in tribute to late 1940s German dubbing, here is a recipe for QuarkBrötchen, again from Luisa Weiss’s lovely German Baking book. It’s a kind of cakey, bready thing, maybe a breakfast roll (what is a breakfast roll?), maybe to have with coffee or tea. Anyway, look, it’s to eat. So, make, eat, enjoy.

Milk, flour, Quark (just as good with Philadelphia, probably okay with cottage cheese even, or ricotta, but surely it’s supposed to be tvorog), yeast, salt, sugar, butter, cream, ice cubes!

Make a roux with 150ml of milk and 30g of flour. Mix it together with the flour, Quark, a teaspoon of instant yeast, a pinch of salt, 50g of sugar and 50g of butter. Knead it until it’s not sticky and then leave to rise for an hour. Then split into 8 rolls and leave on the baking parchment and tray for another hour. Cut the clover shape with scissors, brush with cream and bake until golden at 400F/200C. Put a pan of ice-cubes in the over too – then they’re all steamy and won’t burn on the bottom (Sheba).


This is Marmite. (Today I accidentally ate too many mini-Daims).

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