Thursday, 9 June 2011

Coping with the insanity of London life

I don’t know whether it’s the time of year, the time of the month or the time of life, but there seems to be a great deal of medium-grade irritation around at present.

Much of it involves my morning journey to work. This, when everything is running properly, involves walking around 100 metres to a bus stop, getting a bus, getting off at the penultimate stop on that route, getting any one of a number of other buses that also stop there and getting off just another 100 metres or so from the office.

Some weeks ago, the final stop in that journey was closed for roadworks. Roadworks, of course, take weeks.

Now that the stop is one more open, the stop I leave my first bus at has closed because of roadworks. And this morning, my first bus stop was closed because of … yes, you guessed it.

Add to that a person on each of today’s buses gabbing into their mobile phones. One is a regular: I’ve hardly ever seen her when she doesn’t have a conversation on the go; the device might well be glued to her head.

Today it involved a few ‘well I’d tell him to fuck offs’ before I could leave the bus – only to have her replaced by a far younger woman having another conversation that seemed to revolve around someone’s else’s troubled relationship.

Really, I do not need to and do not want to know. And a mobile phone is not a megaphone.

Off the bus eventually, I hit a shop and bought custard creams and jaffa cakes as therapy for myself and the whole department.

As a slight aside, the main difference I can see with an office that has a large number of women in it is the cake and biscuit frequency. And in the run up to annual conference, this increases.

But that was today. Yesterday was not helped by a trip to try to find some new clothes for conference later this month. As a hackette reporting such an event, I am expected to look smart. As a woman who has been very slowly losing weight in the last couple of years, some of my more formal clothing is being to look rather baggy – or simply fall off me.

Not wanting to spend a great deal, I went to M&S, which has served me admirably on the clothes front for many years. And I know my dress size according to that shop’s sizes

Or I thought I did. I picked out two pairs of trousers and a jacket and took them to the fitting rooms to try. They were all apparently of the same size – a size that, on the basis of what’s in the wardrobe at present could be expected to be on the generous side.

Nothing fitted. Not only that, but while one pair of the trousers could be fastened, the others didn’t come close. So the sizing isn’t remotely consistent. And the jacket was ridiculously small.

I gave up and, since it was either Marks or Tesco, nipped downstairs to get a couple of food bits.

But that was depressing too. Wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor plastic. Everything covered in it, bagged by it. My mother thinks this is a food heaven. Some of the packets even have the sort of security strips on them that you get on CDs, with the addition of a warning to ‘remove before putting in the microwave’.

For want of anything else, I picked up a pack of dab and then left. Fortunately, there was a rather nice chocolate shop nearby and a selection of truffles improved my mood straight away.

The dab was hardly the freshest fish I’d had. It was well within date, but smelled strongly when I opened it later. That’s not a sign of fresh, fresh fish.

It got done à la sole meuniere: so, dredged in seasoned flour and then cooked carefully in butter. When it’s nice and golden, remove to a warm plate.

Turn up the heat and let the butter start to brown if it hasn't already; then add a really good big squeeze of lemon juice and stir. Serve on top of the fish.

Now I'm not a dab hand at fish, really. I wish I was, but it takes more skill than I have to be a really good fish cook, I think. However, this is a great and easy sauce. I served a very small amount of new potatoes with it, together with asparagus tips and fresh peas and voila!

Simples. And enough to improve my mood. Until this morning’s commute, that was!

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