A Million Reasons for Wanting to Carry on Living

A Life Lived Out Loud

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Tree and Cake
For his last birthday, I bought David a tree in the nearest place to London owned by the Woodland Trust - Theydon Bois (pronounced bwaa in my book). By the time we've cycled the fourteen miles up there, I wish I'd got him one from Clissold Park instead. My missing-three-hours-of-sleep foul mood is not helped by doing a detour through Walthamstow where a woman on the high st calls me a 'fat cow'*, I fail to find a Guardian (or even a newsagent) on Hoe St and the outer roads look like some early 1950s dystopian nightmare of future vehicle use where everyone has a car and everyone drives every day. Given that oil is a finite resource, I rather feel that petrol for private cars should be rationed. No wonder the Waltham Forest cyclist is always in a grump.

Eat brunch at the Hornbeam cafe, then out of Walthamstow and into the donutty bit of London; Classical vs Tudorbethan architecture, private roads so posh where I want to shout 'Class War' as I cycle down them, then into official Essex, stop at Buckhurst Hill for water, through the Chingfordy environs of Loughton and finally to the Theydon Bois Village Green preservation society. On some steep hills, I have to get off my bike and walk and remark to Dave that walking after cycling is like dial up after broadband. 56K, 56K what would that get you today? You need more than that for a flash-enabled video.

The Woodland Trust gave the exact coordinates of the tree and we dutifully walk through the nursery plantation to get to the right section, but when we do get to the correct area, there are only mature trees. So we decide that the nearest hawthorn sapling is David's arboreal contribution.

It's quite a strange place: there's absolutely no-one around, not even the usual teenage evidence of cans and condoms, but on one side there's the Central Line snaking back to London and on the other the monstrous rattling of the motorway. We walk through farmland to get back to the tube station and - oh - such a relief to sit on the train back to Leyton and Lea Bridge and home.

Sunday is another of David's birthday presents, afternoon tea. First we go to the BP Portrait Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. As in previous years, I disagree with the judges' choice; the winner is a rather gruesome depiction of the artist's dead mother, painted in the three days after her death. I guess she had to paint quite quickly before the smell kicked in. My top three were the asylum seeker, the pretty girl and the kid with the cigarette.

Onto Fortnum and Mason's, which I chose because they do a vegetarian tea although they bring us the meat/fish sandwiches anyway. On being told their mistake, they give us a free fondant fancy which I can barely eat due to filling my fat face with every different type of cake. There's also an amuse bouche of watercress soup and a pesto pastry (I look over to the other tables to see what the non-vegetarian hors d'oeuvre is:- sausage roll. We win).

The restaurant is lovely, all mirrors and lillies and chandeliers, with a piano tinkling all the hits from Coldplay to Martine McCutcheon to Tchaikovsky. The instructions upon booking advised us to "lean towards" elegance, so I wear a necklace although I lean away from elegance when I report that I've found Maddy whilst eating a petite madeleine. Proustian. There are plenty of people wearing jeans, although one woman has tilted towards elegance and fallen through into mild absurdity in a heavily netted pink and black skirt and cerise top hat. Almost as fancy as the cakes.

* I am within the acceptable BMI range, thankyouverymuch

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