So, on a day when I have many jobs to do, I have managed to achieve precisely very little. Every other Monday is the same scenario and for this, I have the lovely Issy to blame. Her two week school agenda means she starts at 10.20am and finishes at 3.10pm. Hardly worth her going in (she agrees but has yet to persuade me completely) so I find I get home from Grasse just before 11am and then have to leave again at 2.45pm to pick her up as the buses are too irregular to trust outside peak hours (or indeed at all when Tam Tam do their usual and just forget to turn up or stop in Bar sur Loup.)
So today, instead of rushing back to write up an interview with Robert Redford for The French Paper (lovely craggy man with a wicked sense of humour) I found myself wasting time Christmas shopping at Fragonard and Galimard in Grasse as I have just realised that with less than two weeks to go, I haven't yet bought a single present for anyone. Then I tried to download a picture from Cannes Christmas market yesterday of a dog looking totally peed off in a handbag - it just pipped the chihuaha in the fake leopard print jacket to the post. Dressing a dog up as a cat is a no no in my view. Sadly my new Blackberry torch that has replaced my clapped out Storm is refusing to send it so you will just have to use your imagination...
Then I decided to make a shepherds pie with a difference for supper tonight. Iain usually cooks all the meat in this house as I haven't eaten it for over 20 years. Forget alligator eyes or kangaroo's bits, mince and mashed potatoes are the two things I would struggle to eat if I was on I'm a Celebrity....at a famous London Italian restaurant many years ago, I disgraced myself by spitting a mouthful of lumpy mash into my linen napkin very indiscreetly before dashing madly for the loo, so averse am I to any kind of potato lump. My mum blames the Smash we were force fed at primary school, apparently I have never been the same since.
Trouble is, the handyman cannot help himself loading everything from spag bol to shepherds pie with enough chillis to blow your tastebuds (and everything else) out of the water. Anything that doesn't have at least three whole chillis in is deemed 'bland' or 'a bit tasteless' which is rather infuriating when you have laboured over a subtly flavoured fish pie or a spaghetti vongole, where the absence of chilli is purely deliberate. The fact that my Italian neighbour Rosine has just given us a year's supply of fresh chillis from her garden merely compounds the problem, with the poor girls having to drink two litres of water with every meal Iain cooks now.
So I wasted 90 minutes making a flavoursome and entirely heat-free shepherds pie before realising that there were only four tiny potatoes left in the fridge. Knowing that this new carb-lite version of an English classic combined with the lack of 'flavour' would be enough to cause a cretin person (I meant to type 'certain' but that must have been a Freudian slip) to throw a minor strop, I decided to mash the leftover veggies from yesterday's roast with the potatoes to bulk them out. A cunning plan and one which I hope will work as the last time I did this for a fish pie for Sunday lunch with friends, I added rather more olive oil than necessary and blended it for so long that it looked like cat sick when I served it up. All in the pursuit of no lumps. The best compliment that day came from Serge, who diplomatically remarked that it tasted so much better than it looked!
Enough about my cooking prowess, writing about food has reminded me that it is now almost lunchtime which means that there is definitely no point reliving the lovely chat with Mr Redford today as by the time I have made and eaten my lunch, it will leave just an hour until the school run. I remember in the way distant past BC when I used to get so carried away writing and fulfilling deadlines that I would still be tapping away on my PC in a completely dark house, in the days before small voices would disturb me begging for supper.
The only thing that makes me feel slightly better about my lack of dedication today is the memory of my gorgeously talented journo pal (CM you know who you are) who did precisely one and a half day's work a week on her weekly national newspaper column. This involved reading all the week's papers in bed on a Wednesday afternoon and writing opinionated and highly entertaining topical copy all day Thursday, after which she would have five and a half days of complete non-taxing bed rest before having to do it all over again. She made the mistake of entertaining us with this tale of career dedication one night over a very boozy dinner as her horrified husband did the mental maths and promptly sacked the cleaner, the au pair and the gardener. I think it was the same night I fessed up to driving the car the wrong way down the A13 shortly after passing my driving test...a fact I had kept to myself for many years before that dinner party. It was almost worth nearly killing myself and a dozen other horrified motorists to watch the faces round the table that night! Although none of those faces could begin to match the horror of the ones on the A13 as they hurtled towards me at 70mph in the fast lane, just as I slammed the car into reverse and sped backwards onto the roundabout to continue on my way, this time on the correct carriageway.
In other news....the car is working again (hurrah) following €1000 euros of umming and aahing by various mechanics and a few minor repairs at two garages last week. So Christmas in London is back on (double hurrah.) And our first meeting of Premier Mardi, for working women to network and exchange ideas (not gossip or tittle tattle, and there was no eating of cake either) went swimmingly.
I will leave you with the entertaining faux pas I witnessed on my erstwhile boss Piers's talk show last night. A very revealing interview with Elton John, where he spoke frankly about his near death experiences with drugs and his habit of downing a bottle a day of Johnnie Walker suddenly cut to the ad break and the show's sponsor...Grants whisky!
Tomorrow is another day.