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conkers, horse chestnut

I hereby declare that it is officially autumn. For the first time in months this morning, I didn’t want to leave the warmth of my bed. There was a real bite in the air, I shivered as I pulled on my dressing gown and cast a sideways glance at the heating dial as I passed on by. (Okay, it was actually the husband’s dressing gown – why is it that other people’s cosy clothes are so much better than your own? I always nick my mum’s jumpers too!)

Jogging was too much of a shock to the system. I made Jo walk instead. All the better to take in the fallen leaves, the conkers already spilling from their prickly cases. Their shiny, smooth chestnut shells too enticing to ignore. When did this happen? I’ve been in London too long.

Next, the virginia creeper that engulfs our garden wall will turn a bright, intense red. The prunus leaves will fade to burnt umber, then the leaves will wither and fall, carpeting our little garden as the blossom did in spring.

There’s a wind that whispers new boots, sparklers, woollen gloves and pumpkins. Candlelight, catherine wheels and cosy blankets. Red cheeks and noses but no more roses, autumn’s here. Autumn’s here.

But I shan’t be bowed. I’m with Keats on autumn: it’s the king of seasons. And for the record, the heating’s staying off until October.

To autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Parklife: relaxing in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, London

Parklife: relaxing in Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, London

Friday

Wake up with: £50

Go to bed with: £50

As predicted, the ‘team meeting’ is less about ‘team’ and more about the dissolution thereof. I am one of the lucky ones for now, and I leave work on Friday still in gainful employment, although the survivor’s-guilt sets in as I cycle home.

I’m almost glad for the opportunity to throw myself into some manual labour to take my mind off the whole thing: the new carpet has been fitted in two rooms, so we can start to put them back together. Cue much hoovering, dusting and heavy lifting. By ten, the husband and I are sat on the sofa, enjoying our tea (spaghetti carbonara cooked by yours truly), watching the TV in a sparkling-clean sitting room. With the door closed, we can almost forget about the rest of the flat.

Saturday

Wake up with: £50

Go to bed with: £20.70

We’re due at a friend’s wedding in Finchingfield today. The day dawns bright and promising: welcome back summer. We’re both up early to continue the endless shuffle of possessions through the flat. The husband does a run to the tip while I continue to wipe and clear and by 10am we’re walking to the station primped and preened in our glad rags (this is something of a miracle given the state of our flat). The train ticket is £19.30 return.

The venue is stunning, the bride looks beautiful and it’s simply bliss to sip champagne in the sunshine and catch up with old friends. The husband and I get a taxi back to the station (£20) in time to catch the last train back to London: I’m stupidly grateful to fall into bed.

Sunday

Wake up with: £20.70

Go to bed with: £16.56

It’s a scorcher. It’s hard to laze in bed with the sun streaming through the curtains, so eventually we capitulate and make a half hearted attempt to do a little more work, before we decide that the DIY will have to play second fiddle to the sunshine today. The husband is dispatched to pick up picnic supplies and we hop on our bikes and head for the park.

After a magnificent open-air lunch, I fall asleep in the sunshine and consequently get ludicrously sunburnt. Oh well, it’s not as if sun damage has been a prevailing feature of summer 2012. We spend the evening ferrying the husband’s record collection between rooms and hoovering up the debris from stage one of renovations. I cook up a vat of ragu to keep us going through the week ahead; it’s going to be another long one. We eat on the balcony and then collapse on the sofa for a Wallander before bed.

Monday

Wake up with: £16.56

Go to bed with: £16.56

Supper Club has been cancelled because the husband is going to see the new Batman film and I have resolved to spend the rest of this week’s money on food for my local foodbank, but when I go to the website, there’s no information on where or when to drop off supplies. I email the director enquiring about volunteering and/or donations, but get no response. Curious. My do-gooding will have to wait until next week.

I have earmarked the entire evening to pack up my clothes and dressing table, but it turns out all my clothes fit into a single suitcase and an hour and six minutes after I first started, the bedroom is completely devoid of my possessions. I’m not sure why I’m surprised: in the last 12 months, I have bought two new dresses (both for weddings), two pairs of leggings from H&M and nothing else.

Tuesday

Wake up with: £16.56

Go to bed with: £8.56

A friend offers us two tickets for Daniel Kitson’s pre-Edinburgh rehearsal at the bargain price of £3 and we practically bite his hand off in our eagerness to get out of the house (and see Daniel Kitson’s new show, of course!). We meet at nine and have time for a glass of wine in the sunshine before the show begins. It’s hilarious and we pour out into the summer night giggling and grateful for the opportunity to leave the DIY behind for a night. Tonight we will have to sleep on the floor, our bed has been dismantled so the bedroom can be decorated this week, ready for the final carpet fitting on Friday.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £8.56

Go to bed with: £8.56

Whether it’s sleeping on the floor, the sudden onset of summer or simply that I’ve caught the cold that’s been doing the rounds, I wake feeling anything but rested, it’s going to be a long day.

The husband offers to gather supplies for the re-scheduled supper club. When he gets home, he is incredulous: “When did food get so expensive?” He splutters. “I just can’t believe how much prices have risen since I last did a proper supermarket shop.” He resolves to adjust the standing order between our bank accounts to reflect the price rise (I am Chief in Charge of Household Expenses and we don’t have a joint account). I can’t really see the point as it’s all going in the same pot anyway, but then I remember my poor, undernourished wardrobe. Maybe an extra tenner wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

The boys pile over for a dinner of lamb kefte, flatbread, tzatziki and Greek salad. The adrenalin that’s been keeping me going for the last two weeks must have finally run out as I can’t keep my eyes open over dinner and fall asleep on the sofa before the clock strikes 10.

Thursday

Wake up with: £8.56

Go to bed with: £5.12

Despite my exhaustion, once I actually get into bed, I cannot sleep. After a night tossing and turning, I get up at 5am, sweating all over with a splitting headache, and what feels like the beginnings of a cold. Great. I climb back into bed with a wet towel draped over my head and shoulders to cool me down but to no avail. By the time the alarm sounds, I am so exhausted that I feel like crying. I spend the day on the sofa feeling sorry for myself, but after a couple of naps and a good 12 hours doing absolutely nothing, I start to feel like myself again and decide it would be criminal to waste what is billed to be the last night of summer sitting on the sofa, when I could sit outside instead. At half seven I decamp to the park and lie on the grass, eating twiglets with my running partner-in-crime. We were supposed to be running this very eve, but luckily for me, she is similarly run down and exhausted so we just gossip and relax in the last dregs of sunshine instead. By the time the husband tucks me in to our make-shift bed, I feel more like myself again. Onwards and upwards.

wedding in sussex© Sin Bozkurt 

“Who, being loved, is poor?” Oscar Wilde

Friday

Wake up with: £80

Go to bed with: £80

The week kicks off on a high; I’m in Monaco for work, and rest assured it’s very hard work. I mean, I had to get up at eight to take full advantage of the breakfast buffet, it took me ages to decide what to eat for lunch and there was an awful lot of champagne to get through in the evening!

All in all, I feel thoroughly spoilt and extremely grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I don’t feel envious of the wealthy ‘residents’ of this principality; I enjoyed the sunshine more than anything—and that was free. Oh okay, I admit it, I enjoyed the helicopter the most – but you get the idea!

Saturday

Wake up with: £80

Go to bed with: £22

It’s time to wave goodbye to the lap of luxury. The minute I walk through my front door, it’s time to turn around and go back out again as we’re due at the Doc’s birthday party at 8pm and it’s in Marlow. We hop in the car with Curls and check in to our über good value rooms (£30 a night per person) at The Holiday Inn High Wycombe. You’d think the contrast between the 1,000-euro-a-night Hotel Hermitage in Monaco and a budget hotel on the M40 would be too much to bear but all I need for a good night’s sleep is a clean sheet and a cuddly husband. Bliss.

The gang is all assembled so we head into town for a quick bite before the party: my share of the equally split bill comes to £28.00. Worth every penny to be surrounded by wonderful friends; I love you guys!

Sunday

Wake up with: £22

Go to bed with: £9.50

Sunday dawns and the husband and I are fast asleep, tucked up in our very comfortable bed. We eventually stir in time for brunch in Marlow, followed by a bracing walk along the river and a quick browse around the shops before it’s time to drive back to London and face the laundry mountain that’s been building up all week. Unfortunately we have run out of detergent and after paying my share of brunch, I have just £9.50 left. Ah.

The solution comes when we drop Curls off; she lives next door to Waitrose and I have John Lewis vouchers in my wallet. We buy two packs of reduced mince and some washing powder, which is half price to boot. Crisis averted.

I cook the husband and I spaghetti bolognese and we watch the Champions League/ Euro/ Premiership/ Who-knows-or-cares-what-it’s-called-final before bed.

Monday

Wake up with: £9.50

Go to bed with: £5.32

Supper club tonight is lasagna (made with the leftover bolognese) and, while digging for treasure at the grocers, I pick up some globe artichokes in their prime for a pound a piece. Who says you can’t dine like a king on a pauper’s budget?

Tuesday

Wake up with: £5.32

Go to bed with: £0.32

The daily fridge audit reveals we have eight eggs and little else: omelette for tea it is. My running buddy and chief motivator is running a 10K on Sunday so we have a date for a training run—I complete two circuits with my precious fiver tucked in my bra and pick up some veg to pep up our frugal supper on the way home.

Wednesday

Wake up with: £0.32

Go to bed with: £0.68

Its the deadline for the office syndicate once more but, with just 32p in my wallet, I don’t have enough to cover my stake. On the plus side, I can collect my share of last month’s Euromillions winnings: the princely sum of 36p is mine, all mine. I will try not to spend it all at once.

This unexpected windfall doesn’t exactly solve the eternal dilemma: what an earth are we going to eat tonight? Then I remember the remaining pack of mince and by happy coincidence it is July 4. Burgers it is. The husband thinks all his Christmases have come at once and skips off to the shop to pick up an onion and some salad leaves. Crisis once more averted.

Thursday

Wake up with: £0.68

Go to bed with: £0.23

Perhaps it’s two days of being surrounded by people who spend money like water but seem no happier for it; or maybe it’s a greater awareness in general of the struggle to survive and just how lucky we are, but I’m feeling incredibly privileged and, at the same time, almost ashamed of how much time and effort the husband and I have devoted to striving for more this year, when we already have so much.

I realise there is nothing I want more than my marriage to stand the test of time and our bond to be just as strong in 20, 30 or 40 years time as it is now, after almost 10. I know all too well the damage that money worries can wreack on a marriage and I want to avoid that at all costs. I want us to make decisions that protect and nurture what we have now.

The husband and I sit down after work and we talk through all the 4,623 options that have been on the table since we started this house-hunting journey a year ago. We agree that it’s important to recognise just how lucky we are, and how we don’t know what the future holds. How the prospect of an interest-rate rise or a property price cash is becoming more and more likely. We decide that it would be foolish to gamble with the one asset we do have, and worked very hard to acquire: our flat. We realise that we don’t have to rush into the next house purchase; instead, we’ll go on a magical, marvellous adventure and hope to discover the answer along the way, or simply that time does it’s thing and presents a neatly packaged solution to us. We’ll need to save harder than ever for our new plan, hereby to be referred to as ‘the plan’ so number 53 is officially on lockdown. Apologies if I’m being vague about what exactly this adventure entails, all will be revealed in time…

Thank you for reading. X

 

naughty cat

Meet Stripes. He is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed but he is (unfortunately) not my cat. Apologies if he is your cat; I promise that I never feed him. Ever since he first climbed through my window five years ago, I have to admit to taking full advantage of his visits. I love this cat.

I am not allowed a cat – the husband is allergic – but a borrowed cat is a different matter altogether.

Friday

Wake up with: £80

Go to bed with: £62.32

Boo hoo, it’s time to fly back to the UK. Mum drives us to the airport and we hug goodbye. Should I be worried that she cried when we arrived, but not when we left?

I hate airports. I hate the whole ridiculous security rigmarole. Why do I need to put all my liquids in a sealable plastic bag? Why does it need to be of set dimensions? Why do I have to pay £1 for said plastic bag? The constant in-out, in-out, shake it all about of bags, passports, tickets and liquids is tiresome in the extreme.

This time they confiscate the beautiful silver-plated fork I bought at the recyclerie in Bordeilles. Honestly, I know I’ve suffered from Ryanair-rage in the past (no, I don’t want a scratchcard, I want you to stop making these incessant sales pitches over the tannoy), but I can be trusted with an antique fork. Still, at least I still have the spoon.

I’m so exhausted by the time we get home that we collapse on the sofa and order an Indian takeaway. It’s naughty, but worth it.

Saturday

Wake up with: £62.32

Go to bed with: £55.33

After a morning restoring order to our flat and chipping away at the laundry mountain, we travel to Leyton for a friend’s housewarming. It’s a miraculously dry day and we spend the day basking in the sunshine, drinking rose and admiring the beautiful house and garden. We get home late and drunk. And so to bed.

Sunday

Wake up with: £55.33

Go to bed with: £13.12

After a week’s break, it’s time to prepare for the return to work—and this isn’t going to be any old week. This is a super scary deadline week and everyone in my team is either on holiday or paternity leave, so it falls on me to pick up the slack.

Time to stock up on food and cook my little socks off so I won’t be tempted to stray off budget when it’s late and I’m exhausted and hungry.

First though, I set off on a foraging mission to collect elderflowers. In truth I know exactly where to find them in N16—I spotted them last weekend when I was out compiling my Stoke Newington top 10— but I can’t possibly reveal the source: first, because a good forager keeps her cards close to her chest and, second, because I’m pretty sure you aren’t supposed to pick flowers in London parks. Ssshhh.

saag aloo deconstructed for summer Indian food recipe

Monday

Wake-up with: £13.12

Go to bed with: £11.77

I’m extremely glad of my packed lunch, leftover five spice broth and pork dumplings, come lunchtime. It’s a nightmare of a day, rescued by the fact that, on the way home, I spot a little pharmacy on Kingsland Road and finally manage to track down the elusive citric acid for my elderflower cordial. It’s a case of 11th time lucky.

We have our usual Monday supper club, only dinner is served considerably later than normal, and I make chicken curry and a summer version of saag aloo. The highlight is definitely the super birthday brownies bought round by Casetteboy. I wish I had made up the recipe for those babies.

Tuesday

Wake-up with: £11.77

Go to bed with: £11.77

A complete contrast of a day today. Somehow, I have managed to end up working in the luxury industry. That means that I spend a large part of any given weekday writing about watches that are worth more than my house, expensive face creams and ultra-plush hotels. Today, it’s the opening of the Bvlgari hotel in London and I’ve been invited for a tour and a lunch. It is beautiful, but methinks slightly outside LoveRichCashPoor’s price range.

When I get home, there is no food in the house and it is very late. I want to give up and get a take away. Thankfully the husband stays strong and manages to talk me down from my curry goat ledge. He is duly dispatched to the shop for supplies and I make a pasta sauce for us both.

Wednesday

Wake-up with: £11.77

Go to bed with: £11.77

The husband emails me at work: a house that made the shortlist back in November has reappeared on Rightmove, and it’s £15k cheaper too. Our last appointment was cancelled because the vendor’s boiler exploded, we saw dream house number one that day instead. I ring the agent and book an appointment for Saturday. Please property god, let this be the one.

I’m a football widow tonight—there’s some Euro 2012 thing on apparently—but I’m grateful for the chance to curl up on the sofa in my dressing gown with the remote control and a bowl of pasta. Bliss. I watch Grayson Perry’s All in the Best Possible Taste, which is fascinating, although a little too disturbingly accurate in places—my Le Creuset habit marks me out as a middle class creative, apparently (true).

Thursday

Wake-up with: £11.77

Go to bed with: £4.18

Curls is coming to dinner so we can be football widows together – hurrah! I haven’t seen her for years (okay, a month) so we have plenty to catch up on. Unfortunately, the cupboards yield little joy. I decide to make a polenta and courgette bake, served with crusty bread and a green salad. Peasant food for a peasant budget. The wine is not at all budget; Curls has decided that we are grown up enough for ‘good wine’ and brings a beautiful crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

elderflower cordial, bottled

Drink anyone? LoveRichCashPoor makes elderflower cordial

As regular readers will know, I went on a foraging mission to appropriate some elderflowers from a local park at the weekend. I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy it was to find wild fauna and flora in London… I did not expect, however, for it to take me longer to find the key ingredients to make cordial from said elderflowers than it did to find the elderflowers themselves.

Mum’s recipe calls for citric acid. You can buy it in Boots, the recipe helpfully added.

Off LoveRichCashPoor toddled to Boots to ask the pharmacist for some citric acid. Suspicion flashed across the pharmacist’s eyes; I’ve received less disapproving looks when asking for considerably less savoury things.

“What do you need it for?” the pharmacist asked. “What is elderflower cordial?”

The pharmacist would not sell any to poor old LoveRichCashPoor. I guess people in central London do not make elderflower cordial all that often, and I would very much like to know what else citric acid is used for.

In fact, I visited no less than 11 pharmacies before I managed to score some elusive citric acid. In the end, an independent Turkish pharmacy on Kingsland Road came to my rescue. You can buy it on the internet, of course, but LoveRichCashPoor has sworn to use cash only and the interweb is not famed for accepting cash…

Anyways, I’m not sure who to attribute the recipe to, as my mum gave it to me. It’s a small, typewritten recipe that looks as if it has been passed down the generations. Mum, can you shed any light on this?

Makes three large bottles:

1.5kg of granulated sugar (yes, really – I was shocked, reader, I was shocked. The original recipe was in imperial measures. I am a metric gal, so I didn’t realise this until I started weighing out the sugar)

1.5 litres water

50g citric acid

3 lemons, sliced

25 elderflower heads

Pop the lemons, elderflowers and citric acid in a large bowl (check it will fit in the fridge first though).

Put the water and sugar in a large saucepan and heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool.

Add the cooled sugar syrup to the bowl, stir and refrigerate over night.

Strain the cordial and decant into bottles, store in the fridge.

You can dilute it in still or sparkling water to make a delicious, refreshing drink. I’m going to use it for all sorts of exciting things too – I’ll keep you posted.

LoveRichCashPoor goes foraging for elderflowers in N16

LoveRichCashPoor goes foraging in N16

Today I discovered it is possible to forage in zone two: who knew?

Mum gave me the recipe for her magnificent elderflower cordial last week. Here’s hers, just before we strained it.

Mum’s elderflower cordial

These lacy lovelies are going into a cordial of my very own, which I am going to use for all sorts of yumminess. Watch this space.

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