ta-ta for now

NFAN is asleep for a while. She’s been put to bed for a not-at-all-well-earned rest and will emerge when a handsome prince plants a minty, reviving kiss on her lazy lips.

I’m now blogging over at DAISYDUMAS.COM and also for the London Evening Standard at http://www.standard.co.uk/dumas.

I’m also taking commissions on all things Australia, food, geography and environment related, contact details are over on daisydumas.com.

Ta-ta for now, it’s been a right royal pleasure.

rip, milly

Along with buying greetings cards in advance of needing them, I thought that using a window wiper on the shower door was a sure and immovable sign of being a Grown Up.

They still are useful harbingers, I suppose, but I have re-advised my parameters of adulthood of late. The surest and starkest acolyte of maturing, is, I have come to realise, when your funeral count ups to a steady one or two a year.

There was a witheringly sad one on a biting March day and there is another this Friday, a farewell to an old friend who, wearied and weak, lost her life-draining struggle with Cystic Fibrosis last Wednesday. Milly Douglas-Pennant was the bravest girl I have ever met. The last time I saw her was when I was fourteen and even then, she struck everyone who met her as a special person. Forever on IV, drinking strengthening chocolate milkshakes and hot chocolate by the gallon, hating sports and loving art. I remember, crystal clear, bunking off from school, lying in her hammock and laughing at everything – until her mum got a call from a teacher and our bubble was unceremoniously burst.

Death is our society’s last taboo. Unlike sex – which is everywhere now, selling us things we don’t need – death is something we still fail to talk about openly and candidly much of the time. We only came to mourn and hold death in such sepulchred fear in the past 200 years or so – back when sex was unmentionable in certain circles, death was quotidien and matter-of-fact. Perhaps some more bestial, exhausting outpouring of emotion in the event of, and a frankness in the run up to losing a life would help us all approach the taboo in more human, real and fearless terms. As they do in India. Then again, we deal with things as best we can – and no matter how many funerals I find myself shuffling greyly to, they never get any easier.

In any case, I doubt that turning our consciences’ clocks back a couple of centuries and untabooing the facts would have made any difference to tearful eyes on that bitter day in March and to those this Friday ahead.

shiny new thing

Please make a click or two and take yourself to the tech-with-trainer-wheels-on world that is my infantile new site, DAISYDUMAS.COM.

It’s a bit of a tardis and contains quite a lot of borderline fascinating material – or will do when I get into the true swing of things – so please make yourself comfortable, brew a cup of the earl and sit back.

Iplayer’s only a few more clicks on, afterall.

take flight

Every journey, I suppose, begins with a step. A change, a leap, an about-face, a swing, a jump, a nod – hell, a raised eyebrow will do it. A tiny, physical manifestation that signals the first in a kaleidescopic set of unfurling consequences and the webbed threads they tweak, with effect, on so many levels.

Like every good story, the journey is bettered by some drama – some colour, a diving tail fin or the bang of a start gun. A dancing girl, a waving hankerchief. A speech bubble holding a heavy, bold, brash WHOAH! And if the journey can please include some tears, some hillarity and a puppy, so much the better.

If the story’s looking ugly from the outset and holds little promise of any, or all, of the above, lie. Tell them the journey will get better: it’s fate – bound, signed, sealed, delivered to lady luck, the reverser of fortunes, the harbinger of hope and a good night’s sleep. Tell them, like I recently was, that Goodfellas is ‘like a romantic comedy’. They’ll fall for it.

I booked a flight to Brisbane today. I leave in 34 days. I am turning my back on my job, family, friends, boyfriend-with-dog-attached, house, city of six years, pretty much everything that’s been a part of my life of late. Brisbane is, in case you wondered, 10,273 miles away from London. That’s a rather scary 1,652,313,485 centimeters, if you have time to hang around.

The first domino to fall in my little journey toppled many years ago – as I grew up, I knew that living in Sydney, where I was born, was always something I’d do. Momentum set in and now that the effect has brought me to my last few dominos – my final weeks in London, with my boyfriend, with my family – the trip is just beginning. But the journey – ah, the journey. The scary, sickening, sad, exciting, tiring, energising upheaval I’ve just begun – well, that’s just another wrinkle in the folds of it all. This is not the beginning.

some glastonbury love

Being me, and it being Glastonbury, there’ll be more to come. But for now, there are some lovely little shots from the sweaty, messy fields of Somerset posted over on my Evening Standard blog, bloop!

Pics thanks to David Yeo. And that big-hearted farmer, Mr Eavis.

I’m going to make ricotta now.

freelance and beyond

I’m officially unemployed. Or freelance. Either way, I’m jobless and it feels good.

I left the Evening Standard newsdesk on Thursday and am now preparing for my move to my motherland, Australia. Much to think about, get scared about and make me wonder what I am doing.

Anyway, tons coming up on the blog – including the wonders of Vicky Park elderflower cordial, west mersea kale, mini Hanbury street soundsystems and of course my Glastonbury breakdown – blow by blow pictures and words from the world’s biggest and bestest party, bar absolutely none.

Exciting times xxx

major hiatus

I’ve neglected this lately. For six weeks I’ve been trying to get a blog out but have failed in every way. I’ve seen so much I could have ummed and erred on about, too. Like why do they make white goods white and electric things like stereos black? I’ve been learning a bit about the fragility of sanity – and how much can change so very quickly when the strings holding our minds in their normal static solidity are compromised. And seeing the effects of elastic independence.

I’ve been picking elderflowers in Vicky Park, scrambling through banks of wild garlic in Wales, slurping oysters in West Mersea, sleeping late after long Dalston nights and all the while steeling myself for big changes ahead.

I’ve been frying some other fish and nfan has taken a back seat. See, I’m moving to Australia and I’ll be blogging my moves for the Evening Standard. The aim is to leap into the abyss and immerse myself in lonely terror, taste what it feels like to have excitement and fear coursing through me, meet things, see people, try stuff out and perhaps learn a little on the way. It’s scaring me throughout most of most days but it feels good to be doing something.

I am freelancing from the end of June and will be specialising in writing about food – in the same vein as my Independent articles – and of course keeping an eye on all things eco. Check out this month’s National Geographic Green magazine to see my latest article, Britain’s Greenest Festivals – which reminds me, reminds me good, that Glastonbury is just around the corner.

Here’s to my last British summer for a while and to the blossomy stink of the elderflower cordial that I have stewing away in the fridge.

today’s indy

A paratha in a teardrop, a pizza in a test-tube? Dive into the weird and wonderful world of flavour making… Check out my piece in today’s Independent about my recent trip to India!

in with the old

Nendaz, March 2010: 60-year-old ski kit and giving the all-the-gear-and-no-idea hordes in the 4 Vallees a run for their jumped-up city money. I love this couple on sheer principal.

If it ain’t broken…

moshi love – sort of wrong?

Weird, I think, for an adult. But I defy you (or most of you) not to be tickled by this.

My new favourite past-time. It’s lovely and will get even lovelier when I learn how to work it… How can a three-year-old be higher up the monster list and have more rox than me?

on india

Every way I turn I see resourcefulness

So little thrown away, value in simple waste

How much we could learn from looking eastwards

We walk blind in monied waste.


Sorry the above is such cheesy drivel. I just had the urge to get it out of my system.

just another ride home

A lady walks into a shop.


I head to the sleekly lit counter and go about my business – searching for a non-chemical mascara if you must know – and then, suddenly, something fluffy plunges fuzzily onto the faux wood floor. It makes that bones and fur in a heap noise that only a falling dog (or mammal?) can make. The dropper, made up to the nines as only a chihuahua owner can be, goes overdrive into guilty mwahmwahmwah mood. The little pooch – diamante jerkin and all – seems fine to me and, clocking the shop assistant’s raised eyebrow, I accidentally let a stifled giggle slip out.

They didn’t sell what I was after.

I then walk in a daze down the clogged tube steps and escalators and am so entranced by the enthusiastically gay swaggering bottom before me – not to mention the manicured aroma and elegant, floating handbag arm – that I miss my tube.

This does, however, give me the chance to witness one of the most spectacular falls I have seen on the TfL network. (Almost as impressive as the two drunken, middle-aged ladiez who on their way home to Essex caught a heel and dived hand-in-hand in a squealing mess along the central floor of Liverpool Street Station to rapturous applause.) A large green-jacketed man goes flying, utterly losing it in a belly down whooosh along the centre of the carriage as the tube staggeringly whirrs out of the station. I imagine his eyes at scuffed shoes level.

Arms go to reach him as my own hand flies to my impressed, laughing mouth.


And a little pic from my trip to India last month… Spot the monkey.

spot the monkey

pinch punch

I’ve just had a jog. I pulled on leggings, odd socks, 11-year-old trainers and a fleece and went running through the dark London evening.

This, surely, is what growing up feels like?

That, and buying birthday cards to keep for future use rather than relying on last minute petrol station atrocities.


I’ve just been at Monocle magazine’s’s third birthday party. It wafted past (as I bumped around) in paired-down sophistication – the kind of style that money can’t buy and that can’t – easily – be self-taught. Whole, unctious reblochon cheeses with rye bread, a leg of ham being carved onto Hoxton sourdough bread, champagne and oysters served by impeccably groomed waiters to many, many pairs of tortoise-shell thick-rimmed glasses, side-partings and v-neck jumpers crammed into a gently beating library (aka office) lined with design tomes and red-lipsticked belles.

I had a chat to the owner of Drake’s – one of the last real bastions of British tie-making. They’re one of the only companies I can think of still operating out of a premises in central London – from their stitching to their pr, it’s all done out of Clerkenwell.

We chatted spotty scarves, cocktails and the sad lack of a men’s fashion showcase, as Fashion Week is to women. He rolled off the droll Adams – or was it Addison? – quote when we started talking about my writing job at the Standard: “there’s three sides to every story – your story, my story and the truth.”

There’s only one side to the Monocle story, as far as I can tell: they’ve nailed it. As I overheard founder Tyler Brule quip in reply to a question about how business was doing, “It’s booming. We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t.” Quite.

aggressive rollerblading

With a name like that, the odds are stacked against it from the outset.

It’s also up against the frankly highly damaging PR of another strand of the wonderful in-line family: those Kylie-loving Italian men in crop tops and overly baggy harem pants who ride around Hyde Park in ‘blades enshrouded in massive leg warmers who then pirouette at speed around bashed up coke cans to badly mixed cds of tss-tss-tss euro-techno. Tourists, for some reason, love it. The rest of us think it is shit.

And as for prefixing anything to do with rollerblades with the word aggressive… well, that just makes me think ‘jazz flute’.

okonomiyaki me

A weekend in Paradise cottage – more sleeping, yet again – and re-entry to the east end softened by dinner for both David and I for a total of £2. And an impromptu meeting about our upcoming – yippeeee – Glastonbury coverage this year… 5 months and counting…

Nearly free and therefore infinitely superior dinner was Turkish stuffed peppers, okomiyaki and onigiri. There’s nothing like a stroke of good luck to make your food taste that bit more delicious.

I think I have a glutinous starch obsession. Put like that it sounds horrible, but I’m going to experiment with making onigiri (japanese rice balls) over the next few weeks and will keep you posted. Black sticky rice, too. Meanwhile, for those of you who are vaguely interested in my ongoing Brazilian tapioca (starch a-go go) mission: jolly good news. Authentic, bona fide Brazilian tapioca has arrived from Brazil, via-Air France lost luggage depots, and will soon be put through its paces. It better turn out as good as I remember, after nearly a year of trying to replicate the unctious, amazing pancakes of Jericoacoara back in September 2002.

A funny thing, the memory. How a food – a single mouthful, an almost forgotten lingering-fleeting hint of a taste – can capture a portion of your mind, sit neatly on the sidelines of your thoughts and quietly nag to be revisited, improvised, itched. Liquid evocation, distilled by the positively blurring effects of time. Is the relief of tasting ever as good as the memory demands? We’ll see.


If, as they believe in Congo, the sting of a fly can launch the end of the world, then I suppose I ought to be wearing mozzi guard this year. Problem is, the sentiment needs to be shared by every one of the nearly seven billion of us. That’s a lot of citronella and a lot of mozzi nets. Seeing as the majority of us can’t even feed our children properly, averting the end of the world – or whichever slightly more probable worthy reality you may like to insert here – is pretty likely to slide to the bottom of this year’s to do list.

And, if peace is only a virtue if your conscience is shared by your neighbours, well, the same applies there, too. Peace is very long way off if all seven billion of us need to equally and truly believe in the same vision of that utopian fixture. What a dream peace will remain in the criss-crossed, walled-off world otherwise. And why hope for hope for peace if it means a compromised income from your poppy fields, overbearing foreign rule or decimated natural recources?

And what about lower carbon futures, alternatives to GDP, religious tolerance, airport security, Malt Loaf sizes and all of those other ginormous quandries?

We’re the flies and we’re the neighbours. We define the virtues and angle the stings and manufacture the nets and along the way squeeze out smidgens of potential change for good. So, I hope that we, or at least some of our more elevated decision makers, will lead by example this year.

It’d also be nice to do more exercise in 2010 and, of course, finally nail my obsession with Brazilian tapioca making.

second day of christmas

Sleeping and eating. That is what I am doing between Christmas eve and 4th January. For the first time ever, the paper’s not publishing over the period and the break couldn’t have come at a better time.

December – a month that has worn me out, through and through. And grown-up priorities have seemed to camp out on every part of my brain.

I must apologise for my lack of updates. There’s loads to come – from the new schnauzer puppy to the stabbing, from travels to Morecambe and Wise and then, of course, the wedding.

Amy's wedding day

a thumping heart and coursing veins

The tubes rumble and steam under this great, beating city. They stop and start, shudder and moan but always, onwards keep going.

It all links together – a web of botched causeways, slip streams and dead ends, haphazardly, organically united under the coarsely slashed circle.

Its lifeblood, pumping through its veins 19 hours a day: we, the greying commuters. We seeth along its clogged ducts, feed into bottle-necks, cram behind the lost tourists, tut at the trundling, obese bags and three-wheeled prams and relentlessly pant in search of fresh reality.

It’s another world down there, the monoclinical lighting, globs of chewing gum – usually, perfectly, lodged in the nostril of a star on a poster – and stink from the bowels of life above. Every day we file down, rush and push, squeeze, raise eyebrows, grimace and shove, sit, avoid eye-contact, stare, lean, welcome, pour out, rush along, bustle and beep beep into the blinking morning. Then the formula flips and it’s dark and the mood is different and more foreign is ringing around the tin carriage, people who haven’t worked, first timers on the system, oh how weird that must feel… and once again we’re spat into cold, shivering energy.

The cartes huitres, the lights, the whirring wind forced through the pipes. Beggars, bad buskers, lovely drunkards and the occasional, fleeting glimpse of a face with a future you’d like to be part of.

Welcome to Monday.



wild salmon in tranquility

Imagine the world’s best salmon, added to the world’s most decadently naughty foie gras, tickled by oyster tapioca, licked by air-thin daikon radish slivers, punched by immense hits of umami and sweet, smoky soy wafts. A crunch of immaculately trimmed and fried silver skin, a sand-pit of unidentifiable edible dust. All kicked into perfect, spankingly fresh touch by a slice of sharp, crunchy granny smith and peppery ginger.

Aside, a diminutive dollop of thick, black, elemental salmon belly fat, cast into the night by shots of squid ink.

I was lucky enough to be at the World Sushi Awards on Saturday. I still can’t get over the flavours of Swedish chef Sayan Isaksson’s mouthful of fresh sushi. So utterly brilliantly thought out that I can’t help but wax lyrical, sail close to wind of verbosity and slip into raptures at the thought of it.

I’m making myself sick with envy.