mussels, mud pies and goulash

Remember those incredibly expensive notebooks? Well, I lost one. I thought I might have left it in a restaurant. But they told me (twice) no one had turned it in. So maybe I left it on the tube. I lost a pen at the same time, be it on the tube or in the restaurant. That was Friday. I met some friends at Belgo for an obscene amount of mussels and quite a few litres of Belgian beer. Both were pretty fantastic, and anyone seeking decent mussels should check it out. It's not the most common craving I suppose. But when it hits, head over to Covent Garden.

So I was pretty grumpy about the notebook.

And then Saturday morning I had an early start to go to breakfast. At Covent Garden. Which was kind of cool, though repetitive. It was cool because going in the morning before the tourists arrive, you get to see the loony street performers getting set up. This one guy arrived looking perfectly normal but carrying this massive case, and over the next 25 minutes (I'd arrived early to phone the restaurant to check if they'd found my notebook, but they hadn't) the case had become one of the palace guard huts and the performer had become a guard, albeit with a big red nose and clown makeup. Awful tourist rubbish, but quite cool to see the transformation. I was waiting for Ric & Simon. While waiting for Ric and Simon, it is not a question of who will be late, rather who will be more late. And they were, but within mere seconds of each other.

Breakfast was a dreadful rendition of eggs benedict. The hollandaise had seperated and the eggs were overdone. I didn't say anything. Eggs benedict is one of my favourite things though, so seeing it screwed up was annoying. And lemonade was £2.75. Which was outrageous and annoying. The company was fun though, and made the food and prices easily bearable.

The rest of Saturday was a bit of a write off.

Sunday was all about mud. And willows. And goulash. Every year the local residents don their wellies, grab some serious gardening tools and march over to the eyot (a tidal island in front of our houses) and prune the willows. I had new wellies just for the event and felt a bit awkward about it. New wellies are like new wax jackets - there's a bit too much shine and you don't look as though you've been doing enough dirty, mucky, outdoorsy type things to own them in the first place. Fortunately walking along the bed of the River Thames is about the best way to speed age wellies ever. And speed pruning 100 odd willows is a good way to knacker yourself out. I reckon the youngest helping out were about 10 and the oldest in their eighties, so for a strapping nearly 30-year-old, capitulation was not an option. It was muddy, dangerous, cold and windy, but when a 74 year old is happy to reach out on a precarious limb and clip that last branch, you can't wuss out. So 2 1/2 hours later, covered head to toe in river mud, dad & I headed home and helped mom prepare lunch for 25. All of those at the pollarding (for that is its name) came over, ate, drank and were merry. It was really nice and a perfect restorative after the morning's work. It started bucketing with rain as we tucked into our goulash and then pear tarts (seriously yummy pear tarts) and we all breathed sighs of relief that it had held off until we'd finished. Everyone seemed to leave in one big group and we realised that we still had a lot of food.

We had so much food left over that I invited some friends to come over and eat more. We still have food. And I'm not sure I can take much more goulash. Another slice of pear tart? Well, if I must.