Since going on the pill at the tail end of December, I’ve been feeling less volatile, though stodgier – so much so I was forced to send back a ski jacket in a size 12 ahead of next month’s trip to Valberg in the Southern French Alps, and order a 14 – the first of my life- for all it might be titchy Topshop sizes. And determined to offset January’s bleakness with busyness- with our Devon cottage due to complete in March and much to do around the house in readiness- I’ve been keeping myself out of trouble (largely by staying offline – how kind of you to notice!) – and, by reluctantly, joining a gym in order to make more of office lunch hours. And given the seasonal pounds – which Tom chivalrously refers to as my winter coat – it’s high time too.
In our house, Christmas is bookended by my birthday (often, in years gone by, by preloading on excess, the precursor to a stressful December) and curtailed by Jonah’s, which often requires dredging up the last of the festive joy from our beleaguered wallets, and on-the-wagon friends and relatives. Poor Jonah has been a recipient of the dreaded ‘joint Christmas and birthday’ fob-off on occasions too numerous to mention, and thus has acquired a reasonably low expectation of birthdays – traditional zany cakes notwithstanding – which I genuinely believe will serve him well in later life, and more particularly with a birthday in bleakest dry-January.
This year, with a view to further protecting my son’s mental health (which according to this article, can be done with a more simple approach to childhood), I decided to knock the annual ordeal of a homemade birthday cake on the head, with all its stress-inducing sugar work and smug parent one-upman-style social media sharing, and opted instead to treat the boy (and myself and all our friends) to a selection of perfectly festive though heart-stoppingly expensive Crosstown doughnuts, which, for two boxes of 12: one classic, one premium (a bit of a con, since only six of the ‘premium’ doughnuts are actually any different to the ‘classic ones’), came in at £55.
But, while they don’t keep brilliantly, having separate portions did mean we could serve the disparate groups of people with whom we celebrated over the course of the weekend. We had Luca’s current best friend for a sleepover, chosen because he was one of the few who, at aged 11, meets the strict five foot height limit of Revolution Go-Karting near Mile End.
This was a roaring success, despite iron-sky drizzle, which meant slick tyres – and reasonable speeds. Jonah didn’t mind that his friend (and Tom who was racing with them) – beat him, as his fastest lap made the leader board – praise be to virtues of growing up!
And, for Ava, who was feeling more than a little miffed at missing out, I took her to a skateboarding park nearby on her scooter, where she built up considerable speeds of her own doing circuits over the ramps – which pleased her well enough).
Afterwards, we dined, as so often on birthdays past, at Greedy Cow in Mile End – where not even a skinny burger (no bun, but plenty of cheese, bacon and avocado) could make up for the doughnuts and popcorn that came later. It’s hardly surprising I felt I needed to join a gym – the first time since Jonah was a baby I’ve deigned to pay for exercise, save for the odd leisure centre annual pass. Let’s just say it was high time – and my first Body Pump class in nearly a decade hurt like hell.
That night, we let Jonah, his friend and, slightly reluctantly, Ava stay up to watch Suicide Squad on Netflix, followed, just for the boys, by Hunger Games part 1, which was a bit of an antithesis to how bloated we all felt after our post-Christmas feast.
The following day was little brighter, and determined to squeeze in some fun for the grown-ups as well as the kids, we went to The People’s Park Tavern, which has (hopefully only temporarily) ruined one of the best pub gardens in London to host Plonk crazy golf under canopy on what used to be its lawn, back in the days when it was The Britannia and we held Ava’s Christening party there.
But this weekend the alterations suited us just fine. Meeting with the Reprobates for the first time since Christmas, it meant we ladeez could sit under heaters and gossip over a bottle – save for Reprobate Laura who was going dry – the others certainly weren’t – while the chaps took the kids for a successful round of golf followed by racing cars round the track in another one of the pubs recent novelty additions. Naturally there were doughnuts to follow, leaving me feeling in the week that followed much like one.
Never mind – two weeks into my gym membership and I’m feeling a lot trimmer – there’s much to be said for moderation in favour of excess for general wellbeing – and with a trip to the cinema with Reprobate Kate to see La la Land (good, but not Oscar worthy) and to the theatre to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time as part of Jonah’s birthday treat (a wonderful evening out with my boy), I’ve managed to stave off the boredom that comes with it. Another one of the virtues of getting older perhaps. But I’m not going down without putting up a bit of a fight – a moderate one, at least.