Soon it will be my birthday. Again. I always say that years go fast, and I felt this way even at primary school where one day was the beginning of a new school year and seemingly the next it was the summer hols again, but this 2015 reader? I don't know what's happened to it. I mean, the day before yesterday I had Galia here from Sydney (actually, that was December) and only yesterday Adi from Vienna was here too (wait a minute... that was January). Five minutes ago I saw the first Minions trailer (no, that was November last year) and now... I've already watched the movie twice. I oversaw the removal last week but looking at the calendar it seems like, in fact, it was just short of three months ago.
My dog, who turned 13 in March, has started to slow down, mostly due to the onset of some arthritis in her back legs and the rather normal degeneration of the nervous impulses through the spine. Five minutes ago it was February and she was zooming around Chelsea in her winter coat and now... she still zooms around Chelsea except she drags her back feet and struggles to take the stairs when we get home.
I've made a new friend and pretty much lost one. I started the year running one company and now I have two. I am older than Pricess Diana when she died and yet 36 seemed so far far far far away for me when I heard of her tragic passing in 1997. Tomorrow it will be ten years since the bombings came to London. Peculiarly, while all of the above seems to have happened in an extraordinarily compressed space of time, when I think of where I was and who I was in 2005... well, it seems to me like a memory from a parallel dimension I hopped onto in passing but never quite lived, truly.
Throughout all of this, I've felt rather adrift, and I mean adrift in my creative endeavours, or lack thereof. True, I've had a lot to do in many ways and have been pulled in many directions, but it's not like I don't have the time to write or draw or knit or whatever. I have the time but when I come across those patches, I find myself criss-crossing that land without aim and mostly end up looking at my own pics on Instagram (for God's sake, not even other people's but my own!) or crushing away. But the annoying thing is, I don't find Candy Crush as satisfactory to play as SimCity was. I think that Candy Crush is the epitome of what makes a billion-dollar app: creating a dependency without satisfying a need. And of course, it's the usual here in London at the moment: 36 degrees one day and 20 the next, swathes of unwashed tourists in plastic flip-flops and bermudas, glacial air conditioning or stifling conditions... did I say I hate summer yet?
So, while adrift I came across Julia Child. Not merely the glossed-up Julia of Nora Ephron's last movie, but the real Julia whose expertise and good grace I am enjoying a lot thanks to these videos here. She inhabits a world that seems centuries away from celebrity chefs as we know them, which is not to say that she is quaint and charming. Oh no no no; her in-depth expertise makes everyone look, in some otherworldly and unpretentious fashion, tragi-comically inadequate: Gordon for his lack of self-control, Jamie for his constant prothletising, Heston for his fixated perfectionism, Nigella for her frankly odd purring and droning, and that whole new swathe of picture-perfect orthorexic bloggers for knowing and understanding absolutely nothing at all about balance of flavours and that true alchemy that lifts humble roots to sublime foodstuffs. Many of them don't use onions or potatoes for crying out loud, their palates must be as sophisticated as a baby's.
Julia is especially known for Mastering The Art of French Cooking, which is a two-volume tome I am enjoying very much. While I am a vegetarian and this constraints me quite a bit (I surely could not complete the feat that Julie completed, cooking every single recipe from Mastering), I just love the prose for its matter-of-fact quality which still succeeds in being encouraging across all sorts of recipes, from the dreaded sauces of the hollandaise family (dreaded because those blasted things tend to curdle) to how to kill a lobster (and if you object to steaming it alive, you could always kill it with a knife planted between its eyes).
What I find most compelling about this book is its educational value. It demonstrates how well and thoroughly Julia knew how to cook (well, she was Cordon Bleu qualified after all): not only does she explain how to make something, she also details three, five, ten different ways in which things could go wrong, why each of them happened and how to fix every occurrence. This, my dear reader, is what makes this book indispensable to anyone with an interest in cooking. I own hundreds of cookery books but none will teach you how to cook as competently as this one does. As I was considering a new creative endeavour, and on the wings of my passion for chocolate, I started wondering whether perhaps I should pick one of my more advanced chocolate books and try to upskill myself with the likes of Chantal Coady or William Curley. There is something particularly attractive to me about chocolate. Like most people, it can be mercurial and unpredictable; how good should one be to obtain the same wonderful results over and over again? Maybe I should attempt every chocolate recipe I have.
But back to Julia, she isn't just Mastering; My Life in France is an autobiographical masterpiece which tells us a lot about Europe in the post-war years, while the collections of letters between Julia and her pen pal Avis Devoto [As Always, Julia] are an absolute joy to read. While hopefully I have instilled enough of an interest in you to imagine you'll scuttle off to YouTube the second you finish here, let me share a wonderful skit about Julia by the equally wonderful Dan Aykroyd. It's an oldie and a fantastic goodie!