Lists, pastry making, ignoring Christmas shopping – and celebrating a cold water swim

This time of year can be a bit overwhelming, can’t it. Please don’t shake your head, I know I’m not the only one. There are lists galore in my head, lists half way out of my head being forgotten, lists in my work book, lists on the cupboards. I am fortunate not to work on Fridays so I get to use the last day of the week for playing catch up, swimming and doing household stuff.

Here is today’s typical Friday list. Things have to be achieved before the kids get home. Quick quick!!

lido list

Pastry – what’s that all about? I’m Making an Effort as we’ve an extra child staying tonight so I thought it’d be nice to have proper jam tarts made with our jam. Am I mad? Can nip down the road and just buy some pastry? Would I be letting anyone down if I did? No. But I do love baking and I’m not finding much time to do it right now.

I am all about lists, but I think after 12 or so items they risk becoming a bit overwhelming in themselves. I did read about having priority to do lists with just five items on, as you tick one you add a new one. Surely better than just turning a page in your notebook and rewriting a long task list neatly at the beginning of a new week….

I am not nearly there with my Christmas shopping. Well done to those who are, but please could you keep quiet about it. I’m struggling with the ideas. Christmas hasn’t quite started waking me up in the night, as other things are busy doing that. We will be hosting Christmas, which will be magical. There’s nothing like watching the kids open their stockings in our bed and going downstairs to turn the lights on the tree. The lovely very well meaning in-laws we’re hosting keep emailing to ask how they can help, or what they can bring. This is so generous, and I should be celebrating that, rather than panicking that I just don’t know as I haven’t got to thinking about cooking and eating yet and whether it’s ok to ask for something you might not eat when they’re with you.

So with all this going on, how about celebrating the little things we’ve done. Everyone’s achieved something today, be it clearing up the breakfast stuff, emptying the washing machine, making an overdue phone call or being nice to someone else. My personal pat on the back comes from dashing off to the lido to fit in a swim under a cloudless blue sky. Clad in swimming costume, funny bootees and gloves (which feel like you’re wearing buoyant rubber gloves) I clocked up an 11 length swim in 9’C. Never dreamed I’d manage that!

lido temp

Oasis Swimming Pool, shopping & brownies: my #BlackFriday recipe

How was Black Friday for you? Were you seduced by the offers? Did you click on the emails as they poured into your inbox? Did you venture out onto the high street? Or did you just steer well clear, waiting for the dawn of Civilised Saturday?

Friday without a swim is not a good way to end the week. But Christmas hosted by someone who has done no Christmas shopping is not an option, so I had to combine the two.

I dropped the Super Fast 11 year old Swimmer off at the train station, left the car at home, sped off to the Post Office sorting office to collect a parcel on my bike, returned home, packed my kit and set off to shop and swim. The plan was to Beat the Crowds and get to John Lewis for 9.30am. Hmph, a 4 person deep crowd on the Victoria line platform at Highbury derailed the schedule a bit as I waited for 3 tubes to pass and boarded the 4th…  With my husband’s words ‘John Lewis, on Black Friday? Are you insane?’ in my head I marched down the road and into the shop. Where were the crowds? Not in the entrance foyer and glamorous make-up bit and definitely not further back in the menswear area. There the customer to staff ratio was 2:1 with lots of helpful partners in black and lace dresses and others in leggings poised to run around and be very helpful. This bode very well for my trip. Tick, tick on the list. Up to childrenswear, where the staff outnumbered customers 2:1. A slightly bewildered staff member asked me where everyone was, ‘is it madness downstairs?’ No. But perhaps it was later. The shop opens from 8am – 10pm….

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Spotted in an Oxford Street shop window

 

Swiftly out down the back stairs and on to Gap. Many even more helpful staff members greeting the large handful of customers with a cheerful ‘it’s 50% off everything instore today’. The problem about messages like this is you then start thinking off list and about yourself, which of these tops, jumpers, coats, and scarves do I want? I was side-tracked, trying on this, trying on that. ‘Get back on list’ shouted the Christmas Voice in my head.

The whole Black Friday Bonanza made me feel a bit guilty, what on earth was I doing, looking for things for me? ‘If we don’t have your size buy it anyway and you can exchange it another day, don’t you deserve a treat?’ asked one assistant. Argh no I don’t want to come back here and do this shopping all over again, and no I don’t deserve (another) treat. There is a limit, isn’t there?

Armed with more bags and more goodies than I intended I pounded down the pavement for my reward: a swim. I’ve talked before about The Oasis Leisure centre in Covent Garden. It has 2 pools, one outdoor heated and one indoor. There were no special offers, and the place wasn’t marketing itself as the perfect antidote to Black Friday. Instead the indoor pool was shut, and everyone was ploughing up and down in the outdoor pool. At 27’C it was balmy, far too warm, and just full, full, full of people. There were no fun swimming hats, like the ‘Ferries are for Wimps’ one I look out for at Parliament Hill lido. My red reindeer one was by far the best. The pool looked tiny, like a paddling pool. At 27.5m it’s a standardish size, but if you’re used to a 60m length it’s small. There’s none of the sense of achievement at reaching the end of the length that I get in the lido. Instead the wall comes up too fast. I was forever swimming in someone else’s bubbles or wake. I found it hard to settle into a rhythm. There was no chance to lie on my back at the end and gaze up at the patch of blue sky surrounded by grey, as I normally like to. But on the flipside how amazing to be able to swim outside, under London’s sky, looking up at London’s sky just 10 minutes from Oxford Street. Instead of fretting about things not being perfect I flipped from freestyle to breaststroke to backstroke.

blog pastry
Hiding round the corner from the pool lies temptation in the shape of Portuguese custard tarts

 

So for me Black Friday did involve hopping, but also a swim, brownies and burgers with a very good friend, returning home in time to greet the Super Fast Swimmer after her day at school, and deleting all the discount emails. There’s a proper recipe for a Black Friday.

As to my next swim, it’ll be a challenging one. A lido buddy said to me ‘there’s a nice icy edge to 11’C’. I’m not sure which words will spring to mind to describe the current water temperature at Parliament Hill. It’s hovering between 5-8’C.

blog shop and swim
Have shopping bags, have swim kit: Black Friday Bags