I have committed a murder.

Dear yummies,

I am a changed woman. I write this having cooked and killed langoustine for the first time. Langoustine is my favourite shellfish (by quite some margin). I feel almost sexually excited even to talk about them! The sweetness and prettiness, the absolutely beautiful texture. The season is short, and is coming to an end. British langoustine are something that the restaurant trade capitalises in, when in season (much like truffle, game, etc). Unfortunately as all restaurants are shut, fishermen have stopped fishing them, as they are not something people usually attempt at home – 1 because people are intimidated by shellfish, 2 because they are expensive, and 3 because like lobster, it is usual to buy your langoustine live, as I did, and most people do not want to have to kill their dinner. I had been (this is pretty sad, but alas these are desperate times) searching high and low for fresh langoustine, to no avail, checking in daily with The Chelsea Fishmonger, and realising much to my dismay that for most fishermen it is simply not economically viable to fish shellfish, if restaurants aren’t buying because unfortunately the nation would rather eat fish fingers, than such an absolutely delicious product.

 

Finally, the fishmonger gets in touch to say, he has some in, and would I like some held for me. I jumped out of bed like a child on Christmas morning, ran to the shower, put on a particularly pretty summer dress, and loafers (to mark the occasion) and made my way to SW3. As the queue inched shorter, I could see the wonderful fish stall – John dory, live lobsters, tiger prawns as big as your fist, and so on. My order is under the counter in a white bag with my name on, he discretely hands it to me (this is the Chelsea equivalent to a coke deal) and I get some of the prawns because… well… I love prawns. And some extra langoustine to freeze because it’s probably the last opportunity to buy them this year.

 

Decided to have a stroll around the area. So many beautiful cars. The Mercedes SL (one of the most effortlessly cool cars there is) is really making a comeback, I’m seeing them everywhere. I actually really love the 90’s SL, which you see less as it’s only just becoming old enough to be cool again.

 

Anyway. I get home and open up my package. 20 or so langoustine are there – all alive, and I contemplate that for the first time in my culinary career, I will be killing something. I have a very firm belief about these things. I am writing this in a pale pink 100% silk nightgown, a the fingers tapping my the keyboard of my laptop are freshly manicured with sparkly tips. So I suppose I am a “girly girl” in some ways. For this reason, people often mistake me for someone who cannot (or will not) get her hands dirty if need be. I can, and if you know me, you know I will! I’ll spare you the details, but I froze a two thirds, then killed and prepared the other third. I believe if you eat animal products you should not shy away from the fact that you are eating something, with a brain, with eyes, with a family (do langoustines have families? Discuss…). To say I enjoyed the process would be too strong, it’s more, I appreciated the process of preparing this most delicious and delicate crustacean myself.

 

Choosing how to prepare the langoustine is like choosing how to frame a beautiful piece of art. You must give the star of the show the space to dazzle you, you must be sensitive to it’s intrinsic qualities, you must seek to compliment, not to distract or overwhelm. The right accompaniments are like the perfect heel on a beautiful foot – it takes something already elegant and perfect in its own way, and elevates it. I chose to blanch them in hot water, split them (brains everywhere – I screamed!), and then to grill them with nothing but salt, pepper, butter (French) and the tiniest amount of garlic. I served with aioli, and a simple green salad that had chives, dill, and spring onions in it for that perfect delicate spring freshness, and a simple vinaigrette to cut the sweetness and fat of the main dish. My only regret is was there’s lots of meat in the little claws but I don’t have a lobster cracker so had to waste it (first world regrets).

 

This was my most delicious…

I was going to say this was the most delicious meal I have cooked this year but I’m not sure that’s true. I also think with ingredients THAT good, and a simple preparation, other than timing, you can hardly go wrong. I am missing langoustines at two of my favourite restaurants – Parsons, in Covent Garden, and Hearth, at Heckfield place in Hook. Dining out is one thing I am missing so much! I miss eating and not having to do the washing up. I miss a waiter saying “and would that be still or sparkling water” or “do you have room for cheese before dessert?” (answer is always YES obviously). I miss warm bread, cool cocktails, and getting dressed up, or down, for my dinner dates.

 

But most of all I miss you!

 

I am now available for dates, and although there will be no dining out for the time being, there’s no reason we can’t dine in. If you want, I can even smear your cock with garlic butter and pretend it’s a langoustine (just kidding… unless you’re into it!) I can’t wait to catch up, and again thank you so much for all the support, gifts and kindness I have received over the last few weeks.

 

Shall we?

 

Kisses and hugs and lots of love,

 

Billie x

A thought,

It's strange how the value of so many material things becomes completely diminished when there's no one there to see those things.

Makes you realise how the real things in life, like good friendships, and inner happiness still hold value even when there's no one there to witness them.

In this new world, "high value items" aren't items at all, they're feelings and experiences. This is what a quality companion brings into your life - something that exists beyond the realms of the physical.

A memory holds it's value nomatter what.

- Billie

The Modern Man

I started this poem in the first week of lockdown and am not sure what prompted it, but if you know the song, it is influenced somewhat by “Charmless Man” by Blur. It is nowhere near finished, but here if my first draft. I am hoping the reader will realise my tongue is very much in my cheek! 

 

Enjoy.

 

 

The Modern Man

 

He’s got a friend in finance
A friend in law
On a Saturday night
He’s got a friend on the door
He’s got a watch collection
And a Labrador

Yeah he’s the modern man.

He’s got Catholic guilt
And a credit card bill
He’s got a son named Oscar
A wife named Jil
His daughter’s a prefect
And on the pill

Yeah he’s the modern man.

He’s got a black Mercedes
He loves the thrill
He’s got a wallet to empty
And a life to fill
He’s got a mistress with legs
And the looks to kill

Yeah he’s the modern man.

He likes his golf on the box
But his rugby live
He’s too brave to float
Too scared to dive
He’s got a textbook job
And a coffee book life

Yeah he’s the modern man.


He knows his Pouille Fuissé
From his Montrachet

 

Yeah he’s the modern man.


He’s got a Xanax prescription
And a Times subscription

Yeah he’s the modern man.

 

BF

A Feast for the Senses

All original recipes in my kitchen this week – focusing on big flavours, fresh produce, and vibrant plates.

 

Sesame, ginger and chilli rice noodles with tiger prawns and vegetables; Seared fillet steak; Lobster tail curry; Jerk haloumi, red pepper, and mango salad; Crispy roast potatoes with prosciutto, mushrooms, creme fraiche with chives and lemon; Asparagus, broccoli, poached egg, parma ham, pesto; Black cherry, goats cheese and pata negra salad, with a mustard and balsamic dressing.

Garden Provocateur

Some of you may know I haven’t always been the best gardener. I have had house plants for many years and just about mastered keeping them alive, and I am pleased to say all are currently thriving. When it comes to anything else however, my luck has been less favourable. You may remember a few years ago when I planted 4 tomato seeds and named each after one of The Beatles and only Ringo survived but then one day I accidentally stepped on him in a stiletto and that unfortunately the end of Ringo (many a man would describe this as the perfect way to die! haha). 

 

This year I have had more luck and have planted a very successful (if I do say so myself!) herb garden, and today travelled to Camden (which was almost exciting – travelling to another borough is the equivalent of going to the Maldives these days!) and visited a beautiful and friendly family run garden centre, buying the things I need to plant a window box. The box looks a little sparse but there are ten plants in there so will fill out nicely. Could think of nothing more appropriate for gardening that a pretty white dress and pink washing up gloves (ha!) and my roadside “guerrilla gardening” tactics were very much appreciated end encouraged!

 

If you have a garden I hope you are enjoying your space, and if not, I would highly recommend getting some plants for indoors and your window sill. Our garden centres need us! Not only does it save you from the cyclical boredom of Netflix – Eat – News – Check Emails – TV – Masturbation – Cry a Little – Eat – Repeat, but I also think it’s such a rewarding process to see your plants grow and bloom. Yes I am very at home sat in a beautiful terrace outside a restaurant sipping on my favourite Laurent Perrier champagne, but I am also someone who is very in touch with nature and who gets a lot from being outdoors and spending time in harmony with the natural world. Call me a wildflower!

 

Billie x

Billie’s Test Kitchen

Testing out new flavour combinations, with some small bites:

 

Gorgonzola dolce, apples, orange blossom honey, white balsamic

Pata negra, red pepper and almond pesto, black olive, thyme

Potted cheese, dried tomatoes, tuna in olive oil, pink peppercorn, lime, pink salt

Fig, goats cheese, parsley, honey, flowers

Roasted red pepper, preserved chilli

Olive tapenade, goats cheese, tomato, caper

Smoked mackrel, dill, black pepper, lemon rind, sherry vinegar

Octopus carpaccio, ricotta, pesto, fennel leaf

The Gift of Kindness

For any self employed person, this is a worrying time – even more so having just moved to a new area, with hopes of making new friends and taking the Billie Experience to the next level. It would be disingenuous to pretend I am hard up – but it has been a time of great anxiety, as I enter the first ever period of “unemployment” in my adult life. I would like to thank the amazing and thoughtful people in my life who have been selfless and generous in making the last few weeks easier for me, and those who have sent both mental and material support. I am a very independent person, so it’s a real surprise and a pleasure to have received such kindness! Thank you for being here in spirit.

 

Billie x

Quarantine Fantasy (Part 2)

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For Part 1, please click here 

 

The officer widens the beam of his flashlight, and I stand, self-consciously, stark naked and barefoot, with my back pressed against the gate.

 

He silences the dogs and I see him reaching for his handcuffs as he slowly approaches me.

 

“Well well well…” He says, surveying my body with the flashlight, “What do we have here? Put your hands on your head and turn around.”

 

I stare at the officer defiantly, refusing to turn around, but panicking inside. As if to read his mind, suddenly the dogs leap towards me, barking furiously, teeth bared, and barely an inch from my bare and trembling body.

 

“Tell them to stop!” I scream at the officer, “Tell them!”

He watches me cooly, as I try to sink my back yet further into the gate in order to distance myself from the dogs.

“Turn around” he commands again, lazily, seemingly unbothered about my state of undress or my fear for my life. Silently I turn around, shivering in the cold.

“Hands above your head” his voice rings through the darkness, taunting me. I stretch out, and place both hands high above my head, my manicure clutching the ice cold gate. All at once the dogs become silent. I stand there, listening intently, hoping one of the guests (Anna?) might come back for me. But I soon realise they are long gone, and we are quite alone. I begin trying to work out what the best course of action is. I could get to my bag in less than 5 seconds, but it would take another 10 to unlock it and call someone. I could run, but the dogs would outrun me, and anyway, I’m naked in the middle of god knows where, so then what? I could try reasoning with the officer, could tell him breaking quarantine wasn’t my idea and see if he might speak to my lawyer. I suppose I could try to bribe him, but if I did that-

 

Mid thought I suddenly feel someone pressed against me and almost jump out of my skin. I feel the cool edge of a police radio, pressing into my shoulder blade, and his baton pressing into my upper back. Or at least that’s what I think it is. With my heels off, I stand at just a touch over 5’ 4”, and the officer, at least 6ft tall, towers above me, his chin just brushing the back of my head. I try to look over my shoulder, but am pinned against the gate. This is an abuse of power! I decide to stand for this nonsense no longer, and make a dash for it, or at least, that’s what I attempt to do, before realising the officer has cuffed my hands to the gate above me! My hands secured to the gate, I try to move backwards against him, but it does nothing but push my naked bottom into his groin, much to his amusement. His gloves still on, he begins groping me from behind, his hands squeezing and grabbing my bottom, and rubbing what I thought was his truncheon against me.

 

“You’re very fucking sexy” he says, aggressively grabbing my breasts from behind.

“How fucking dare y-” I am silenced, by a large, gloved hand pressed firmly over my mouth. I continue to try to wiggle away, but my now warm, peachy bottom, wiggling in his lap, does nothing but invite an even more thorough groping. His face is now very close to mine, buried in my hair and his mouth right next to my ear. I feel his hot, excited breath against my skin, his hard cock straining against his trousers. The night is deadly silent, as he whispers in my ear.

 

“I’m going to take my hand off your mouth, and If you scream, run, or say a word, I am going to have the dogs escort you, naked, back to the car, and you’re looking for an 18 month custodial for breaking quarantine, breaking and entering, antisocial behaviour, and of course” he kicks my dungarees so far there’s no way I could reach them, “indecent exposure.”

18 month custodial! The horror! I think back to my otherwise fun and carefree life. I couldn’t survive prison! It would be the end of me!

Silently I nod my head, and he slowly removes his gloved hand from my mouth and steps back. I remain silent, my hands are still firmly secured in cuffs above me, and I from the last five minutes of struggle, I can tell there’s no way I’m getting out of them.

“Part your legs” he commands. Silently, I move my legs to a wider stance, two shoulder widths apart and on my tiptoes. He approaches me again and this time I feel one of his hands – gloves off – slide between my spread legs from behind. He slowly rubs between my legs with two fingers, and very gently slides them inside.

I gasp, then close my eyes in embarrassment as he pulls them out, soaking wet.

 

“Bad girl!” he says, jamming the wet fingers into my mouth “Bad girl! You’re very excited, aren’t you? You filthy little slut”

 

Shaking with pleasure as he fingers me, I don’t respond.

 

He takes a step back, then silence, then more silence, then lands a cold then suddenly hot spank firmly on my bottom. I inhale sharply. Feeling very horny! After 10 more spankings, he stops, and I hear the miniscule “zzzzzz-p” sound of him undoing his zip. I glance over my shoulder, my pink lip gloss smeared over my face by his glove.

 

“Face that gate and think about what you’ve done” he orders me.

“What I’ve done!” I exclaim “I haven’t – I – So there was this party right – but it wasn’t my ide –“

Ignoring me, he grips my hips firmly from behind and slides his cock into my now soaking wet pussy. He puts one hand over my mouth again, the other arm wrapped around my middle and begins fucking me roughly and passionately from behind. At first, I’m too embarrassed to let him know how much I’m enjoying it, but after a few moments, I am overcome with pleasure, and give in to lust, enjoying a noisy, wet orgasm all over his cock. The officer lifts me up slightly bouncing me on his cock as he cums inside me. It’s been many months of quarantine and at feels amazing to release some pent up frustrations. My feet reach the ground as I am gently lifted down, a quick “zzzzz-p” of his zipper closing, and a gentle click as my handcuffs are released. I turn round to face him, and we begin kissing passionately in the moonlight, his hands touching and groping me all over. His radio crackles

 

“Pete…. Pete, are you there?” A faint voice calls from the radio.

“Um, yeah. Yes. This is Chief Constable Howe.” He says, his voice lowering so I can’t hear him

Chief Constable? I think to myself. Chief Constable!

“Um, yeah, nobody here unfortunately,” he says, glancing at me “They all managed to get away, I’m just taking the dogs back to the car.”

The line goes dead.

“So, er, I’m not going to caution you this time – but, just, make sure you stay indoors until the end of lockdown.” Howe mumbles at me, not looking me in the eye. He fastens his handcuffs to his belt, and within seconds, he and the dogs have disappeared back into the night.

 

I step back into my now muddy and dishevelled outfit, collect my purse from the ground and slid my feet back into my glittery Jimmy Choos. Slowly, I make my way back to the main road.

 

**

 

It’s several weeks later and lockdown has finally ended. It’s noon and I have decided to take my lunch at the Landmark Hotel. Whilst I’m waiting for my tea I scroll through BBC News on my iPad, and a “Breaking News” notification flashes on my screen. I pop in my headphones and press play on the video.

 

“And news just in this afternoon” reads Nicky Campbell “The Metropolitan Police have just named their new Police Commissioner. Now we go live to Scotland Yard for the latest –“

 

The screen cuts, and I watch silently, my mouth ajar, as a face I would recognise anywhere materialises on the screen, a few seconds into a speech.

 

“… a pleasure an and honour to serve Londonners, not only as a Police Commissioner, but also as a hard working Civil Servant who believes in the value of transparency and decency in the Police. My job is to serve you. I really do find it important in todays climate, that trust between the public and the Police is both built and maintained, and I will do my best to ensure that-”

 

My tea arrives and I pause the video, Howes smart and sensible image frozen on my screen, my heart beating and a hot wave passing over me, as I remember that night, many weeks ago now.

 

The waiter arranges my tea and strainer, my iPad screen catching his eye as he stands up.

 

“Ah I saw that news just now.” He says, beaming down at me, “Really good chap that Howe is, they really don’t make many like him anymore”

 

“Oh,” I say, earnestly “Don’t they?”

 

No, it really is great news for the Police. Former Sandhurst boy, cleanest of records, straight as anything. He stays here from time to time as it happens, really down to earth guy.”

 

“Well -” I start, suddenly flustered “I, he certainly seems like he’s up to the job” I finish, managing a weak smile as I sip on my tea.

 

To be continued….

 

BF.

Quarantine Kitchen (4)

Hi yummies! Can’t stop, wont stop… cooking! Hope you enjoy my latest creations. From top left:

 

Chilli beef cups with sweet and salty chilli sauce; Fennel sausages with chickpea puree and tender-stem broccoli; Smoked haddock en papillote, with new potatoes, capers, fresh herbs, and asparagus; Piadina “pizzas”, topped with tomatoes, mozzarella and chorizo; Vegetarian Lazagne; The “Hakkasan” crispy duck salad (if you know, you know!); Toasted chipotle chicken and salad wraps; Salad of Parma ham, heritage tomatoes, rocket; Anzac biscuits, in honour of Anzac Day (April 25th); Four cheese and tomato omelette; Chilli crab crostini; Salmon, lemon and dill, baked with crispy potatoes, and buttered asparagus; Chicken, leek, and mushroom puff pastry pie; Cajun salmon, with sweet potato wedges, and mango salsa; Billies Cheeseboard; Monkfish and tiger prawn stew; Fish pie, with brown crab and cheddar mash, asparagus.

 

Hope you are well, and looking forward to a delicious meeting of an entirely different kind in the future.

 

Kisses from the kitchen,

Billie xxxxx

Content in Confinement.

Spending my time flower arranging, working out, mushroom hunting (a morel?), reading, potting and growing a herb garden, doing my own manicure (the horror!), and enjoying the great outdoors (although unfortunately, mostly indoors!)

The Last Supper

Thinking back to my last dinners before quarantine (2 dinners in a row, lucky us!). Enjoying delicious plates and vintage champagne at Bob Bob Ricard (his choice), and the next evening creative modern Indian food and bubbles at Amaya (my choice – and definitely cementing it as my favourite Indian restaurant in London).

Memoirs of a meal or two.

(This blog was written just before lockdown!)

 

I miss being outdoors and have decided to start my golf lessons again when things clear up. I’m a bit anxious about the golf as I joined a much nicer club than the last one, and have a deep fear of sticking out. I don’t yet have any girly golf friends so it’s difficult to practice and learn when you’re relying only on your pro to teach you, and men who are only asking you to play because they fancy you! Being a woman in golf is a minefield of people letting you win, or assuming you’re the caddy-candy as opposed to an actual player, and sensibly deciding not to buy pink golf clubs because you want to be taken seriously.

 

Yummies, have any of your eating habits been changing recently? I’m finding myself becoming more and more conscious of sugar, and alcohol. I sound like a bore I know (I make up for it in other ways…) but I’ve been trying to cut down a little on unhealthy foods – so difficult when you enjoy the pleasure of food so much! I love the gym and I’m at a point where I can only progress so far without addressing my diet. I’m a foodie. Food is like sex to me: it’s physical for sure, but the best moments linger in the heart and in your senses for years to come. Plus, I am selfless sexually and love to give – with food I very much love to receive! I love gastronomy, everything from 3 Michelin star tasting menus, to being sat in the market in Barcelona being fed prawns and calamari and that delicious ham with sangria. I’m particular on many things but with food I’m easy, I’ve never been a fussy eater.

 

(Disclaimer: other than celery. Celery, I detest, it’s like the lovechild of cucumber and dental floss.)

 

I’ve eaten brain, ants, lung, chickens feet, you name it (fear not, no bat soup!). Many of the weirdest things I’ve eaten are for one of two reasons. One reason, is that a good friend of mine, a great academic has a taste in food that is both extremely simple and extremely narrow. He likes what I would loosely (and perhaps politically incorrectly) describe as “men’s restaurants”. St John, Quality Chop House, Entrecote, gastro pubs (but not the pretty ones), and so on. Places where you can get a simple, rare bit of meat, with a green vegetable and a good, bold, red wine. I pick the restaurants, but I know the exact type of space he enjoys, and so have over our many years of friendship, become something of a micro-expert in this specific type of restaurant. Many serve offal, and these restaurants are where I first tried heart, kidneys, ear, tripe, and so on.

 

Almost all the other weird things I’ve eaten came from a single meal. An away date with a gentleman from Denmark. It was back when NOMA had just shut and we were both lamenting having never gotten the chance to dine there. According to him on the flight there he was sat next to a woman who said “oh forget NOMA, you must try Alchemist.”


A few hours later I arrive and we make our way to a nondescript building on a residential street. We are let in to an almost indescribable Aladins cave. We sit at a bar (the whole restaurant consists of a single bar that seats only 20 and there’s only two sittings). Every inch of ceiling and wall is covered in plants. No one knows what is happening. We get given a menu that contained around 40 dishes(!) I am a sentimental person and 4 years later still have kept my copy of this menu. Here you see many unusual things – mealworms, bone marrow, duck hearts, lamb tongue, sweetbreads, lamb brain, chicken toes, and so on. I am a daring person and so I tried everything. I think in life you have to try everything. This meal was where I managed to eat the other half of the unusual things I’ve tried. I can’t explain the presentations of these dishes, it was like a Dali painting – live goldfish swimming in bowls, with a skewer balanced on top, edible canvases that we painted with edible paints then ate ourselves, a course that dropped down from the ceiling and hung in front of us. Something very special.

 

Two months later the restaurant was gone. He had shut down and disappeared. I considered myself very lucky to have experienced this.

 

Wow! Just out of interested, I just googled the restaurant and the chef reopened summer last year, (4 years later!). A similar 50 course concept but a much larger space. What are the odds I would be thinking about this meal from nearly 5 years ago, google the shut down restaurant and find out it’s just been re opened. I feel so happy for the chef and pleased that I dined with him when he was small. This is the magic of good dining partners and dinner dates. Memories that stay with you forever.

 

I would love to dine in his new spot – we shall have to make this happen! (as mentioned above, I wrote this blog before the prospect of international travel seemed like a pipe dream).

 

Here’s to future dinners to remember…

 

Billie x

Quarantine Fantasy (part 1)

Quarantine Fantasy

 

It’s the fourth month of quarantine, the final month before freedom, and I’m understandably bored. I’ve cooked every recipe known to man, watched every film on Netflix, and tried and failed to learn every language… or at least it feels that way. Just as I finish doing the washing up (for the umpteenth time) my phone buzzes, and a WhatsApp message flashes on the screen. I dry my hands and scroll through it.

 

“Dear Billie” the message reads

“You are invited to Ed’s Outlandishly Secret Quarantine BBQ Extravaganza. Saturday night at 8pm.

Extremely private country estate location, drinks, friends and good times.

RSVP for details.”

 

Well that’s absolutely ridiculous – I think, deciding not to respond.

Ed is a local big shot and eccentric – owns a few bars, has had a few husbands, is the proud resident of “the biggest penthouse in Soho”, and is well known for his camp, extravagant parties. My mind flashes back to a somewhat hazy new years eve, 2016 I think it was, in an aircraft hangar in Oxford. Very over the top and sexy of course – Cirque Du Soleil, live peacocks, pink champagne. Oh and the goody bags for all the guests to takeaway, stuffed full of Jo Malone candles, Liberty print scarves, and salted caramel truffles. Ed is the last of the great eccentrics, and that was a party! I sigh to myself and open the fridge. Ah, a chicken salad for dinner. Again. The days roll on, each as uneventful as the last: wake up, work out in the garden, breakfast, washing up, television, out for a run, lunch, television, book or magazine, dinner, washing up, chocolate, sleep, repeat. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not particularly pleasant either. By Saturday morning I catch myself talking to my salad, and start questioning my sanity. I thumb through my WhatsApp conversations and pause at “Ed”, where his previous message remains, unanswered. I take a deep breath and reply –

 

“Hi Eddy, was wondering if there was any room for latecomers tonight?” and press send.

Two minutes later I have a response

“Darling of course! Shall send a car at 7pm. Ciaociao for now!”

 

It’s on.

 

At approximately 5pm I head upstairs and survey my wardrobe. I fling the doors open to reveal a neglected treasure trove of designer shoes, denim, slinky cocktail dresses and skinny fit jeans. God, I’ve been in leggings and t shirts for so long, I’ve almost forgotten how to dress! Hmm… what to pick, what to pick? It’ll be a warm night so I need something chic, summery, and fashionable. I decide on an unworn pair of creamy white pure silk dungarees (I bought these back when I thought we were getting out in spring), with a sparkly silver pair of strappy Jimmy Choo sandals with a six inch heel. I accessorise in silver and white: white feather earrings, a little Van Cleef necklace, silver bracelets stacked on my arm and shining brilliantly against my skin, a little pearl anklet, and slide some dainty silver rings over my French manicure. The dungarees hang low at the size, allowing a little peek of the side of my bust. I don’t want to ruin that effect or the drape, so decide on no bra or underwear, and spend the best part of an hour fashioning my hair into the biggest and most buoyant of curls. It’s a good skin day so I won’t wear makeup, just a slick of red lipstick and nothing else. I spritz myself with a Dior fragrance, open a drawer and choose a simple Bottega clutch bag. I check myself out in the mirror. Okay, this look is perfect, 70’s diva meets Rihanna meets Billie Style.

 

At 7:02, I hear a the loud beep of a car horn and run outside.

The street outside is quiet and empty, save for a double decker London bus, parked conspicuously outside, with it’s destination set to NOT IN SERVICE. I pause, looking for my ride. The bus beeps again and cautiously I approach.

 

“Billie?” the driver calls from the window, in an audible whisper

“Yes?”

“This is your ride!”

 

I grin to myself, and step on board, this is all very “Ed”.

Other than the tinted windows, from the outside, our ride is completely indistinguishable from a normal London bus. But stepping on, I enter another world. Downstairs, the guests congregate around a cocktail bar at the back. My eyes are assaulted by an overwhelming assortment of mirror balls, taxidermy, Andy Warhol prints, velvet cushions, gold leaf, and clusters of pink roses hanging from the ceiling. I look around to see if there’s anyone I know. There isn’t, so I squeeze through the crowd, and make my way upstairs. The stairs are carpeted in a garish Zebra print, the hand rail replaced by a solid marble banister, carved to look like one, long, almightly snake. I reach the top, which is a more subdued and sexy place – tiny, dim, 1920’s lamps sit atop beautiful rosewood tables. Old atlases, binoculars, and antler horns are placed at strategic intervals, the ceiling is patchwork of leather and suede stars, the lighting is exceptionally dark, but punctuated by stacks of candles burning in every corner – dripping wax onto the Persian rugs that deck the floors.

 

Health and Safety would have a field day.

 

It’s art deco, meets the study of a famed explorer, meets Soho House. I walk through smiling and nodding at strangers, anxiously and gracefully accepting their compliments, until I finally see a face I recognise.

 

“Anna!” I call. But she can’t hear me.

I make my way to the back bar, and catch her eye.

“Billie babe! Oh my god you look amazing!” I grin, we air kiss, and are soon deep in conversation.

 

After what feels like an age, the bus begins to slow down. I hear the people downstairs cheering and stamping their feet. Anna and I carefully pick our way back downstairs in our sparkly heels, and step off the bus.

 

At what looks like the entrance of a grand a derelict house, are at least thirty golf buggies, decorated to look like dragons, the drivers clad in aviator jackets, leather trapper hats, shearling gloves, and flying goggles. The whole thing is decadent, gauche, and absurd. Anna and I jump into the back of one of the dragon-buggies. For her it’s an uncomfortable fit- she is extremely tall – a former model-come-high-jumper-extraordinaire. The buggies take a winding route and begin to slow at a second set of gates. Just as we are slowing, an powerful beam of light swings from above through the ground, illuminating our party, through the dark night. Seconds later, the chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga of what is unmistakably a helicopter. I look upwards to the source of the light and the noise.

 

Shit!

The Police!

 

It’s every man (or woman) for themselves. We scatter in our hundreds, glitzy shoes, champagne glasses, and fur scarves being thrown off in wild abandon, saxophones and trumpets scattered across the grass by what I assume to be the fleeing band, everyone trying to make their way over the half-acre of grass, to another gate, that separates the estate from the forest. There is no way the helicopter can see through the dense cover of the forest. You just have to make it there. Running, my heels sinking into the grass, I look around for Anna. She is at least 200 meters ahead already. A man in a paisley suit, runs into me in the darkness, and I fall, silk dungarees, skidding through the mud. “Sorry!” he calls over his shoulder, not stopping to help. Finally, I meet the gate, I am one of the last to do so (blame Jimmy Choo). As I begin climbing, I hear the relentless bark of police dogs, and the flashing of powerful torches. Panic stricken, I desperately try and make it over. With one hand on my clutch bag and the other holding me up, to my horror I feel one shoe beginning to slip off. I do the calculation in my head:

If I let the bag and the heel fall I have a 90% chance of getting over the gate. If I let my heel fall, but save my bag I probably have a 70% chance of getting over. If I let the bag fall, but try to save my heel, a prized limited edition of 1, gifted to me by a dearest friend, I have probably a 50% chance of getting over. Foolishly but perhaps predictably, I make a split second and somewhat stupid decision to save my heel. I let my bag drop to the ground, and attempt, one handed, to secure my heel back on to my foot. Just as I’m nearly there, the first of the police dogs, a German Shepherd, reaches me and begins trying to jump up at me. I let out a terrified scream as he bounds upwards, the muddy trouser leg of my silk dungarees firmly gripped in his mouth, the dog pulling on it incessantly and viciously.

 

Soon after, the clasps over my shoulder give way, and my dungarees are ripped off me, downwards, by the police dog, bunching at my ankles. I shake off both heels to escape the dungarees, and, fully nude, make a final attempt to climb over the top of the gate. I look over my shoulder, just as a policeman flashes his light in my direction. It startles me, I lose my footing and fall to the floor below, onto the heap of my clothes, bag, and shoes, and am suddenly surrounded with barking police dogs.

 

The officer widens the beam of his flashlight, and I stand, self-consciously, stark naked and barefoot, with my back pressed against the gate.

 

He silences the dogs and I see him reaching for his handcuffs as he slowly approached me.

 

“Well well well…” He says, surveying my body with the flashlight, “What do we have here? Put your hands on your head and turn around.”

 

 

To be continued…

 

Billie x

Navigating Waitrose During Quarantine

(In the Style of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London).

Waitrose, by this stage in quarantine has evolved, or perhaps descended, to being a great leveller of both man and beast. Like a deadly cult, or inheritance tax, one can neither resist nor avoid it. Here are my observations as a consumer, during the curious and uncertain times of quarantine during pandemic.

 

On getting in:

 

To arrive after 9am is to brand yourself a fool, and an agent of wasting time. To erect your own greenhouse, plant, grow, and harvest your own produce, is a more efficient and appropriate process than arriving at Waitrose at 9am. One must arrive at strictly 7:30 am – no sooner nor later, and the few savvy enough to suffer an early rising, are greatly rewarded with a small or non-existent queue. As you approach, the temptation to run will be difficult to control but you must – to run in pursuit of food is the height of vulgarity and both the mob and your conscience will hate you for it.

 

The orderliness of the queue provides a soothing sense of familiarity at an otherwise unpredictable time. As sure as the blood in my veins runs red, is as sure as you will (much to the joy of your heart) find a queue of no less than six or eight men, should you arrive at 7:30am. But here’s the trick – the shop does not open to the public until 8am, and is open only for NHS workers and the elderly until then. For this reason, most people do not arrive until 8. Their reasoning is sound, but flawed, and this is most advantageous on a Monday morning, when most households have already purchased their “weekly shop” over the weekend, and you will find that at 7:30am on a Monday, there is a satisfying scarcity of NHS workers and the elderly shopping – most of whom take advantage of priority shopping later in the day, and do not need this “golden hour”. With little to no priority shoppers present, a kind chap that guards the entrance like his first born child, glances at his watch, and utters a “you might as well go in then” or a “okay, we’ll have fifteen people in now as it’s empty,” long before 8am arrives.

 

So now you’re in.

 

It’s Monday – which means the following things: The weekend staff (often part time or student workers) have now been replaced by the far more competent full time, weekday staff, who even if blindfolded, can stack a shelf or check out a trolley at at least double the efficiency of their weekend colleagues. The shelves, once depleted by eager weekend shoppers, are now fully and completely stocked, and finally, even the briefest of glances at the shopping trollies of the few “priority” shoppers, provides a pleasing conclusion – they aren’t buying anything you want.

 

By your third week in quarantine, if you have not befriended both the instore butcher, and fish monger, you are both a fool and an ass. Visit these counters twice per visit, every visit, should you intend on buying anything there or not. If the refrigerated steaks cost £12 and identical steaks at the butchers counter costs £18 – pay the extra and consider it a wise investment. Otherwise, ask the butcher for something you know he won’t have (oxtail, tripe, beef cheeks etc) and use this opener as an opportunity to strike up conversation. Engage in general chit-chat about the sorry state of affairs and irrespective of their age or gender, and your age or gender, allow some flirtation to occur. Ask his name and remember it. In these dark and desperate times, the butcher has all the power and agency of a corrupt Mayor. The ability to save you things – to add an extra lamb chop to your bag after he’s already weighed it (with a wink, which you eagerly reciprocate). The Fishmonger is a more curious subject: Fishmongers are honest people – they will not steal for you. But are still able to produce seemingly “sold out” items from under the counter, should you ask in a way that makes him believe you shall surely die, should you not receive the juiciest scallops, or largest king prawns.

 

On leaving:

 

By the time you leave, the post-8am queue has assembled, and it is fifty men long. They stare at you with a longing jealously. Try not to look too pleased with yourself, as you leave with both your patience intact and the last of the lamb chops.

 

Billie Farlow

Quarantine Kitchen (3)

Hi Yummies, am cooking up as storm as usual. Making sure everything is fresh, tasty, and from scratch. Here are my recent creations: 

 

Chicken satay, with cucumber and lime pickle. Linguine with nduja, cornichons, tomatoes and capers. “Oven Fried” chicken wings with home made apple slaw. Hot smoked mackrel, baby new potato and green bean salad. Dried tomatoes and chillis, preserved with olive oil and oregano. Warm chorizo, tomato, feta, and avocado salad.  Chocolate, banana and walnut cake. Miso cod with Asian pickle. Home made meatballs with tomato sauce and linguine. Roasted chicken with slaw. Oven baked salmon with green beans, new potatoes and home made pesto. Fillet O Fish burger, with hassleback potatoes and purple slaw. Mushroom risotto with parmesan and truffle. Ginger and soy king prawn stir fry. Shredded crispy duck pancakes with hoi sin. Apple crumble with vanilla custard. Pulled chicken Caesar Salad.

 

…Yum!