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10 January 2010

Out of the Freezer, into the Fridge

I was not my usual occhiata di sole self when I awoke yesterday morning at 8.30. The mercury in my flat read four degrees so despite the fact that I was wearing most of the contents of my wardrobe and swaddled in a sleeping bag and a duvet, I was pretty cold and my desire to leave my cocoon was minimal. Still, as I was meeting The Ex at Leicester Square at 11.30, I had to get a move on--even so, it took me 45 minutes to get up properly, having shuffled to the kitchen for an espresso inside my sleeping bag.

Regent's Park was very pretty in the snow--even the London mosque had a white frosting on top--and although the outside temperature was about minus five, after about 15 minutes of running, I began to warm up. Stopping in Tesco on the way home to pick up a paper, the cashier said I must be mad to go running in this weather so I explained that in the absence of central heating, this was the only way to warm up. After my run, I proceeded directly to the Seymour Leisure Centre for a swim and, more importantly, a shower. The pool there wasn't great but it wasn't overly busy and although there were a few cocky lads in the fast lane with me, I managed to swim at my desired pace. The showers themselves, being in a public changing room, were pretty skanky but they were warm enough.

I had forgotten to allow time in my schedule for drying my hair and although I'm normally OK with wavy, air-dried hair, I didn't think that, after spending 24 hours in a near-freezing flat, going outside with wet hair was very sensible. I'd also forgotten that The Ex and I have met at Leicester Square Tube dozens of times and never had a problem rendez-vous-ing by the ticket gates, and had suggested we meet outside one of the theatres. This meant I was feeling guilty when I showed up a few minutes late. Nonetheless, although I was feeling tired and run down, the shower had done me the world of good and we proceeded to the Milk Bar for a warming coffee. Embarrassingly, I had left my wallet in my swimming bag at home, although The Ex assured me it was fine.

After some wandering and a quick sandwich and Fernandez and Wells, it was getting close to 3 p.m. and so we had to return to my cold flat. Either Boiler Man or Boss Man was supposed to show up between 3 and 5, and although I knew that if we got there at 3, he would come at 5, I really didn't want to miss him by not being at home when he showed up. At about 4.30, Boss Man called to tell me he was running a bit late and would be there in about 45 minutes and when I called him at 5.15, he promised he was, "literally two minutes away." He rang my buzzer six minutes later, which, while not being "literally two minutes" isn't too bad in the scheme of things. Joy of joys, he managed to get the heating working and while being unhelpful as regarded my questions of why it happened and how to avoid it happening again, he did suggest that we have the system flushed as there was a load of black sludge therein.

I took The Ex to the Duke of Wellington to warm up before our trek back to Soho. I was pleased to discover that the Duke serves mojitos and my drink was mixed to perfection. Already thoughts of cold, cold flats and no reasonable showering facilities began to leave my mind. I've been meaning to go to Polpo since it opened towards the end of last year. It has been touted as a stylish but reasonably priced, tapas-style Italian restaurant with assorted regional specialities. The restaurant was heaving at 8.30 (and even when we left, three hours later) and we had to wait 30 minutes for a table but it was worth it.

I'm no tapas expert and it was hard to know how much food we should order but the waitress assured me we had got it about right. In the past, tapas restaurants would never have worked for me--often, it's hard enough for me to find one thing I like on a menu, let alone several. Polpo had plenty of tasty dishes though. We ordered a pizzetta biancha (small and very thin pizza base with mozzarella and onion) and a couple of the chicheti to start (we each tried a potato and parmesan croquette and the prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella on a toasted bread base), and then ordered two meat dishes (a bresaola and rocket salad and pork belly with hazelnuts and radicchio) and two sides (roast potatoes with rosemary and pumpkin risotto). This proved to be just the right amount of food, although I didn't have room for pudding (I could have been tempted by a different selection of puddings). The wine was decent and reasonably priced too and most of the wines come in half-litre carafes.

When you are ordering lots of small dishes, it's easy to lose track of the total cost and so I was pleasantly surprised when the bill, including wine and service, only came to £45--not bad for a gourmet feast of yummy, small dishes that were rolled out over the course of about 45 minutes, prolonging the dining experience. Even though the restaurant was packed, the service was great too, particularly the maître d' (seen in the door on the left of the photo), who kept coming to update us on the table progress every 10 minutes or so.

Still, nothing beat the solace and satisfaction of returning to a warm flat. It was after midnight and I was so sleepy, I sank with relief and exhaustion into my bed--and no, I didn't need the sleeping bag last night.

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