It was Bromley Bella Pasta circa 1997 and I was waiting for my cousin. She never turned up, there was no ‘social’ media. So I did the British thing and ate my bodyweight in parmesan-heavy carbonara. And I realised that I am not good alone.
Fast-forward 19 years (the drooping mammaries can attest for the passage of time) and I am still not good alone. I accept every invitation, I answer every email, I sleep next to someone every night (the same person, I should add). I try and do everything, for fear of revisiting that night of mid-90s indigestion.
But how often do you have time to actually do nothing? To say absolutely naught to another human? To be free of, “Mama, mama, Mamaaaaaaa” from the urchin’s (or urchins’) quarters. To have no husband (a.k.a @papa_pukka) chunter, “darling, where are the tea towels?”
If I see a discarded raisin on the carpet I won’t rest until the entire house is cleaned (that raisin often kick-starts a chain reaction of savage house pummelling).
I think of an activity I wanna do with the urchin and I mentally list the mates I’d try and drag along to make it less painful, both practically (getting around on the lift-less Tube is traumatic) and emotionally (Peppa Pig Land requires another human to quietly weep next to).
Even with the bathroom door barricaded with pumice stones and other relaxation accoutrements, I look at the half-renovated, looks-like-a-disused-Tube-station walls and wonder if my life choices are OK.
I am never alone, but having gallumphed into my 34th year, the one thing I am able to say is I have managed to eat a Victoria sponge and drink champagne solo. What a middle class relief this is.
I left the urchin with Papa, unloaded The Stuff (nappies, mangled soggy rice cake, one lonesome sock), ignored the urge to invite anyone else (other than dinosaur who really needed a break) and headed to The Arch London.
I brought an apt tome (How to Have a Baby and not Lose Your Shit by Kirsty Smith – an equally brilliant read is The Night That Changed Everything by the divine Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice) and gave myself two hours of no-phone-all-the-cake downtime. This place is somewhere that gets it – friendly, no pomp, an abundance of oversized jaffa cakes/ roast beef sarnies/ stilton cheese sticks and more. This is maternal mecca – even with kids (there’s an overflowing toy chest at reception; kid-sized cutlery and an abundance of colouring-in books), and one of the most parent-friendly gaffs we’ve stumbled across.
Nothing extraordinary came from this bracket of downtime other than the realisation that doing nothing – and removing yourself from everything – is actually something. Carbonara-gate is no more.
Hunter 486 High Tea starts at £25. This is not an ad.