Down & Out In A London Kitchen

Esther Walker started a food blog called Recipe Rifle in 2009 when desperate and unemployed. In 2010 she married restaurant critic Giles Coren and far, far too quickly had a baby daughter, called Kitty.

Life outside the daily grind

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

My opinion, for what it’s worth, about whether or not you work when you have children, (if you are in the luxurious position of being able to choose), comes from my belief that everyone needs, and everyone is entitled to, some sort of intellectual life.

When I say intellectual life, I mean something that is outside of the daily grind of getting up, feeding yourself and others, fulfilling the basic requirements of your existence.

For some, their working life and their intellectual life are the same thing. But for most, their job contributes to the general grind. It’s got nothing to do with class or with how much you get paid. I have seen well-paid City workers and lawyers cry with frustration at how their brains are atrophying in their jobs.

If you are the primary carer of pre-school children, the amount of grind in your life is probably higher than most. You have a responsibility to yourself and to your family to seek out some sort of intellectual life otherwise you will go potty and make your whole family miserable – but it doesn’t necessarily need to be paid employment. It just needs to be an interest, a fizz, a whimsy that you get a kick out of, which has nothing to do with laundry or playdates or nappies. Television, alas, doesn’t really count.

My mother never worked. She is a painter and sculptor but only ever did it as a hobby to entertain herself in moments of freedom. She never took it seriously, although she is talented. I remember the day the kiln she had had built in our garden, years before, was dismantled and taken away and feeling incredibly sad. It was a sort of admission of defeat. Every new thing my mother made, or drew, brought me so much joy, but she always claimed, with four children, she never had the time to give it her all.

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A mummy break

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, 18 June 2012

Although my husband is sympathetic and generous when it comes to my constant bellyaching about the trials of motherhood and domesticity, I think it’s essential to leave Kitty in his sole charge for a while every now and again. You know, just to re-calibrate his reality every now again – just to make sure we’re reading from the same page.

Because it is easy, when someone else is doing the lion’s share of childcare, to think that it is all basically fine. It happens to me, when Kitty is the care of someone else. From a distance, it looks perfectly easy. When you are not the one making those millions of carefully-adjusted decisions every hour, when you are not the one who is ultimately responsible for the location and supply of nappies, bottles and pyjamas, hanging out with children is perfectly fun. Why on earth do we need a steam mop? Or a full-time live-in housekeeper? Everything is just fine as it is.

So off I went to a wedding in Norfolk for 24 hours this weekend. I didn’t leave a list of instructions, or things laid out neatly with arrows drawn on paper leading from one thing to the next. I just made sure Kitty’s shoes and pyjamas were in the right place and that there was one clean bottle. Then I waved goodbye and set off.

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Alternative thinking

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 05 June 2012

I have always dismissed any health treatment that doesn’t come in a bottle or a pill as a waste of time. I believe in medicine and regard any remedy that doesn’t contain chemicals as insulting. I don’t think alternative medicine is rubbish – some of my sanest friends swear by it. But I, personally, feel fobbed-off, patronised and not believed when recommended it. I just don’t like it. My prejudice has redoubled after experiencing labour: medicinal opiates stood between me and certain madness and I will be grateful forever.

So I have always obnoxioualy ignored that advice about sitting in a steamy room with your baby or toddler when they’ve got a cough. I roll my eyes. “Just gimme the antibiotics,” I hiss to myself “and stop leading me a merry dance”.

But this time with Kitty’s most recent crackly, soggy, yukky cough, I couldn’t get to a doctor in order to turn them upside down and shake hard until some amoxycillin fell out of their pocket, because the cough started up just as everything else shut down for four days for the Jubilee. Not even I, with my deranged passion for tracking down medicine for my child, was going to raise a GP on the longest bank holiday of the year.

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And then the sun came out...

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, 28 May 2012

When I was little, I liked summer. We had a big garden with a swing and trees and there was a lot of jumping through sprinklers, lazy picnics and going for weeks without wearing shoes.

But then there was a middle bit that I didn’t like – that bit where it was difficult to enjoy doing what I wanted to do, which was to sit under a tree reading Wind in the Willows, because I was supposed to be out carousing with my friends in public spaces.

But Kitty has saved me from all that. Her need, her desperate want and desire to be outside in all her waking moments, so arduous in the winter, is brilliant in the summer. She just wants to stagger about from sun up to sun down in just her nappy shouting “Bee!” “Flower!” “Ant!”

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Sugar & spice and all things nice... for now

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
Esther Walker has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Now that Kitty is doing quite a lot of talking, and a reasonable amount of walking (as long as she’s holding your hand) I can see a little girl emerging from the blob of a baby.

And I have started to quite excited about it. I have started to fetishise childish things – even though I was a sickly, friendless, fretful child who often refused to go to school – and have all sorts of daydreams about creating an idyllic childhood for Kitty.

You know the sorts of things I mean: fish fingers and peas, sitting on the sofa watching Charlie and Lola, teddies, Brownies, hair in bunches, jumping through sprinklers in summer, bedtime stories, scones and hot chocolate after school, Disney films, best friends and worst enemies, colouring in, Play-Dough, new pencil cases.

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