After the intense experience of entertaining a high-profile NY fashion editor (yes, incidentally also my friend..) I needed a few days to recover. Amanda’s visit had once more made me aware of how very difficult it is to find the right fit. At the same time, the near-encounter with a dark-eyed stranger and the subtle desire I had felt to know more about him, had brought back the idea of a cooking lesson.
After all, I still didn’t fancy the flighty adventure Amanda had had with Mr uncomfortably-small-but-oh-so-
No, I wanted something real. And if I wasn’t going to get that. Well, then I would have to accept the fact that I was going to stay single.
Now, cooking and food is something I genuinely enjoy. It would be nice for a change, I thought, to go out with someone who actually shared my passions.
Once, I was dating an Israeli model who had a gambling problem. Despite myself – I am probably the worst gambler on earth and poker face is something out of a Hollywood movie for me –, I started going to the casino and spent many (allegedly) happy hours at the roulette table. Thankfully, I was more involved in admiring my über-gorgeous companion than actually betting money. I would have probably been poor as a church-mouse by the time I realised that he quite forgot I was there when he was in flow.
Another inglorious episode of “Sophie’s disastrous dating life” was a Swedish guy. Cute, white- blond hair, stunningly blue eyes and a face full of freckles. Sweet though he was, his one and only interest was formula one. He spent all his time and money flying to the various events (of which I still have no clue, despite that fact that I believed myself a keen supporter for a few months). I remember trying to persuade him to go into a gallery with me on one of your car-racing trips – in vain.
Warming to my partner’s interests is a good thing, isn’t it? After all, isn’t that part of why we have relationships? So that we can share our lives with a (more or less) like-minded soul? Although I have given up too much of myself in relationships before, I still think that showing interest and sharing ideas, passions and activities is right. At least for me.
Anyway, after I had debated with myself in the above fashion on Monday and Tuesday, I decided to take action on Wednesday. I had searched the internet for suitable cooking classes and found a delectable looking one at Harrods. The “L’atelier des Chefs cook-and-dine experience” at my favourite department store in London could be a nice pre-christmas activity. But to go alone?
Suddenly, I felt afraid. Not that I am not used to going to evening stuff by myself. I do it all the time, mostly for press purposes. And it has never yet been a real problem. What more, I couldn’t find a class during the next weeks. And I was so keen to begin…
On Wednesday, I went out for an interview to Maida Vale. I really like the sweet suburban feel of the residential neighbourhood. It has something comforting, like a good cup of tea or a sweet sticky toffee pud at home. I was just musing how seldom I really got round in London and that I should venture more often into these areas, when, unexpectedly, I ran into an old acquaintance of mine, Sascha. I was so immersed in thought that I didn’t hear him shout my name at first.
When I finally looked up, I saw a prematurely lined face that had lost nothing of its handsomeness. Sascha must be a good ten years my senior and life had evidently not been too kind to him. I had known Sascha to be very promising interior designer in the nineties. His eye for unusual shapes and textures and his somnambulistic ability to create something extraordinary had enabled him to open up his own studio very early into his career.
Without further ado, we veered into Baker and Spice on Lanark Road/ Clifton Road and sat down to talk. Ursula, his wife, I heard had succumbed to cancer the previous year and left him with two small children, a huge Maida Vale mortgage and a very uncertain future. I saw the shock and pain still etched clearly into his handsome face and felt a pang of – what of what? Pity? Yes, of course. But there was something else. Relief that it wasn’t me, who sat there with no perspective and a mountain of worries? Maybe, a little. And envy. As strange as this may sound, I felt envious of Sascha.
With Ursula, he had married a woman that he could see eye to eye with. She, a dedicated pediatrician, had always supported his creative career, had taken a real interest in what he did. Yet, at the same time, she had never even thought about giving up her own life for him. Until she had become pregnant, she had spent months at a time in areas of conflict, like Afghanistan or Kongo. When in London, she had always made sure to balance her time between her very own interests and marriage/family time.
Ursula had been a strong, independant woman. Sascha, he told me, had deeply admired her. He had respected her views and often different opinions and he had always been grateful and happy when she had shared her life with him.
I know that envy is a mean feeling. It doesn’t help anyone. Least of all me, because apart from wanting something I do not have, I also feel guilty and ashamed. But, sometimes in life, our emotions get the better of us and I sat there in the little coffee shop, talking to an old acquaintance of mine, green with envy.
We parted soon, as Sascha had to pick his girls up from kindergarten, and I walked slowly through the darkening streets. Lights were going on in the windows and I could see into sitting rooms, kitchens and libraries. I saw children coming home from school, being happily greeted by their mothers. I wasn’t envious now – just a little sad.
When I got home, I set to finding cooking classes again. The Harrods one, I realised, wouldn’t be available until next year – what a shame, that one had looked really good. Another thought occurred whilst I was searching. What about social cooking?
The second half of the week passed in a flurry of sudden work engagements. A couple of dreary press dinners, the launch of a new interior design house in Amsterdam on Friday – I stayed the night and caught the midday plane back to London. Alas, no handsome, wholesome, blonde Dutch hunk :( – and a birthday party in Mayfair on Saturday. All of which were pretty uneventful.
Its weekend once more. The room is alight with the soft glow of candles. In a frenzy, I have baked early christmas cookies and the smell wafts through the house. I am at peace with the world. The idea of social cooking is stuck in my head. Not today though, today it is “Just Sophie”.