Sunday 18 April 2010


When we moved to our flat just over a year ago there were a few things that we were very clear on.

The kitchen is small.

Five flights of stairs is a lot.

The view is incredible.

And, a biggie, we would have a balcony all to ourselves.

Our balcony isn't a pretty balcony with railings and patio furniture. It looks robust, functional, like somewhere to hang your washing rather than dream away hours. But, and it is a big but, it has that view.

When we moved in we sat and looked at the view and drank a beer in the sunshine. We did that a lot last Summer.

On New Year's Eve we watched fireworks go off across London. We saw them exploding around the Eye, we saw the entire spectacle that people had waited for hours to see on the banks of the Thames. Closer to home, we saw paper lanterns with candles inside. And then, as if fireworks and paper lanterns were not enough, we saw snow. It was magical.

But normally Winter is not balcony time.

It is not the time to appreciate that view with Canary Wharf to the left, then the City, St Paul's, the Eye, the BT Tower, and, finally, the close up spire of a church. The church is one of my favourite parts of that view. I'm not religious, at all, but the rest of the view vanishes as if it never was when we sit down on the sofas or at the table and the only part that remains is that towering spire that is lit up at night. It is something to gaze at against the sky.

Yesterday, after eating my plate of asparagus, after realising that Spring was here at last, I took the paper and I took my book and I sat. I sat and I read and I forgot that the sun in April can be hot. I got a pink nose but I drank it all in, the sun, the view, the warmth. And from my vantage point I could hear the music blaring out of cars, Don't Blame it on the Boogie, the unfamiliar strains of a Turkish singer, Empire State of Mind, I could hear people who had decided to celebrate the sun with all day drinking, I could hear gatherings in gardens for the first barbecues of the summer, I could hear birdsong.

And when I got too hot I went inside and I made a cake. I made a semolina cake scented with lemon zest and rose petals. I poured over orange blossom water flavoured sugar syrup. I went back outside and I pretended I was in the garden of the Paris mosque where you can drink a small glass of mint tea and eat baklava and semolina sponges and watch tiny birds fly about amongst the tiles before they eventually alight on your table to steal a few crumbs. My fantsy was slightly compromised by the big mug instead of the dainty glass and the recipe that was undeniably tasty but not quite what I had envisaged. Not quite there on the texture of the crumb, not quite drenched enough in the sweet fragrant syrup, not quite there enough for sharing with you but there enough for me to enjoy.

I'll let you know when it's there.


Anonymous said...

I am very envious of your balcony, I am trying to image exactly where you are in London to see all those landmarks - I suppose pretty much anywhere on the 5th floor - neat London bridge for that spire !!!---As always I am very nostalgic. Cake sounds nice and I'd like the recipe when it's ready (i'm pretty sure I'd like it now especilly on a balcony)

Anonymous said...

my spelling - really

Gemma said...

It's Stoke Newington Rachel. Home to lots of Turkish food, Rasa, a park with deer, chickens, rabbits, and goats, an aviary, a massive public paddling pool for Summer, and us.

Gemma x

Anonymous said...

don't forget the pitas!

this post put a big smile on my face. it feels wonderful in london lately, doesn't it? cheers.

Gemma said...

Haven't actually had any of the pitas for a few weeks - might remedy that this weekend!

It does indeed and long may it continue...