Thursday 15 September 2011

Katharine Pooley Envy


The spookiest thing happens. In an attempt to ignite my passion for Asian cookery (a dormant passion coaxed out by Sally, who thinks I should host an South-East Asian Pop-Up Restaurant), I go to the Oxfam bookshop to check out the Asian cookery books. 

My eye is inexplicably drawn to an anonymous black silk-bound book in a black silk slipcase. I pull it off the shelf. A Taste of My World. By Katharine Pooley. I flip through. Beautiful pictures of Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, interspersed with beautiful-looking dishes from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, the world. Argh! She is what I want to be. What I used to be. What I should be.

I flip to her biography. A beautiful 30something woman dazzles out of the endpapers, her hair perfectly highlit. Argh! Her passions are travel and cooking. She used to work for a bank in Hong Kong and she’s lived in Singapore and Vietnam! She is me! Except for the banking bit. Maybe she knows Gitface? 

I turn back to the beginning. Next to an immaculate dining room done up in Hong Kong Peak chic, it says, Hosting dinner parties at Katharine’s home has become a part of life for her, and those who have attended will agree that everything from the table setting, the flowers, the candles and the china to the beautifully presented, delicious food leaves guests with memories of a unique and inspired occasion. Argh! How can I run a pop-up restaurant in Candlebury after that?

It says she plans to open her own boutique in London, specialising in exclusive homeware. Wonder if she’s done it yet? The book was published in 2003. Knowing her (not that I do), it should be up and running by now. Let’s look on the bright side, though. She'll be looking longer in the tooth these days. No mention of a perfect husband or perfect children, either. Ha!

Katharine divides her time between Asia, London and particularly Scotland where she believes her true heart lies.

Argh! My heart is now burning. I have terminal Dividing Her Time Envy! It hasn’t flared up this badly since Eat, Pray, Love, when I discovered that Elizabeth Gilbert Divides Her Time between Brazil, Sydney and Philadelphia.

I snap the perfect book shut, replace it in its perfect slipcase and get on the bus to Waterloo, picking up a copy of London Homes & Property magazine for the journey. It falls open on a picture of a row of standing Buddhas on a Chinese sideboard, behind a sofa with perfectly plumped orange cushions.

Oh my God!

The headline reads: Designer Focus -  Katharine Pooley! And there she is, looking immaculate. ‘Katharine Pooley both dresses luxurious homes and creates gorgeous furniture for them.’ Argh! Argh! ‘Katharine Pooley’s passion for interiors is coupled with her enthusiasm for all things travel... Those seeking finishing touches for their homes will also be familiar with her eponymous boutique.’ Oh my God! So the things she said she wanted to do in 2003, she is doing. She is turning her Passions into Profit! And she has now visited over 200 countries!  

What can this mean? Has she been sent to inspire me? Or depress me? And why Katharine Pooley?

Mind you, still no mention of a husband.


Candlebury station is bathed in golden evening sunshine. Race cross-country to pick up Lily.

'Good news!' she says, as we strap in for the cross-country marathon back for her oboe lesson. 'I've been thinking this week, I really want to be in a committee. And guess what!'

'You're in a committee?'

'Yes! Only three girls in the whole sixth form have been picked.'

'And you're one of them!'

'Yes! I was elected by the other committee members!'

'That's brilliant, darling. So what committee is it?'


'What does that mean?'

'Undercover Agents.'

'Wow! What does it do?'

'I'm not sure.'

'Well does it do things like ask girls secretly if they like school lunches?'

'No! Definitely not.'

'Does it check whether teachers are doing their jobs properly?'

'No. It's not like that, Mummy. No committee actually does that.'

'Well then what kind of things does it do? If it's undercover?'

'I think we do lawn. Pick stuff up for Convers Box.'

'What's that?'

'It's basically full of stuff that shouldn't be left out. So the matrons conver it.'

'Does that mean confiscate?'

'Basically take it and put it in a box. Until they realise it's got convered. On Monday the UCAs read out the names after breakfast. If you get more than 3 items in the Convers Box you get an SYR.'

'What's an SYR?'

'A Serve You Right.'


They're talking about unemployment on Radio 4. Apparently only 17% of jobseekers are what they call Determined Seekers, who spend 30 hours a week looking for a job. They are the creme de la creme of jobseekers. Then there are the Disillusioned and Defeated, who spend 0-3 hours a week looking for a job. Oh God. Am now not only officially Unemployed but a Defeated Seeker. 

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