Afternoon naps and showers – further tales from lockdown

I’m still cycling to work. And then coming straight back home afterwards, which I appreciate some might find bizarre. Surely the only positive to come out of this is the freedom from the commute, I hear you say. Well.. you try having the imagination to find an alternative route of comparable emptiness.

And most significantly, this stubborn habit ensures, umm, general hygiene.

Bear with me…. Normally I cycle to work and shower when I get in. In fact, there is a bit of an over-watered scenario going on here, because then I also shower or bath when I get back home and this latter part features quite a bit of lounging, as I find that the muscles (worked harder on the final 17th mile for being uphill) are waaaay happier if they get warmed up in the bath the same time. There might be Ally McBeal playing on the ipad, but I’m kind of embarrassed by that -so don’t tell anyone (I fast forward the daft songs).

But now that I don’t have to leave the house to shower… how do I remember to shower? There is ‘when i get dressed’ which I’m sure most people would consider normal, but without my bike ride, I think of getting dressed about half way after I have decided it is a really good idea to clean the kitchen and audit the contents of every cupboard, before realising I only have about five minutes left to log into work.

And onto that topic of work. I have a lunch hour. A whole hour. Does it really take an hour to have lunch? No it does not. That’s why a sensible worker will take a stroll around the block – at a minimum. Not really an option anymore. So, here’s a thought, how about a speedy snack… followed by a 2pm 40min snooze? I have often been heard in the office complaining that hammocks have not been provided as I believe they are in Google (well, sleep pods). Of course I will not be indulging this idea, largely because I believe my colleagues are reading this. But maybe YOU should…


Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet?

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Monday’s a rubbish day for a takeaway – A review of Sisimi Taste of Goodness SE3/SE13

Monday’s a rubbish day for a takeaway. Everyone’s closed. Monday worked against me in the olden (actually visit the restaurant) days too. Because no on wants to eat well on a Monday. (Although neither do they always want to cook) Copper and Ink, I’’m talking to you. 

We had reasons for this particular Monday needing to be special. So browsing through the three main delivery options revealed fewer than normal options – but at least made us look outside the usual one mile circle. Peckham seemed too far to trust delivery would arrive hot, so that knocked off a couple of appealing options. 

What jumped out was Nigerian food at Sisimi Taste of Goodness

The listings of food definitions, also intrigued, as did an incomplete but very well photographed and written up website. Then we saw the location. Boone Street on the. Lewisham/Blackheath border , and that really left us scratching our heads, as we’d never seen an open shop in Boone Street. In fact, they say themselves, that they are not a restaurant. 

Ordering is simple in that most of the meals appear to be one pots, you don’t have to add sides. As an upside this was also a downside… we kept looking sadly at the two line order as the Uber Driver wended his way towards us, thinking, have I really sampled enough of such an interesting menu in just two items, and… the menu said I would get yam or plantain… what if the worst happens and there’s no plantain when it arrives?

(Coleslaw was actually home made and by myself

There was no need for concern. Our two line order spread over two days, and featured both plantain and much, “I really have to stop eating now”ness. I had chicken Wale, and my husband had pork belly Morolake – both arrived with copious amounts of jollof rice, and he shared his plantain and hot sauce. Along with two beers from Partizan, this was one of those, mutter all evening ‘hm I really enjoyed that meal’ sort of places. 

So, wherever on Boone Street this particular magic is emanating from, I like to think it’s the emergence of a new Michelin Triangle

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet?

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Grocery Swapping Tales #socialdistancing in #SE3

Groceries are the new entertainment around here (health conditions in this household are making us extra cautious) So hard to come by, they really highlight the month when they do arrive leading to an afternoon of hard-scrubbing of packaging. And what a fest of unanticipated items. Firstly, what on earth is this, offered in lieu of chicken soup?

I have never seen it before, and I really do hesitate to open it. Those lumps. What if they are actually Coronavirus eggs? Is that a thing? It sounds like you might see in a BBC listing, stamped with ‘No Evidence’ which without the presumption of innocence, also does not mean, ‘No Evidence to the Contrary’.

If you know this item to be delicious, please tell me and that may get me over my resistance, or at least persuade my husband to open it when I’m not looking and mash it into a lasagne or something. (That’s how parents sneak veg at their children right?)

For the first time ever I have had delivery swaps on alcohol free wine and beer. Now, I know what’s going on here. Everyone’s realised we can’t drink our way out of lockdown. Social freedom is not at the bottom of the bottle etc, etc and so they are trying to trick themselves out of alcohol by buying the alcohol fee. They’re being ripped off, I’ll have you know. You’re paying no alcohol duty. Shall i tell you who does large deliveries of alchool free. Shall I..? Or shall I keep them to myself (and people who may medically need them. )?.. wouldn’t want to accidentally facilitate hundreds of people to fall of the wagon due to a lack of good alternatives… oh okay…

Failing that, get someone in the house to mash up the wine and disguise it as water.

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? I wonder what Amazon might swap that with. A beehive, perhaps? Or a whole Helen – sporting a beehive?

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

“Empanada for Breakfast Anyone?” A review of L’Oculto’s takeaway

On my third date with my husband, we went for tapas. We both read the menu and then put them aside both with an expression of uncertainty. It was my then new boyfriend who was going to broach it first. “We could just order everything except the croquettes.”

I agreed immediately. And apparently that’s when he decided we were going to get along. 

(These little, ‘I like you because…’ asides did go a little awry on rock climbing (date2). He said he would only want to date a girl who would be happy going rock climbing. I only went cos I fancied him and then had to be rescued from the top of a fake rock. But hey, we still seemed to end up married. )

And tapas was what we thought we were ordering from L’Oculto for takeaway. We were wrong. There was too much. These dishes, empanadas and pies were enormous. It has to be said every dish was brilliant. The rabbit meat balls were phenomenal. 

Their cheesecake is famous. I have to say, I suspect that the cheesecake is marmite (as in not literally yeast extract flavoured… yeah, anyway.. you get me). It actually tastes of strong cheese. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know my feelings on overly-sweet cheesecake (here at Copper and Ink, and here at Champagne & Fromage  however, I think I may be undone because this was considerably less sweet then the starter of tosta celina. What I did think was perfectly flavoured was the chocolate cake, another delicacy that I am particularly picky about and hardly ever order. Here I trusted them.

Cheesecake more cheesy than Gorgonzola

A note on the hygiene – what was visible was impeccable, separate plastic gloves for each transaction, and alcohol rub on the side. 

However, I appear to have aged. Back in the olden days, that romantic evening in MK when the waitress laughed at us… i did finish everything on my place. Tonight, nope. I have a waist line to consider. Empanada for breakfast anyone? (That’s rhetorical, food is scarce these days.)

L’Oculto has moved to Brockley which threw me a little after ordering. Probably been there a while, but I have a lot of eating to get through on your behalf. So, depending which side of Blackheath you live, you might decide it’s a little too far to justify during social distancing. When all this is over, I’ll be moving in with them. 

Click on the “Date night” blog for a link for takeaway and wine menus to L’Oculto.

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Keeping Sane

Personally I am desperate to get tips on how to keep off news websites. I know that this is not helping prevent anxiety, but I still wake up thinking, “ooo a good eight hours since I last checked in – maybe I should just check  the BBC (you know like, to see various addictive and largely pointless headlines) and then the Guardian, both of which come with anxiety inducing pulsing update buttons.” I had no idea I had a ‘habit’. It turns out I have a ‘habit’.

On top of that, I’ve grown up on Radio Four, but every show has been derailed by COVID19, with interviewer’s asking earnestly, “well what exactly do the statistics mean?’ and receiving replies in gloom-leaden tones. In fact, there’s a problem with continuity because one day the interviewees will say, this is the critical figure and then the news will never ever ever repeat that figure again. One actually had  a really cheerful tone as he recounted predictions of impending agonies. That was admittedly worse.

And why is it soooo much easier to click on that Safari app, rather than that Kindle app, which i know is currently well stocked with good reading material. Should I hide my internet app? What if there’s an emergency and I need to Google ‘how to make gluten free granola’ at speed?!

Pre-Order “Helen and the Grandbees,” my Deptford based debut novel here is currently only 3.99 on Kindle. It is inspired by people I have met in the deprived parts south east London whose tragic pasts are woven into their life perspective but do not define them. Told in Helen’s quirky voice with brief chapters from other characters, it addresses matters of identity, race and mental illness.

alex morrell, alex morel, alex morrel
Helen and The Grandbees

Myths about Coronavirus and Social Distancing*

*this is not one of those myth-busting articles. I have no medical expertise whatsoever. The thought of the circulatory system makes me faint. I am however, good at baking and generally being a bit bossy. (thwarted celeb chef).

This story starts when a good friend told me her son had been sent home from school and the family was going into self-isolation. Naturally I offered to shop. She she needed nothing, no really she’s fine… well… okay maybe just 4 things… But for a handful of items, I knew immediately this list would be mostly impossible. 

The only source we managed to find for anything was the very crowded corner shop. It felt like I was stock-piling to be honest as I also wanted to pick up a couple of things that I were missing from my grocery delivery…. and gin (no explanation necessary). So I talked loudly to my husband about how many tins the household of three would need, so that everyone knew I wasn’t running away with the shop’s stock but then i felt like I was virtue signalling. (sad state of affairs when going to a shop for a mate makes you virtuous, right? I hold doors open for elderly people too. SuperheroesRus should give me a cape.)

But here’s the catch…. amongst those narrow aisles, lurked a cough. I mean… that was probably just asthma right?

However as soon as we were home, we could be found indulging one coronavirus rumour that the more legitimate parts of the internet appears to debunk, so I will not describe in detail, (and in fact just removed the joke about it in case anyone thought I was serious)

And that grocery delivery? I was resolved to practise safe home delivery. The non-perishables are sitting in a quarantine corner, and the perishables… well seriously, what would you have done…?

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Described as “beautiful,” “engaging and moving” with  “echoes of Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall and the warmth and poignancy of Sarah Winman.” Giving characters on the margins “a dignified voice despite their messy lives.”

Date Night

Pre-Order ‘Helen & The Grandbees’ here:

Thursday is ‘date night’ in our house, a chance for the two of us to spend time together when we might not have seen so much of eachother lately, and to go out for a drink – if not a meal, soak in the vibe…

(I think you may see where I am going here) 

It’s just that social distancing makes both of those scenarios, umm…. less  relevant. But keeping routines and having something in the diary to look forward to is more relevant. 

I used to have a rule of only drinking when I was out to stop me getting grumpy in the evenings. Well, that’s gone out of the window. (Someone catch that rule right now, bring it back and explain the meaning of social distancing to it – nothing should be going out, through windows or any other exits!)

And then i thought… delivery! (I’m not normally a take out kind of girl) And candles! And classical music on the Alexa!

Yes, as you probably guessed, we were washing hands between servings from takeaway boxes on a delicious Turkish delivery.

As evidenced by this blog, there are some pretty special local restaurants for eating, most of whom are staggered by the sudden loss of business, with no money to keep their staff in jobs. However some of these business are switching to delivery in order to save jobs (I checked with one if I should list them, or if they were overwhelmed, and they begged me to publicise).

Here are the links to places that will make for a really great meal who are delivering:

spectacular desserts… maybe they can hear me….?!

Original Review here:

The British Oak:

Peyton and Byrne  are also delivering now

Original Review here:

An old favourite of mine: Sticks  and Sushi  is back open

Original Review here:

Paul Rhodes Bakery

Original Review here:

Little Sparrow Teas Speciality Teas! Now I have yet to order, but these are proper speciality teas, refreshing oolong – none of this ‘I soaked a bunch of cheap tea leaves in vanilla flavouring nonsense’ Darjeeling options. Tea has got many people through many bad times.

Sisimi Taste of Goodness. Thrilled to discover this Nigerian delivery service on the edge of Blackheath. Delicious meal sampled and reviewed here. Find them via Uber Eats

Miss Flits Bakes Vegan treat boxes with cakes and biscuits etc. They’ve proved so popular, Flit’s doing another run this week coming!

Tzigano’s Mediterranean tapas

Original Review:

More Beer at Partizan Beer These are good beers, and both cheerfully packaged and delivered. We had our first delivery.

Occulto (Lewisham) Original review here: (and frankly I am already excited about this one!)

FYI the ordering details are at the end of the wine menu

Takeaway menu:

Wine (offered at retail price):

Buenos Ares Cafe (Blackheath Village):


EatTurkish (East Greenwich) source of last night’s wonder meal.

And if you have children and love beads, don’t forget Beadoir  who are delivering. And fun.

Paul Rhodes Bakery



Avocado Garden:

Great for breakfasts and healthy grains

Lea Valley Foods email for a price lists

Delivery Or pick up of commercially sized essentials including rice, pasta eggs to most of SE London


Coffee delivery, recommended by

The Blackheath Panty (but website ordering still due to be updated. Follow them on twitter for updates)

Brockleybrewery (self explanatory, although I misread free delivery as free beer and thought this had to be a April 1st for a minute!)

Plumsteadshire http://Common rioters More beer delivery

Theatre of Wine phone 8858 6363

Have you pre-ordered my Deptford-based novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Described as “beautiful,” “engaging and moving” with  “echoes of Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall and the warmth and poignancy of Sarah Winman.” Giving characters on the margins “a dignified voice despite their messy lives.”


So are you reading more now that you have no travel time, or maybe even no work? or are you finding your brain is crystallising trying to absorb more information, look for more information while there is none to be had, whilst trying to resist stockpiling because you have to ‘do’ something, but you’re quite limited as to what it is?

Are you commenting on barmy tweets where people want to yell ‘stupid’ at anyone they disagree with? (I don’t recommend this by the way).

Let’s deal with important things. Surely a significant survival mechanism when mental health is at stake is chocolate. (Why is no one else mentioning this?) With this in mind, i had a special planned pre-work trip to Lidl to buy their bars of dark chocolate which we recently discovered on a strawberry buying expedition. (This is a different sort of chocolate than you will find in your local corner shop)

Lidl Chocolate

The actual event went like this: queue in traffic for ages; Park up; think ‘things can’t be so bad if I can park’, walk up to the doors whilst seeing the queues inside; get very close to the doors….

Walk away from the doors, 

because it turns out that even chocolate isn’t worth that much close contact with crowd… 

spend ages in traffic trying to leave.

 Feel bad about what we did to the environment for no actual benefit whatsoever. 

We have now indulged a visit to Dark Sugars in Greenwich on the basis that we need cheering up when times are so dire – but this was pricey. There was hardly anyone in there, the staff are a long way from the customers and there is hand gel on the counter. We like.

PS – my debut novel ‘Helen and the Grandbees’ is available for only £3.99 on pre-order on Amazon.

(No idea if the good price will last, my publisher set it! )

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Gourmet Lewisham Restaurant now delivering!

This review was originally posted about the restaurant L’Oculto in the early days of inception. I am re-posting as an internet attack a couple of years ago destroyed it’s presence but they are ready and eager to keep their staff in jobs and keep in business whilst keeping safe…

L’Oculto apparently means hidden one. We asked because it was the name on the menu. There wasn’t a name on the door, unless you count ‘pharmacy,’ which did mean that the restaurant was really kind of hidden. We walked past about three or four times without realising that was was tapas place we were looking for.

Apparently the name reflected more than how easy the tapas place was to find. It reflected the wines and the food sources. All of these were intended to be small unknowns to bring unique experience. 

The restaurant was also filled with unusual crafts that one could purchase. 

It was definitely a unique experience. Out of all of the dishes we chose from, not a single one failed to be special. 

We managed to eat several large plates of bread… well, the bread was excellent. The bread plates were enormous, but fortunately only came in at £1.80 per person. What an unpretentious price for excellent food. 

The platters came out first, and our cheese platter came with a magnificent detail on each of the cheese sources, including which order to eat them in. This was not just a service offered on the cheese, but also on the cured meat. And no introduction to a cheese board could beat the one at L’Oculto

Combinations were unusal, but perfect. For example the mojama with pear and capers, was actually tuna with pear, in elegant spices. The dish of octopus and potato was enormous and served in the shape of an octopus. This was one of my favourite dishes.

The earthy flavours of the leeks with almonds made a great vegetable dish, and the peppers with anchovy were a great combination. 

Desserts were simple, and that is all good with me when they have been prepared properly with attention to detail. The poached plum in red wine is normally something I skip because, well, it is a pear, in red wine. But I stole some of my husbands and it was delicious, someone had really though about what to use in the recipe. I had chosen the caramel flan with cream mixed with sherry in a jug in the corner. That was petit but marvellous, nearly as good as the pears. 

Sadly, I worry that visits to competitor tapas bars will feel pale and insignificant in comparison. I may feel that I can only eat tapas here ever again… but I might not have any choice in the matter. The place was booked out, with a relatively strict approach to bending the rules. 

Working From Home – Exercise

I’m sure that you are getting all the same WFH advice that i am… My office‘s top tip was to tell me to schedule a workout everyday to counter any isolation associated with working from home. How’re you getting on with that? Weightlifting tinned beans by any chance? Or just toilet rolls?

Before yesterday’s advice, I was meeting this requirement by cycling into the office (less risky than the train) discovering I was the only one that bothered to come in, and then feeling silly for that (although a good deal safer) and coming back to WFH for lunchtime so that I felt less silly. 

On the other hand, I did have a window seat in the office which I am missing now that I have returned to my Victorian terrace. That window seat and the wonderful flooding sunlight that everyone got annoyed about and closed the blinds to was worth its weight in bike riding. Not to mention the relatively small pots of hand sanitizer dotted around with post it notes advising us not to pocket them… (surely no one… ?)

Hand sanitizer is seeming a little less important now.

PS this week has been made significantly pleasanter by a very good, hard-working diligent friend who went above and beyond to invite us to dinner of African food on Sunday, cancelled because of Coronavirus and then distribute it amongst all of his guests anyway. Thanks Suraj!

PPS – all of twitter is awash with requests as to what to read over the social isolation. Err… My novel ‘Helen and the Grandbees’ duh!