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!

Strawberry disposal – A lesser issue in the worldwide Coronavirus crisis.

We were supposed to have a strawberry daiquiri party on Friday, which got canned as more and more friends got spooked by their offices closing for Coronavirus. My husband’s asthma only compounded our worries. 

Coronavirus was actually the second challenge in the party planning. The first had been spotting that to make good strawberry daiquiris for 20 people A LOT of strawberry was required. 

We settled on 6.5kg of strawberries, sourced from Lidl and Aldi in two trips, both of which made us look like we had confused strawberries and rum for toilet rolls and antiseptic hand gel and were stockpiling. I felt as guilty as if I was stockpiling. People gave us furtive hurt looks behind the scarves wrapped around their faces and eyed up the remaining strawberries as if they should take them because there was something they didn’t know about strawberries… 

(Top tip, the cheaper combos were the sweeter strawberries.)

So this cancellation left us the challenge of what to do with 6kg of strawberries.

Instant pot and strawberries
Daiquiri ingrediants

Obviously solution number one was daiquiri. The only catch is, I am pretty sure that alcohol and fruit on an all inclusive holiday recently was the source of a stomach ulcer. So we made a jam jars full and shared them with our neighbours, limited only by jam jars. This move seemed…. popular.

Solution number 2 was a 2l Pyrex dish filled with rum to preserve strawberries. No idea what’s going to happen with them next, but it makes me feel kind of safe… the rum strawberries gently bleaching in a dark corner of the house, waiting to provide a treat one day

Then there’s strawberry cake (to be cooked tomorrow) and strawberry breakfast smoothies, and strawberries in oats. The thing about strawberries is they are the kind of thing that you think could make you ill if you had too much of. Unfortunately you see that white bowl, in the pic, the big one? Yep, that’s still left and the best I can think of is the freezer. 

The ice will be sacrificed and forcibly turned into water.

With my husband’s underlying health conditions, we will be staying under the radar for the coming um… year..? So I anticipate updating the blog with our survival techniques for the social isolation. Watch this space.

PS – is there anyone else out there who is debating the meaning of the new guidance to self isolate in the case of a ‘continuous’ cough? There is no googleable definition of continuous. 

PPS – Of course you will need to buy more books in case of self isolation or other restrictions. I recommend my debut novel ‘Helen and The Grandbees’ PreOrder here;




The Intercontinental O2 review Greenwich

In some ways, The Intercontinental at the O2 should come on prescription. It’s got it all: healing powers, grumpy receptionists and pharmaceutically-priced options. Overall, I keep coming back. 

The intercontinental O2 spa

The rigmarole goes something like this. Book a massage (because you neeeeeed it – something about grey January days), add a spa pass (already a high bill is accumulating); sit in the spa thinking, the cocktail bar here is amazing, why waste my bus/Uber journey here without getting at least one drink. Then sit in the cocktail bar thinking hmm… gonna get really grumpy if I imbibe this cocktail without food and the bar menu here is really greasy. 

It should be noted at this point that the bar is very generous with its bar snacks. They keep coming. They are probably very bad for you even though you might have convinced yourself that you will successfully diet this week. Stop the bar snacks, please stop the bar snacks…

So you end up in the Market Brasserie. I don’t know about you, but Market Brasserie surely doesn’t say what it’s supposed to say to me. it sounds brash. And I like markets. It’s ‘lively’ according to the website. Not really sure what that’s referring to, though. This is where the disappointments of the Intercontinental really lie. Every other element of the visit is really enjoyable, but slightly less unhealthy food than the sliders and chips upstairs and the promise of at least one of your five a day, seem to make it a necessity. 

We didn’t order too much. No starters, and little to drink (because of, ahem, our upstairs visit to the cocktail bar), this included £6 for a tiny pot of slightly dressed shredded cabbage. I went just for prawns – that tasted of prawns, and my husband had the poussin. That was also okay.

Desserts were slightly more exciting. This combination of chocolate mouse was as pretty tasting as it looked. 

Dessert at the Intercontinental O2

Let me underline, there was nothing wrong with this meal, but it did (that’s 2 unexciting  mains, 2 drinks and dessert) came to c. £100. You’re paying for the view. Basically. 

‘Spot the blogger’ (but mostly check out the view of the Thames and Canary Wharf)

All this should not be read to mean that Sky Bar and its intricately constructed cocktails are not amazing, pricey but worth it if you hit a flavour you like. The menu changes regularly although we have had occasional frustrations where a few hours studying the menu, running scenario analysis and mathematically chosing a cocktail failed because on request a major ingredient was missing.

Pre-Order my debut novel ‘Helen and the Grandbees’ on 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.”