Stoke Newington is one of those London peculiarities, an prosperous enclave in the middle of one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. It has its many charms - Clissold Park, Knit With Attitude, a self-proclaimed Porn-Free Newsagent and more tasty tea shops than you can shake a cinnamon stick at - but it is also the kind of place where you can hear a child say, "Mummy, what are baked beans?"
Her response was not, as mine would have been, "They are delicious; central to the staple diet of the English People; a wonderful source of protein and the base of many a quick dinner; also, HOW UNIMAGINABLY POSH DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO LIVE IN A BAKED-BEAN-FREE CULINARY WORLD?". It was... actually, it was so good that it deserves its own paragraph.
Her response was: "They're like gnocchi, darling."
I didn't hear any more because I was laughing so hard, but I'm reasonably sure that the full sentence was "they're like gnocchi, darling; gnocchi for poor people."
Which bears little relation to the real meat of this post (or even the real gnocchi of it), but before we get to the Povvo Potato Dumpling Point, I'm off on another anecdotal digression.
This year, for the first time ever, I actually made New Year's Resolutions - and pretty traditional ones at that. They weren't as blatant as "lose weight you self-hating large person with a stomach, you", but they involved Cooking Real Meals, Eating My Five-A-Day, and Doing Half An Hour's Exercise Three Times A Week. The implied admonishment was pretty clear.
And, as tends to be the way with such things, I did brilliantly for the first week or so: on Day Seven I proudly reported to Straight Best Friend that I had gone swimming, done some yoga, and walked all the way to Stoke Newington. He asked, "Did you go to Stokey to buy a yoga mat?"
Full of indignation, I replied, "DUH, no! I'm not THAT much of a cliché! I went to Stokey to buy... um... a crochet hook. STOP LAUGHING."
Is that the week after this exercise extravaganza - which basically constitutes the bare minimum of a Healthy, Non-Sedentary Lifestyle, as defined by whoever makes up these rules - I crashed, spectacularly. As in: can't move. Can't speak. Can't eat - not "can't cook", literally "too tired to eat". After a week of dying on my feet, I spent a weekend in bed, and still had to take Monday afternoon off. One of the main symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a disproportionate level of exhaustion following exercise - but this doesn't necessarily happen immediately (ie. the hour or day after exertion).
You'd really think I'd have figured this out by now.
I suppose the problem is that mainstream definitions of Health don't know how to deal with people with disabilities or long-term illnesses. Because while I am pretty unhealthy, and would like to be more active, following the general government guidelines - Exercise! For 30 minutes! Three times a week! - leaves me broken in half.
And yet I am unhealthy. Not in that I have CFS, but in that I can't run for a bus without wheezing like a laboratory beagle. And while I would quite like to be a bit more active - for physical health, mental health, just for the sheer fun of it - I can't really see how to go about it, and mainstream Get Fit! advice has nothing to say to me.
Perhaps it's the result of being the middle-class cash-strapped daughter of working-class parents, but I have the biggest craving right now for gnocchi and baked beans mixed together.