June 30, 2009


My dear readers, I was recently having a little chat over the viral fence (as you do!) with the delightful Melissa at SUNBONNET COTTAGE. We were talking about food for the brain and it occurred to me that you might like to hear my deeply profound thoughts about FOOD! In fact, ‘cos I want to share some of my FAVOURITE restaurants with you, you could call this post “brain food!

And so just for you, dear readers, my latest culinary scoop!


surprisingly Spanish!

EL BULLI: Gnocchi of polenta with coffee, saffron yuba and daisy buds

EL BULLI: Kumquat and mint cocktail with pumpkin oil emulsion

Now as you know, dear readers, Mediterranean cuisine is often described as the healthiest in the world (aah, all that fish, garlic, olive oil), and Spanish chefs among the most creative. But what you may find more surprising is that, according to RESTAURANT magazine’s latest poll, four of the world’s TEN best restaurants are owned by Spanish chefs!

For the fourth consecutive year, the number one slot has gone to EL BULLI (above, plus some famous dishes, top) owned by Catalan chef, FERRAN ADRIA, who recently picked up his award at a gala organised by the leading British trade magazine at London’s Freemasons Hall.

The other three Spanish restaurants to make it into my (and Restaurant Magazine’s) top ten of the world’s best fifty establishments were MUGARITZ, owned by Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz (4th place, above), Catalan chef Joan Roca’s EL CELLER DE CAN ROCA (5th below),

and ARZAK, owned by Juan Mari Arzak (8th below).

But my dear readers, did you know that Spain according to the magazine has more restaurants on the list than any other country - including France, my country of origin?! And that Adrià’s El Bulli, established in Girona and with three Michelin stars, was voted number one by a panel comprising 800 international chefs, food critics and culinary experts?! (P considers himself a bit of a food expert following the infamous Nora-bun-débacle - more below - but swears he didn’t receive his invite in time…)

Adrià is, of course, known around the world as the “alchemist of the kitchen,” experimenting with liquid nitrogen - like his British protégé, HESTON BLUMENTHAL (above), owner of 3 Michelin-starred (and 2nd place) THE FAT DUCK. (Oops! Wrong pic again, Nora!) Quick, back to Heston and The Fat Duck!

However, long before Adrià and Blumenthal rolled out their mass spectrometers, kitchen scientists had been busy working on quaint recipes such as the egg-free custard invented for his allergic wife by ALFRED BIRD. The huge success of his instant custard (below), not to mention the huge profits cooked up, sent the food industry into a floury flurry of freeze-drying and homogenising experimentation from which it’s basically never looked back!

And, as for Adrià’s gaff and The Fat Duck, have been to both a couple of times with Nora and P but wasn’t impressed. Snail porridge (below)? Can take it or leave it! But then, I prefer my Bonio biscuits and dog chews any day! But what do I know? Neither Nora or I possess P’s unrivalled, unquestionably exquisite culinary palate…

P.S. WARNING TO THOSE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION! First put yourself in the emergency brace position, next take a long, deep breath, then prepare yourself for the WORST, MOST BLOODCURDLING SIGHT EVER.. Nora’s Most Notorious, Culinary Pièce de Résistance to date (below):

Well, my dear readers, I did warn you…!! (And In case you were wondering, they’re hot cross buns…)


June 24, 2009


My mail bag and in-box are simply full to bursting this week with queries and dilemmas from all my dear readers in response to my invitation to let me help with your problems! So I’ve had to be very selective and pick out the most urgent and pressing.

1.Top of the list is one from a charming reader PINKLEA who’s frighteningly much bigger than me but reassuringly pink-hued and friendly! (Above left.) Pinklea informs me she’s imminently leaving for Greece (lucky Pinklea!!) with her daughter, the Divine DD, for an 18 day holiday with a small suitcase. What clothes should she take?

Yes, ma chère Pinklea, I know Greece well but the problème for moi is always the same: my fabulous fur and how to keep it cool! As for what I get my PA, the useless Nora, to pack, that’s quite simple. Loose, pure cotton (but beautiful, mind) wraparound dresses (Issa-style, below) a
nd SOMBRERO! (modelled below right).

The issue, as you know, is one of shade (or lack thereof) and herein lie TWO problems:

Firstly, the problem of THE RUINS. Ruins are, well just that …ruins! ie No roofs. No walls. No terraces. Nada to shade you from the scorching sun! Sooo inconsiderate of those ancient Greeks to leave the place in such a state of disrepair - cowboy builders, you see, even then!

Secondly, the problem of THE TREES (olive trees specifically, see below) - a double whammy since they provide zero shade AND drop ugly black olives (like goat caca) which lodge in all that fabulous fur of mine. Ugh! Sooo U-G-L-Y!

Lola’s advice:
Now I always get my PA (Nora) to walk beside me with a large parasol (which can be purchased on arrival since you’ll only have a small case) and a hand-held fan (which Nora holds at the ready to cool down all that fabulous fur of mine).

So there you have it! Pure cotton outer wear, comfortable footwear for clambering over all those ruins (ruinous on the nail polish), large hat, fan, parasol (and someone to carry it! How about the Divine DD?)

Incidentally, my canine spies in Greece tell me that the Greeks love babies and flags! If the former isn’t maybe feasible at such short notice, how about a Canuck flag (below)?

BTW Have the Greek authorities been forewarned of the imminent arrival of a frighteningly tall pink furry person with a huge parasol in one hand and waving a Canuck flag in the other? (Something like my American chum, Bart, pictured below, perhaps?)

Well, my dear readers, that’s my advice to Pinklea. Do you agree/disagree? Any other suggestions for her?

2. My second query was sent in anonymously by a lovely reader from Blogs*hh*ire, England who simply calls herself *Harassed Housewife*.

I recently got married and the tradition in my husband’s family is for the daughters-in-law (there are 4 of us!) to take it in turns to lay on a HUGE spread for the extended family (ten adults and innumerable kids - I’ve lost count!) Whilst I can cook, I’m not used to such large numbers and also the fact that my mother-in-law is a PERFECTIONIST! Help! Am I doomed to spend the rest of my life at the stove? What should I do?

You have 3 options:

1. Book yourself onto the next series of Kitchen Nightmares.
Advantage: Gordon Bleu cuisine.
Disadvantage: Gordon Ramsay.

2.Since you can't whisk them out to dinner, order in catered food from your favourite local restaurant (or, alternatively, from M & S who, I understand from my undercover spies, still do acceptable ‘party’ food - assuming, of course, Harrods Food Hall is too far away). Garnish with a few sprigs of parsley etc and, voilà!, casually pass the whole thing off as all your own work (assuming MIL voices her approval of ‘your’ cuisine, of course!!)
Advantage: Minimal effort.
Disadvantage: Doesn’t get you off the hook since you’ll still have to cook once a month for 10 adults plus assorted offspring for the rest of your married life!

3. Order in catered food as per #2 above. Add a judicious amount (a few tablespoons, oops!! teaspoons!) of chili powder to MIL’s curry and mix in well. Ensure all OTHER curries are chili-free and serve. When MIL is spluttering and gulping back bottles of water, look sooo surprised and calmly enquire what’s wrong since everyone else is sooo enjoying the meal.
Advantage: MIL will be either, at best, hugely embarrassed or, at worst, scared you’re trying to poison her! Either way, she’ll ensure ALL future meals on your watch are taken elsewhere! Probably at her house where she can keep a beady eye on the ingredients…

Disadvantage: None (except for very guilty conscience!)

Whichever option you choose, *HH*, you can at least take comfort from the fact you CAN cook! Nora’s efforts, on the other hand, leave sooo much to be desired! But more on that another time…

And so, dear readers, that’s my advice to *HH*. Do you agree/disagree? Any other suggestions for her?

And, last but not least, a query from Sir Fred Goodwhine (below):

No! Just checking you’re still paying attention at the back there, especially the latecomers giggling in the corner (in particular, Mme M, Mme. *HH*, Mlle. KFC (!!) and too many others to count)!

And so back to Sir Fred (above)
who used to work in an anonymous but well-known British high street bank (below, one of the anonymous but well-known high-street banks):

I’m desperate to make pots of money with the minimum of effort. Can you advise? (Sir Fred Goodwhine, Scotland).

Simple! Become a Chief Executive of a major bank or Hedge Fund (above), create absolute mayhem (for customers, pictured below) in the shortest possible time and before anyone takes the ‘If in doubt, cut it out!’ route and sacks you, offer to resign PROVIDED you receive as compensation a disproportionately huge, feather-bedded, inflation-proof pension pot.

Dear readers, that's my advice for Sir Fred. Agree/disagree? Any other suggestions?

Well, mes chers lecteurs, sadly that’s all we have time for today! But remember, if you have any problems or queries you’d like me to respond to (dealt with anonymously if preferred), don’t hesitate to let me know (or my PA, Nora) in the COMMENTS BOX BELOW!

However weird, outlandish, insoluble (or outlandishly,weirdly insoluble) it may seem, I’ll have an answer to that Desperate Dilemma of yours!

So why hesitate any longer? Go on and write to me, Agony Aunt to the Blogosphere, in the comments box NOW!And remember, YOUR LOLA LIFELINE! - your lifeline to a saner, more harmonious, beauteous world. Just like mine in fact!


June 20, 2009


Like all those shameful British MPs, I have a guilty secret! Mine isn’t, though, to do with the acquisition of moats, duck islands and phantom mortgages paid for by the taxpayer, but in not revealing to you, my dear readers, six secrets about myself after being tagged A-G-E-S ago by the Fabulous French Charming!

The reason, however, isn’t totally ma faute. Nora (my useless PA; well, need I say more?) recently had to travel to the UK for a long weekend which dragged on ‘cos of bizniz ishoos till THIS week! And of course, since she’d turned off that laptop thingie, I couldn’t communicate with all my fans and deal with all the shedloads of fanmail in her absence!

Anyway, now I’ve access at last to you, mes chers lecteurs, I am going to reveal a little more about myself. And let you into the secrets of my FAME! Not just six secrets, mind - but TEN! My top TEN tips of loveliness, no less - hitherto secrets known only by me! So listen up!


1. Think beautiful thoughts - always. Even if your PA is writing endless drivel and wreaking havoc, unsupervised, before your very eyes.

2. Say clever things constantly. Even that USELESS PA (above) should pick something up! (Well, maybe not in Nora's case …)

3. Move gracefully. Show tact, charm and charisma at all times. Bo Obama, the FDOTUS (above), might even pick up a tip or two about poise and elegance.

4. Never leave the house sans the best possible coiffure. You never know, maybe a model scout, seeing your gorgeous ‘bichon head’ while you’re out shopping may insist you’re the next Kate MossBichon!

5. Never leave the house sans the best possible outfit. Ditto # 4. You never know who’s dogging your every move snapping away. Before you know it, you too could be on the next cover of ChienVogue!

6. Think of Daniel Craig in his Bond trunks-scene. (No! Hang on! Just checking you’re still paying attention at the back there, ladies!) Seriously, drink lots of water to keep your fabulous fur moisturised and eat well but sensibly. Now, as you know, I’m quite fastidious but I’m not one of those carb-dodging ladies who are unable to order a dish in a restaurant without five or six qualifications ("Hold the béchamel sauce!", "A couple of oysters is all I can manage!", "My bottled water must be from Fiji!"), and then always find some small slice of dog chew or sliver of bonio biscuit to have discreetly removed. No, I eat well but - carefully (got to watch those terrific thighs)!

7. Exercise infrequently, put your paws up whenever possible. After all, you don’t want to end up muscle-bound like Muscular Madonna, do you? Ugh! Soooo unladylike, soooo U-G-L-Y!

8. Show off your fabulous fur décolletage. After all, it was Elizabeth Taylor who once said, "If you’ve got it, flaunt it!" And look how many husbands she got through!

9. Rest as much as you can. Always get others to do things - even if it’s NEVER to your own high standards. It will give them something to aim at. After all, everyone needs goals! Even, mes chers lecteurs, unattainable ones!

10.Aim at perfection - always. Remember, when all around you are sliding down the slippery slope of sloppiness (left pic) , YOU (right pic) will be a Beacon of Boundless Beauty in a Desert of Devastating Deficiency!

Oh, sooo much effort has made sooo tired… (yawn). I need that beauty sleep…NOW!

Well, dear readers, that's MY guilty secret. What’s yours?


P.S. Off tonight to Novelli's as I reported in previous post - and you, my dear readers, will be the first to hear of any scoops! Before I go, however, you ought to know I've given Nora, my useless PA, a verbal warning for general ineptitude (the final straw: being left incommunicado for TWO weeks!) She needs to watch her step. Three strikes and she's out...!

June 16, 2009


You know, these should really be called The Lola Diaries ’cos what I’ve got to say is sooo much more intelligent and interéssant than the drivel and waffle that woman with the wild, fair hair writes. The reason, mes chers lecteurs, is très simple! Here in the southern Mediterranean, ALL canines are permitted INSIDE restaurants where we don’t just collapse on the floor, endlessly lick our privés parts and drool listlessly but, au contraire, we pick up all kinds of information you humans shamelessly hurl about en particulier when you’ve had a bouteille too many of Puligny Montrachet or (my favourite!) Château Pétrus.

For instance, one of my chums (pic above) close to the PM, Señor Zapatero, in Madrid regularly picks up in restaurants and in Señor Zapatero’s own Palacio de la Moncloa not just snippets of the latest gossip about other leaders (Ooh, M Sarkozy!! Ooh, S. Belusconi!! If you only knew!!) but top, top secrets as well. (But as a lady, I couldn’t possibly comment… In fact, I’m blushing now but you would never know - all that fabulous fur you understand.) Moreover, this Saturday, Norawoman is taking me to Jean-Christophe Novelli’s new restaurant in Marbella (Señora Noriega is going out with Juan Antonio) so, ’cos it’s a top French restaurant, one should expect a better breed of canine there and, who knows, I just might pick up yet another e-x-c-l-u-s-i-v-e for you!

But enough of that and back to The Lola Diaries which I know you’re just itching to hear more about! Now, since my fanmail is getting so huge, I’ve been doing a bit of thinking and have come to the conclusion I should put myself about a bit (you know, like all those wanabee singers and actors and failing prime ministers). And go on YouTube! But then I overheard Norawoman (as you know, I made her my PA though she’s pretty hopeless), muttering (she thinks when I’m lying in my basket with my eyes closed, everything else is closed down too) how naff that would be ’cos only needy people like Susan Boyle and Gordon Brown go after PR on YouTube.

So, until my fame goes truly GLOBAL and the Delectably Divine Duo (Oprah and Obama) come knocking on my basket (meanwhile I’ll steer clear of Jonathan Ross - I don’t want any embarrassing messages about MY love life left on the answer machine - and the British Government Minister who recently took a peek at my website!), I’ve decided to do what I do best. Namely to give advice. To you, chers lecteurs. Totally free. Ever since I was a puppy in New Labour puppybaccalauréatacadémie, you understand, my advice was always being sought and so I feel it incumbent on myself - no, my duty! - to pass on these snippets of my wisdom.

One day last week, for instance, I had a long, serious chat with my puppy-nephew (above) about his future. “I’ve been giving the matter a lot of thought recently, and I’ve finally come to a landing. I want to do absolutely nothing useful with my life,” he admitted at last, removing his iPod with a yawn and rolling over on his side to face the sun. “But why don’t you take a more positive attitude?” I replied. “Why not become a small-time crook? A cowboy roof builder, a layabout on benefit scams, a bag snatcher, a mugger of old people, drive a black Seat at 140kph on Spanish roads at the same time tailgating and overtaking on the inside lane, become a call centre robot, work for one of the Chinese Triads, maybe become a real hoodlum and apply for an intern post in one of the banks still left standing.” He chewed loudly on yet another Bonio as he thoughtfully considered my advice. “The bank idea sounds OK,” he answered, stifling another yawn, “although I’d rather steal from them. If I must work, I’d prefer to have a more lasting effect on the country, something that will go down in history. If I’m going to grow up to become a crook, I want to be a REAL crook!” “Well, in that case,” I replied after the briefest of pauses, “why don’t you become a Member of Parliament, the British Parliament?” And if he takes my sound advice, there’ll be no end of opportunities for all his accomplishments…

Pro tem, I’ve decided to call my advice column YOUR LOLA LIFELINE!. Pro tem, you understand, ‘cos, when my fame truly does go international, I may have to change it. After all, all my fans in the Middle East may think I’m offering help with my lifeline to those ghastly pirates off their coasts! So, if you have any problems or queries you’d like me to respond to (dealt with anonymously if preferred), don’t hesitate to let me know (or my PA, Nora) in the COMMENTS BOX BELOW!

However bizarre, outlandish or insoluble it may seem, I’ll have an answer to that dilemma of yours! So why hesitate any longer? Go on and write to me, Agony Aunt to the Blogosphere, in the comments box

And remember, YOUR LOLA LIFELINE! - your lifeline to a saner, more harmonious, beauteous world. Just like mine in fact!


P.S. As you know, I'm a French breed and adore all things French! The lovely Karyn at French Charminghas a French giveaway (which would look sooo charmant on my coiffure commode!). Go visit her gorgeous site now!

June 3, 2009

Or: Donating future profits from book sales to favourite charity

Back in Andalucia recently after a short business trip. Picked up local papers and found, to my delight, an article about Malaga-born actor, Antonio Banderas, and his wife Melanie Griffith (pictured at Cudeca Cancer Hospice, Andalucia). They have pledged their support to Cudeca, my favourite charity, by recording videos for its campaign "Become a Benefactor - Add Life to Days". The couple also praised the hard work of the hospice’s team, who have offered invaluable support to more than 5,600 patients and families.

Cudeca was set up singlehandedly by its warm, compassionate President, Joan Hunt OBE in 1992. Like most charities in this economic downturn, however, it needs the public’s support more than ever for, as Joan observed to me, cancer doesn’t recognize or respect recessions. And that’s why I’m keen to do whatever I can to support its fundraising efforts and the reason I’m donating to it all future profits from sales of my novel The De Clerambault Code (left) likewise featured in local press articles that included pic of Joan and part of me (bottom left).

I mention all this since my previous efforts at charity fundraising in the UK had some unexpectedly DISASTROUS results!

In the wake of the Asian tsunami in early 2006, I decided I needed to do something positive to help the fundraising efforts (well, shamed would be more honest!). So the Red Cross was the unfortunate choice of my first-ever practical volunteering efforts (P and I have long contributed financially.)

This involved door-to-door collections of, I was advised, discarded clothes, toys, that sort of thing. In the event, it involved everything imaginable and unimaginable. Knives (all shapes and sizes), half a samurai sword, artificial limbs (none matching), two sets of false teeth, what looked like a false eye (though possibly an odd-shaped marble), walking sticks, a mouse (hang on there girls! A computer mouse), a Masonic apron, two mauve bridesmaids’ dresses, three women’s wigs, assorted sanitary ware (ugh!) - even the discarded Christmas gift of a puppy (dogs not for life in that community then).

And for the next few days, I had this ever-present nightmare of bumping into a toothless, one-legged Polyphemus on his way to the Masonic Hall brandishing half a samurai sword supported by a bald lady in a mauve wedding dress bearing a bidet...

Anyway, I was doing fine in the first street on the list I was given till I got to the house at the end. A dark-haired, middle-aged woman eventually answered the door. Before I had a chance to get in a word, however, she smiled sweetly and lisped: "Sorry, ducky, I’m in the middle of blowdrying the budgie".

I was so dumbstruck my jaw dropped to the ground, words froze in my mouth and the door slammed shut in my ashen face.

So if, during tomorrow’s UK local and European elections (or the run-up to the next UK general election), you need a sure-fire method of ridding yourself of unwanted visitors - canvassers/ politicians/ double-glazing salesmen posing as canvassers/ politicians (any difference, anyone?) -this lady may just have the answer…

P.S. Spending long weekend in far corner of UK = insoluble equation:
QED No laptop + no WiFi connection = incommunicado till Monday!