Well, it’s been a bit of a non-existant weekend so far, hasn’t it? Lazing about in bed all day yesterday saying you had a headache was not the best use of your time, now, was it? But then you know today is going to be a challenge – the mother-in-law’s birthday party, we all know how much you hate those family gatherings.
Finally it’s been recognised that you’re not a fan and you’re not expected to stay. But did this make you feel better? Of course not. Instead you feel guilty. Guilty that what you wanted – to be excused from these things – actually makes you feel selfish. It’s her day. Why can’t you just accept that instead of feeling hard done by that you have to be dragged to these things?
Don’t make the excuse that you have nothing to wear. You do have things, just not new things. The black trousers and that nice stripy top will do just fine. Too bad you left your posh shoes at the office though. Never mind, nobody will be looking at your feet, they’ll all be wondering when you decided bright red hair would be your thing.
Just make the most of the buffet and then get the hell outta dodge.
I guarantee you’ll get this stuck in your head. If you like Madness’ old stuff, you will love their new album. Buy it. Now.
We spent Easter down in Sussex at my parents’ house. I don’t think we’ve spent so much time travelling up and down to see them as we have this year, since we moved up to Manchester, but it’s mainly been because of Mum’s health and the fact that we didn’t get to spend Christmas with them. We travelled down on Saturday, a very fast and easy journey for a change – I think most people did their travelling on Good Friday.
My brother and his family came over on Sunday, not that I saw much of them – my brother spent most of his time outside washing his van, and his partner and their daughter spent a lot of time upstairs. We didn’t really have many conversations at all. The few times I did speak to my sister “in-law” (they’re not married so I’m never quite sure how to refer to her) she was quite sanctimonious, which is unusual for her, and she told M off several times for trying to show her a game he has been playing on the tablet. I totally understand that she doesn’t want my niece to become interested in video games or electronics – she is only two – but don’t be rude about it to me or my eight year old! I don’t particularly like hearing her two year old ask for “boob” and “other boob” and for her to whip her tit out at any given opportunity in front of everyone, but I wouldn’t say it to her two year old, or to her for that matter – I just make myself scarce and keep my views to myself. Anyway, as I said, they didn’t really stay long.
On Monday, Mum, the boy and I went to Hastings to do some shopping (Mum treated me to some lovely new clothes, and M some books and toys – we’re so spoilt!) and have some lunch before going to visit my grandmother. The boy had a huge meltdown in the middle of Pizza Express because we wouldn’t let him unpack and build his new Lego, which put a bit of a dampener on things, but by the time we reached my grandmother’s apartment he seemed to be back to his old self. He’s full of cold at the moment and I guess we all have bad days but sometimes he behaves like a moody teenager and it really gives me a glimpse of what life might be like in about five years’ time (eek).
My grandmother seemed as sprightly as ever, considering she’s 94 (as she tells everyone constantly) and currently has a severe case of gout. I only hope that if I’m around at 94 I am like her (but without the gout). I know a lot of it is an act for visitors as Mum says she’s miserable and cantankerous a lot of the time these days but of course I don’t see that side of her whereas my mum sees her at least once a week.
On Tuesday we woke late – usually my mum brings us in a cup of tea at about 8:30am and by then we’ve usually been jumped all over by the boy, but for some reason he hadn’t disturbed us and Mum didn’t make tea until gone 9am. Then Dad started blustering about saying we were going to be late for the train – what train? Turns out he wanted us to go on a steam train from Tenterden to Bodiam and back, then have some lunch. The only trouble was, the train was in 40 minutes and we weren’t even out of bed. Somehow we managed to be up and out of the house within 15 minutes, Dad drove like a maniac down the narrow country lanes to Tenderden and we made the train by the skin of our teeth.
The journey itself takes quite some time – the trains aren’t allowed to travel more than about 20mph as the track is not in the best condition – but the weather was pleasant and the scenery picturesque. There is something so peaceful about travelling by steam, even with the noise and the smoke – a bygone age that somehow feels natural. It wasn’t too busy either because it was so early and those that were travelling with us disembarked at Bodiam and set off for the brisk walk uphill to the castle (we didn’t because of Mum). On the return leg we were the only travellers in the carriage and the ticket collector spent a long time chatting to us and telling us about the history of the Kent & East Sussex Railway and their plans for the future. A very interesting man with great stories to tell. My dad was in his element and we all told him he should volunteer.
Once back in Tenterden we headed for lunch at Prezzo where we had the most amazing food – I’ve never eaten at a Prezzo before but I’ll certainly be looking up my local one (it’s at Media City, if you want to know). I had calamari followed by spaghetti with chilli and prawns – delicious. This was only the second time we have all eaten out together since M was born – my dad has very fancy tastes when it comes to restaurants and up till now there would have been no chance of M finding anything he liked on the menu (or even if there was a children’s menu) but Dad seems to have mellowed and M now eats virtually anything and is (mostly) well behaved. Dad had forgotten to print out a voucher he had seen for money off the bill so I downloaded their app and found the voucher code – but when the time came to give the code to the waitress, I’d lost all mobile signal and couldn’t get it to work! The husband and I spent a good 20 minutes wandering round the restaurant by windows and doors trying to pick up a 3G signal but Orange weren’t having any of it. Just as we were going to admit defeat the manager told us they had free wifi and all was saved, just like that.
Wednesday came around all too quickly but by then I was missing my own bed (the spare bed at my parents’ is too soft and gives me back ache) so I was quite pleased to be going home. Again, a pleasant drive home with no real hold ups. And just to annoy me, I slept appallingly! I’ve tried to make up for it since
I have had the rest of the week off work as my childminder is off getting married, and I had great plans for doing all kinds of things this week – and we’ve not done ANY of them. M is snorting like a truffle pig and trying hard to cough up a lung or two, so we’ve spent our time building Lego towns and watching cartoons. Easygoing, no fuss. Bliss.
Back to work on Monday though.
I’ve taken to spending my lunch hours sitting in my car, watching the world go by or reading. If I don’t then inevitably I work straight through from morning till evening without so much as a proper break. Some may think it lonely; I think it’s peaceful – a break away from the voices of colleagues talking about work, emails coming in that I automatically read, calls to be answered. Peaceful despite the aeroplanes taking off or landing at the airport, even the huge A380s which look like they’ll never manage to get any higher and appear to barely avoid scraping the roof of the office.
I watch the comings and goings of the patrons of the local American bar/restaurant, the budget hotel and the expensive gym. On Monday I watched an articulated lorry negotiate its way through the busy car park and perform a marvelously miraculous manoeuvre to turn itself around in order to make a delivery, the cab like a nodding dog as the driver skilfully weaved it left and right and backwards into just the right spot.
On Tuesday lunchtime a coach arrived. I watched it for a while but only the driver emerged, Mr Messy mug in one hand, cigarette and phone in the other. I watched as he walked around the coach a number of times while speaking to persons unknown on his phone and puffing his fag between breaths. I watched the passengers watching the driver through the coach windows. I lost interest until an identical coach pulled up behind the first. The drivers deliberated, cogitated and discussed and suddenly there was a flurry of activity. The passengers began to disembark the second coach and I saw that they were elderly. There was a great deal of shuffling, slippers and struggling up and down the huge steps of the coaches. One had to come down backwards. The drivers unloaded and reloaded the now empty coach, suitcases and walking frames and walking stick/seat things unceremoniously removed from one and chucked into the hold of the other. The whole saga was strangely fascinating, wondering where these people came from and where they were going, off on a little holiday, supposedly a relaxing break interrupted by transport problems. I hope the rest of their trip remained uneventful.
Today I didn’t have a lunch hour. I was only due to work four hours (although this got extended to five). I still got to have my time of observing others, however. This morning I had to have some blood tests, fasting ones for routine glucose and cholesterol check ups. Our local hospital, a short walk from our house, has a drop-in blood test clinic every day so I arrived early and took my ticket, then sat in the long corridor with the other people clutching their little green number tickets and their looks of trepidation and boredom. There were only four people in front of me, the quietest I have ever seen the department; previously I’ve had to wait over an hour to be seen. The three others took their turns then two new nurses arrived, one coughing and spluttering over everybody and the other chatting about the dream she had had last night (“I dreamt one of my nostrils was twice the size of the other!”) and there was a delay as they all got into the discussion over dreams and deliveries that hadn’t arrived and who was having what for dinner. What seemed like forever but was probably only five minutes turned my nonchalance into more of “a bit of a flap”, only made worse by the young student who was to prick me who I swear was more panicky than me. After two failed attempts to find my vein the procedure was, of course, over in seconds and apart from a small bruise and the smallest of red dots I lived to fight another day.
I’ve been MIA for a week because we’ve been celebrating ‘Febmas’ with my family down south. Because Mum was in hospital for most of December including the festive period, we had agreed to have a bit celebration at February half term instead. We had a full ‘Febmas’ lunch with all the trimmings including crackers, exchanged presents and generally had a very festive day. Mum was amazing, you’d never know she’d just had major surgery. Dad was surprisingly relaxed, my grandmother’s hearing didn’t seem as bad as usual and my niece was as adorable as ever.
My brother had a bit of a clash with my dad and there was a bit of shouting and arguing towards the end but that’s nothing new in our family. I am worried about him though – he seemed stressed and preoccupied and I wish he’d talk to me. I have rather neglected him of late – we are both so caught up in the minutiae of our own lives that we have rarely spoken or emailed lately and I feel bad about that. I miss the days when we lived close and would meet up for veggie food and a few drinks and set the world to rights.
The cough that I came away with became progressively worse until my mum made me a temporary resident appointment at her GP surgery where I had the misfortune to be seen by an extremely rude European GP (German I think). She shouted at me saying she couldn’t see me because I wasn’t registered there and sent me back to the reception area, then once the receptionist informed her I did need to be seen and indeed was registered as a temporary resident, told me in no uncertain terms that I didn’t have pneumonia (I didn’t think I did!) but then conceded that I have in fact got bronchitis.
I now have a week’s supply of antibiotics, an inhaler and a certain sense of smugness that I had at least had good reason to have had an appointment in the first place! The coughing is so bad (surprising when I’ve been practicing so much) that I have to stop and check my pelvic floor before each bout so I hope the antibiotics kick in soon! Luckily I have the rest of the week off work to spend some time with the boy on his half term break so we’re having a much needed pyjama day today.
Not the best photo I’ve ever taken, but I was too busy scoffing the macaroni cheese to worry about focusing the camera lens on it!
This is delicious comfort food that’s really quick to make. As Nigella states in her book, when you want quick comforting food you don’t want to be faffing about in the kitchen whisking up a roux, so this recipe uses evaporated milk and eggs to do the same job to great effect. I could quite easily eat double this recipe in one sitting.
I add in some cubed pancetta just for extra
calories comfort, so this is my slightly altered recipe below. You could also use bacon, mushrooms, ham, whatever takes your fancy really.
- 250g macaroni
- 100g cubed pancetta
- 250g grated mature Cheddar or Red Leicester (or mix of both)
- 250ml evaporated milk
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7.
- Cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions then drain and place in an ovenproof dish.
- Dry fry the pancetta cubes until crispy.
- While the pasta is cooking, put the cheese, evaporated milk, eggs and nutmeg into a bowl and mix.
- Add in the cooked pancetta.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni, stir well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until it is bubbling and blistering on top.
- Eat in your pyjamas in front of the TV with a spoon.
Let me know if you try it!
Adapted slightly from Nigella Macaroni Cheese