Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for June, 2012


Reg our cockatiel has finally passed on.  It was a sad morning when we arrived downstairs to find the little body supine with rigor mortis on the bottom of the cage.  Mini son who had become attached to the grumpy old bird was distraught; first with the loss and then guilt that he had not been feeding him enough.   (I had in fact been topping up when I thought mini son had forgotten or with water on hot days, so maybe, the bird had been overfed and it was my fault!)

We acquired Reg in rather different circumstances than you might imagine.  I returned home some years ago


to be told we now had a bird.  Expecting a homing pigeon or robin with a broken wing I peered under the lid of the shoebox to see trembling in the corner a small grey bundle of feathers and fury spitting angrily at the injustices of being caught.  I was told how it had been flying around all day, landing on our garage, on the fence at the back of the garden and down near the rabbits.   As  the children approached, it flew off only to return a few minutes later.  Despite the children and their noisy friends playing and chasing the poor bird, it continued returning to the mayhem.

As the day wore on the bird whistled angrily at them, ventured closer, never too near to be caught.   Finally it had flown into the garage and perched exhausted on a dresser at the back.  A path through the cluttered garage was cleared and the bird approached tentatively.  Any hand held out was pecked at viciously.  Brave and fearless Sexy Sporty Dad was called upon to retrieve the now exhausted bird.   Despite several attempts to attack the restrictive hands the bird allowed himself to be caught.

By the time I arrived home Middle Son had already acquired a small handful of food for the bird from friends who owned love birds.    We tried to identify the tiny bird; grey feathers all over his back with strips of white down his wings.  A little yellow face had two very distinctive red spots on his cheeks hence he had already been named Reg to tie in with red.   Later I discovered these are actually orange in colour but he was Reg for ever more.  The most striking feature was the tuft of yellow feathers on his head.

The bird was shaking and spitting but had no real fight left in him.  I was convinced it had flown into the dark garage to be left alone and die as wild creatures have a tendency to do.  Later that evening a knock on the door revealed just a bird cage.  My enterprising Middle Son, had been around the estate before my return asking if people had a cage.  He had been directed to the house of someone I knew through school vaguely.  The girl at the house told him they did have a cage and later left it on our doorstep.  Months after, I ran into her mother who was a little surprised at my thanks; a few days later the stand for the cage was delivered for me at school.  She apparently had no idea we’d had the cage and now wanted the stand out of the loft as well.

An unhappy and trembling Reg was placed in the newly cleaned and fresh cage with water and food overnight.   Tomorrow if he survived, I would locate the owner and return him, much to the dismay of my children.    Reg did survive but I never found the owner.

I did try, and I tried hard.  I made posters leaving them all round town.  I put them up at the vets who would listen out for anyone lamenting the loss of their bird.  I handed in a poster to the pet food shop in town, who told me it was a cockatiel and sold me a small amount of food to keep going along with a book on cockatiel care.  She also gave me some toys from a stack of old stock for him to play with.  I also trawled the internet and discovered a weekly magazine devoted to bird care in which I placed a notice saying that we had found one, whether it ever got printed I do not know.

I had only one reply saying “her friend had lost a very valuable parakeet and this must be it, could she come and pick it up”.  When I quizzed the lady in question she seemed reluctant to say any more and she was even less knowledgeable about birds than I was. I suggested the friend call if she thought the bird was hers.  I heard nothing.

Reg soon became part of the family.  We believe after watching his behaviour particularly in those early days, that he had not been treated as well as he might.  He certainly did not like Sexy Sporty Dad or Middle Son who’s voice was becoming nearly as deep as his fathers.    He would back up in the cage and spit if he heard their voices.   He tolerated me, Mini Son and initially No 1 Son.    It became apparent very early on that he was very grumpy and would not allow us any contact with him.  Not what it says in the books about them being very friendly birds and easy to look after.

They are described as sociable birds and live in groups in the wild so I was worn down by the constant demands of three caring children that he was lonely during the day.  I sucummed in the end or I would have had to allow them to take it in turns to stay at home during the day not sure the schools would have been quite so understanding.   We acquired Summer, a young female who had already been trained to come out of the cage and fly around the room and then hop on to your hand and go back.   They became quite attached to each other and although it took a long time before we allowed them in the same cage they would yell the house down if one was out of sight.  Reg did not pick up on any of her tameness and could not be trained to allow us near, which made us think he was on the older side, young birds are trained easily.  One morning after 6 months or so of living together Summer developed a chill or cold of some kind and I arranged to take her to the vets in the afternoon.  She did not make it through the morning and the appointment had to be cancelled.

Reg went downhill very fast after that.  He would not sing, warble or even whistle, he seemed even more grumpy than usual.  It took less convincing this time that he needed a friend.   We allowed him some grief time; giving us a chance to know he did not have the same chill as Summer before I was dispatched to purchase a new bird.

Peaches arrived having been removed from a cage of siblings so was already used to having company, but we slowly introduced her.    It did not take them long for the alpha male to be replaced by the alpha female.  It was Reg who was henpecked in this relationship.

Peaches and Reg had some humdingers of arguments but they hated it when separated.  We did for Reg’s sake keep them next to each other in different cages.  It was while we were on holiday some months later that Natty my neighbour rang to say Peaches had died in the night and the only explanation we could find was that we had had one of the very few mini heatwaves and it had all been too much for her.

Reg missed her but after a week or so he began to come out of his reclused state and started joining in conversation at table, more often than not taking over as we could not be heard.  He loved company in the form of humans talking to him and he would warble back.  He flourished on attention and attitude.  He actually made a good companion to complain to as he never answered back or if he did it was automatically what you wanted or needed to hear.  Middle son began feeding him from his hand without pecking and he would come to the edge of the cage and whistle if he thought I was ignoring him.

Reg’s noise and high pitched notice grabbing squeak became as normal as the children fighting over the last potato, or squabbling to watch their chosen channel on the TV.   He developed a method of calling to me and sitting on the feed tray if he was hungry or thirsty, as soon as I approached he would hop of so we didn’t brush together as I removed it.   If I didn’t see or answer his needs he would continue, the volume going up in decibels till I did.  Once satiated, he would whistle his thanks and expect me to attempt to whistle the same tune back.  It delighted him to chat in this way; he would whistle and I had to copy his chords.  My whistling is bad at the best of times so Reg would whistle more and more complex notes and he would always win with a final little song of such triumphant difficulty I learnt to accept defeat quickly and graciously.

The other morning I came down to start work and there was no little birdsong to greet me.  I could hear the dawn chorus outside but the cage was not responding.   Reg was on his way to meet Summer and Peaches and live out eternity in bird heaven.

I am selling the cages, so the temptation does not have the convenience of already having…….

Sad times but we feel he had a good end of life.



Check out and see what I am cooking up this week on Teatime Treats with Tiggy


Rogan Josh

To some degree I am a creature of habit and my menus depict this.  The down side of this is that meals become predictable and the children are agitated by a change in routine.  I do try to keep a degree of flexibility and novelty.

Saturday nights tend to be international night, we might go Mexican, Italian (other than bolognaise) or often a curry.   Curries are great as there are so many different varieties, a spicy Indian will differ greatly from the creamy coconut of mild Thai curry.   

I am a disciple of the Indian chef Gurpareet Bains author of Indian Superfood.  Having been a follower of his for a while now I have found that the same few ingredients turn up through not only his meals but they are now creeping into the most mundane of my meals to spice them up slightly;  Ginger, Garlic, Chilli, Nigella seeds, whole spices such as cumin, cardamon, turmeric, fennel seed, garam masala are all now basic cupboard essentials.   What is even more important I use them all and they are replenished regularly so are always pungent and fresh.

Here is my take on Gurpareet’s fabulous Rogan Josh curry.  As you will know I am not an exact cook and foods get thrown in or amounts get changed to satisfy children’s tastes and reluctance to experiment, I have tried to give an idea of how much spice I used to feed a family of two adults and three children.
Olive oil
Green cardamom pods – crushed (I only used 5)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
½ teaspoon of nigella seeds
Onion,  sliced thinly
Garlic cloves, chopped really finely.   (I used 6 chunky cloves)
1 teaspoon of Turmeric
2 teaspoons of garam masala
3x 400g of tinned chopped tomatoes  –  this sounds a lot but it leaves the curry with a depth to the richness and tomato does not overpower the dish.
Ginger – again lots, peeled and then grated (Gurpareet suggests 3 tablespoons – I used a bit less)
Chillies –  I used 1 red  (Gurpareet uses  2-6 green ones )
Diced beef – this can be swapped for any meat although the tomatoes and beef go particularly well together – if I was cooking for more people I would double the meat and up the tomatoes,  depending on numbers I would up the other ingredients slightly.
Chopped Coriander to garnish

I have learnt the key to a good curry is to add the ingredients to a hot pan really quickly allowing the smell of the cooking spices to envelope you in a blanket of anticipation then leave it for a long time to allow the flavours to mix and develop.  The only way to do this properly is to prepare all the ingredients beforehand and have them ready to add.

Put the empty pan on a hot ring and allow it to start heating up.  Turn the heat down as the oil goes in, (I find my instant touch gas brilliant for this but you will know your own cooker). Add the cardamom, cumin and nigella seeds, stirring constantly. 

No more than 2 minutes then add the onion, again stirring constantly, allow this to soften and take on the flavours of the seeds.

About 5 minutes then stir in the garlic

Sprinkle the turmeric over and add half the garam masala, keep stirring.

At this point I added a tin of tomatoes and rinsed the tin with water, then added the ginger and chillies.  Turn the heat up and allow the liquid to reduce and thicken, now you can just stir occaisionally.

Add the beef or whichever meat you are using and allow it to seal off for about 5 minutes.  

Finally add the last of the tomatoes and rinse with water

Bring to the boil then turn down the heat to a simmer and leave uncovered for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Cover the pot and leave again for at least 30 minutes still remembering to stir now and again.   

 It is at this point I begin the rice.

I am lucky enough to own a rice cooker, not one you plug in, this one goes either in the oven or in the microwave.  It is one of the few things I do use the exact timings and measurements for in my cooking as it has revolutionised my complete record of failure with rice.

I put 330g of dry white basmati rice (4 adult portion)  in the pot. Then add 550ml of boiling liquid over it.  (there are two lines one for the rice and one for the liquid which I religiously stick to).  However I usually spice up my rice and do not add salt by adding a stock cube instead.     
To serve with this Rogan Josh; I added a generous helping of whole cumin seeds and a chicken stock cube which I had crumbled over the rice.  I then mixed the rice, seeds and cube before topping up with the boiling water.  The pot comes with two lids the lower flat one with two tiny holes and the top with a slight dome and a handle also has two holes.   One lid goes on and the top one is added with the holes at opposite angles. 

Put it in the pre-heated hot oven for 17 minutes,  I do actually use my timer for this.  When the buzzer goes off take it out of the oven – and I put it on the table, again I set the timer for 10 minutes this time.  

DO NOT OPEN THE LIDS – initially this was probably the most difficult thing for me but I have learnt.  (10 minutes is the minimum – it will remain hot and be fine for 45 mins to an hour –  This is my rice cooker – others will differ slightly)

I use this 10 minutes to pop in some Naan Bread and lay up the table with poppadums and chutneys and then call the family.  As I bring the Rogan Josh to the table I added the remaining garam masala.  I would also normally add a good sprinkling of chopped coriander but I had used it all up the night before.  It gives a fresh cleansing flavour that compliments the curry  so is not just a decorative herb.

Despite the exacting method of making rice, it sounds complex but it is so easy to follow and the results are fantastic.   Although I used all those strong spices the curry was not too spicy or hot; it is full of complimenting flavours and disappeared with seconds being helped on to plates. 

Enjoy – let me know what meat you use and what sides you like to serve with your curry.


Find out what I am up to in my other blog  Tiggy Hayes

Lemon Cheese

Sunday lunch and I didn’t have anything for pudding. It is only on a Sunday that I go to the trouble of making a pudding but it had completely slipped my mind when I was shopping earlier in the week.

I had a browse in the fridge and cupboard and found some ingredients to make a sort of cross between lemon meringue pie and lemon cheesecake.


Digestive biscuits – I used ½ packet
Butter melted
Philidelphia soft cheese  –  I had a nearly full pot but no plans to use it up
Lemon curd –  this half jar had been in the fridge for ages
Crème fraiche – ¾ of a pot left and it would go off soon 
Gelatine leaf – usually have this in the cupboard
Touch of hot water

Crush the biscuits well and add to the melted butter, coat well then arrange in a serving dish.  I made a thick base rather than a well.

Allow to cool in the fridge.

I used the gelatine leaf and added the smallest touch of boiled water, then brought the whole thing back to the boil which melted the leaf.

  I threw all the other ingredients into a bowl and mixed thoroughly to make a cream then added the geletine and mixed well again.

I topped the biscuit base with the cream mix and left in the fridge to chill.

Because there was not a lot of anything no strong overpowering flavours came through,  it just tasted very light and refreshing and the whole family loved it.  A dusting of icing sugar would have made it look good but I didn’t have any.   

Have you got a quick easy pudding recipe, let me have it and I will have a go.



check out what I am up to the rest of my time in Tiggy Hayes

Old School Network

Once, in the not so dim and distant past it was acceptable and even expected that the first born son would follow in the family business taking on the family title.  The second son would go into the Church, subsequent boys went to the army.  Daughters would marry to enhance the family’s standing and fortunes.   Love, it seems was a rare occurrence within marriages particularly as the nobility of the family became more prominent.  Poorer families also followed this tradition to some extent; the sons would go to work with Dad and girls go into service with Mum or elsewhere.   Jane Austen depicts the expectations and conventions in graphic terms throughout her books.  Strains of this antiquated custom still exist today particularly within royal or titled families.

As history comes a little more up-to-date the Old School Network mentality expanded particularly in business.  You sent your son out to work for someone with whom you already had a connection.  He had already attended the school of his father and would wear his old school tie to interview; most likely being interviewed by an old school friend of his fathers.  Regardless of capabilities or personality he would get the job on the strength of his connection.

Of course now all this networking is history and we are all judged on our aptitude and ability, or is it?

I have found networking alive and prospering; albeit in a different guise, the old school network may not recognise.

I was very lucky to have been invited to, a Women in Business (WIB) lunch which opened my eyes to a completely new way of working.   We arrived and I was asked to put a business card on everyone’s plate.   Not very appetising my business card; but then I found cards already placed by all the other women.  A short welcome and we were invited to sit I thought for some food, after all I had eaten a tiny breakfast in anticipation and that was so long ago.

Very kindly the lady who appeared in charge decided to start at the furthest point away from me so I could watch proceedings, I waited as the ladies tested whistles, football rattles and a small child’s wooden tambourine.  Having decided on the football rattle the ladies started from the furthest corner.  They all seemed very comfortable and all knew each other as they gave a one minute opener to their business; the purpose of the rattle was to tell them time was up.  Some went over, some didn’t get to the rattle and a few, very few were spot on.

I watched in horror as the speeches got closer and closer to me.  Was I actually supposed to tell them what my business was, in one minute!   Closer and closer, I wriggled in my seat which now was not as comfortable as it had been.  I looked at the Impressive list of visitors on the agenda and listened to their polished performances.   I was in trouble and I didn’t know how to make the world open up and swallow me.

All too quickly it was my turn.  All eyes turned on me and I mean all eyes watching to see what I was going to deliver.   I could feel the room getting hot and my mouth so dry.  Slowly I took a sip of water praying I didn’t choke on it.  I opened my mouth as a high pitched squeak came out “ I am….. and I work for…..!”  As I launched further into my selling spiel my eyes firmly set on the rattle holder hoping to get everything said before she time outted me.   I could see her twitching, her hand moving slowly towards the rattle and glancing back to her phone with the timer.   I finished off “so I am really hoping this will launch and be successful”.  I sat down with a heavy thud as the rattle sounded the end of my allotted time.

Apologies to the ladies that followed me I really did not hear their speeches.  I drank copious half glasses of chilled water, my hands shaking as I lifted from table to mouth.  My face gradually began to cool and hopefully return to a normal colour and my breathing became a little less fast and furious.

Having finished the openers we then had to endure longer looks at two of the businesses.  Fascinating as they were my stomach was by now turning somersaults at the indignity of not being fed.   I felt embarrassed at the competition of my stomach rumbling above the poor ladies presenting their in depth insight into their businesses.

There was food eventually and I tucked in as if I had been starved forever.  My stomach by now resigned to the fact it was never going to be fed again had twisted itself into knot upon knot with the cocktail of emotions I had already been put through.  Each mouthful struggled to make its way past all the emotive twists causing me to feel nauseous and full.   Unlike me I did not finish my plate although it was delicious, and on a future visit to that pub I will order it again.

Naively I thought it was all over but before we were dismissed we had to stand again without timer and tell people of recent successes through the network and ask for a one to one with whoever might be able to give us some leads.   Followed by, the sudden onset of vultures picking at the carcass of their prey.  The faster quicker vultures win the richest pickings.   I, being the victim had enough meeting opportunities to never actually work again but would any of them bring me business?

One visit I did accept was to a BNI (British Networking) Chapter breakfast meeting at a nearly local hotel.  I walked terrified in to a room full of mainly men and felt them watching, waiting, willing the moment to come when they could pounce and win the best deal of the day.  An even more formal and focused networking group where you must attend breakfast every week or send another representative.   The onus is on you to bring a lead to someone each week and to report back on any you had been given.

I am not good at saying no but I surprised myself when put on the spot at the end of the meeting and asked if I wished to part with large sums of money and commit myself to every Friday morning.  I actually said no, surprising not only myself but the many round me.   I did explain that as a sole trader the commitment was too much and when I could afford that kind of money I would probably no longer need the leads because I would have to be very very successful indeed.  I wonder what the old school network would make of these updated and focused networking clubs.

Old School

I have since declined several further invites to similar groups and have opted instead to join my local Chamber of Commerce who seem to be working to the same goal as me; helping local businesses survive and flourish, rather than their own purses.   I am also embracing the new internet networking medium of twitter and facebook which are reaping rewards of their own as I gain business from those friends I thought I had lost contact with, or followers of followers.  Despite all this networking I have found that the best advert I have, has been the first edition of the magazine which has sold itself.

I am sure the old school network of historical England would never approve of these social networks but they have their place and as a marketing tool in this recession hit land should we not use every tool at our convenience and pull our country through.

Happy networking


Check out and see what I am cooking up this week on Teatime Treats with Tiggy

Simply Sausages

Sometimes I like to serve something different to sausage and mash, but in a family where they are all wary of anything different it is quite a challenge.  This disappeared of the table so quickly it became an instant hit.  I use cheap pork sausages, sometimes the thin ones so they all seem to be getting more.

Onions – sliced
Bacon lardons
Brown sugar a good generous sprinkling
Sausages – cut into half or even thirds if they are really big
Potatoes cut into 1cm diced squares 
Tomato puree again a good squeeze
Chicken stock enough to cover the whole dish 

I use a roasting dish to make this one but a casserole dish or even the slow cooker would work as well.

Melt the butter and add the onions cooking in a high heat, for about 5 minutes.  Watch them, stir if necessary.

Add the bacon lardons and a good sprinkling of brown sugar.  Give these about 10 minutes before adding the sausages and allowing them to brown slightly.

Add the diced potatoes, tomato puree and the chicken stock making sure the stock covers everything.  

Cook for at least an hour allowing the potatoes to be soft and the mixture to have thickened into a delicious tomato sauce.  If it starts to dry out add a little more water towards the end.  

Serve with vegetables of your choice.  I chose broccoli to give a splash of colour, but beans would go.  I have added eating apple to the dish which complements it.  See what you think!

The only reason my family didn’t help themselves to thirds and even fourths was it ran out.   I am thinking of doubling up next time, but this would make a great kids meal if you are not sure how many youngsters you have to feed.

Enjoy and let me know how you get on.


Follow my other blog at Tiggy Hayes

Sweet Potato Mash

One of the reasons I don’t follow recipes and particularly the ones with exacting measurements is that there is always a quarter of this left or a sprinkling of that.   What do you do with these tiny non useful amounts of weird and wonderful ingredients?  Normally they hog up valuable space in my fridge until they are well and truly past their sell by / eat by date and crawling out the fridge without help.

Sometimes I find I have enough to throw together something different and make it a fridge meal.    Having found some wonderful fresh vegetables in my organic Riverford box and a fridge full of odd bits I would never have used  I decided to put them together hoping to keep some for lunches over a few days.  It was a little more popular than I anticipated and lunch will be somewhat drab for the rest of the week.

Sweet Potatoes 
Fennel  (half left over from another dish)
Ginger chopped small
Onion ( I had a quarter left over from a BBQ and chucked it in)
Chilli  (having chopped a large chilli up for a curry – I decided it would be too spicy for the children hence a ready chopped half chilli in fridge)
Spinach an ever versatile and useful vegetable that I sneak into lots of dishes 
Soured Cream – left over from Fajitas
Cheese  –  this was pre-grated Red Leicester –  not used when we went on a picnic, but you could use any cheese
Parsely – from my herb garden to finish it off

Boil the sweet potatoes with the fennel, ginger and onion till soft enough to mash.

Drain then mash adding a touch of butter.  I also threw in a large dollop of soured cream at this point.

Add the chilli and some cheese then mix well.

In a baking dish lay the spinach in a deep layer on the bottom and cover with more dollops of the soured cream.

Add the potato mix on top and finish off with the rest of the cheese.

Cook in hot oven for about 20 minutes until the top is bubbling and golden.   


You could use this as a main dish maybe add a beaten egg to the mash or serve with boiled or poached egg on top.  I served it as a side dish to accompany a piece of chicken – delicious.  

Try it out,  I would not expect you to have the same ingredients in your fridge as I found in mine so try out other combinations and let me know how you get on.  Leave out what you don’t have or like but be adventurous and mix the flavours together.  Share your attempts with me.

Happy food


Check out my ramblings from my other blog Tiggy Hayes.  This week we went out to dine but I am still passionate about my food!

Dining Out on the Past

It was such a rare event.  In fact I cannot remember when the last time was.  With the latest news coming from the media; about children staying at home till they are 35, I am not sure there ever will be another.

Having deposited our children at various venues; Mini Son on cub camp, Middle Son to a birthday BBQ and No 1 Son out with friends, Sexy Sporty Dad and I were unusually left with no children on a Saturday night.  The week had been the usual cocktail of stress, emotion and effort and this new concept of chillaxing was completely alien to me.

We decided to dine out.   The thinking behind the suggestion definitely came from me in that flash moment of realisation that I didn’t have to cook for the children so why should I cook at all.   With only two of us, a pub meal would not be quite as financially draining as when we have three hungry boys baying for more.

We are really very lucky where we live as we are surrounded by great pubs, takeaways and restaurants; so where to go?  The decision to go out had not been rashly taken; I had realised this during the week, so had been pondering for a while.  Were we going up-market, or pub grub?  Did we want to go international with Indian, Italian or Chinese?  Would we need to organise a taxi home or go close enough to walk?

There is always my favourite restaurant the Fontmell where I know I would get a wonderful welcome and fabulous food.  We would need to drive there and those boys of mine might want to return home. Dreaming of the food I could see it all now; we would be just taking the first succulent taste of pan fried sole or the popular fontmell fish pie and the phone would go “can I have a lift”.  Torn between the parmesan crust or chauffeuring the children, I suspect I would do one but wish the other.

It needed to be closer to home.

We opted for not going Chinese or Indian as we have a regular family date at the end of term with two families where we celebrate surviving to the end.    I dug out my old list of all the pubs I wanted to visit.  Frighteningly the list of those still to visit is quite long, but here was the opportunity to knock one from it.

Individually we went through each one, ticking off their individual merits, there was always a but!  What happened to the spur of the moment, try and see attitude I had in my teens?

Finally we opted for the one at the end of the road where No 1 Son was visiting.  This ticked most boxes and had just been taken over so the new owners could wow us with their culinary capabilities.  It also meant that we could provide the lift home easily without interrupting our meal.

We arrived in baking sunshine and ordered our meals.  We took drinks down to the garden to enjoy the last beautiful rays of the sun setting over the town.  No 1 Son arrived very smartly not wanting a meal but a drink was quickly accepted.   The little beer garden tucked at the back of the car park was laid out with various tables, a group of people around a table to the side.  We sat quietly down in the opposite corner and relaxed with our drinks.

The sun was still hot and the evening breeze played with the wisps of out of place hair.  Cool refreshing ginger beer revitalised the sagging spirits as we recalled life before children when this was a more common occurrence.    No 1 Son texting and waving to the house behind where his friend Stuart was hanging out of the window.   The two dogs from the other group played and chased each other round the beer garden.

As we watched; the two dogs careered round and round the garden laughed at by their owners. One was the reincarnated “Bullseye” from the film “Oliver” and the other very similar but with different colourings and an added “hienz” variety giving him more speed. I was amazed at the speed they both had, after all “Bullseye” never gave the impression of any real agility.  They raced oblivious into one of the spare tables and carried on without even stopping.   They raced under our table and over my feet not even realising we were there; the owners still laughing did not stop them or apologise to us. One crashed over No 1 Son’s bag, from which luckily he had removed his camera and was trying to show us pictures he had taken that day.  The owners having topped their pints up laughed louder and said nothing.

We moved.

We found a seat in the small outside patio near the front door of the ivy clad Dolphin pub and let the staff know where to bring our meal.  Stuart arrived and joined us.   The two of them disappeared inside to buy themselves drinks, a sign that they were really growing up.  The food arrived; good old comfort food scampi and chips.

The sun was going down but still cast a warm blanket over the gardens.  There was little noise despite being next to the road and the food was delicious.  A huge portion which really I should not have finished but I found myself unable to leave a morsel.  I thought of all the old stories I used on the children: don’t waste it – I’ve paid good money for that; think of all the starving children in Africa who don’t get anything to eat;  you can only have one item on your plate you don’t like – so eat all the rest..

My little Notty – rebuilt with baked bean cans and tights!

I, unlike the children couldn’t find anything not to like and was enjoying every mouthful.  I managed to leave my plate spotless just as Stuart’s Dad James joined us.  Another round of drinks ordered as we told the boys of Datsun Cherries, do you remember them and how many people would fit in them.  We laughed about exploding car exhausts which had made the two boys hit the decks thinking they were being shot at earlier in the day.  Don’t you remember when an exploding car exhaust was a common occurrence, now it seems more likely to be a gunshot?  Driving round with a baked bean can on the end of the exhaust because there was a hole in it.   Keeping a spare pair of tights in your handbag; not because you might lose the ones you were wearing but in case the fan belt went; which in the case of my first little car Notty, a fiat 850 was a regular event.  Life has moved on.

In answer the boys told us they had decided to go on a “protein only” diet and were looking for inspiration.   Their breakfast consisted of bacon in a butty; not sure about the protein in processed bread, and they were definitely not convinced that this should be an occasional treat rather than everyday ritual.  They were happy to be eating dry roasted peanuts to fill the need and could not be persuaded otherwise, baked beans were too healthy, lentils or any pulses not acceptable at all.  Sexy Sport Dad appeared from inside the pub with a raw egg in a glass to tell tales of bravery and nutrition.  The peanuts disappeared and the egg stayed firmly in the glass.  The glass moved round the table stopping periodically in front of each person before the thought more than the sight of it caused it to be moved on.

We arrived home not long after Middle Son; who had settled himself down with a hot chocolate to watch a late night film.  Mini Son returned the next day exhausted having had little sleep but lots of fun from his camping trip.  My family all safe and back home but I had cut another string of motherhood a little more by letting all three out of my sight without babysitter for the whole evening.

This week I have managed to find a little inspiration and have written my first draft of the evil story.  It is not easy to get inside someone else’s mind if you really cannot understand what makes them like that.   So a little more work required I think.  My magazine is now out in the public domain.  A few hiccoughs but hopefully none that cannot be sorted next time.


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