Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for July, 2012

Growing Pains

Sometimes you do wonder how much bad luck you are able to take?   How can some people and families sail through life with no real life changing scares, upsets or worries and other families get the worst of all scenarios.

I remember a close friend of mine, we both worked together and ended up job sharing as we both went part time together.  We both had three boys all within days of each other.  Her three were all planned, she thrived in pregnancy and they were born quickly and easily without problem.  Mine may have been planned but came along bringing with them, miscarriages, emergency C-sections and a spell in special care baby unit.

Commenting on my struggles she told me that I was the strong one and that was why things happen to me.  She said she could not have coped with the trauma and that is why all the bad stuff all seemed to happen to me.   


Arrow marks the spot!

No 1 Son had to have an operation yesterday, it was a simple operation would only take a few minutes and he would walk out later in the day.    At the crack of dawn we arrived at the quiet empty hospital at the appointed time to be booked in.   We still endured a two hour wait before the moment arrived.  

There was a marked change in this operation to his previous ones.  At 16 he was deemed an adult, the staff consulted with him; asked if he had questions, told him what they were planning to do and he had to sign the permission form.  To be fair they did include me as I was there with my list of ifs and buts.    As the nurses came to get us, we started to walk down to the prep room; I was gently directed in the opposite direction.   It is not my favourite past-time watching my children be put to sleep but I do feel it is my right as a parent and at 16 he is still my little boy.  I waved him off, guilt ridden at leaving him to be escorted by two albeit friendly motherly nurses promising to take care of him.

There would be no call from recovery for me to help him come round but he would be up on the ward in about an hour and I could see him there; he had his mobile and would call when he got there.

After nearly two hours of waiting, wondering and worrying I moved to debating, deliberating and deciding to get another coffee, knowing the minute I did they would call.  I got up and picked up my phone and bag.  Ping, ping, ping went the phone as I moved a fraction; to where I got a fleeting signal.   Two messages from Sexy Sporty Dad and one missed call from a blocked number.   I tore up the stairs, no time to wait for the lift to arrive then dawdle its slow passage upwards.   Finding the ward I looked around for staff or someone to tell me where my son was.   A nurse began checking, no they had not called and definitely no-one had come back from theatre to the ward yet.   But had they not rung me?  No!

Perplexed and anxious I turned to go, maybe I would get my coffee after all.   Another nurse rushed up and asked if I was No 1 Son’s mother?   Yes, at least someone seemed to know he was coming to this ward.   Then the punch;   the surgeon needed to speak to me could I go to theatre.  

Woooo!  Winded!  Why would the surgeon need to speak to me.   Half running, slowing to stop that sick feeling flooding my stomach, I fled through the corridors of the hospital back to the theatre waiting room.  “Are you….?” “Yes yes,” I panted “I know he wants to talk to me where is he?”  Probably, I realise now “he” is not the correct way to refer to this God like character you have entrusted your child to; but etiquette was not uppermost in my mind.

“Take a seat” was the answer.    

The lovely nurse who had looked after him earlier came and found me.  I jumped and turned to her.   She told me he was fine but the surgeon wanted to explain what had happened.    At least he was fine whatever fine was; but that niggling pain in my chest knew things had not gone as we hoped.

The surgeon did appear himself, to explain that only one side had been done and that they could not remove the pin from his other hip.   They were sending away to the US for equipment to remove the second one and could we come in next week.   No we were about to leave for France.  He was happy to do it the following week just before he himself left for a month’s holiday.

I know he was out of the operation because I had been speaking to the surgeon; but not allowed to go and see him in recovery, I returned to the ward to await his arrival.  Nothing in a hospital is quick and I endured yet another wait of an hour and a half, before my son was finally brought up to the ward.  I was going to have to give him the news it hadn’t gone as planned. He was going to be upset and angry and guess who would bear the brunt of this. Choosing my words carefully and re-writing them in my head before I told him, I tentatively asked how he was. 

“Do you know?”  He asked, yes I already knew but how did he know.  He had heard the nurses in recovery talking as he drifted in and out of sleep. 

Unlike his brother Middle Son who comes out of anaesthetic hungry and running, No 1 Son is very sick which he continued to be till late into the night, meaning he was unable to reach the targets to allow him to come home with me.

Children’s wards are great, tea and coffee on tap for stressy parents.  A bed in the cupboard pulls down to allow those same stressy parents somewhere to sleep.    Extra food is snuck onto the child’s plates to feed an additional mouth.  The care of your child is very much your responsibility.   No 1 Son at 16 is an adult on an adult male surgical ward.  There are no facilities for visitors.  In fact visiting is a short timed affair to which I did not adhere in the slightest.    The patient is responsible for his own welfare and asking for his needs.  A suddenly shy suffering sick teenager did not know what he wanted or needed except to be better.

I could not leave my little boy on his own in this alien environment still being sick from the anaesthetic.   I outstayed all the other visitors, and ran around finding things to make him feel better and in control.   He had the nurse call button just in reach, the bed control unit to raise or lower his head.  I placed his bag within reach knowing he had his book and phone in it, and an extra £5 note; just in case!  His table had drinks on which when he felt better he might enjoy and I also managed to pay for him to have 24 hour access to the TV/Radio/Telephone unit which together we managed to get not only the internet but his facebook page.  Reluctantly I did have to take my leave so with heavy heart and dull ache in my stomach, not only from not having eaten all day I wandered alone through the now spookily deserted hospital. 

Sexy Sporty Dad had come in to visit earlier in the afternoon but had been delayed by the car breaking down and having to call out the AA.  The starter motor had gone.    This is the car we are driving to France in today, the same car that had been in for a service all week checking it adheres to all the French regulations.     My tiny little car will not fit three growing boys in the back with any luggage for more than a few miles; we have 5 hours of continent driving.  Sexy Sporty Dad did manage with a bit of co-ercing to persuade the garage to squeeze in the extra job this morning; I have no doubt it will cost us.

I have managed to delay the ferry for a day to allow No 1 Son a little longer to recover, and we will be able to attend a family party en route to the ferry port.   What I could not do was change the booking with Travelodge to stay at the ferry port tonight. 

“I am sorry we can only change like for like and the price is different the night you wish to return.”

“I am willing to pay the extra just to change it”

“No the price is £30 cheaper per night per room.  Sorry we cannot change it for you!”   Where oh where is the logic in that!   So providing No 1 Son is feeling ok we are going and we will use the room.

Are we not entitled to now just enjoy a little good luck to take with us, maybe Harry Potter could spare me a small bottle of Felix Felicis, if I promise not to use it to win all the gold medals at the Olympics!

And in a couple of weeks we will revisit hospital and do it all again………


Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy



Chocolate Crunch

This really is too good!  So simple to make and yet so delicious. It is not something the doctor would recommend on a regular basis due to the extreme amounts of everything bad for you but occasionally you just have to go with it.  

Most people have their own version of this and it can be called all sorts of different things; chocolate crunch, fridge cake, polish cake, add some marshmallows and you have my version of rocky road.

We call it delicious.


2 pkt  chocolate digestives or I use chocolate covered oaties
8oz butter
6 dessert spoons of drinking chocolate
2 tablespoons Golden Syrup
large handful or two of sultanas

Melt the butter in  a pan over a low heat until all melted.

Take off the heat and add the chocolate and syrup.

Crush the biscuits into smallish pieces but not crumbs and stir them into the butter mix, followed by the sultanas.

Spread out onto a piece of greaseproof paper into a large dish.  I only use the paper to make it easier to lift out and cut into portions.  Score the portion sizes before it goes into the fridge and becomes too solid.

The longer you can leave it in the fridge the better, so overnight at the very least.

Remove fronm the fridge and re-cut the portions.

Serve as a treat at tea-time, or add cream for a truly sensational pudding.  This is not a treat to be left lying around as it seems to disappear into thin air in our house if left anywhere visible.

Let me know your version of this or how you might make it different.



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

Shepherds Pie

Everyone has a favourite recipe for Shepherds or Cottage Pie; do you use lamb or beef? Do you add cheese? What veg do you add in.   My recipe uses beef and is quick and easy to fit into a busy family life.


Onions chopped finely
Beef (minced)
Mixed herbs
Baked beans
OXO Cubes
Mashed potatoes with milk and butter

I make straight in the serving dish, to save time and washing so while the potatoes are boiling to make the mash, I chop my onions and put them in the microwave to soften (you can add a dash of water or oil but I do for a very short burst with nothing).

Then I add the meat and microwave in short bursts turning regularly.  I want them brown all over, which could easily be done in a pan before transferring.  At this point depending on the meat you may wish to throw some of the additional liquid,   keep some to keep moist but if the meat has lost a lot of water or fat get rid of now.

Sprinkle over the Mixed herbs and Oxo cubes (I use two to give depth) then cover with baked beans.  

Cover with the mashed potato and leave till you are ready to cook then in the hot oven till the mixture is bubbling round the edges and the potato is nicely browned.

Serve with other vegetable if you like or a crunchy salad.  We love pickles and chutneys and these go really well with this.   Great prepare in advance one pot meal for the whole family.

Enjoy and let me know what variations you serve for your hungry mouths.


Find out what I am up to in my other blog  Dawn Chorus

Boredom Blues

The exams are over, the summer holidays are not quite upon us and 16 year olds all over the country are bored. There is nothing to do.  All that intense studying now forgotten and a couple of weeks of doing nothing are beginning to take their toll.   It was great at first, ten weeks of no school stretching into the distant future; there were end of exam parties, end of school parties, parties to end all parties so the first fortnight was spent sleeping and nursing sore heads.

Admittedly the weather which could make so much difference is not being kind to them; but a blanket of despondency envelopes them from the outer world leaving them with nothing to do.   Our Wii has been in much use this past week, alternating between the play station, the tv or computer.  Thankfully despite the rain Colts training began last week with a very wet but hard training session.   I have to be grateful that No 1 Son is keeping fit and he does at least one fitness activity each day, but he is still bored.

My suggestions are met with the derision and disdain they deserve. My offers of paid work are met with cynicism and scepticism at the effort of having to get dressed. I as a parent do not have any good ideas after all I am old and have never had fun!

Maybe a girlfriend might give No 1 Son an interest. He could go and meet her in town; we would probably end up driving him and her to places or events; but there are no free young ladies of the exacting standards he requires, available at the moment.

It would be good if he could get a proper paid job, not odd jobs that his mother could find for him.   He is due to have an operation at the end of July and although it should not cause him much time out, he already knows he will be away from rugby for 6 weeks;  a fact that plays heavily on the spirit.    The unknown quantity is whether he will be able to walk or run directly afterwards or how long it will be before he is able to so is unable to commit to working at the moment.

The operation date we have been expecting has arrived and falls two days before we travel to France on holiday.  A planned early start to catch the 8am ferry for a 6 hour crossing, followed by a 5 hour drive the other side to find our campsite.  Thankfully we will not be in a tent but a chalet which will afford him some comfort once we arrive.   I have managed to delay the ferry for one day but if he is not fit; we have a plan B.   Plan B in my mind is the less favourable option although Sexy Sporty Dad and No 1 Son are rather in favour of it.

I will travel as planned with the other two all the way down through France on my own.   It is probably 8 or 9 years since I have driven in France, so my French is rusty  along with my map reading skills; I can see us ending up in Madrid or Frankfurt.   I do not have a problem with the idea of driving abroad.  My problem is; the time it will take having not had much sleep the night before in order to be there on time,  6 hours of hyperactivity on board an enclosed ferry, then the solo drive.  My nerves are jangling already and there are still two weeks to go.   Sexy Sporty Dad and No 1 Son will take a ferry / train combination or fly to a convenient town nearby for me to collect them.    I am even now investigating all the alternatives.

A chink in the armour of ennui appeared at the end of last week.  Sexy Sporty Dad’s brother El Capitano rang

damp and drizzly

damp and drizzly

to complain he too had bored 16 year old twins and was tearing what is left of his hair out trying to get them to do something, anything.  He had hatched a cunning plan and was setting off from Derbyshire down to Falmouth to pitch a tent; he happened to be planning to tow his pride and joy boat with him.   Would No 1 Son be available to join in?

Naturally, I leapt at the opportunity for him to have some fun before the others broke up and his impending operation truncated any sense of adventure.  The lethargy was so embedded that he however declined the opportunity, not only leaving his parents in despair, but El Capitano with two reluctant participants not really wanting to go either.  Forced into going, the conniving cousins called as they reached the M6 to travel down, urging him to reconsider with stories of mayhem, mishap and mischief.    Minutes later he was packing a rucksack and we spent an unplanned Sunday taking him to the motorway junction to meet the weary travellers.

A fistful of cash, his phone topped up and a party pack of drink; we waved him away.  He is adamant he wants to be home for Mini Son’s 10th birthday celebrations later in the week so El Capitano will put him on a train from Cornwall and hope he manages to change enough times to get home.  Having not been on a train alone before, this will be a good experience and practise in case Plan B has to come into play for our holiday.

The rain has returned and the forecast does not foretell of improvement so it may be that the whole party returns earlier than planned and he will not be called upon to rely on his survival homing beacon.  At the very least he will have seen his cousins, had an adventure and even maybe a sail, so he can come home with a fresh attitude to battle the boredom.

Thank you El Capitano!


Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy



Chorizo Pasta

My children are all passionate about pasta, but sometimes it is great to have a change from bolognaise.   This is a bit of a cheat but it is quick, easy and incredibly popular.

Tiny amount of olive oil
Onion chopped
Peppars chopped
Chorizo sliced into large bite sized chunks
Jar of pasta /tomato sauce
Cheese – parmesan or a good mature cheddar

You need the smallest amount of oil just to get the onions starting to sweat.

Add in the chopped peppar and let them begin to cook stirring for only about 5 minutes.

Add the chorizo to the pan and cook till the chorizo is browning, turning occaisionally.

Then add the jar of sauce.  As I am feeding lots of hungry boys I used two small jars of different tomato sauces and rinsed them with a small amount of water. 

Bring to the boil whilst cooking the pasta. I start to let the sauce really thicken before serving.

In this case I used a fresh spinach ravioli so layered them on the plate but normally I use a dried pasta and mix it in to the chorizo pan before serving.

Serve with cheese, fresh bread or garlic ciabatta and a green salad.

This is fantastic as you can add peas, sweetcorn, mushrooms, even extra tinned tomatoes into the dish or as I often do spinach leaves as you bring it to table.   This is a great way of getting the children to eat some vegetables without serving any.

It is a really popular meal on our table and so easy to add to if you have an unexpected guest, just add an extra jar of sauce or a tin of tomatoes and you have enough to go round.

Enjoy, let me know how the children like this one.


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

Best of British

Best of British

Last weekend, I imagine like a lot of people I stayed up till 11.02 to watch Andy Murray win his nail biting match.  Like the Duchess of Cambridge a few days later each point was a whole array of enhanced emotions.   Before each of his serves I offered a small silent prayer for him to serve an ace.  This of course would have cut the game very short and the pleasure of millions of viewers would have been seriously reduced.  For me however I would not have held my breath so long, my blood pressure would not have risen and my stomach would not have felt the power of every stroke.

As a nation we watch a lot of sport and we often cheer our team on hoping for victory only to be bitterly disappointed and angry when the sports men and women do not deliver our dream.

Roy Hodgson took on a near impossible task accepting the management of an England football squad weeks before the most important tournament they will play this year.  We wanted him to train the team to perfection and bring home a European cup in a fraction of a moment.  To be fair I think we got further in the tournament than many people expected, but one small victory taking us through the qualifying stages got the whole country “what if –ing”.

We may not be the best at everything we enter but we do put up the teams and take the challenge to our hearts.  Each year we attempt to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest knowing that despite all the rules and suggestions of un-bias, Boznia and Herzegovina will vote for Azerbaijan, Spain will vote for Portugal and Finland will always vote for Sweden, Iceland and Denmark.  We take part, the people of this country get behind our act and buy the record, download it and tune in to watch or listen on the night; cheering each time we get a point.

No one can challenge our determination, dedication or discipline when it comes to training, but sometimes maybe we just lack that killer instinct.   We are very dismissive of the German single-mindedness in their bid to beat us at everything.   Even if we were quietly albeit mistakenly confident at beating Italy in the football; we knew the next battle looming would be our old adversary Germany, in a hard fought battle that offered a place in the final as a by-product of winning the match.  Winning is as much a part of the inner psyche of the mind as it is tip-top conditioning and training.  Our upper crust gentlemanly British character is not what winners are made of.

Maybe 2012 is our year.  We have all pulled together to give our monarch a celebration to remember.  All over this country and the Commonwealth street parties brought communities together in joyous festive mood in spite of the weather declining to play fair.  We do pomp and ceremony better than anyone else in the world, drawing on the experience of hundreds of years’ worth of historical celebrations.

We have the Olympics about to kick off in less than 3 weeks, with the torch having been carried round the whole of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  95% of the population have been no further than 10 miles from the path of the torch which is an incredible feat in itself.  Many thousands of people have thronged the way to lend voice to the journey.   We are about to welcome the whole world into our tiny island to produce a competition of the finest athletes and sports people this island has ever seen.  Team GB members have been training, competing and preparing for these two weeks over the last four years, in order to be at their most fittest, most fastest and most focused.

Britain can be great and win major tournaments.  We have won the Rugby World cup in recent years leading to a fabulous interest and take up of the sport.   The England cricket team ping pong with success then failure as the country follows play.  We can claim two world champion formula 1 drivers in two consecutive years who may not play as a country team but I suspect nobody is concerned whether the championship is won by Ferrari, Maclaren, Williams or Lotus as long as one of our guys come in first and hopefully second.  Young Tom Daly took another European title on his 18th birthday and hopefully will give us even more in the coming weeks.  So out there we do have the competitors ready to fly the flag for us all here.

This week in particular we have had a roller coaster ride of emotions at Wimbledon; who can forget the wonderful picture of Heather Watson as she got through to the third round.  The sheer joy in her face was enough for the whole country to erupt with joy.

Today as I write I must give the Tour de France boys a mention.  It is a fine line we tread in this house when it comes to watching TV in the evenings.  Both the cycling and tennis highlights are on, with Sexy Sporty Dad watching and even understanding the complex scoring system of the peloton and sprinting riders.  Our very own Mark Cavendish has done incredibly well winning the green jersey one day then spectacularly crashing out the next.  Thankfully he was not badly injured and was back on his bike shortly after; although his rival completed the sprint finish that day to win back the jersey.   His team mate our own Bradley Wiggins has the end of the race firmly in his sites finishing last night in the lead much to the joy in our household.

I joined in having just watched the most wonderful tennis match which saw the young British wild card entry of Jonathan Marray and his partner Friederik Nielson not only take on the might of the mens’ doubles final but to win the trophy.   A magical journey had just ended with the most fairytale ending possible.  If you wrote this in a book it would be slated as unrealistic and imaginary.

flying the flag

I do realise that as you read this you already know the result of the Federer / Murray battle for the Wimbledon 2012 championship whilst I am waiting for the start of the match.  There is so much hype with Andy Murray holding the weight of millions of people’s expectations on his young shoulders.   Whatever the outcome of the match, Andy Murray is a winner who hopefully will motivate youngsters all over the country to get out and enjoy the game.  Even if they do not aspire to Wimbledon champion, just to get them out in the fresh air running around and enjoying themselves thanks to the inspiration he gives them is a winning result.  And to the Sky team of Wiggins and Cavendish who instigate a passion in the children for bike riding and racing.

So to the Brits at Silverstone this weekend; make us proud, to the Tour de France cyclists; bonne chance,  and to Andy Murray – go Andy go!


Check out my cooking blog at Teatime Treats with Tiggy

















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