Pressure Cooker

How to spend your bank holiday weekend in a fairly mixed fashion, including hysterics, cooking a 4 course meal for twelve, and the whirling pit.

Friday: Poach pears, make cinnamon ice-cream, make creme brulees and slow-cook beef for several hours. Shriek witchily at anyone who steps inside the kitchen. Go to bed at midnight, worn out.

6am: Suffer acute tummy cramps. (Not the uterine kind. I know this because I’ve already had that kind for 10 days. AND spotting. Bastard things.) Sit huddled miserably in bathroom awaiting diarrhoea that does not arrive. Cramps subside. Crawl back to bed and groan pitifully at Hubby. Child kicks me in face. Curse and groan some more. Hubby leaves to farm. Ignore gestured pleas from child for Downstairs! and remain resolutely under the covers.

9am: Arrive downstairs and eat a white chocolate creme brulee for breakfast. Discover to mild horror and zero surprise (a new recipe and I experienced… problems) that they have not miraculously improved overnight. Flavour good but texture gone awfully, horribly wrong. Eat another in case the first one was a fluke – it wasn’t – and now feel sick. Offer taste to husband, who justly critiques texture, and to child, who recoils immediately with an expressive ‘Tssicckk!’

9.30am: Clear dining room table, which was made to my size specifications in order to seat 14. I curse my inability to perform mathematics – not for the first time – as the 12 chairs still manage to look cramped. 

10am: Despatch grumpy teething child and husband to town. They load into the car and disappear, with John’s frustrated cries of ‘You silly little boy!’ echoing down the drive. Harry’s tantrums have turned… quantum… lately. He has nearly knocked himself out twice already this morning with his own thrashing.

10.10am: Try to persuade myself that the tablecloth – a behemothic thing hunted down by my mother amongst the Cypriot linen shops, and selflessly hauled back home in defiance of excess baggage charges – does not require ironing.

 tablecloth

10:20am: Fetch iron from upstairs, come to look at blogs, curse self for wasting TIME, godamnit.

10.30am: Iron tablecloth in situ. Tablecloth sticks unpleasantly to nameless gunk smeared on table that I was too lazy to scrub off as HEY! I’m only going to cover it up wth a tablecloth! 

tablecloth2

11am: The After photo looks identical to the Before photo. Wasted hour. Go me! Start on ratatouille veg chopping.

11.30am: John returns with only half his To Do list done, and a sleeping child. He deposits sleeping child in cot, and settles down to enjoy a nice cup of tea. 

11.40am: Finish chopping. Hand throbs.

ratatouille

11.55am: Two large pans of ratatouille are bubbling nicely. John’s tea break ends when the diarrhoea that threatened me earlier finally makes its unwelcome appearance, and he is required to take over stirring. I emerge staggering, and proceed to clean hands obsessively. 

12.10pm: Hurry back to the bog for another go. 

12.15pm: Start to hum a Johnny Cash song.

12.20pm: Finally make escape from loo. Rigorously sanitise all areas of self. John disappears to complete his to-do list. Wonder why he is so cheerful about being sent into the town centre on a Saturday to shop. Realise that he has got his MGB out and is now driving away from the kitchen – with the top down, in the warm sunshine. 

12.30pm: Begin to work like buggery fuck. Pan fry chicken and cool. Make chicken casserole sauce and cool. Chop french beans. Chop runner beans.

1.15pm: My mother arrives to mind Harry. John returns from town and goes to wake Harry up. Lets Harry play with purchased top hat.

hat

Continue to work. Make a rhubarb crumble. Make ANOTHER lot of Creme Brulee to tried-and-tested recipe which also, inexplicably, goes yukky-textured. Womanfully resist urge to cry. Make salmon parcels with cream cheese, soured cream and dill filling. Make beef bourguignon, experience a slight setback adding red wine to pan,

wine-spill

 and cool. Make butter curls. Attempt to chop butternut squash and remember I am allergic to the sap. Summon Hubby to chop instead. Start to arrange crocks on table, aesthetically cringing at the necessity to use soup bowls that Do Not Match my dinner service. Bloody Wedgwood. Receivership is No Excuse. 

 

Assess fridge and consider how to fit a quart into a pint pot.

fridge2

 5.30pm: Make fishfinger dinner for Harry, who has been playing on the tussocky grass with Mum, and has fallen and hurt his leg. Is crying and struggling to walk. By now, I want to sit and cry too. Prepare bowl of watercress and rocket instead.

6pm: Mum goes home, frazzled by Harry. Put large tray of butternut squash cubes on to roast. Put 3 saucepans of new potatoes on to boil. Fold napkins into uncomplicated shapes. Arrange bread rolls in a bowl. Put new potatoes into heated hostess trolley. Cook beans and peas: into trolley. Arrange watercress and rocket onto plates. Open the carCOUGH!tons of soup and pour into saucepan. Discuss Who Should Not Be Sat Near Whom with John, while Harry watches Night Garden. We allocate the laminated place-cards I photoshopped for our 2007 party.

white-ann-baylis1  mustard-john-baylis2

If you think I’ve made our faces look bad, you should really see what I did to our friends’.

7pm: Under the impression I have 45 minutes until guests appear, I sit down for the first time since I emerged from the bog this morning, to blog speed read. Ain’t no-one getting comments today.

7.10pm: Turn squash in oven right down. Attempt to go upstairs to bath and change, but Hubby is reading a story to Harry with the bedroom door open and I dare not be seen. Print ‘Do Not Ring Doorbell On Pain Of Pain’, etc, sign and affix to front door.

7.15pm: Hubby creeps downstairs, shutting Harry’s bedroom door and I creep up, treading on our absurdly creaky floorboards as I go. Harry whinges. I rootle hurriedly in wardrobe to sort out vaguely cowboy-ish clothes.

7.25pm: Hear first guest knocking quietly at door. Remember I have actually told everyone 7.30pm for 7.45. Sound of new voice downstairs sends Harry into full-scale roars. Guest is unceremoniously left to entertain herself whilst John and I attempt to sort out costumes in total silence. Abandon all thought of bath, and Hubby is now hogging shower. Apply facial cleansing wipes rapidly around sweatiest sections, liberally apply bodyspray and perfume, and scramble into clothes.

7.35pm: Rip label off pink cowboy hat, don cowboy boots (which between the ages of 14 and 16 never left my feet) and creep downstairs past intermittently-grumbling child. Laugh at guest’s costume, ruthlessly delegate clue envelope handing-out, and scurry off to unwrap salmon parcels and place on salad, which has gone limp. Camera flash turns salmon an extremely unappealing colour. Add purchCOUGH!ased sauce.

salmon2

7.45pm: Put soup on stove to heat. Apply chicken to casserole sauce, beef to bourguignon sauce, and place on stove to re-heat. Stop to pour glass of wine and swig deeply while guest number 1 spots cars and races out onto the drive in order to organise and pre-shush (predictably and thankfully late) arriving guests.

8pm: Relax somewhat and decide cannot be bothered to decant food into Wedgwood serving bowls and will serve it in pans instead. Pour self a larger drink in celebration of acquiring this new wisdom.

8.10pm: Warm tureen, empty soup into it. Tell guests to get out of the bloody kitchen and sit down. Soup is served; I do last visual sweep of the kitchen. See huge pot of ratatouille, gasp, put hastily on searing stove setting to heat up. Go into dining room and read scene-setter out loud. Start the round off. Return to kitchen every 2 minutes during soup to frantically stir ratatouille.

8.25pm: Serve fish. Only one Fish?! refusal and one played-with plate. Relieved.

8.35pm Serve main meal.

dinner-party-food1

Peas have turned hideous colour in trolley, but everything else as planned. Spy forgotten and uncooked rhubarb crumble on worksurface and quickly turn the oven back on. Pour self another large refill.

9pm – 2am: Hazy.

horsey

2am: Final guest leaves and I take stock of surroundings.

detritus

2.15am: Find hubby asleep in the office and gently usher him towards stairs. Has a few false starts and is obliged to tackle the stairs at a crawl, but rolls into bed intact. At no point notices I am filming him.

2.30am: Snores.

5.10am: Child screams loudly. I awake to discover I now have the whirling pit. Nudge Hubby with foot and ask him to pat child back to sleep. Repeat several times, getting jabbier with foot. Hubby, entirely drunk, blunders next door and starts talking chirpily to child. I vaguely think this is odd. Hubby appears with Happy! child in doorway, whereupon I inform him it’s only 5am. He attempts to return Unhappy! child to bed. Experiences failure. Re-appears with Happy! child. Child makes determined lunge for boobs and is firmly rebuffed. Roars.

5.15 – 5.25am: Excessive rampaging over parents. Repeated attempts to access boobs.

5.25am: I leave in drunken stupor, taking my alcoholic boobs with me, and retreat to the spare room. Sleep for further 2 hours.

7.30am: Hubby appears with child. Announces that he ‘may have nodded off for a while’ and that Harry has trashed the bedroom, broken his specs and emptied his wallet. He cannot find two of his credit cards. He is feeling too ill to cope and retreats to the sofa downstairs.

john-asleep

8am – 1pm: I give Harry two scrambled eggs and blearily watch him happily play with the dogs. John eventually returns to bed whilst I start to clear up. His hangover appears unaccountably bad, until he tells me that the first bottle of Port he rootled out of the drinks cupboard at midnight was already open, sedimented and tasted odd… but they drank it anyway.

1pm: Next Door Neighbours appear for lunch of leftovers. I have cleared the table, cooked some fresh chicken, and heated leftover potatoes and veg. Am beginning to think I am wonder woman.

Afternoon and evening spent quietly playing and TV-watching with intermittent wearing tantrums from child. 

Bank Holiday Monday, 6.30am: Child kicks me in the head, headbutts me in the mouth, and finds it funny. I leave for the spare room again in a strop.

11am: Go to local retail park in order to purchase gift for Father’s birthday tomorrow. Retail park is extremely busy. Cannot find suitable gift. Go to town centre instead. Get mildly stressed but also finally buy David Attenborough’s autobiography for self. This takes away much of the pain.

12.15pm: Child falls asleep in car and is left to doze in peace.

1.30pm: Harry wakes without us noticing and works self into proper state before he is heard. There is much screaming and complaint.

2.15pm: I drive him to my friend’s house.

2.50pm: The bank holiday traffic is heavy and I arrive annoyed. Harry immediately has another meltdown the moment he walks through the door. He does this nearly everywhere we go. He Does Not Transition Well. I am becoming extremely exasperated, all the more so because I realise he cannot be blamed.

3pm: I am struck dumb with surprise when I hear my friend’s daughter ask her Mummy for ‘more juice, please.’ Harry has no exact contemporary among the children we see often, hence I have always managed to avoid comparing his speech. I become increasingly upset and aghast as I hear the little girl carry on basic conversations with everyone there and realise to what an advanced degree she can understand sentences and instructions. She has begun to inform her mother of impending bowel movements. (Her own, naturally. Anyone else’s would be even more impressive.) She is apparently not considered a big talker by her parents or nursery, but Harry still has no real words that we can clearly recognise and to me, she is Cicero. I start to want to cry.

3pm – 5.30pm: Harry kicks off again. And again. And again. Pushing. Hitting. Screaming. Grabbing. Kicking. Roaring. There were 3 other toddlers all having the odd strop because of various minor combinations of all those behaviours, particularly THEY-TOOK-MY-TOY-WAAAH! sad and teary red-faced episodes, but Harry… Harry is simply in a different league altogether: frequently catching himself violent wallops on hard surfaces as he throws himself about. I suddenly become aware of my own body language: I have retreated to a corner seat, I have unconsciously picked up a cushion and am holding it across my tummy. I emerge only to re-site Harry’s tantrums into more padded areas.

5.30pm: I leave, managing to hold back my tears until the car is moving.

6pm: I arrive back home, worn out and distressed. John greets me on the doorstep and tells me regretfully that Mrs Brahma has been eaten by the fox. I sit and cry. He takes Harry out from underfoot to ride in his trike in the garden.

6.10pm. I chop an onion and put rice on to cook. I am chopping mushrooms when Harry and John return. Harry is hungry and tired, and has always been tricky to handle at this time of day. He runs up to me and violently pushes my legs. I take a deep breath. He does it again. I burst into tears, which almost immediately turn into proper I-can’t-actually-fucking-breathe hysterics. John removes Harry, plonks him in front of the tv – always a winner to calm him down – and returns to attempt to calm me down. Today, because I am tired, worried and upset, Harry has – to borrow a clever phrase that struck a chord – become reduced to the sum of his quirks.

Harry, at 21 months, has no real intelligible speech yet. His sense of balance isn’t all there by a long stretch. He has, as they told me when he was born, possibly suffered some mild brain damage. His behaviour is most likely due to communication frustration.

It’s hard for both him and us. It’ll probably get worse. But I’m so indescribably sad that my son, my beautiful and precious son, still can’t talk to me.

 harry-hat-2  harry-hat

And the one hen I was genuinely attached to, who was old and tired and wise, has been ripped apart by the fucking fox.

mrs-brahma-rip1

All Hallows Eve

Dear me! It’s all so very American! The costumes! The pumpkins! The economy-size tubs of sweets! The legalised thuggery! When I was a kid Mum occasionally used to make toffee apples that’d take your fillings out, and I’d mess about with a bucket of water and an apple. One year I had a witches hat, and I was quite pathetically excited about it. Sigh. Tempus Fugit, and all that. 

Having said all that, I did toy with the idea of dressing Harry all in red, providing him with a small toy trident and standing him appealingly on next-door’s doorstep, whilst I ring the bell and hide.  But I reasoned that since we live in the arse-end of beyond, the Delightful Doctors are our only possible target for the annual demanding-of-money-and-chocolate-with-menaces – so in a couple of years, Harry will most likely be hitting them several times in an evening, with a quick costume change between-times. Ergo, we’d best leave them in peace while we still can.

I eventually managed to acquire a second pumpkin – half the size and twice the price of mine – at 4.50pm this afternoon. Town was Out Of Pumpkins. Hubby was distinctly unenthusiastic about taking up the challenge – oddly, he seemed to think that you were all biased in favour of mine already – but duly stabbed away with a kitchen knife for 20 minutes. I think it’s fair to say that he wasn’t actually expecting to win… but fate has unexpectedly come to his aid, because WordPress are sheepishly admitting that their PollDaddy gadget thingy isn’t currently working. Lucky man.

Hubby’s scary ghost chappy.

Ann’s scary face with rather singed stitches.

This will mean absolutely bugger-all to non-UKers, but I’m grouchily pissed off tonight, as I was rather looking forward to seeing David Attenborough (who is something of a personal deity of mine) on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. I am left with 100 channels of rubbish and a snoring hubby instead.

Dear Aunty Beeb,

I like Wossy. Dock his wages if you must – because, oh my, that was indeed a very brainless set of remarks – but don’t suspend the chap from coming to work! Who will I listen to tomorrow morning? 

Greatly Miffed of Warwickshire.

P.S. Wogan must not be allowed to retire. Or die.

P.P.S My period is trying to start again, a mere 5 days after finishing. I realise that you can do absolutely nothing about this, but I have paid my licence fee, and therefore I expect you to listen.

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