Good Cop, Bad Cop

Today is a happy and relaxed day with our not so famous five. Tara and Amritsar are on a school trip to Hampton Court Palace and Sindy has just left with the little ones to collect them from school as their coach has just returned. More on this later. Okay, Aaliyah has been so much better behaved today and Thor has been a quiet and laid back little boy. There’s always ups and downs I know, with parenthood. Today is going well. As for Caleb, for the last few days his behaviour has altered. He seems much happier and is constantly holding his arms open to me for a hug. Not just any hug, but he wants a kiss as well. All of our children like a kiss and hug, but the kiss is usually on the forehead or cheek. Caleb on the other hand is insistent on a kiss on the mouth. It’s very sweet really. You see sadly, Caleb and I weren’t the best of friends in the past. I always tend to be ‘Bad Cop’ and John enjoys the mantle of being ‘Good Cop’ as he only gets to be with the children at the weekends and every second Thursday. With Aaliyah and Caleb in particular, they have only ever thought of me as the bad cop, so I guess our bond and love has taken a bit longer to establish itself. John used to find it impossible to be the bad cop. That has now changed and in history, I think the two little ones only remember me saying NO to ‘uppies’ all of the time. As babies I hugged and hugged them so much, but they don’t remember that far back do they! It did get quite bad when they were toddlers and I was more adamant that we picked them up less and less. John on the other hand only saw them part time and wanted them in his arms as much as possible. I get it, but there is a time that your baby becomes a toddler and with that comes more and more independence. The last nanny we had would pick them both up constantly, just to counter me saying that we should pick them up less. She was very young and a bit spiteful come to think of it. We are so much happier with Sindy, now with us for the last eighteen months. We still enjoy plenty of ‘uppies’, just not all of the time. And with John occasionally playing bad cop now, it allows me to be good cop with our two youngest some of the time. Hence, my relationship and friendship with Aaliyah and Caleb has come on in leaps and bounds of recent. We are all a lot happier.

We’re Jammin’

Yes, in Bob Marley’s immortal words, we certainly have been. Spring, Summer and Autumn, the provisions cupboard is bursting at the seams. ‘Dadda’s Jams’ have always been a big hit with the children and the relatives at Yule tide. This year however, with a more than competent nanny and the children either at school or preschool, I have a lot more time on my hands than I used to. And as for next year, they will all be at school from 9am until 3.15pm. I will definitely need a full time occupation. It would have to be from home of course. As babies, there wasn’t really a free moment to spare from dawn till dusk (and then some more). I only found the time to start ‘The Art of Preserves’ as a hobby in very rare, spare moments really. So here we go!

The heat is on!

No, not a catchy tune from a classic eighties movie, rather the sound of the fuel pump and the heat radiating through this previously very chilly old house. It feels like a home again. Though I did enjoy the exuberance of the open log fire these last few weeks, it just feels great to have warmth and constant hot water. Bathing in the sink with the kettle, a thing of the past. Bring on a nice hot shower. The ‘Old Boy’ who fleeced us last weekend, should be ashamed, what with making unnecessary work for his standard hourly rate and not actually fixing the problem that was at hand. I won’t go into details, I’m just happy that things are looking up again.

Our nanny Sindy has just arrived back from her midday break and the little ones are getting motivated upstairs. Breakfast and the school run was as per normal except the shouting and screaming of Aaliyah. She returned home from preschool, a model child. Their midday nap was a quiet one. Backtracking now as to why Aaliyah was screaming with discontent on the school run – she had viciously grabbed Amritsar’s nicely brushed pony tail and pulled it a number of times with a certain ferocity. It was all rather cruel and poor Amritsar wept in grief. What brought it on was next to nothing. I didn’t even really pick up on it, just a split second my back was turned, it wasn’t clear what provoked it, but it was nothing that a seconds behaviour would deserve. I picked her up underarm and sat her in the thinking chair. I did raise my voice – perhaps too loudly. I shouted a bit and mentioned ‘Mrs Snodgrass’. It got the desired response, but there was still little remorse for what she had done. I reaffirm what I said yesterday in that the little ones have a massive step to take in growing up before they join the minions of school children in reception year.

For me the morning was devoted to standing over the Aga stirring a rather large pot of ‘Tomato Chutney’ every few minutes or so, to be sure it didn’t catch and burn. It would seem that ‘Dadda’s Jams’ have gone savoury this month. The glass jars of ruby red relish with little flecks of mustard seed peaking through the glass have been thoroughly sterilised and are now labelled and stacked besides the spice pumpkin jam that was made over the weekend with defrosted pumpkin pulp made with the remains of ‘Mr Pumpkin Head’, our door sentry guarding us over ‘All Hallows Eve’. I want to do something with the glut of pears I have. Any ideas out there? I’m thinking of a combination of pears and vanilla. More to follow later.

Musical Statues

We have just rounded off the day with a session of musical statues to ‘The Lighting Seeds’ (various) and ‘Mmmbop’ by the legendary Hanson. At which time, Thor was back on ‘The Thinking Chair’. His third time today in fact. The first time was 10.58 this morning, he shouted throughout the two minutes silence, and as for the other two little ones with their muttering, giggling and whispering. Our two older girls got it! They have been looking at war and remembrance at school. I really am worried that the three little ones will not be ready for primary school next year – they just seem a complete world away from Amritsar and Tara, completely chaotic and discombobulated. It’s gonna have to be a hop, skip and jump of a year for them to be prepared for the big step next September. Anyhow, lunch was Spaghetti puttanesca and later. cheese, ham and pickle sandwiches at dinnertime. With the heating system still playing up and the six hundred pounds spent last weekend to fix it and the old boy who did or didn’t do the work not answering frantic texts and voicemails, we are still without heat and hot water. I’m so sick that these cowboys still exist. Damn him, we have five small children and all I can smell is heating oil around the outside boiler and tank. Giving thanks to the open fire we are now embracing. Don’t worry, I am told that heating oil is not ignited by the fumes in an open environment and there is no smell in the house or living room.

A very quick mention regarding Gracie. She was absent from lolling about with Remus, besides the open log fire for some time after the children had eaten their sandwiches, or rather not eaten. The four or five sandwich quarters that lay towards the top of the push top ‘Brabantia’ bin in the kitchen had been scoffed. She had managed to push the top of the bin and nozzled in her snout to devour the contents. Not the first time a bin liner had been ravaged by her, but certainly the first bin hacking in this house. Naughty Gracie.

The children are all upstairs in bed now after a particularly traumatic nappy, teeth and jimjam session. But all is quiet up there and a couple of hours of sanity is to be had now by these two, relatively beleaguered parents. Though this blog is not attempting to be political! Last thoughts are with ‘Remembrance Sunday’ and the remarkable people who went before and gave so much in very difficult times. We thank you! Goodnight…

Finally settled

From before I even woke up there was uproar! John gets up earlier and enjoys some quiet time downstairs with a cup of coffee and the BBC news on his iPad for a while. It’s the norm at the weekend. I usually follow and have a sneaky cigarette before making a cup of coffee for myself and usually a second cup for John. This morning the children had ventured downstairs before even I had the energy to get up. I was on my feet all day yesterday and my right ankle always hurts the next day if this is the case. Don’t know what it is exactly, just one of those things I guess. If I had a regular day job, it would have to be a desk job at this point. Amritsar had prompted my actual getting out of bed. She was screaming that Caleb had broken her pencil and she was inconsolable. You know what it’s like, no matter what you say, it’s never going to resolve the situation. The screaming, moaning and shoutings all for show. I told her to ‘move on’ and I painstakingly put pressure on my foot and forced myself to get to the bathroom for my daily ablutions. Even at this distance, the whine coming from downstairs was audible. Amritsar had vanished and went back downstairs, adding her vocal tone to the whine that was wafting up from below. Anyhow, I hobbled down the stairs with care, to the mayhem that awaited. Each and every one of them had an issue or two that was being loudly exulted. John had distributed barn brack (fruit bread) and given the commotions and volatility, they had their drinks in their old tippy cups to avoid spillages. I tidied the kitchen table that was a scattering of the breakfast plates and tippy cups, pencils, paper, crumbs and spillages (so much for the tippy cups). The noise was continuing in the living room. I saw my chance and made a ‘B’ line to the back door and had my said cigarette. The shouting had subsided a bit and only the coughing broke the silence. All five coughing in sequential harmony. Myself laden with heavy cold, I then joined in this bizarre soundtrack as backing vocals. And there I stood on the terrace looking at the cigarette. It’s days have to be numbered, my throat feels that sore and just look at me, snivelling and coughing away. I returned indoors and ‘all eyes turned’ and the whine of this and that and she said and I want, all returned to the room. John had disappeared upstairs to gather clean nappies and today’s clothes selection and I grappled my way to the kitchen. It’s funny how, without a grown up in the room, they can all coexist in a neutral fashion – but as soon as a parent enters, they explode into all manner of moany, misgivings. The racket has to be contained, so ‘divide and conquer’ was the only solution. Thor who had been the screamiest was told so sit on the thinking chair for ten minutes and to keep quiet or the other option was bed. He complied. Next, Amritsar asked politely for her iPad (kindle fire five), so another one down. I then just handed Tara hers. She took it, just leaving the two little ones besides the tv. The only thing remaining was three streaming noses to be wiped in sequence and lots of snorting and coughs from the older two, not to mention John and myself. A truce of sorts with the always so slight volatility of the weekends, but all ‘Finally Settled’. And the day has only just begun.

Wet, windy and cold

The not so famous five went up to bed an hour ago. No shower tonight as the heating system that had left us in a mini ice age two weeks ago, was fixed last weekend, but the undergone work had left us very uneasy with the powerful smell of heating oil fumes here on the ground floor of the house. The downside is that I have arrived home from my two nights in London to a freezing cold house, strong winds and heavy rain outside. There has also been unrest upstairs, but that has died down now. Probably due to the fact that they have all decided that it is far warmer under their duvets. John rode his bike in on the commute today. I had a phone call an hour ago with him saying that his bike chain had broken and that he is now stranded on a roundabout, a few miles away. He is waiting on the AA to pick him up. He stands somewhere in the dark, cold, wet, beside the unrelenting roadside and intolerable weather. He won’t be happy on his return. Another call just now saying that they he AA have been delayed and will not be with him until 8.30pm, another forty five minutes, so he might just be here at 9pm if we are lucky. The rain and wind are thrashing the windows at this point. He’s not happy at all and will be most distressed on his arrival home after this unexpected ordeal. On a lighter note, talking of returns, mine was greeted by five crazy little people saying that they missed me and the hounds were uncontrollable. Yes uncontrollable, even after me being home for an hour.

Moving on to the present, they kind of understand when I say ‘John home late’, but I have to reaffirm it every now and then or they continue to whine and bark their heads off at the slightest sound, thinking it is John coming through the door. Well it’s the start of the weekend – things can only improve. Or can they? Everyone is down with a heavy cold and Aaliyah has been feeling sick today at preschool. Bloody hell its cold – I’ve just put on my fleecy schott hoody. There’s another birthday party for the girls tomorrow, leaving me with the little ones. I will update you as to tomorrow’s antics in relative real time over the weekend. As you know the weekends are always pretty full on. As for tonight – Dinner once John arrives and an early night I think…

And More

I have decided to combine Aaliyah and Caleb’s ‘Personality Profiling’ in one blog. Mainly due to the fact that they are still quite little and secondly they share the same timeline, though have ventured through it at slightly different speeds. So I will start with Aaliyah as she is the ‘first born’ of the two. Though most surrogacies end with a Caesarian Section. Something else we can thank the Romans for. You could google the history! I guess it would not be right for the surrogate to endure a natural child birth. Firstly, in most cases of compensated surrogacy, the embryo is not genetically theirs and secondly, way too painful. Come on ladies, it hurts like hell and is only mentally endured as the end result is your beautiful daughter or son. Moving on with Aaliyah. Born with her brother Caleb, on the roof of the world (Nepal). I only met their surrogate twice. We wish her well. The twins left the hospital after ten days. Mainly due to the fact I was busy finding an appropriate apartment and I had paid the hospital very well for the facilities, where as a local affording this hospital would have been charged a fraction of the bill we had to pay, so I just told Doctor Sanjay that they would be staying until we had a home to move into. He agreed, well he had little choice. Well my first memory of Aaliyah was her at just a few moments old, being thrust into my arms, followed a minute or two later by Caleb. I had been doing ‘The Dad Thing’ and was pacing up and down the corridor outside of the operating theatre. Once both babies were in my arms, a nurse waved in front of my face ‘your camera, your camera’ she insisted. ‘Left trouser pocket’ I told here. She pulled it out and ushered me to show her how it worked. Anyhow, we got the pictures done and the nurses shuffled off to the NICU ward. ‘Goodbye little ones’ I waved them off. Well that’s a name that seems to have stuck isn’t it! Aaliyah was bigger than little Caleb, so as first born, let’s do her first. A quiet baby, so unlike Thor. In fact she (and her brother) were both model babies. Lots of sleep and four hourly feeds to begin with. She was probably a bit louder than Caleb when she yelped for a feed or over the discomfort of a soiled nappy. Amritsar and Tara’s nanny Bharti travelled up to Kathmandu with friend Rekha. I needed people I trusted to stay with the newly born twins. Remember, there was a family at home and on this occasion, the choice was to spend two weeks with Aaliyah and Caleb and two weeks with the family at home. I’m now going to jump to Aaliyah’s emerging personality. Babies are predictable, you’re lucky if you get a smile or a giggle. Aaliyah did giggle lots, so we knew she would be just fine. Though as a toddler, and being very close in age to Thor, it seemed like it was him she was trying to catch up with, leaving poor Caleb behind somewhat. She crawled before Caleb, stood before him, even did her first faltering steps way before. She is a very determined little girl. If not, a bit pushy at times. At one point it looked as if she was the twin sister of Thor. They shared a lot of characteristics at one point. Still being just three there’s not a lot to say academically, but I think that determination will lead her wisely – watch this space for updates. I earlier mentioned our summer vacation in Provence in southern France. We had a private pool at the villa, so this was the year we had five little swimmers. She was fearless. She was the first to off her armbands and doggy paddle with only the buoyancy of her life jacket. She was really happy and full of life. She has a lot of potential with her character as it is, but there is a belligerent side, the one we have to keep in check with the thought of ‘Mrs Snodgrass’s naughty school’. Now Caleb as a toddler, got there eventually. He crawled, or rather dragged himself at first. He developed later than the others. Aaliyah did it all six months before our Calo (one of his nicknames). But eventually the dragging himself turned into a fully propelled crawl with his bum in the air. He was a bit rubbish with balance, so standing and walking came late also. Back then he was a quiet little boy and he didn’t communicate well, quite the opposite of Aaliyah. But big sister Tara stepped in at a very early point and did all she could to protect and encourage him. I remember the video I took of his first three steps (we decided that the first steps had to be three continuous). The smile on his face, the sense of accomplishment. So he is a boy who is a little laid back, but with encouragement, he gets there in the end. He has only just started to form sentences. Which is great as he will start proper school next September. There’s lots of time to practice before then. He is more screamy now too. It’s like he was silenced for a long period and now he is finding his voice and sounding more legible, he really wants us to know his wants and even his frustrations. There was one thing that Caleb got first though and that was the hair. Masses of curly, silver blond hair. He’s had it cut, but it’s still pretty long. Aaliyah’s hair has taken ages to grow, but there is some length there now and it’s beginning to resemble Caleb’s curls. So now it is fitting that Aaliyah is reunited with her twin brother Caleb as they look more like the twins they actually are nowadays. Thor doesn’t mind at all, as there’s only room for one little bolt of thunder in our house.

Yet more Personality Profiling

Our middle child is our son Thor. There was just him born back in 2014. Our four other children are two sets of twins. He was born in Bangkok, Thailand, though our egg donor on this occasion was Caucasian. And for the birth I thank our surrogate Ausa. Why the name Thor you might ask? Well, I had met a few very lovely Norwegian people along the way and as it happens, Tör is a fairly common name in Norway. I kind of liked the anglicised version of the name, super heroes aside, the name Thor suited him. As a baby, he was a massive presence. He was loud and screamy and impossible to settle at times, but yes again I looked to the help of a nanny named Ameena in Bangkok and she devoted herself to him and I for the five long months we had to wait for his British passport to be processed. When we finally came home, Ameena and her two sisters, wept as we left to board our plane. This was a time that our family was split in two. I missed John and the girls, Tara and Amritsar so much. John coped with them both in the U.K. with the help of our live in au pair and his sister, Sara. Did I say that I missed them all so much. But reunited we were. The girls were both two years old at this point. I remember the reaction I got when I went to pick them up from a preschool in West London that they had started to attend. They were unaware that I was finally home. ‘Dadda Dadda’ they both screamed so loudly when they saw me, Thor strapped to my chest in his baby sling. They clung onto us so tightly and we all got very tearful. But baby Thor was a loud baby and back then we lived in a apartment block. It was no good, we had to move to the Shires as the flat was small, the walls were thin and Thor was loud. So we left London and John became a commuter. I found it difficult to bond with Thor at first as he was so loud and screamy, none of us slept well through Thor’s baby years. Terrible twos merged into not quite so terrible threes. I think a lot of it was simply down to him wanting to communicate so much. He would look at someone, straight in the eyes and just start shouting and screaming at them. He did this thing with multiple pitches when it came to screaming. We had nanny help full time when we left London. We persevered and it paid off massively. At around two years old, he used to sit in his cot, repeating words, over and over again to himself. This was early in the morning before the girls were awake. I would stand at the bottom of the stairs and just listen for maybe ten minutes or so, just every now and then. The women at his new preschool all doted on him, even back then he was practicing his ‘charm initiative’ – he is a very unique little boy. Just being able to talk changed him so much. It was not just his step forward to communication, but from a very early age he started to form opinions and ask questions too. He talks a lot now, but there’s still the occasional moments when he finds that he has to shout, but he’s primarily gentle, caring and considerate. He won’t go to bed without his ‘Kiss and Hug’. Mind you, he can get quite moody if things don’t go his way, or there’s something he wants that he can’t have. He is a very loving little boy and often says things out of the blue like ‘I really like you Dadda’ and sometimes, just sometimes I get a ‘I love you Dadda’. The heart melts…

More Personality Profiling

Amritsar’s twin, as you may know, is Tara. At birth, to be honest, I was going to name twin two Amritsar. But I pondered and had to make a choice. I knew the second twin would be a little more feisty and the name Amritsar was planned for the feisty one. Sorry Gracie is just grabbing my attention! She is chasing her tail, round and round. She is now rolling around on her back! Remus is lying beside me, looking completely unamused. She’s up now and has just jumped up onto the sofa. She’s starting at me as if she wants a treat. No Gracie, No. now back to my story. When it came to the birth certificates, I gave our second twin the name of Tara, due to my memory of first holding and hugging her. We had already chosen names, but as I hummed ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ to her in the NICU, I knew she would be our little star! In both Gaelic and Hindu, the name for star is Tara. And she does like to take to the stage, so maybe a star, she will be. I had a green screen app on my phone and green coloured backdrop when I was posting a few items on eBay. I had set up the ‘studio’ and in walks Tara. She got in front of the tripod where my iPhone was placed to photograph and she started singing ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. I video’d her and was quite moved by the passion and emotion she enacted with the words. Tara loves school and looks forward to the weekends when daddy is home. Some of Tara’s achievers certificates have been for counting and others for movement and dance. She likes to hang out with some of the older boys and can hold herself and lead in many conversations. She is passionate, caring, independent, calm, she shows empathy and exudes kindness. She has a very strong bond with Caleb, the littlest of our family as she takes him under her wing and looks out for him. We love her dearly, and my little Booboo loves us all right back.

Ruby Vine and Scarlet Acer

The Vine on the terrace, that gave so abundantly this year is all but bare. Just a few, bunches of grapes, too high or awkwardly placed, cling there, getting ready to rot on the woody framework that looks rather skeletal now. The vine leaves that were a vibrant green have transitioned through yellow into veiny ruby tones, then crisp and brown and discarded, they fell. The sea of ferns that amass the flower beds are dulling down but the profusion of Japanese acer’s have suddenly, visually exploded into the reddest scarlet as the leaves prepare to drop to the soil and perish with the rest of the autumnal detritus. This season is preparing for the big sleep of winter. Like my earlier story on leaf fall, this time of year is reflective and there is an ultimate beauty in the death of summer.

Personality Profiling

Okay – my silence thus far today would relate to a pretty non eventful, average day. All were well behaved and all went well. School and preschool, breakfast, lunch and dinner, yes all was good. The little ones enjoyed an iced, ring donut with sprinkles for lunch (a real treat opposed to their usual sandwich). This was a special treat as we had twelve donuts to get rid of as we didn’t get to dessert after the big feed on Sunday, leaving four chocolate covered donuts (John and I had two yesterday after our dinner), four strawberry icing and four white iced donuts for eating. I was a piggy and ate the two chocolate donuts remaining this morning as anything with chocolate always ends in arguments with our not so famous five, if not an even number (I know five isn’t an even number). So this left eight for the children. Do the math! Or as we say in the U.K. ‘do the maths’! Three for lunch and five for dessert after dinner and we’re good with eight. That was the day, a few sums and a whole load of calories later, non eventful.

So I move onto personality profiling. And today we start with ‘A’ or rather ‘A’ being more affectionately known as Amritsar. She is a hard worker. She also prides herself on her achievements. She is good at art and considers colour and form. She combines different characters in a thoughtful way when it comes to drawing. Our ‘little miss sunshine’ is an excellent reader. She is way past the phonics of sounding the words, she just let’s rip with story books that are brought home to read as their homework. For a girl of five, I am in awe. She likes to achieve and at school they, on occasion have an achievers assembly. Her smile beams when she is up there on the stage, waiting for one of the blue certificates that tells her that she is doing well. I do love her determination. It’s funny as before parenthood, I had no idea of when in life ‘personality’ made its confirmation. But to be completely honest, our two five year olds and three, three year olds are absolutely the characters that they will always be. Nurture or genetics – who gives a flying **** they are who they are and with regards nurture, that they will always have. I feel so strongly bonded with Amritsar. Everyday I appreciate her affection, creativity, thoughtfulness, understanding and above all, her sheer ability to love.

Little Liar

We all do it now and then, don’t we? But to be honest, our oldest two are mostly model children. The occasional prompt for a please or a thank you, but mostly very polite children. Out of the little ones, Thor in particular delivers a very cheery and sincere thank you, if you hold on to whatever it is he wants to thank you for! I do the same with the hounds when I give them a treat. They are very food focused and at the whiff of a treat they get quite excited and either sit in front of me or in Remus’s case, he starts to spin. He will spin and spin and spin and finally when the treat is in my outstretched hand I loudly say ‘Gentle’. Gracie nibbles the treat with tender care, but Remus is a bit more snappy. I hold onto his treat and repeat ”Gentle’, he then complies. With Thor, Aaliyah and Caleb, the same can be said. With the sweets that were consumed yesterday, I have to say that I didn’t once have to ask for ‘please’ or ‘thank you’. If only that were the case with the more mundane actions, like being given a drink or their dinner.

Anyhow, who was todays little liar! I am trying to cut down on my smoking as a prelude to giving up in the New Year. My e-cigarettes has a small battery charger that is generally plugged into a socket above the dish washer. Today whilst emptying the said dishwasher, i looked down to the filter as there were a couple of chickpeas sitting there. A remnant of last nights meal. Behind the filer I noticed a black wire and realised that my e-cigarette charger had been placed into the dishwasher at some earlier point. Knowing that this incident would have been one of the little ones, I called them all into the kitchen. ‘Well’ I asked ‘who put the charger into the dishwasher’? Caleb, the quietest of the three (mostly), pipes up ‘it was Thor’. ‘Thor’ I ask ‘was it you’? Thor tells me it was Aaliyah. Aaliyah then tells me it was Caleb. Rather than having one little liar, we clearly had two, if not three little liars. I had all three stood around the open door of the dishwasher. ‘Spend a minute and then tell me the truth’? You know, children are rubbish at keeping secrets, so I knew the truth would raise its head. I went back after a minute and both Thor and Aaliyah point accusingly at Caleb. He was looking down, consumed with whatever emotion it is that three year olds have, was it guilt, anger at being found out, or indeed anger at the other two for ratting him out. I picked him up and placed him under my left arm (gently of course) and marched him up the two flights of stairs to bed. Not a murmur from him, which is unusual as all of the little ones mostly scream and shout when things are that bad, being so naughty that they are banished to their bedroom. Half an hour later I looked up to see if he was okay – fast asleep. I decided to let him sleep until lunchtime. Thor makes me smile as on the odd occasion when he has been naughty. He will look me straight in the eye and say ‘Naughty Dadda, Naughty Dadda’. And a last thought on Aaliyah’s moments of extreme naughtiness. You see we have a local school for naughty girls! It is simply called ‘The School for Naughty Girls’, it’s run by ‘Mrs Snodgrass’. A no nonsense woman in her late fifties, I imagine she is dressed in a Green tweed, two piece suit, horn rimmed glasses, a bit like she has just stepped out from the year 1954… since the introduction of ‘Mrs Snodgrass’ Aaliyah’s behaviour has improved significantly. Let’s just say that the threat of going to Naughty School is our plan B with Aaliyah. We all need a plan B don’t we?

If you go down to the woods today

Be sure of a big surprise… yes we got through the storm that was the Hallo-Fawkes weekend blah de blah. It’s all so fusion nowadays isn’t it! Now, back in the day we stuffed a guy (for guy Fawkes night) and not just any old guy, but an old pair of trousers, strapped to a sweatshirt of sorts (anything with long sleeves) and an old pillow filled with dead leaves as a head) and a hat, stapled on with one of grandmas knitting needles! A kind of introduction to taxidermy really. Anyhow, I think my childhood was the initial fusion Bonfire night and our American cousins celebration of ‘All Hallows’ Eve’. So sod stuffing your old sweatshirt with leaves asking strangers for fifty pence and bring on stuffing your pockets with sweets and as much cash as possible, conned out of the friendly and ever so slightly mystified streets of neighbours surrounding our house. All very different now of course. Our neighbours who joined the event all have children, but the other, retirees of the seven abodes attached are pretty much done with good will to all and children are pretty much only acceptable within their own families and their own grand children are the only infants that are tolerable. It was dark when our invited guests arrived – we had hours that sounded like ‘are we there yet’ as the not so famous five asked when are they coming and ‘where are the sweets’. The sweets were of course in hiding in an antique wardrobe in the kitchen, known as the the ‘house keepers cupboard’. The neighbours arrived, we drank Prosecco and then tiki torches ablaze, we headed to the bottom of the garden, over the lane and into the woods, over stream and to the designated bonfire area. Johns harpoons were soon pacified with me snapping off the sharp points and marshmallows were just squashed on to the ends of the bamboo rods. All the children had their fill of hot chocolate from the two thermos flasks and all enjoyed several toasted marshmallows. All six adults did a great job stopping the potential stab wounds, pokes in the eyes, falling into the blazing bonfire and general potential mishaps in the darkened (though tiki torch lit) wooded environment post nightfall. Yes, the bats were frantic as we left through the back door and as we headed to the woods. On our return, I went into overdrive to set up the kiddies meals and then the finale of twelve hand rolled chapattis, rice and the four carefully constructed curries for us grown ups to enjoy, previously cooked and chilled this afternoon, I told them that I was writing a blog, they didn’t seem that bothered, it’s not an easy thing to promote, but if you have a personal reason to be here just enjoying the sharing of what I have to say – I thank you from the bottom of my heart as this rather subtle, unobtrusive man has become very proud of his diary and his life in the Shires of England entertaining his life as a gay dad to five (not so famous) children that are five years old and under.

They just couldn’t wait

All five are now attired in various costume. Amritsar still enjoying her witch look, Tara now a pumpkin, Thor in a vampire cape, Caleb another pumpkin and Aaliyah in luminous spotty tights and the cat mask. My chapatti dough, now twelve lightly floured balls, waiting for me to roll out thinly, before cooking each for a minute or so. To be served up with the curry. I say curry, but it has now escalated to Channa, pea curry (mutter), chicken curry and a lamb curry. Each with a slight altered spice mix. Can’t wait. The children however are eating homemade potato wedges with hotdogs. Tara is now running around with her marshmallow stick – a long piece of bamboo that daddy is presently weaponising into harpoons with wooden skewers and sticky tape. I’ve told them to please leave outside as they look rather dangerous. Thor is asking for more toast with pear and fig Jam, his new favourite jam ever. And now he wants me to put on a little green monster mask, he’s run off to get it from the Halloween dress up box and come back resembling Jason Myers! The day can only get more mystifying as we light the pumpkin head and wander over to the woods for the bonfire and festivities, did I mention a ‘trick or treat’ thing happening? More to come later!

Channa

The not so famous five stormed down the stairs, all fully clothed (bar Caleb) at seven o’clock this morning. John on iPad, myself making myself a coffee. Breakfast consisted of almost a whole loaf of bread, butter and a combination of homemade blackberry Jam and then one of the new combos, pear and fig. Both went down extremely well. Even daddy complimented on how scrumptious the pear and fig was.

The kitchen is now full of the heady scent of spice. I had chickpeas soaking overnight, destination ‘Channa’ my famed chickpea curry, that I will serve to out grown up guests this afternoon. Though the little ones plus the neighbours children are destined to enjoy hotdogs, wedges and ice cream. I just remembered, I’m making chapatti, so better make the dough in a minute. Right this is how I make channa.

Caleb now sat bedside me fascinated by a little, purple, furry ‘squirmals’. I remember them as a child. A trip to Hamleys toy store in Regent street. I was absolutely in awe of them. It was the same year that the funny smelling blow up gum was around (sounds like 1890 doesn’t it). You remember, squeeze some goo from the tin tube and stick a straw into it then blow it up like a balloon. Caleb now off to join the others watching channel fives milkshake.

Back to making Channa then. I reminisce of my days living on the Jogeshwari Vikroli link road (in Bombay) or more commonly referred to as the J.V.L.R. It was the main route from the western suburbs out to Powai. I Googled ‘Channa’, looked at a few recipes, thought that’ll do, half forget half of the three recipes I had looked at and cobbled the remainder of the information back together in my head, and there we have it, Dadda’s own take on the perfect chickpea curry. This method of assimilating recipes always works for me. Whilst living in India and indeed later on in Nepal, the nannies who cared (at that time) for my children, also cared for me. By that, I mean they drenched me with the music of vintage Bollywood, worshipped Ganesh, washed my clothes and cooked one good meal for me daily. It was the times in between ‘Bharti’ and later ‘Rekha’ that I perfected my culinary love and enjoyment of Indian food. Okay, my mind is wandering, so here’s the recipe! No method necessary, you don’t even need to fry the onions, so an oil free curry it is. Mind you, you’ll have to skim the chickpea water when they reach boiling point. Remember, you have to soak them overnight (or open a couple of tins). As many or as much chick pea and onions as you like, tinned tomatoes or just tomato purée and some diced capsicum red or green peppers. The spices you can play with. An easy option in India is to just buy a Channa masala spice blend, but not necessary. Today I used fresh garlic, ginger and chilli (the holy trinity of spices), though the dried versions would be perfectly acceptable. The next two spices are also essential and they are cumin and dried coriander. Turmeric is much loved in India but can overpower in flavour and colour, so go careful with it. If you’ve used tomato purée, great as this gives a great colour combined with the turmeric. You could chuck in some Garam masala if you fancied. But I didn’t feel the need. Salt to taste, I recommend plenty as food needs to be tasted, if you are planning on enjoying if! Spice needs to ‘cook out’ it’s raw taste, so over the next hour or so, taste a teaspoon full of the liquid every now and then. After the hour crush a single chickpea between your fingers (cool it down first of course) and if it s cooked, you’ll know. Now with a potato masher – mash to your hearts content. I like mine quite puréed but with the occasional chickpea to bite on. Heaven on a plate, served with steaming rice or chapatti. I prefer the latter for a more authentic taste of the Sub Continent.

Okay enjoy…

A spoonful of sugar

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. Or at least the promise of one as reward. In this house our children enjoy a myriad of foods and tastes, some exotic, some spicy, some mundane and others are just occasional treats. When it comes to treats, I’m talking about sweets and chocolate of course. You also only receive dessert after dinner if your plate is completely empty. And you are never blessed with a dessert when there is good food left on your plate. Our guys are still small, but love mussels, olives, pickles (gherkins), Blue cheese and many more flavours from around the world. But they can still be belligerent and picky about the most basic things! I’ve told you about Thor only liking cheddar cheese with Branston pickle, but he loves parmesan over all and every type of pasta dish. Amritsar on the other hand likes every and all cheeses, on their own, on a cracker or indeed in a sandwich. Now today at lunchtime for the little ones, chicken salad sandwich’s with farmhouse bread, a little salt on the salad and full fat mayonnaise. I went off of the low fat variety of mayonnaise after watching one of those programmes with Jimmy and Jamie, exposing different foods and how they make them. With low fat mayonnaise, they replace oil with water using various gums and most bizarrely with citrus pulp (tasting of nothing once all of the juice is removed), there’s no actual citrus flavour. This concept I will come back to later using Apples as a substitute, but anyhow, a little of anything is okay, so I happily converted back to real mayonnaise. I just don’t eat so much of it. So back to this lunchtime… Aaliyah arrives in from preschool and sits in her chair, the boys follow and Thor asks ‘what is it’? ‘Children salad sandwich’ I reply. By this time Aaliyah has pulled out the contents and screams’I don’t like it’. Thor sometimes does this but when you try to remove his plate the then screams’I like it, I like it’. A very odd boy at times. Aaliyah on the other hand is just being manipulative. She lowers her head below table heigh and she has this smile or rather smirk, it’s sneaky and cheeky, the look of pure naughty. I say ‘eat up Aaliyah, there’s a Jaffa cake for dessert’! We don’t often get anything sweet at this time of day except the occasional apple, pear or banana. Also, they all love salad now, it’s chopped smallish and usually dressed with a Caesar dressing. Not even a limp lettuce leaf left on the plate – too scrumpy for that. Aaliyah decides she likes the chicken salad sandwich and eats it with haste. So she is first in line for her spoonful of sugar, or in this case the Jaffa cake. The boys soon follow as Sindy and I make it a race, to see who comes next. It is a draw. Open mouths to check that all has been swallowed. Both mouths completely empty and then two very big smiles as they chomp away on their sweet treat. Talking of which, against my better judgement, yesterday’s Tesco delivery included zero sugar fizzy drinks, iced ringed donuts with sprinkles and a multitude of sugary sweets and chews. Don’t forget that it is our big ‘trick or treat’ hunt with the neighbours tomorrow. You gotta show willing I guess. But I’ve never amassed such a stash of such sugary things for the children ever before. The fizzy drinks are the diet variety however, so a few brownie points earned. With all that sugar, it won’t be easy to put them to bed tomorrow night though…

On an unrelated matter, this is the fourth week of my blog. It started four weeks ago to the day and I remember, around this time, I was talking about the ‘poo incident’. A lot can happen in a month. I wonder what we have to look forward to in the four weeks to come!

New costumes for ‘T’ and ‘A’

With the little ones entertained at their other preschool on a Thursday until 3pm, it gave me a chance to go out shopping for new Halloween dresses for T and A ((Tara and Amritsar). Amritsar wanted to be a witch on Saturday when we go on our trick or treat hunt with two of the neighbours families. Tara on the other hand wanted to be a Vampire. So one Black cobweb and one scarlet wenches dress later, we finally have suitable attire for Saturday. Thor will remain with his ‘pumpkin’ look and Aaliyah and Caleb are dressing as the witches cats. I also found the time to do a bit of Christmas shopping along the way. The girls are doing a school related outing to another local school, something to do with their extra curricular life skills classes. Sindy is with them and I am entertaining the little ones at home, who are insisting on wearing their costumes whilst indulging in Children’s BBC. I really don’t know how earlier generations coped without the multitude of small children’s programming and the sheer abundance of children’s channels.

I gave Sindy a packed picnic for the girls homeward journey and plan to feed the little ones pasta bolognese, the same as what John and I will be eating later. I’m getting bored with the quality of beef mince the supermarkets serve us up with. For an edible sauce, the beef needs up to three hours cooking time in order to tenderise! Firstly whilst frying the meat gently, the sheer volume of water that the meat releases, essentially steams the meat and then the amount of fat the beef exudes over the extended cooking time, shocking really. Well thankfully we’ve always plenty of kitchen roll to absorb what amasses on the top of the saucepan. I noted in France a much more tender cut used for minced beef for bolognese sauces. Perfect bolognese in 30 minutes. I finally came to the conclusion here at home to just use pork mince (with a similar cooking time) and lots of garlic. Perfection is reached and we all eat very well. Time to put on the penne and heat up a treat, with masses of the finest parmesan cheese.