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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.