An appropriate heading for this, the final day of this year. How was yours? What was good? What happened that you would you like to change? What is worth persevering with? What would you like to do that is new? And what would you like to stop doing altogether? These are age old questions at a time of reflection. All of that aside, today’s diary entry is all about (and I’m being selfish here), this is about what I am proud of and what’s been accomplished for me in 2018!

This time last year, my life was very much more, a private affair. Who would have thought that by the end of the year, I would be three months in to writing an online diary, pretty much showing openly, a little slice of my family life, here in The Shires. Back then my (historical) memoir was written and I was organising the timeline into a readable novel. But the book was something that I was reflecting on. My present day life seemed to be separate to what the history was of how two guys set about making a family and about the choices they made and how they were committed to seeing things through, even when the ending or endings came with a certain toll. I realise now, that like all books and stories, the life I am living comes with a beginning, a middle and an end. The novel is merely the beginning of ‘This Story’. I completed the novel in August, so for me, this year has been fruitful. Rather than eighteen months of memories spanning three and a half years, I had something tangible, a chronological order to the things that had happened over that period of time. At the present moment, having moved on, I am just considering the last twelve months. Only three of these months recorded in this diary, but I can assure you that I am proud of each and every single month over the last year. The end of my story will always be tomorrow – thankfully another day, one yet to come. I realise that it’s the middle of a story where you find the real backbone. As a family, these last twelve months have had their accomplishments and setbacks, but we have all moved forward. And moving forward is achievement. So tonight at midnight, I will raise my glass to moving forward… will you toast the same with me?

A Small update

Okay, it’s been a long holiday and quite honestly, exhausting, yet invigorating. Today we had another late night invasion of the living room (5 nights running now), but the reason was not Caleb removing his nappy and smearing the contents over his bed, rather Thor had removed his and rubbed his little smear of poo over the ‘Paw Patroller’ (you need to have little ones who watch paw patrol to understand what that is)! I went up and managed to clear up a little of the mayhem (with baby wipes), that had kept them up until after 9pm. But I had to scorn them when Aaliyah simply threw her empty nappy at me and marched off to her bed! Well there’s gratitude. Tara and Amritsar should also know better at their age.

Enough said, all is quite upstairs now. I will now recount last night and why they were justified in staying up late. We had our babysitter Nikki booked in for 8pm and though we were going to watch fireworks over the neighbours hedge from 8pm. Our table at our relatively local, favourite Michelin started restaurant was booked for 8.45pm. Nikki arrived, as did one of our neighbours, back from Christmas in France, as we all stood, all five children in their Jim Jams, slippers and dressing gowns at the front door, a mass of hysteria happened on the lawn in front of the house and our not so famous five ended up covered in mud, well dressing gowns and slippers at least. The fireworks didn’t happen and we had to flee in order to get to the restaurant for our allotted time. Thank you Nikki for getting them up to bed. The meal was great, though yet again I chose the rib eye steak and triple cooked chips. I always frown at a menu when you end up ordering the steak option. Their menu certainly deserves the Michelin star, but the butternut squash risotto simply didn’t appeal. You know what it’s like!

Talking of food – WOW! Tonight’s dinner of spaghetti and meatballs using 50% pork and 50% finely diced brown turkey meat was sublime. Only breadcrumbs, fresh herbs and seasoning added. Please reassess turkey leftovers and consider meatballs (or meatloaf) as a real option? Maybe next year at least. On Christmas Day I immediately froze the two turkey legs, simply because that way, you get to choose what to do with them considerately at a later date. And today my regular meatball recipe just slightly tweaked, as I realised the perfect ‘turkey leftovers’ dilemma we are all faced with year after year. Just make sure you roll the meatballs as small as a chocolate truffle? Time well spent and practice makes perfect. The taste (opposed to using pork alone) was amplified and I didn’t even think I was consuming turkey leftovers as the texture was soft and tender. Job well done. Off to bed now, signing off.

The Latest Lie In Ever


The time is now 9.45am and the children are still in their rooms! Not so silent as Tara and Amritsar are shouting and the magnitude of Thor’s mighty thunder can be heard from all the way down here in the living room. I guess they will be down soon enough, to toasted raisin and cinnamon bagels, but this I have noted is the latest time ever that they have remained, self amusing in their bedrooms. Remus is besides himself whimpering and whining, in preparation for their arrival and Gracie is sitting beside me looking very chilled out. I promised John a toasted cheese sandwich, butter side out and toasted on a hot skillet. He’s getting more insistent that we forget about their arrival and I just make the promised Cheese toasties without them. I’ll fill you in on why they are no doubt up so late a little later and get ‘Toasting in the Kitchen’.

9.55 and the girls have arrived, Amritsar saying ‘oooh oooh aaah aaah’, clutching her soft toy monkey from babyhood and Tara clutching Kit Koala, her favourite soft toy who sleeps with her every night. A gift also from babyhood from her Auntie Kylie and Uncle Paul, who live in Australia. Aaliyah has dropped her new soft Dalmatian toy in favour of hugging Gracie, the real McCoy, who is lying down bedside them.

Kimmah Ligh

This years cutest moment has to be last Friday as we drove home from Wimbledon, after dinner with Liz. Every house that was externally adorned with Christmas lights, was duly commented on from the back seat by Caleb. A softly spoken ‘Kimmah Ligh’ would resonate every time we passed a festively Illuminated building. Every few minutes that passed, ‘Kimmah Ligh’, ’Kimmah Ligh’, ‘Kimmah Ligh’. In the end we were all playing the game, not just Caleb. So now I think of ‘Kimmah Ligh’ and smile to myself.

Xmas Rated

Along side the homemade Xmas rated (pear, rum and raisin) Jam (a neighbour Sandra grabbed the last three jars before heading to be with family in France for the holidays), a few of these festive, visual or gastronomic delights seem to be a bit naughty as well! The slurry of Christmas movies we have subjected ourselves to, let alone the slightly boozy puds and exotic meats, well I will say again, I am truly Christmassed out. Mind you, Laura Linney’s looking good in ‘Love Actually’! Remember ‘The tales of the City’? A classic from channel fours past, best not forgotten… This year our pigs in blankets were actually chickens in blankets – don’t tell anyone. Our turkey actually had a name, Kelly (bronze) and the bird arrived with exact cooking instructions plus a thermometer and a box of maldon sea salt. I shared a video of Xmas lunch, so you might remember that it was in the whole, a straightforward affair. However we continued to feast on Kelly and the large joint of ham with a second ‘Mock Roasty’ on Boxing Day. Why go with the cold cuts and pickles when for the sake of deep frying some cooked, peeled potatoes (microwaved) and as I always do, heat pre blanched vegetables, glaze the pre cooked carrots in sugar, a splash of water, butter and a pinch of salt and microwave blanched green beans, cauliflower or whatever. Peas easily cooked from frozen. A second ‘Mock Roasty’ is so easy at this point. Slice the meat cold and reheat in the gravy. Save the cold cuts for the 27th as we did. Turkey breast, gammon ham, cheddar, Stilton, branston (or home made pickle), cornichons / gherkins, baby beets and buttered baguette, the only word for it is ‘Wow’. Okay the slurry comes in the choices of Xmas movies, certainly not the food. We’ve had chitty chitty bang bang, which the children loved (hated it last year), Charlie and the chocolate factory, The Wizard of Oz and for us grown ups we’ve entertained ‘The Holiday’, ‘New Years Eve’, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and most recently, ‘Love Actually’. At this very moment we are enjoying the BBC’s new rendition of ‘Poirot’ – isn’t John Malcovich a rare talent?

One small ‘Q and A’. What did I do with the rest of Kelly the turkey and the ham joint? The freezer of course, as it won’t last until New Year’s Day. Nestling besides the frozen turkey gravy and the last of the blanched sprouts! Carrots don’t freeze well, so we’ll steam and glaze them on the day.

Moral dilemma tonight as we had veal escalopes. I last enjoyed veal many years ago when minced veal was just £1.00 per lb. the purchase was mostly based on price back then, the ethics of cost I guess, not about the age of animal at slaughter. But tonight’s indulgence was just shy of £30 per kilo. Wow – have we stopped selling the entire male population of male calf births (in the U.K. and Ireland) to our French cousins? I hope that Veal is back on the menu here at home, as so many livestock farmers benefit from the less discounted sales price with a real market lead by demand. We try and be honest and open with the children about why farm animals exist, it is all a diplomatic consideration, just enough info to warrant why things are so…

Okay it’s getting late and almost time to say goodbye to Xmas and welcome in the New Year. A few words from me, maybe over the weekend, but for now, ‘Au Revoir’.