Chips’n’Choices

Our feast of the leftovers is not for tonight, rather an actual ‘THING’ I am planning on offering friends tomorrow night. If you have read my blog, you will know that our fairly regular endorsement of Chips’n’Choices is a fun thing we do with the children at the end of the week, but with them all eating a main meal at school nowadays (I’m cooking for them less), this event is becoming more and more infrequent.

I thought that it would be fun for their three children too! Only problem was that I looked in the fridge this morning and alas, all we had was some cold broccoli pesto pasta and a little chilli con carne! Drat – that wouldn’t do. So, I had to get cooking, just in order to actually have some leftovers. Okay, garlic mushrooms (Victoria is a Vegetarian), a root vegetable terrine and a chicken curry were cooked, plus a pasty, some chicken dippers and some nut loaf were all summoned from the freezer! Gosh – we will be eating well of the not so left over leftovers tomorrow night!

More on the weekend as it finds us!

Writing a Diary Can Be Hard at Times

Accounting for things has its own cost, doesn’t it? Remembering moments isn’t always easy. Thirteen months ago, when I started this diary, I begged a question! ‘It is all about the small things – isn’t it?’

Well, accounting and remembering the small things is all I have to offer really. And sometimes it can hurt a little. I am feeling just a little bit sad today!

From the very beginning, I knew that honesty itself had its very own price. Anyhow, onwards and upwards.

Tara Cuts Her Own Hair Once More

With Deep Regret I update you on the ongoing saga of ‘Midnight Haircuts’! Our beautiful Tara has secretly continued to work on her fringe! Those long locks that caressed her adoring cheeks are now a thing of the past. We have to accept that what is done – is done.

At dinner time yesterday evening the penny just dropped and I asked out loud ‘Tara, what have you done to your hair, you promised me that you would leave hair cutting to the professionals’? She told me that she had not touched it and then proceeded to cry. My heart broke for her. I think the pictures say it all really.

I bit my lip and took the kitchen scissors out of the draw and evened up the very badly cut fringe. I know that we will look back at moments like this and smile. But for now, it is a wry smile and a saddened heart.

Back To School Tomorrow

Okay, so I gave Calo my hoodie for extra warmth today! He’s not been well. A temperature of 41 degrees we were told on Tuesday at school. The truth of this diary entry is that out of all of the children, I never knew where I stood with our youngest child Caleb! He and I have always had our distance. With Caleb and Aaliyah, as toddlers, I was generally the ‘bad cop’ when it came to any scenario in those early years, Daddy (and a certain, unscrupulous nanny), always did ‘lappies’ to an unimaginable scale. John just did them because he loved our little ones and only got to spend time with them at the weekend – but as for that specific nanny, whose name I will not mention, she considered that whatever I had to say or contribute, she always went with the 180 degrees opposed! Until that point I hadn’t considered the idea of her ‘passive aggressive nature! And to this day, I have thankfully never since had to live with such insult! So, let’s move on as I have to state that, as the younger twins are coming to a certain, enlightened age – ‘no more obligatory lappies’!!! Well – only lappies that are natural loving moments in time!

As a result of our earlier nanny, Caleb and I have not always seen eye to eye. His vexing has completely upset me on occasion. But our friendship has grown strong. Today we have had the most amazing time together.

The last words on this subject would have to be that when Caleb screamed at me, ‘no – not Dadda, I want Daddy’ at the sports day at preschool, some two years ago (his very first coherent words). I kept that upset and memory close to my heart. That dratted nanny had seemingly turned my own son against me, purely as I considered that ‘the little ones’ had to be weened off of “lappies’ at that time. It’s not easy being a parent to five young children. We need a support network, not a vindictive and inconsiderate regard!

Midweek Meltdown

Thor has only just gone back upstairs in order to get dressed for school. On the other hand, two minutes later, Aaliyah has just come down fully dressed, Tara and Amritsar at her heels.

The morning started as most do. I was up at daybreak and Sindy arrived, went up and rallied them, then down they came. I had emptied the dishwasher and laid the dishes and cups etc. A normal enough morning, that is until they ascended and sat around the table. Everyone that is Barr Thor! He was shouty and screamy from the start. He finally joined them.

As I write this, I am still subject to his screams and whining. He is at present in the dining hall shouting loudly, still in his Jim Jams.

Caleb is besides the television chilling. He came home from school yesterday morning with a temperature feeling unwell. There is a lot of it going around at the moment!

Okay, back to Thor and his meltdown! He refused to eat his cornflakes at the kitchen table as everyone else tucked in. And when he did start to eat, Tara and Aaliyah were on their second bowl. Caleb ate a little but asked to leave the table as he is still unwell – a pyjama day for him at home. Amritsar did as she dose, just the single bowl and Thor munched away slowly.

Everyone had left the table, leaving Thor sat alone. The dogs had eaten the remnants of what had been left, though Thor likes completely empty his plate or bowl at all mealtimes. At this point the girls were all dressed for school. ‘Up you go’ I prompted Thor, ‘I want my second bowl’ he screamed back at me, ‘I want my second bowl’ again, in a more enraged pitch. It gets a bit repetitive from there.

He refused to go upstairs and just sat at the bottom screaming. Then when he finally went up he still refused to dress. 8am now and he has only just dressed with Sindy’s help. All except Caleb, about to leave for school, Thor – a smile and a wave bye bye, looks like butter wouldn’t melt… An update later perhaps.

A Good Afternoon

Tonight’s picture of me is completely unrelated to what I have to say as I’m just mumbling out loud really. And as I have no related photos of those mumbles – hear I am!

At this time, I cannot think as to what we had for dinner last night! But I remember a ‘Full English’ for brunch yesterday and potato and watercress soup with a cheese sandwich at lunchtime today!!! Humph – does last night really matter?

Well I’m working on a Roast Chicken Dinner for tonight at any rate. Yes, you remember my history with loving, but yet hating the family roast on a Sunday. But to be fair, the little ones are a far cry from this time one year ago!

Just doused the steamed carrots and the broccoli in icy cold water and drained the boiled potatoes, awaiting their place in the oven alongside the chicken. I guess a lot of you are in the same boat at the moment, as to say? Vaughan Williams in the background (thank you Alexa).

Tara watching a movie on her own, the others seem to have attention spans of newts. I might have mentioned that before! She has been coughing a lot this weekend, she’s now doused up on Calpol. Daddy is hauled up on the sofa with his iPad. The little ones are on the top floor playing, or maybe just making a big mess. Caleb has just joined me asking if I can turn the hall light on as he wants a pee! Amritsar also running past stating that she needs the toilet! She always does that. Funny, I think I used to do that as well – like up until the age of sixteen. It’s just one of those things, isn’t it?

Daddy is now scrunching paper to make a fire in the living room and Caleb is screaming that he can’t go pee pee on the potty! I don’t mention the potty too often! But it’s a constant cycle of refills and bum wiping! The three little ones have been brilliant as a matter of fact. No mishaps in months. Aaliyah is definitely ready for no nappy – dry night training. I think I’ll have a word with Sindy our nanny tomorrow on that score!

Aaliyah and Thor have rejoined the goings on in the living room and from what I can hear, Thor is trying to help daddy ‘Thor, you’ll fall in’ I just heard. Don’t worry, it’s not lit as yet. Clair de lune is now playing. Aaah, its moments like this I have come to regard… the fire is now cracking and I think I should get cracking too! Those roasties don’t make themselves, do they?

Apple Jelly

Ingredients:

1kg Apples (quartered)

1kg Sugar

100ml Apple Juice

100ml Lemon Juice

Method:

Quarter your apples and place in a thick bottomed pan, stalks, pips and all. Add the apple and lemon juice and stir. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. The contents should cook down over the next 15 minutes. Use the pan lid to retain heat and leave a few minutes then go back and mix every now and again.

Once the contents are soft, use a hand held blender and completely liquidise to a thick liquid. You are ready to get Jammin’.

Now, here we have a bit of a quandary! I could go ‘old school’ and place my pulp in my muslin bag and start pummelling like crazy and 2 hours later, just give up and throw the remaining pulp that hasn’t released its juice and go tend to my blisters!!!

Or I could get a sieve and spend 10 minutes passing the pulp through the sieve, removing the stalks, pips and skin! You decide which option you would like to go with.

Given my experience of juicing apples, I took the second option. The jelly will have a slight pith to it, but the results are fairly indistinguishable either way! Well worth it.

Clean your pan and begin to heat your apple pulp. Add the sugar and stir. Once dissolved, heat to a rolling boil and stir occasionally. You could skim the top to remove any scum, but most of this scum is in fact small bubbles. I would leave the skimming to the end.

This jelly will only take 10 minutes to reach jelling point – it’s so full of pectin, you can’t imagine. So, 10 minutes in you’re there. Stir occasionally of course. You will find the jam falling from your wooden spoon in a lumpy looking way. It wants to gel. Do a final skim and you’re there!

Having sterilised your 6 jam jars in the dishwasher, use your jam funnel and ladle to fill to the 7mm – 10mm below the lid, seal tightly and sterilise the jars in your water bath with the pan lid placed on firmly.

Note: you need to see the liquid looking a bit lumpy on the Jam funnel or base of the pan.

A Second Offering For The Tooth Fairy

Saturday morning and Tara is a whole pound better off. Late last night, the second incisor popped out. Shouts from the top floor lead to daddy being given the extruded tooth and Tara has a shiny new one pound coin in her breakfast place. Looks like her big tooth is pushing upwards fast.

Post waffles and syrup, they are now playing hard. As much laughter as screams, so they’re fine.

Thor is obsessing about sellotape once more. The recycle bag has been pillaged of its mass of cardboard yet again!

Off to conclude my experiment on the perfect apple jelly, hopefully without the need for muslin to extrude the juice! Who wants to do something like pass juice through a Muslim bag when it takes absolutely ages. I’m all for working out a few thrifty short cuts.

Thank You Dear Ash (a poem)

It’s alway such fun

And when the night is done

I remember you, a very special one

So, thank you dear Ash

When you went home to crash

The night gone in a flash

Here’s to you dear friend

Though it came to an end

What a great bash

I thank you dear Ash

We thought about Sarah

Back in the day a real terror

She couldn’t come, she had flue

Boo hoo, boo hoo

Sending hugs to Sarah

Ash and me too

A Sleepless Night

Well, the title says it all really, doesn’t it? It all started after the children’s bedtime. Our nanny Sindy had gone home for the day and John had arrived home at his usual time. The lamb curry was heating through on the Aga and samosas were in the deep fat fryer. There were some screams from upstairs and then silence. I finished off heating the rice in the microwave and retrieved the samosas! At that point there were shouts from both Tara and Amritsar as they entered, firstly the kitchen and then on to the living room where they jumped on daddy’s lap. They were chat, chat, chat, clearly with no plans to return upstairs. I brought in the two fragrant dishes of curry and sat at the table. We negotiated a bit and finally the girls returned to their room. Once dinner had been enjoyed, the girls came back downstairs, this time with Caleb in tow. It took some time to broker their second return upstairs as all Caleb wanted was to sit on daddy’s lap. Finally they all went up to bed. The time was now 10pm.

A while later all five came downstairs. I kept reminding them that it was a school night, but they just didn’t listen. Daddy was slightly beginning to loose his rag, as was I come 11pm. They all finally ascended the stairs.

We ourselves went up to bed at midnight.

It was 2am and in our slumber, we were jolted awake with the not so famous five invading our bedroom. 10 minutes later I got up stating that ‘enough is enough’ and went downstairs and hauled up with Remus and Gracie…

It was 4.45am when Amritsar flung the living room door open!

I didn’t really see any decent sleep last night. Getting them ready for school was a nightmare in the absence of Sindy every second Thursday morning. Thor was a complete menace – I even had to call Mrs Snodgrass at one point. But they got to school on time.

I am presently sat on a train, visiting A friend in Bristol for the night!

Maybe an update on that tomorrow as I will have plenty of time on the return train to mull things over.

This is Andi Webb nodding off, sorry signing off…

A Few Random Things

Yesterday saw our first major frost of the season, here in ‘The Shires’. Autumn has certainly wielded its grip. With Christmas but five weeks away, the summer and All of that wonderful sunshine both seem a million miles away now.

This morning has seen me dead heading the hydrangea on the terrace and our two rather overgrown wisteria have had a major pruning and tidy up. The removal of the remaining foliage strikes a very Wintery feel to the vista.

Aaliyah is still enjoying her gymnastics classes on a Monday, plus Tara also scored the only goal at her football class. She seems to be their most prolific scorer – well done Tara. Both Amritsar and Tara go to tennis lessons on a Tuesday. Which is great as our neighbours have a tennis court. Our two boys Thor and Caleb have not as yet shown interest in after school activities, but I think that they will be ready to make the right choices next year! That should be interesting!

Excluding the garden, what have I been up to? Cooking mostly I guess. Well, that and making home made chocolates and pastilles to give away at Dadda’s Jam stall on 1st December at the little ones old preschool Christmas fair. Big School is not holding one this year. Problems with the PTFA I think. No one was really available to set up a grotto and manage the event this year. It seems a real shame.

Okay, a lamb curry with rice and mutter (pea curry) on the menu for tonight, served with homemade samosas. I’m quite looking forward to that. Hmmmh – I do miss cooking a big meal for the children, but with them all enjoying a main meal at lunchtimes at school, barr the weekends and holidays, it’s sadly a thing of the past!

I think that I will look into making a couple more podcasts this afternoon. Any feedback on that score would be greatly appreciated. Well, thats all for now!

A Failed Experiment

If something doesn’t work out, like an experiment, is it truly a failure?

On the Jammin’ front, this week, I thought that I would try something new! Now, you know that pectin from apples is at the heart and the purity of ‘Dadda’s Jam’, so I thought that I would see how much pectin was in ‘pressed apple juice’! Worth investigating I thought! Pectin is one of those things that is really quite difficult to quantify. Well, this was my experiment, simple but rewarding in information. One litre of pressed, cloudy apple juice, store purchased, lemon juice and one kilogram of sugar. I also had 300 grams of apple pulp to add if things didn’t work out!

I have kind of worked out that as much moisture should be removed from fruit pulp as possible, or if this is not possible, the ratio of apple pulp should be higher in order to produce a well set jam! I hope that this makes sense? I also stated earlier that experiments are key to moving forward in the art of preserves. Old fashioned jam making insisted on long cooking times, producing in my mind, over cooked, Jammy tasting results. Twenty minutes is a perfectly safe cooking time to produce fresh tasting results. Also, do remember that lemon juice is key in all jam making. It supplies extra pectin for your Jams even though it is a liquid ingredient.

Okay the experiment! I boiled the litre of juice with the kilo of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming the top every now and then for foam and any impurities. The cloudy colour of the juice becomes a golden amber. The outcome was a lovely tasting apple syrup, disappointing maybe, so my plan b was to add the 300 grams of apple pulp. I cooked for a further fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and finally I strained the liquid, removing the pulp for use in another aspiration, fruit pastilles. The apple jelly showed some sign of gelling, but I was still in two minds, so I poured it into a stainless steel bowl and refrigerated it overnight. The next day I noted that there was a very soft set. My experiment had been a failure. And failure is fine – it’s the learning curve on the way to finding perfection, isn’t it?

Due to the fact that I am out of jam jars, this experiment is now in a freezer bag and sat in the freezer. Part two of this story to follow soon.

Too Early to Possibly Comment

8.30am and I’m exhausted. The rabble descended the stairs from the top floor in the relative darkness that was 5.30am. Daddy joined them on the downward journey to the ground floor – screams could be heard. The dogs, once released from a closed living room door, bolted up the stairs in order to prowl around the bed and rouse me to the fully awake mode, before trying their luck and pouncing up to join me on the bed. I shoo’d them off (is shoo’d a real word?) and I tried to sleep once again, knowing that the task was highly unlikely. The hounds tried their luck once again, I gave in and just lay there. I could make out the children chanting at daddy ‘porridge, porridge, porridge’. I knew my slumber was at an end…

In the semi light I tried to clothe myself. The dogs were milling around my feet as they do, making it impossible to pick up my socks, trousers and tee shirt. I pushed them away, they were back within a moment, though I had managed to pluck my trousers and a sock from the floor. This continued for another few minutes until I managed to dress whilst wriggling about on the bed. I then made the bed, struggled to the bathroom and cleaned my teeth, washed my face etc.

I got to the stairs, the dogs beside. Down a few steps and Remus rushes between my legs. Another few steps and he rushes through again! It’s a game we sometimes play. But at this early hour! ‘Porridge, porridge, porridge’ could still be heard below. The kitchen, a complete mess, the living room, a complete mess’ – welcome to my morning…

Twenty minutes later after having ‘tidied up’ with little, if no help, I began to make the porridge, in amongst the shouts and activities of the children. Daddy was calmly relaxing on the sofa with his iPad. Emails or candy crush I was wondering, completely oblivious to the marauding crew around him.

Goldilocks would have glutton’d this morning. What was a very large pan, filled to the brim with porridge was soon emptied, alongside the final jar of Dadda’s home grown, homemade, raspberry jam (seeded). We had to break into a blackberry cider jam in order to wash down the last of the porridge. Don’t worry, no alcohol, but made with a reduction of cider vinegar. Great sounding name, but not enough cider flavouring! I will have to work on the ingredients in order to perfect the harmony of flavours.

Well, that’s all for now. Just heading for the Nespresso machine.

Another One for the Tooth Fairy

What with the children participating in the BBC’s Children in Need yesterday at school, we had a little surprise of our own on the ‘wobbly tooth’ front! Tara’s last visit from the tooth fairy was on her birthday in March. It makes me smile when I see a child with both top front teeth out. Let’s hope the big tooth will grow through quickly.

Still trying to salvage my underperforming PC. I am now a writer without Microsoft Word. I guess that I should wait for Christmas and the new Apple Air book to buy compatible software for that, oh dear… doesn’t help my for the next few weeks though.

At present the girls are at yet another birthday party and the little ones are playing nicely. After last nights showdown – they are really trying to be good! It does show me that Thor and Aaliyah have a conscience at least. Just listening to their play, they have come on so much since starting at Big School. Their terrible twos and three’s were relentless. Onwards and upwards I hope!

Out of Breath

Thor and Aaliyah have just been marched up to bed – their screaming has been constant since 4.45pm when we finished dinnertime. I am seldom left feeling this angry. Both of them have behaved unreasonably bad. Their screams have left my head thumping. Amritsar and Sindy are at the local village hall attending ‘Rainbows’, the precursor to brownies and the girl guides. I have just asked Tara and Caleb to tell Thor to stop shouting. Aaliyah seems to have accepted her fate and is quiet in her room. Just knowing that our nanny would be gone for an hour and a half primed Thor and his extra massive tantrum. Enough is enough – the weekend has barely begun. And I am starting to feel physically sick. An update on behavioural issues tomorrow perhaps. That’s all for now (I hope).

The PC, the Podcast and Me

Well, Dadda might just get Jammin’ later on today. I have some perfectly ripe Quinces that Ocado delivered yesterday. But in the meantime I have set myself a task. Thank you to one lovely reader for opening my eyes to yet another possible project! Podcasting was mentioned and it seems that there is a little app at the App Store that makes light work of putting together a podcast.

Okay, I recently completed my new book ‘Thirteen Moons More’ on both ebook and paperback, available through your Amazon account, simply by searching for ‘Thirteen Moons More’. And I got to thinking of perhaps turning that into a podcast, chapter by chapter! It does cover twelve months of my blog ‘Diary of a Gay Dad’. But then I got to thinking that the book is indeed an edited version of the raw material. Maybe a good start would be to go back twelve months and sync my podcast with what was going on then, using the ‘raw material’! How does that sound? Any comments would be very much appreciated!

On a separate matter, my Lenovo PC upstairs has constantly given me one headache after another (this last 2 years), what with internet signal, booting up – the bloody thing needs booting out! Anyhow, I had to do a reset yesterday afternoon as the media player stopped playing media – not much good if I can’t play a Video on it, is it? Well the reboot has left me with just the meagre array of programs that came with the dratted thing. No Microsoft Office or any graphics programs whatsoever! I’m completely buggered within the bigger picture that is ‘My digital life’! Do I spend a day or two setting right this PC nightmare or hold on to Christmas when, according to a certain little elf, I might just be getting a brand new Air book! More decisions, decisions, decisions…

Anyhow, I’ll let you know later in the day as to how things pan out. The PC, the podcast and me! Oh Dear…

Decisions Decisions Decisions

Given that we are almost at the end of this week, I realised that I’ve not really talked about the family for a few days. I did have some news from the clinic in Thailand about the 6 remaining embryos in their cryo-tank. They want me to make a rather large payment in order to keep them and to be honest, I’ve really soul searched! There was incredible anguish and strife connected to their creation and to simply have them destroyed at this point! Well, it’s not an easy decision to make is it? My decision has to be made around the fact that we are not planning on extending – but it makes you think! Hey, I’m getting all broody. To find another lady willing to be our surrogate is a bit of a tall order at this time I guess. Especially someone who is resident here in the U.K. I’ll give it until next week to make the final decision on the future of our remaining embryos.

So, today’s photos should be (the most recent) of our not so famous five. Not a stainless steel container filled with liquid hydrogen and little vile’s of possibility. OMG, What is Caleb doing inside the provisions cupboard?

Transcend Your Day

Dadda’s Jams are on the way. And that is just what I did this morning! How does ‘Peach Amaretti Jam’ sound to you?

Ingredients:

1kg Peaches

1kg Sugar

150g Apple Pulp

50ml Lemon Juice

50ml Monin Amaretto (Almond) Syrup

Now, before I give you a method, I am going to give you a few pointers. We have moved out of peach season and I don’t want you to go out and buy peaches if they are ridiculously expensive. I purchased a lot over the summer when they were 50p for 6, then I skinned and pitted them, before freezing in bags. This then got me to thinking! Would tinned peaches work for this jam? So I decided to make 2 separate batches of the same jam, but the second time I substituted the frozen pulp with the same amount of drained, tinned peaches. And guess what? The jam made using tinned peaches tasted pretty much the same, concluding that tinned peaches are just fine. I used a value brand and the batch made with tinned peaches cost £2.10 for 6 x 318ml jars. The frozen pulp batch had a much more reddish hue. I think I preferred this one, but that was purely down to the colouring. The taste of the jams were too similar to call.

The next point I would like to make is the almond syrup. Have you ever had an almond (or flavoured) latte at your favourite coffee shop? Tastes sublime, but there are a whole plethora of flavoured syrups on offer for your sacred coffee indulgences. Monin is a French brand who supply chains like Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Cafe Italia etc. These syrups are easily purchased online at a relatively small cost. Just google ‘Monin syrup’ or purchase directly through your Amazon app. Okay, you could substitute the syrup with Amaretto liquor if you just happened to have a bottle left over from last Christmas in the booze cupboard. Righty ho! let’s get Jammin’ then.

Method:

Place your peach pulp in a heavy based pan and slowly bring up to a boil. Use a potato masher to even out the texture. It needs to be fairly liquid but retain plenty of small chunks. If you were using tinned peaches be sure to even out the lumps. Once simmering add your apple pulp and stir. Remember you won’t taste the apple flavour, this ingredient is purely being used for its pectin content. Add the lemon juice (also high in pectin) and stir. After 5 minutes, if you are happy with your texture, add the sugar. Your pulp will begin to look a lot more translucent. This was the case with both the fresh / frozen pulp and that from the tinned. The tinned seemed a little more liquid so I used the masher a bit more to really break down the segments. Bring to that ‘rolling boil’ stirring occasionally. Remember, the pith will want to collect on the base of the pan. You don’t want that as with the heat of the sugar, it might just burn. Boil for a maximum of 20 minutes. A longer cooking time will alter the flavour of your jam, making it taste – well, too Jammy! Skim every now and then. Use a metal spoon for the skimming and keep the wooden one for stirring, please keeping the pith from settling at the bottom. Towards the end of your 20 minutes you will notice a more velvety texture, a sheen to the jam that is a lot more like a thickened syrup – more like a gel. Your jam is almost ready! Add your almond (Amaretto) syrup and mix well. Take off the boil and skim any remaining foam.

If you invested in that jam funnel, use a ladle (both sterilised with your jam jars in the dishwasher) and ladle away, leaving a good several millimetres space from the lid. Close your lids firmly using a tea towel to hold the hot jars. Immerse your jars in your makeshift sterilising bath and boil or steam for at least 20 minutes.

Please note that with more information and the recipes that I compile, I will be considering my own images and presentation a lot more, but just for now my basic pictures and stock images will have to do! I hope you are ready for a flavour sensation…

Tonights Full Moon and Another Installment of Eighteen Moons

Chapter Seven

Back to Mumbai

 

We had been in Panaji for several weeks when Kayla announced that she was going to move to one of the beach resorts. She told me she had found a villa. So, she and her babies, her nanny Riah and her mother, who was still with her, moved to Candolim, half an hour’s drive away.

Candolim was a small town, right on the shores of the Arabian Sea, with wide and unspoiled beaches a stone’s throw away. I was beginning to look like a beach bum, with my tan and hippy T-shirts, so I decided I might feel more at home on the beach than in the city and began to think about moving there too.

Kayla’s landlord was a charming British man of Indian origin, who liked to pop in for a cup of tea and a gossip with Kayla’s mum. He didn’t have another property for me, sadly, so I looked around and found a small apartment. I took it for a week, after which I would either stay at the beach resort or go back to Panaji.

Bharti and Lalit, the babies and I moved into the apartment. We were unpacking our cases and putting things away when I stepped into the small kitchen to get a cold drink. As I did, I heard a cracking sound and looked down. The floor was tiled, and the tile I had stepped on must have been a bit bowed, because it had cracked. A moment later the tile next to it cracked, and then the one next to that, in a chain reaction. As I watched, horrified, the entire kitchen floor became a maze of cracking tiles, snapping and popping like fireworks as the damage spread and pieces of tile leaped into the air and smashed back down again. In the end the whole floor had more or less exploded.

Bharti arrived and stared in amazement, shaking her head. I felt guilty, even though all I’d done was step into the room. It was an unfortunate accident, no-one’s fault (except perhaps the chap who laid the tiles). But the whole floor would have to be replaced so we clearly couldn’t stay there.

Bharti’s son was visiting for a holiday, although not staying with us, so he went to get pizza for supper, because we couldn’t use the kitchen to cook with the floor in shreds. At Bharti’s urging I phoned Ramesh, the owner of the apartment we’d rented in Panaji. He had a villa in Candolim and it was free for the next few weeks. It was expensive compared to the apartment, but we needed a refuge and two days later we moved. Ramesh was waiting there for us, I had to pay him in cash, and as I counted out the piles of rupees he sat, his eyes fixed on the money, literally rubbing his hands together in glee. A performance of such blatant greed that I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel offended.

The villa was much bigger than what became known as the ‘exploding tile apartment’ so we enjoyed the space and settled down for a couple of weeks at the seaside. Candolim beach was wide and unspoiled and during the days that followed Kayla and I explored all the other beaches in the area. We enjoyed the laid-back beach bars on Sinquerim and the hippy chill style of Baga, avoided the lager-lout vibe of Calangute (although there were few tourists around at that time) and finally agreeing that our favourite was Anjuna, north of Baga and still a fairly hippy place, with a beach bar where we would enjoy an ice-cold bottle of Indian Kingfisher lager. It was one of the few beach bars that remained open even in the off season. It tended to be frequented by uber-chilled expats and it wasn’t unusual to meet one of them relaxing there with a joint in one hand and a beer in the other.

All of the beaches were the haunt of small crowds of local children, many of them begging or offering wares for sale or to give the tourists manicures. Kayla would pay one to do her nails, and end up with dozens around her, all hoping for a few rupees.

Throughout this time, I had the strange feeling that life was on hold. I was still just waiting and nothing appeared to be happening. I would make my daily call to John in the afternoon – evening for him – and discuss options and possibilities, fanning the flames of hope, but in reality, there was no option but to wait.

In the evenings I would sit on the villa’s veranda watching the night sky, the stars and moon no longer visible behind the blanket of the monsoon’s low cloud. I would picture John watching the same moon almost five thousand miles away, and wonder how long it would be until I could take the girls home to him.

To pass the time Kayla and I took another short trip, this time to Delhi for the weekend. She had found us a house to rent, so off we went to see the Taj Mahal. And yes, I sat on the bench where Princess Diana had sat in the famous photo, looking so reflective, and yes, I did ponder for a while on where I was and what our future would hold.

I was still very keen to be biological father to a child. I had already been in touch with Doran, the Israeli we had met at the Lakeside Apartments. He worked for Tammuz, a surrogate agency, and he said that he could arrange a surrogate for me in Bangkok, Thailand. India was now out of the question, after the legal clamp-down on surrogacies, but Thailand was still in business.

Doran worked regularly with the South African organisation whose egg-donors had been staying at the Lakeside when we were there. He suggested I get in touch to arrange for an egg donor.

I found their website, and saw Sophie’s name on the contact list. She and her girlfriend Lauren had been at Lakeside, where Lauren was mother hen to the group of women there to make egg deposits. Sophie had been a nice woman, very caring and friendly. I hoped she would remember me. I emailed her to say hello and she replied almost instantly, asking how I was and how the girls were doing. I replied that we were all well and asked her for the password to the website. Once I had logged on, I scanned the faces – and very quickly recognised Rene.

I told Sophie I would love to attempt another pregnancy, with Rene as egg donor. She said that could be arranged and recommended a clinic in Thailand. She said she was often there for egg-retrieval with the egg donors, and she could meet me there in mid-August. I contacted the clinic and booked an appointment and so the plan was set. I was delighted. India might have closed its doors to us, but Thailand had not – I still had the chance of fathering a child.

In early July I was notified that I would be required to go for an interview with the British Consulate in Mumbai. They also wanted to see the girls’ surrogate, Rehanna. None of this was necessary for the passports to be issued, but I was told that we had been randomly selected for interview. Who knows whether this was true? I wasn’t particularly keen to meet Rehanna, but we would have to go for interview together, so I had no choice.

A couple of weeks later we headed back to Mumbai, hopeful that, once this interview was completed, the passports would be issued. Kayla went too, as the waiting period for passports was, theoretically, over, and although there was no word from the authorities, she too was hoping they would soon be through. As we both made travel plans and packed up our Goan houses, I was painfully aware that all the new parents of other nationalities that we had met at Lakeside would have long since returned home, their children with them, able to carry on with their family lives. Only the British – Kayla and I – were still there, still waiting. Our presence, and no doubt that of other Brits in the same situation, was a shaming indictment of our government and its slow, heartless and unnecessary procedures.

Kayla decided we would all move into a nice apartment in Mumbai together for the next couple of weeks. She flew back, but Bharti’s mother was too frightened to fly, so I had to hire a car and we drove the 700 miles back. Bharti’s husband Sanjay had come down to join us, and he drove the car, with me beside him in the front and Bharti and her mother with the girls in the back. We set off at 6am and finally reached Mumbai at 8 that evening. The journey was picturesque, we passed paddy fields and villages and some stunning mountain scenery, but inevitably it all began to blur as the hours passed and by the time, we had been on the road for 14 hours, all we wanted was to eat and sleep.

Apart from loo breaks we’d only stopped once for a meal, but at that stop I had a special moment with Tara. Holding her I began making baby noises – ooh, ahh, boo, boo when she suddenly replied, with a perfect imitation of ooh, ahh. I grinned, my little girl was starting to talk! ‘Very good talking to you Booboo’ I said. And from that moment on she became Booboo and Amritsar was Baabaa.

Kayla, her babies and her parents were all installed in the apartment – in a building called the Oberoi Splendour – when we arrived. Bharti and her mother went home with Sanjay, the girls and I settled into our cool and stylish apartment and after that Bharti would come each day to look after the children. As a second nanny, this time she brought her daughter-in-law Priti, daughter of Geeta, to help her look after all four children.

Soon after we arrived, I went for my interview at the British Consulate. With Bharti and Tara and Amritsar in tow, I set off in a Rickshaw, which then went around in circles for some time before we found the Consulate in the middle of a business park in central Mumbai.

When we got there, Bharti was refused entry and told by security guards to wait outside, while I went in with the girls. The two officials who greeted us were called Daisy and Zubin, they seemed pleasant and chatted as they escorted me to a small waiting room.

Somya had arranged for Rehanna to join us there, and as I sat and waited for her, a baby in a car seat on either side of me, I was full of apprehension. Meeting at all had not figured in our plans, and nor had allowing her to see the girls again. We had paid her well for her services, the equivalent of four years’ income in a good job, and we had believed that was an end to her role. Now here I was, sitting in a grim, sixties-style office with a bare wooden table and plastic chairs, waiting to meet her.

Minutes later she was ushered in by Zubin. Rehanna, who was wearing a sari, came over to me and the girls. She reached out to pick up Tara, who screamed, so she turned instead to Amritsar. There was nothing tender or motherly about Rehanna’s interaction with the girls, I could see that she felt no special connection with them and this I found reassuring. I said thank you to her in the local language, Maharati, for what she had done for us, and she smiled.

Zubin, whose name I recognised as someone who had already been in touch with Kayla over her application, was very friendly. He showed us to a cubicle and introduced us to the British Consular official who had come down from Delhi to conduct the interview. It was straightforward, a list of standard official questions, and soon over, after which we were shown back downstairs to where Bharti was waiting. She took one of the car seats from me and muttered, ‘Mr Andi you must give Rehanna some travel money.’ Startled, I fumbled for 2000 rupees, around £20, and gave it to Rehanna, who thanked me and then left. I hoped, fervently, that we would not need to meet again. A hope that would soon turn out to be foolishly naive.

A couple of days later I made a flying trip to Bangkok to visit the All IVF Clinic there and make my deposit.  Sophie was there to meet me and the staff there, admin assistant Nancy and a nurse called Natmanee, were welcoming and efficient. Sophie told me they would attempt a pregnancy immediately, before the sperm was frozen, as that might give the best chance and I couldn’t help but be excited.

I did wonder if I was being selfish. After all, we had two healthy daughters. But I couldn’t help longing for a child that would have my DNA. John and I had agreed we would gladly have three or even four children. I refused to let myself think about the potential problems in getting any future children back to the UK, the problems we were having in India were largely a result of the change in the surrogacy law and in any other country it would be far more straightforward. We had simply come at the wrong time, it was bad luck, but it couldn’t happen again.

I was in Bangkok for just two nights, having left the girls with Kayla and her parents and the nannies. I would hear within two or three weeks whether the attempted pregnancy had been successful, so I left Thailand filled with anticipation and hope.

When I returned to India, I discovered that the passports for Kayla’s children, Millie and Max, had arrived. Kayla was euphoric and I couldn’t help but be happy for her. At the same time, I wondered why her passports had come through, with no need for an interview, while mine had been held up. Was there something I didn’t know? Or was I just being paranoid. That day I came close to tears. Would Kayla soon be off home, leaving me on my own in India?

I didn’t have much time to brood on this because we had trouble at the apartment. Our landlord had discovered that the nannies sometimes stayed the night and he erupted with fury, demanding a lot more money and screaming at us so aggressively that Kayla’s father, Daniel was shaking and close to collapse, his hand on his chest. I was alarmed, and I had to insist that the landlord leave and stop frightening an elderly couple. He backed off, but he did not give up and in the end, we decided to leave after only 12 days. Kayla, with her parents and babies, went back to the Lakeside Apartments. I couldn’t afford to go with her, so I rented another apartment across the road from the one we were in, in a building called the Lalco Residency. While it was a stone’s throw from the Oberoi Splendor, inside it could have been on another planet. The apartment was dated, with flaky paint on the walls, dreary lino floors and bars over the windows. Added to that we were right over a road that was heavy with traffic, the drone was loud and the pollution dense and smelly. And the young boys who came to mop the floors used filthy water. We had to ask them to go and find some clean water, or not to do the floors. I hated it and I hoped, passionately, that we wouldn’t have to stay there for long.

Within days Kayla called to say she had got her children’s exit visas. She had been advised by her lawyer in India to use an agent, a third party who, for a significant fee, could talk to the right people and speed things up. She had been asked for additional documents by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and Daisy from the British Consulate in Mumbai had supplied them, at which point the FRRO granted the visas. Kayla was on her way, and I was going to miss her.

On Kayla’s last night in India I went out for a meal with her and her parents. We ended it with hugs and tears and when I got into my rickshaw to go back to the Lalco Apartments I felt very dejected indeed. How long was it going to be for me and our girls?

The following day I called John, who said he had good news.

‘Remember that Spanish au pair my sister used to have?’ he said. ‘She was called Manuela and she was great with the kids?’

I did remember, vaguely. I had met her in London when she had stayed with us in our apartment.  I recalled that she liked football and Martina Navratilova. She also liked to speak her mind and had been rather opinionated, but it was true that she was very good with John’s sister’s children.

‘Well,’ John went on. ‘I’ve been in touch with her, she’s free at the moment and I’ve hired her to come out and help you. I thought it would cheer you up to have a friendly face there with you.’

I knew John was doing his best to make up for the fact that he couldn’t be there with me. And perhaps he was right; Manuela might be good company and help to fill the void that Kayla and her family had left.

A week later I went to the airport to meet Manuela’s plane. I spotted her across the concourse, before she saw me. A tall, fair-haired and heavily-built woman, she stood out among the crowd as she made her way through, looking nervously around for me.

I hoped that Manuela would make life easier over the coming weeks. More than anything, of course, I hoped we wouldn’t be in India much longer. By the time she arrived it had already been almost five months. So, it was reasonable to expect that it could only be another few weeks at most. And with Manuela to keep me and the girl’s company those weeks would fly by.

Except that, unfortunately, things did not go smoothly with Manuela, almost from the start. She was dismayed by the apartment, the heat, the crowds and the food. She insisted she must work only an eight-hour day and then stop, so that everything had to be fitted around this. She wanted to take the babies out, and I wasn’t keen, because of the crowded, dusty, dirty artery of a road we lived on. It was the through road to the slum areas, so the rickshaw drivers all went that way to get home, and they would regularly stop and defecate at the side of the road, when the urge took them. So, walking anywhere was hazardous to say the least.

For a short while Manuela did her shift during the day, while Bharti came to look after the babies in the evening and at night. This arrangement bumped along reasonably well – until Manuela accused Bharti of theft. I suspect Bharti was probably stuffing a couple of the babies’ disposable nappies into her bag for her grandson. And honestly, I would have been happy to overlook it, Bharti had been a wonderful help to me for several months and I needed her. But once Manuela, trembling with indignation, loudly voiced her accusations, that was it – Bharti was off.

‘I cannot stay here with this woman Mr Andi,’ she said, her voice filled with outrage. ‘I love you like family.  Amritsar and Tara are my beautiful girls, but that woman is BAD.’

What to do? I would rather have had Bharti than Manuela, but I had no choice. Bharti left that day. I was heartbroken. I had been genuinely fond of Bharti, who managed the girls with calm efficiency and had been a great support. Her departure left Manuela, with her eight-hour day, and me, with the girls for the other 16 hours, both sharing the small apartment and neither of us very happy about it. I was concerned about Tara and Amritsar too. They had become used to Bharti and the unsettled atmosphere could not be good for them.

Over the next few days both Manuela and I suffered from upset stomachs. And she was convinced it was my cooking. The apartment was not particularly clean, it always smelled rather musty. The apartment was serviced by young Indian boys who cleaned were enthusiastic and thorough, but they used the same bowl of water for the whole apartment block, rinsing their cloths in increasingly filthy water as they worked their way round. Because of this I was very careful about food preparation, never putting the food directly onto the counters and washing utensils very carefully. I knew the food was not picking up dirt. But the meals I made were Indian, and this didn’t suit Manuela.

Actually, nothing about India suited Manuela. She would go off on solo tourist trips, disappearing for hours and then arriving back in tears because she felt that everyone had tried to rip her off and treat her like an idiot. She thought of herself as a tough woman and a feminist and being taken for a fool, as she saw it, didn’t fit with this. I tried to explain to her that India was a country where women were second class citizens and where, with such widespread poverty, everyone was keen to make money and tourists were often seen as easy prey.

I did sympathise. She felt uncomfortable and unable to find her footing and it was perhaps not surprising. India was a different world and it took a lot of adjusting to settle into life there, especially in the apartment where we were living.

Still determined to take the girls out Manuela tried to get me to buy a double buggy so that she could walk the babies to a park. Except that there wasn’t a ‘park’. There was a small play area in the next-door apartment complex, with two broken swings and a derailed roundabout. And despite Manuela’s repeated requests, I was not about to let her disappear out with the girls, the three of them totally vulnerable. In the end, exasperated, I shouted at her, ‘This is the bloody Jogeshwari Link Road, not a leafy park in London. The babies are not leaving this apartment.’

By late August I had been in India for five months and I was staving off moments of near-despair. Kayla had gone, Bharti had gone, Manuela was a nightmare and John was no closer to getting his visa.

And then John called to tell me that the girls’ passports had arrived.