As tonight’s title would imply, who trumps the field when it comes to who’s best? I am of course talking about children aged 4 – 6 (almost 7)! In certain behaviours I think they are pretty much 50/50 when it comes to things like their emerging abilities in arts and crafts, but where do the boys come out on top? And indeed, where do the girls? Tara is an amazing football player and at this age gender stereotypes don’t really apply!
They were all great as babies, that is probably excluding Thor with his screamy, almost nightmarish articulations! I remember playing opera at loud volume to settle him for his night time sleeps. John actually put his cot on my side of the bed so that I could cope with his nightly screamies! Go figure – though that was a long time ago now. His and Caleb’s developments have proved that they both still hold onto the power of pure scream, though they are specific with whatever it is that is bothering either of them, very unlike baby screams that seem to be much about anything and everything!
I’ll put an element of just being loud down to age, as Aaliyah gives as good as the boys if she is annoyed about something or other. A minus here for the girls however as Aaliyah will not convey the actual thing that is (excuse the term), pissing her off, where as the boys will immediately point fingers and cast aspersions!!!
I realise the reality of both Tara and Amritsar being from a slightly different gene pool, but they really are so very different when it comes to their general behaviour and the volume of their occasional dissatisfactions. Is there a genetic link going on here? I hope not as we are all born equal and I believe that when we die, we do so on equal terms. Some of us took more and some of us gave more! But nature reclaims us and converts our elements in much the same way.
Okay, today the boys were fighting at the dinner table. A lash out here and a lash out there. Some kicks and some shouting, but they both held it together enough to finish their food and no one was seriously hurt. Aaliyah on the other hand moved the table whilst Tara was beneath the said table, crawling into the corner space, as with the table turned, she has difficulty getting to her space at the table as it is blocked by the provisions cupboard. Aaliyah had inadvertently hit Tara in the head. Some shouting and crying later, Tara settled and Aaliyah went crazy and even screamy with apologies. Poor, dear Tara. Naughty, but repentant Aaliyah,,, They all give equally when it comes to hugs and statements of ‘I love you’ however.
So all in all, I think that the girls feel remorse a little bit more than the boys. I also think that with the boys, a little feud can certainly run the course, though it burns out very quickly. But are the girls more focused on getting their own back at a later time, opposed to just dealing with a situation in the here and now!
To be truthful, I couldn’t properly decide on who had the upper hand at this age. I had to ask Sindy, our nannies opinion! She kind of confirmed what I had rightly considered. And that was that boys bring it out into the open, they are a lot more straight forward, using a raging scream, a kick or even a punch with their sibling in order to settle a dispute. The girls on the other hand are a bit more subtle with things – a later revenge seems like a more formidable and pre-planned endgame.
Sindy’s leaving comment tonight was that with the girls, in a few years time, we ‘ain’t seen nothing yet’! Oh dear – roll on the the next stages of the human condition!!! I believe it is a bit more settled for all from the ages of 7 – 10, so a little respite for now at any rate.
Another visit to the Vineyard restaurant. A great low carb menu if you exclude the dessert! Mind you, I’m feeling so full after eating relatively small portions. That might be slightly down to a late lunch of mushroom lasagna. Yes, my carbohydrate binge today was 2 almond croissants for breakfast and a 3pm lunch of mushroom lasagne. If anything the pre – agrarian concept does is shrink that stomach a bit – the internal one that is! Who really needs a gastric bypass – just some willpower to stop shoving carbs into your system will definitely do it.
I am looking towards a day of fasting tomorrow. Sausage, egg and bacon on the menu for John. More on the diet on Friday.
We did enjoy the Haagen Das at midnight when John opened his card and gifts. Plus the bottle of bubbles. He likes antique silver, so I pushed the boat out and found two 1930’s single stem vases at an antiques market. London hallmarks, he likes that!
Caleb was next to wish him happy birthday as he decided to come downstairs at 4am!
Once back from school everyone was excited to see daddy who promised to come home early (6.15pm) and we all enjoyed birthday cake together before bed.
Thor did comment to daddy ‘your birthday isn’t very long today as it is almost time for bed already’ but up they went and Nikki arrived at 7.30pm allowing us to head out for dinner! A good day I have to say – the carbs were a treat, but to be honest, I thought I would go into town and gorge on a Big Mac and fries! I did not. Instead I am looking forward to tomorrow’s fasting! Am I for real? lol
Almost time to wake up John to wish him happy birthday and offer him the luxury of chocolate and ice cream. This shit was really once a luxury. How did our society end up serving up these kind of calorie rich luxuries for freaking breakfast! Yesterday my friend Richard explained that he had a visit to the hospital. Over 40% of the casualties in accident and emergency were morbidly obese!!!
What has our society chosen as the ‘Normal’ in the idea of freedom?
I have no political opinion on this forum as you know – but please? enough is enough!!!
Here is a firm family favourite of ours. The word ‘Delicious’ doesn’t even come close! Obviously Raspberries are not in season this time of year and melons tend not to be on special at the supermarket as they are mostly imported! So my advice today is to make this amazing combo when the ingredients are in season, or if like me, you can’t wait, frozen raspberries are just fine. You will need to buy yourself a large honeydew or galia melon. Deseed and skin your melon and cut into small bite size pieces. Place in a freezer bag and freeze overnight. Unripe melon actually works better than ripe as there is much more fibre.
You might remember back in October when we looked at pumpkin and ginger jam, we removed a good volume of the liquid after freezing and defrosting the cubed flesh. The same can be said for removing a good volume of the juice from the melon. To defrost the melon, place the freezer bag in a colander over a pan for a few hours or overnight. You could use a cocktail stick and make 20 or so holes in the bottom of the bag to aid in the release of the liquid.
Okay we are good to get Jammin’
800g melon (400g once liquid removed)
300g apple pulp
150ml lemon juice
In a large pan empty three 480g packs of frozen raspberries. Heat through until liquid and simmering. Take a sieve and dredge through a number of times. Use a spoon to force the pulp through the sieve and discard about 50% of the pips. If you don’t do this you will end up with a very seedy jam. Okay, so you now have a less seedy raspberry juice. If you wanted, you could completely deseed through a sieve at this point. Personally I prefer a little bite in my rasmelonberry jam. The volume of seeds coupled with the evaporation of some of that juice should leave you with around a kilogram of raspberry juice. Now is the time to add your melon. Squeeze the freezer bag to release any remaining, surplus liquid. This melon juice you could reserve for making cocktails, freeze for use at a later date or just throw away. Give a final chop of the melon flesh and add to your berry juice. Cook a further 10 minutes on a low simmer. Now add a good few squirts of lemon juice and your apple pulp, then finally the sugar.
Remember, you don’t want to cook your jam for any more than 20 minutes. With the sugar dissolved, your liquor should look smooth and velvety. A small tip for you now! Before the sugar is added, check that your fruit pulp isn’t too watery. If it is, cook the pulp a further 5 – 10 minuets to reduce the liquid. Once you have added the sugar, you are only allowed up to 20 minutes cooking time. Stir every few minutes in order to release any pulp that has settled on the base of the pan. Remember, only ever use a wooden spoon in the boiling liquid.
You could skim throughout the 20 minutes rolling boil, but I have found that it is easier to do this towards the end of the cooking time. I do not use the old fashioned way of checking the gel by dropping a drop or two on a plate you have placed in the freezer and check if it has set. But if you use that wooden spoon and look at the consistency as it falls from the spoon. It should hold together in loose clumps.
Of course it goes without saying that you have already sterilised your jam jars, lids, jam funnel and ladle. Pot up your jars leaving 8mm at the top of the jar and close the lids tightly. This volume of ingredients should yield around 6 or 7 320ml jars. Place jars in a steamer and sterilise once more for 20 minutes. Cool down and label. It’s good to note the fruit and the date!
A good home made jam can last up to 2 years. But I think that you will agree that Dadda’s Jam is far too scrummy to be just left on a shelf! Enjoy wisely – a little of everything in proportion is just fine.
I am still abstaining from carbohydrates. So sadly no jam on my toast at the moment. In fact no toast either come to think of it. Though tomorrow both John and I are taking the day off from our pre – agrarian diet just for tomorrow, Johns birthday.
The day started off with John’s early rise of 5am. I could hear some shouts from both Caleb and Thor. They met John on his descending of the stairs a little later and they talked with him for a moment, then they headed back to their room. Fifteen minutes later, with John gone, they descended from the top floor once more. Suddenly I had a boney elbow thrust into my left side and a Thor-Thor huggle on my right hand side! No sound from the girls, but with the little guys alone, I realised that my nights sleep was over. A bit of chat, chat, chat from Thor and several ‘I love you Dadda’s’ from Caleb, I knew it was time to get up. It’s very sweet when your children show affection spontaneously, even if sleep is the only thing on your mind!
I did finally persuade them both to return to their beds before Sindy arrived at 7pm and I headed downstairs for my regular morning Cup of coffee, now sweetened with a teaspoon of Canderel not sugar.
After Sindy’s school drop, we parted company as she has been rather unwell these last days and took a few hours to rest before the school pickup. A friend of mine picked me up at 10am and whoosh – we headed out on the hunt for a birthday present that hopefully John cannot fault! We’ll see how that goes on Wednesday morning, the big day!
The minute I arrived back home I heard Sindy on the phone with the school. Caleb had somehow walloped his mouth on the dratted school toilet and almost smashed in his front incisors. An emergency trip to the dentist (all seemingly okay) only made possible with the snap cancellation of Aaliyah’s gymnastics class. She was told her Gym-mistress was very unwell! Poor love…
Most of you parents out there must remember this kind of day! Documenting family life can be so random really, can’t it? Writing non fiction is so sporadic! Nothing that I actually write can really flow with a formula or a structure. But that’s a good thing isn’t it? The randomness of random!!!
Anyhow, now looking forward to the birthday meal on Wednesday evening. A bit more of that on the day I am sure. And thank you for reading BTW.
What are we watching tonight – OMG, that classic modern time rom-com Notting Hill! Some movies just seem like they have always been there. I actually used to ‘do’ Notting Hill Market every weekend in my early to mid 20’s. A few friends also had stalls in the market. Again – back in the day hey! Perhaps it’s time to remember another memoir on my early life spent in relative poverty in a 1990’s, slightly shabbier and greyer London Town. No promises though – there was a lot of trouble and strife, upset and anguish in those slightly more innocent days. Some of the people to be heralded and one or two people to be completely and utterly forgotten…
We all have to live with our history. The good and the bad!
Carbs? Who needs them. Scallops are a definite favourite. Their sweet, mild flavour lends itself to all possibilities. A mild home made yellow curry sauce is a perfect marriage. A starter was had of diced, salty blue saint Agur cheese, rocket and a home made salad dressing. All seasoned to perfection of course!
Eleven days into the pre – agrarian mindset and I must say that there have been one or two cravings! Obviously spaghetti is one of them and probably chips / fries. Also bread I must add. So, what with Johns birthday coming up on 15th January and a day off from the diet for both of us, I am planning on being a complete hog!
We’ve eaten very well mind you. Roast chicken and sautéed Savoy cabbage, lobster Thermidor with cream cheese substituting the cheese sauce, stir fried prawns and low carb vegetables last night – damn we have eaten well. But there have also been cravings for the occasional dessert I have to admit.
Yes, I think next Wednesday will be a real treat. But then again, we have a whole sea bass to bake for tonight’s dinner accompanied by garlic butter fine green beans.
I haven’t mentioned the children in a while. Well, all is well on the home front! That’s actually a lie! They are all presently screaming at each other over a game of air football that John supposedly gave me for Christmas. They are not the best at sharing! They are now also screaming at Daddy and Dadda as I have told them ‘no flapjack for dessert now’ as they are all being a bit silly. Today’s photo is a joint venture where they all helped stir today’s home made flapjack mixture. They are all now screaming Very loudly for flapjacks! No doubt I will submit. Lucky them hey!
Last nights full moon and the publishing of chapter 10 of Eighteen Moons on my blog will be the final chapter for now! The rest of the story is of course available to purchase from the Amazon bookstore in your country, available in either ebook or paperback formats? Eighteen Moons is the memoir of how our family came to be, struggling against all odds. It takes us on a journey through India and then on to Thailand and finally Nepal on the roof top of the world.
Did I say that the follow-up book ‘Thirteen Moons More’ is also available on the Amazon platform? The story of just who we are today!
Two inspiring and unique stories that reflect the hardships of family planning in the extreme and just how normal a two dad family really is. Well, with just a few bumps along the way…
The staff at the Lakeside remembered us and were very welcoming, but they told me that they didn’t take in-person bookings, I could only book an apartment online. I had to go and sit at a computer in the lounge, book an apartment and then go back to reception. After which I was given a key and we moved into a one-bed apartment overlooking the lake.
I called John and told him we’d moved. ‘I know it costs more, and I know we can’t stay here long,’ I said. ‘But I need this, just for a while, to try to get my sanity back.’
John was understanding. ‘Just take a bit of time and relax,’ he said. ‘I’m going back to the Indian High Commission with a very big colour photo of the girls and I’m going to demand to know why they are keeping me from my children.’
‘Good luck. Give ‘em hell,’ I said. Not that he hadn’t already, I knew that. But another attempt to shame them into giving him what he should have had eight months earlier was worth a try. And what else did we have?
Being back at the Lakeside Apartments was a breath of fresh air – literally. Amazingly, six months after I had last been there, many of the people I had met were still there. My good friends Desi and Sandra were both still there; when they spotted us both of them came rushing up to give me a hug and to marvel over the girls and how they’d grown. I had been so alone in the apartments, where the only other adults were the nannies. Being able to sit in the restaurant and tell them the story of our months in India over a glass of wine felt good.
Manju and Nikki continued to look after the girls, so our routines remained unchanged. The difference was that in the evenings I could go and meet friends downstairs for a couple of hours, and during the daytime, when I had the girls, I could take them out to the garden area, knowing that here we would be safe.
Within a couple of days Rehanna had tracked us down, with more tales of woe and demands for money. I gave in to the inevitable and paid her. I wasn’t going to be able to shake her off until we left India.
While our environment was much better at the Lakeside, I still felt distraught about what had happened to us. It was only a few weeks until Christmas and we were still stranded.
I felt broken by all that had happened, and one evening things came to a head. I was in a state of acute mental distress that was terrifying. I felt strangely dissociated from everything around me and I suddenly knew that I couldn’t cope any longer. Terrified that I was having a nervous breakdown all I could think of was to get myself to hospital. I told Manju I had to go out I said I would be back late and then I got in a rickshaw outside the hotel and asked the driver to take me to Hiranandani Hospital.
On the way there I felt as though a dam inside me was about to burst. I knew I had to get to somewhere safe before I let it all out. I paid the driver, walked into Accident and Emergency and went up to the desk. The receptionist smiled at me, but I couldn’t get any words out. Instead I began crying; sobbing and shaking and screaming.
I tried to tell them the story and it came out in gulps and sobs and I just couldn’t stop, the dam had bust. ‘It’s all been too much,’ I choked, ‘Everyone has taken from us but no-one will help. Father Ghandi would be disgusted at how his children have treated us. Everywhere there is greed. I can’t get home, I can’t get my children home, I don’t know what else to do.’
Two nurses led me, still sobbing and barely able to stand, into a side room where a doctor came and hooked me up to a heart monitor and stuck an oxygen mask over my face, which had the (probably desired) effect of stopping me in mid-flow.
Later the doctor came back and, after looking at all my test results, sat down on the side of the bed.
‘You are having a panic attack,’ he said. ‘I can hear that you have been having a very difficult time and I am sorry for this. I can give you something to calm you and you need rest. Would you like to stay in the hospital overnight?’
I would have loved to just sink into oblivion, at least for a few hours. But I did not dare take that option. I was afraid that if I stayed I might be put into a psychiatric hospital and sectioned.
‘I’d better not,’ I said. ‘I have children, I must go back to them. Thank you for your help.’
And so, feeling sick and dazed and clutching a prescription, which I later threw away, I paid my bill and left the hospital, breakdown over. The whole episode had been frightening and traumatic, worse than anything else I’d experienced since I arrived in India. But I knew that somehow I would have to cope. The girls were my priority, and no matter how terrible I felt, I wasn’t going to let them down. I had needed an outlet, and I’d found one.
I went home and called John. I told him what had happened.
‘I’m worried about you,’ he said. ‘I’d do anything to be there. You’re an incredibly strong person, you can get through this, I know you can.’
‘I will,’ I said. ‘I know I will.’
It was very late by the time I sank into bed, exhausted and wrung out. I could not even think about what the next steps would be.
And then, the following day, John called again.
‘Andi, they said my visa is going to be granted. I’m getting it. I will be with you in a few days.’
I needed him to repeat the news, so that I could take it in. All I could think was, ‘Our nightmare is over. Thank-you, whatever gods or forces or powers are out there, thank-you’.
A few days later Ram drove us to the airport to meet John.
‘This is very cheerful news Mr Andi,’ he said, his head wobbling so hard I worried about how he was managing to drive. ‘You are finding fortune again, after a most difficult time, and I am very happy for you.’
‘Thank-you Ram, I will miss you when I leave. You have helped me a great deal.’
Ram grinned broadly. ‘It is not every day that I find such a nice customer as you Mr Andi. One who likes conversation and appreciates a samosa to break the journey from time to time. This is a very special customer.’
I felt honoured. And it was good to feel that there were some things, and some people, that I would miss when I left India. Ram was one of the good guys.
The arrivals area in Mumbai airport is outside. After immigration you go down a long corridor before exiting onto an open square flanked by railings and seating. This was where we waited, in the hot midday sun. We stood to one side, close to a small hut that housed a taxi company, trying to find a bit of shade. I stood with Manju and Nikki on either side, each holding one of the girls. John and I had never imagined that we would be apart for eight long months. Now I longed to see him with an intensity that felt overwhelming. Would he have changed? Had I?
Would we be able to go home and pick up the pieces of our life together after all that we’d been through?
I turned to see him coming out of the entrance to the terminal, waving at me. I waved back, furiously, and moment later we were in each other’s arms. A hug so warm and heartfelt that it spoke a thousand words.
Laughing and tearful, I held a hand out either side of me. ‘Here are your daughters.’
John stood looking from Amritsar to Tara and back again, speechless. Nikki and Manju smiled, while the girls stared at John with big eyes.
‘This is your Daddy, Tara, Amritsar. Daddy is here at last.’
John looked from one small face to the other. He was careful not to startle them. They had to get to know him, we both knew that. It would take time.
‘Manju, Nikki, this is John.’
‘Welcome Mr John,’ Manju said. ‘We are happy that you are here. Mr Andi is very, very happy.’
She was right, I was. I kept my eyes on him as if he might disappear in a puff of smoke if I looked away. I had dreamed of this day for eight long months.
Ram was hovering behind us, grinning broadly. I introduced him and he held out his hand. ‘Mr John we are honoured to have you here in India. Please come this way to my car. Let me help you with your bag.’
We made our way to the car, where we all squeezed in. It wasn’t until we were seated in the taxi that a few tears slid down John’s cheeks as he sat between Tara to Amritsar, holding one small hand in each of his.
Ram drove us across the hot, bustling city to the Lakeside Apartments. It reminded me of the first time John and I had arrived, full of hope and dreams, just over two years earlier. Then we had been almost overwhelmed by the scent of India, that heady mix of spice, bodies, animals and traffic fumes. Now I was so used to it I barely noticed any more.
Once John had dropped his things off in our room we left the nannies settling the girls for their nap and went down to the restaurant to get something to eat. Over lunch we made plans to go to the FRRO the following day and then to get home, as soon as possible.
‘You look skinny,’ John told me.
‘That’s not the only way in which I’ve changed,’ I said. ‘This has all taken such a toll. I feel angry, hurt and disillusioned.’
‘I’m not surprised,’ John said. ‘It’s been harder than we ever imagined and I’ve been worried about you. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to go through such a tough time.’
‘You have too,’ I said. ‘I know I sometimes envied you, being the one at home, but I know it was awful for you, unable to be with us.’ For John it had been a long, lonely vigil. He had kept himself busy with work, the dogs and the house, but he had missed out on his children’s first eight months, and he had lived with the constant stress and worry, just as I had. And, not wanting to worry others, he had not talked to anyone about what was happening.
‘I have nightmares about Mr Rodriguez,’ I said. I was only half-joking. ‘You’ll meet him yourself tomorrow.’
I can’t wait,’ John replied dryly.
Ram drove us – me, John, the nannies and the girls – to the FRRO for what I hoped, with every fibre of my being, was the last time.
‘It’s like something out of a Hemingway novel,’ John remarked, as he took in the slow-turning ceiling fans and the flies, the lino floors and the elderly desks.
After we had queued for an hour Mr Rodriguez appeared. Carrying an armful of heavy files he sat at a desk and, ignoring John completely, spoke to me.
‘Well Mr Webb, here you are again,’ he said with what I could have sworn was a smirk.
‘Yes, Mr Rodriguez, and this is John, my partner and the girls’ biological father.’
He appeared to notice John for the first time.
‘Ah, so you are the baby father,’ he said. ‘Here at last.’
‘We are both the fathers,’ John said firmly. ‘The paperwork makes that clear.’
Faced with the prospect of finally having to grant Tara and Amritsar’s exit visas, Mr Rodriguez did his best to wring every last ounce of misery from the situation. He turned back to me.
‘I’m afraid that you must pay a fine, Mr Webb, as you have overstayed your visa,’ he said, looking at me like a head teacher with a disobedient schoolboy. There is a daily fine for this. ‘
‘That is, as you know Mr Rodriguez, because I could not leave, since my daughters were unable to leave.’
‘Nonetheless, you must pay before your own exit visa can be granted. The babies also have a fine, they have British passports but no visa so they must pay a fine for every day they have stayed here since their passports were issued.’
‘But…they had no visa because you wouldn’t give them one. And they were born here!’
‘These are the rules,’ Mr Rodriguez said, his face set like stone.
We paid. After which he told us to go away for half an hour and come back to collect the passports. We did, and to our huge relief, all three passports had been stamped with the exit visas.
As we turned to go, Mr Rodriguez beckoned me over to him. Smiling paternally, he said, ‘I hope you know Mr Webb, this was not personal.’ He laughed loudly. ‘I am happy to see you smiling now. Last week you were in tears, you have had a very bad time of things here. I doubt you will return to India again, will you.’
‘I don’t know, Mr Rodriguez. We might come back to India, it is a beautiful country. But I hope very much that we will never, ever need to come back to this office.’
For a second he looked taken aback. Then he laughed again. ‘Good luck with your children and your life in the UK,’ he said. ‘Yours are the last British surrogate babies born to a same sex couple to leave India, by the way.’ He turned and disappeared through his office door. It was the first time, in all the weeks I had been going to his office that he had referred to the girls as my children.
‘Let’s go,’ I hissed to John, and we headed out to Ram’s taxi and back to Lakeside, where we celebrated by booking our tickets home for three days’ time and then taking the girls out to the pool for a play. They were already at ease with John, it was as if they knew he was theirs, just as I was, and as we each bobbed one of the girls around in the shallow end they squealed with joy.
‘I hadn’t realised we were the last gay couple to leave India with surrogate babies,’ John said.
‘Me neither,’ I replied. ‘It feels like a close shave. Chillingly scary, actually. No wonder it’s been so hard getting our visa.’
The law had changed and from then on only heterosexual couples married for a minimum of two years would be allowed to use surrogacy.
We were both silent for a moment, aware of just how close we had been to disaster and just how far we had come.
I hoped we had left Rehanna behind when we moved to Lakeside, so her appearance at our door the next day startled me. She had brought her brother and her two children. In they all came, Rehanna declaring how happy she was to meet John and how lovely the girls were. Then she announced that she had a bank account and would like John to make regular payments to her.’
‘I am twins mother,’ she declared. ‘My children,’ she nudged them forward, ‘twins brother and sister.’
She handed John a piece of paper with her bank details on it. He took it and put it on the table.
‘You are not our children’s mother,’ he said. ‘You were our surrogate. That is not the same thing.’
‘I am mama,’ she said, raising her voice. ‘You pay me. Money for Mama’
Her ’money for Mama’ which had initially been about her own mother, now clearly referred to herself. She was the ‘Mama’ as far as she was concerned, and we owed her.
John turned away and I could see he was struggling to contain his anger. I stepped forward.
‘Rehanna it is time to go now. John is tired from his flight.’
I ushered her towards the door and her brother and children followed. She was still muttering, ‘I am mama’. I handed her 10,000 rupees, just over £100, pushed her gently out of the door and then shut it. I turned and leaned against it, looking over at John. He picked up the piece of paper with her bank details, screwed it up and threw it in the bin.
‘I never want to hear another word about that dratted woman again, he said. ‘Her behaviour is insulting.’
‘We did need to keep her onside,’ I reminded him.
‘I know,’ he said. ‘But not anymore. We paid her for her nine months service, and we’ve paid her all over again. Now it stops.’
I breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps I should have told her to go away the first time she showed up. But I was concerned that she could make trouble for us in getting the girls out of India and that we might need her help.
What the story did illustrate, all too painfully, is why it’s rarely a good idea to have contact with a surrogate. It was the British Embassy that insisted we meet in the first place, and they, inadvertently, had put me in a difficult situation.
Saying goodbye to my friends at Lakeside, to the nannies, to Ram and to India itself over the following couple of days seemed almost unreal. I had dreamed of this moment for so long, but there was sadness too. India, with all its beauty, poverty, generosity and corruption, had been my home for eight months. It had given us our children and it would forever be a part of them, and of us.
At the airport Ram pumped my hand up and down. ‘I am missing you Mr Andi. Do not think badly of India. Come back again.’
‘I will miss you too Ram,’ I said. ‘India is full of good people, and you are one of them. I hope I will see you again one day.’
He grinned. ‘Of course. We will go for a samosa. Yes?’
‘Yes.’ I laughed.
As I walked into the terminal, holding Amritsar in one arm and my bag in the other, I turned for one last look at India. Ram stood beside his car, waving to us. Behind him the heat of another Mumbai day shimmered over the city. I waved, and turned back to follow John and Tara to check in.
Queuing to go through passport control, I began to feel anxious. It was entirely possible that something could go wrong at this late stage and they could stop us. We got to the front of the queue and the official looked at our passports.
‘Where is the paperwork relating to the surrogacy?’ he asked.
My heart sank. I had packed it and our cases had been checked in. I groaned. ‘I don’t have it,’ I explained. ‘It is in my suitcase. I thought the passports and the visas would be enough.’
He tipped his head back and looked at me, as if appraising me. Beside me I could feel John’s tension.
The official appeared to come to a decision. He smiled. ‘The passports are enough. You can go through’.
I could have wept.
Half an hour later we were on board our British Airways flight. But it was only once we had taken off that we were able to relax. John and I looked at one another.
‘We made it,’ I said.
The cabin staff made a fuss of the girls and offered to hold them for us while we ate. The flight was over nine hours, and when Tara and Amritsar were sleeping between feeds I tried to doze and thought about what it would like to be home. Would I find it easy to adjust? I wasn’t sure. Would I have the equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome, in which those who have been kidnapped fall in love with their kidnappers? Would I find that India, for all the heartache she had put me through, meant more to me now than England? Well, I would find out.
And then there was Manuela, who was still living in our London flat, waiting to take over as nanny to the girls. I wasn’t sure how I felt about her, after all that had happened in India. She had left me high and dry. But John had employed her and I had agreed that it was simpler to keep her on than to find someone new at short notice.
As we touched down I began to feel excited. But the cold and dark of a grey November day was a shock. It was just four weeks to Christmas, so lights and decorations were everywhere, their garish colours bright in the gloom.
A taxi journey later and we were back at the flat. By the time we got in the girls and I were shivering – none of us had enough clothes on, although we’d wrapped the girls in blankets. Their small faces peered around them, no doubt wondering what this strange, cold place was. ‘We’re here girls,’ I told them. ‘This is home.’
Respect Mr Swayze. Haven’t seen this movie in 30 years. Some very ‘Dirty Dancing’!
I’m no movie critic, but the old ones seem completely connected to our historical social psyche. Great stuff!!!
Though twelfth night is on Tuesday this year, I guess like most if you, we downed the Xmas decorations today, Sunday. Our living room looks rather bare. We have just returned from lunch had at Pizza Express in one of the local towns. Everyone was well behaved more or less. However if there is one place on earth that would lead to the craving of carbs, I guess a pizza restaurant will do it! Chicken wings followed by a salad Nicoise was enjoyed by myself and John went for wings and the Caesar Salad option.
Thor and Caleb are at present breaking sticks and daddy is bellowing the flames of his newly set fire in the grate. Suddenly the room doesn’t seem so empty and blue.
A reflection on all of this festive consumption and I am left thinking that next Christmas a few more single object gifts like Tara’s ukulele or recorder might just be the answer. I think that, excluding the much needed bikes and scooters, fifty percent of their games and multiple piece toys ended up in the bin. Mostly scattered to the four winds. I am also reminded that two years ago the children were given snow globes by our nannies mother and within 30 seconds of opening the Christmas paper, both Thor and Aaliyah had exploded their globes on the ground. I grabbed the remaining three and in the cupboard they still safely sit. They’ll be grateful for that in a couple of years time I guess.
For all of the holiday cheer – I am feeling a little weary and looking forward to the children’s return to school in the morning. Routine is crucial, especially when you have five children ages six and below. Definitely gonna have an early night tonight…
Okay, lamb tikka masala served with cauliflower rice. Remember, the marinade is everything if you want to enjoy flavoursome meat.
In a freezer bag, I placed garlic, ginger and chilli, with a good squirt of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of tandoori spice mix. I cut the meat from The bone of the lamb leftover from the New Years Eves joints and I diced it roughly into 2cm cubes and added it to the marinade. You can of course use raw chopped leg of lamb. Tie the top of the bag and squish it around a bit. The marinade was put together on New Year’s Day to allow the spices to do their work for 48 hours. I cooked my curry sauce on 3rd January in bulk. This is a recap on how I make my gravy.
Peel 7 or 8 medium onions And chop into fairly small pieces in a blender. Fry the onion on a low heat in a large pan. Add a tablespoon of crushed garlic and about the same amount of crushed ginger. Next you need to consider your spice mix! I always go with the following. Chilli to taste, either fresh or dried, and for this volume of sauce I added one tablespoon of turmeric, two tablespoons of cumin, the same amount of dried coriander leaf, garam masala and two knorr vegetable stock cubes. Fry out the spices for five minutes stirring constantly. Add 400g tomato purée (2 tubes) and cook that out for a further few minutes. Boil the kettle and empty the hot water into your aromatic spice mix. Just enough water to create a medium thick sauce. Add salt to taste, turn the heat to low and place a lid on the pan. Cook on a low simmer for a minimum of one hour in order to cook out the rawness of the spices and purée. Thus creating a uniformed sweetness from all of your combined ingredients.
There you have it, a perfect gravy (curry sauce) every time. With this basic sauce you can create a multitude of different dishes and curries. As I said earlier, I bagged up 4 portions and froze, leaving the remainder for my tikka sauce. And how was that achieved?
I ground two good handfuls of almonds in my coffee grinder and stirred that into the sauce (pre ground is fine). I then added my lamb marinade and a liberal drizzle of double cream. Simmer for a further 40 minutes. Check the tenderness of the lamb. If you are using a raw lamb marinade for this I would fry it off before adding the tikka sauce and cook for around 1hr 30 minutes on a low heat. The tandoori spices from the marinade infuse into your basic sauce, elevating it to a very authentic tasting Tikka Masala. Of course you can use chicken or king Prawn, just alter the cooking times appropriately. Remember, your basic gravy/sauce is already cooked out.
Did you know, I don’t think that I have ever cooked a curry with beef due to respect for the Hindu belief that the cow is a sacred being! It’s funny, I remember living in Goa and missing Spaghetti Bolognese lots. I purchased a tin of corned beef in order to feast on this Italian classic, however Bharti the Indian nanny was not at all impressed. She, being Hindu did not like the thought of sharing the apartment with tinned cow! I forewent that bolognese and binned the tin. Anyhow, given that experience, a beef curry just seems so very wrong.
As for my cauliflower rice on this occasion I chose pre prepared and frozen. Available in most supermarkets nowadays. Very simple to heat in your microwave. Regular rice is also cool if you are not going for the low carb option! Enjoy.
So far this evening we have sustained nine 10 second power outages! Thankfully the children went up to bed with the knowledge (and 2 x electric candles) that they needn’t start screaming and running downstairs if we had another power cut in the night. This was what they did a few years ago when they were of course very little and were really quite unsettled in the darkness. John and I did not get a moments sleep that night! I remember finally leaving the bedroom to sleep on the sofa with the dogs whilst the children tormented John for hours. It was our very first bed invasion and they jumped around and screamed and giggled all night. Oh dear!
Anyhow, before they ascended the stairs tonight, I made Tara do a pinky promise that she would not keep her brothers and sisters up again tonight! For the last 2 weeks she has kept everyone up until past 10pm playing and shouting lots in the process. I asked her to look me in the face whilst the bond was made. She did so reluctantly. However a promise is a promise and guess what? They have all been as quiet a mice all evening, even with further power cuts. So, sod the power of the National Grid here in ‘The Shires’ and here’s to the power of a pinky promise with Tara!
Two nights ago John enjoyed salmon and butter tossed broccoli. I was of course fasting! The additional salmon that I cooked was brought forward to last nights starter! You see, a dessert or pudding is definitely out and I can see John buckling if he does not think this diet is working for him! Hence, I am bringing back a starter courses in order to make him believe that he is still eating in the lap of luxury. An little gem lettuce was shredded and salmon crumbled on top then a liberal dousing with a shop purchased Cesar dressing. Sumptuous and flavoursome!
The use of tomatoes and onions was key to allowing Mediterranean sauces like the tomato and basil sauce that accompanied Dadda’s pork and turkey meatballs last night. Last nights spaghetti substitute being garlic butter green beans. I’m thinking spiral courgette spaghetti bolognese for next week. The general idea is to interspace a night with low carb veg with one of pure protein and fat. So tonight looks like a proper Full English Fry-up of sausage, bacon and eggs! The starter will be John’s home made chicken liver pate. It’s a thing he does every Christmas and this years batch didn’t taste half bad.
Back to Dadda’s curry – Made a whole load of curry sauce this morning and converted 20% of it into Lamb tikka masala. Recipe to follow. The other 80% is in 4 freezer bags now sat alongside the other 2 portions of meatballs with tomato and basil sauce, safely in the freezer for additional quick and simple easy meals for the coming weeks. That’s the trick isn’t it? Forward planning…
Firstly, just how does this whole pre – agrarian thing work? I should probably just call it low carb I guess. I have never really looked into the Atkins diet or indeed the Keto plan. But I have now done a little more research and I guess the Keto diet has relevance. My idea is to enrich my body with good fats to aid joint lubrication, whilst at the same time loosing stored internal body fat. I’m not particularly overweight! I am not predisposed to diabetes and overall my muscle mass is just fine. But there’s always room for improvement isn’t there?
I imagine that the Keto and Atkins ideas came from pre – agrarian thinking! I also presume that the consumption of dairy products kind of substitutes those animal and fish fats mankind used to gorge on whilst hunting on the frozen tundra.
But what about the low carb vegetables that I have mentioned? A diet has got to work for you at the end of the day and eating purely meat and fish alone just might get a bit boring – even for just a 6 week period.
Low carb vegetables need to be there in order to substitute some of the excluded high carb foods, such as potatoes, bread and rice.
Tomatoes, onions and green vegetables and leaves (excluding peas) are part of this diet, including cauliflower as it’s in the cabbage (Calabrese) family. As you know I love home made curries and using cauliflower as a rice substitute is the perfect accompaniment to one of Dadda’s curries. Sadly channa and dal (full of starch) are off the menu as is mutter and Indian breads, but pure meat curries with cauliflower rice is my next ‘Big Thing’.
Some menu planning to come in my next blog.
Well, I have just had Tara on the ‘Thinking Chair’ for 10 minutes, due to the various goings-on on the top floor. She really needs to reconnect with Amritsar! It seems that she gangs up with Aaliyah most of the time in an attempt to side against Ritzy. We had a little chat and I have asked Tara to try to be a bit more friendly with Amritsar.
There is still some shouting up there, but Tara seems to be a little more sedate now. We will see how things are in the morning. Overall a good enough day, though getting them ready for bed seemed to take forever.
I have broken my fast and consumed two handfuls of almonds and a small piece of cheese! A little light exercise, you know – twisting my core from side to side and 50 top to toe squats.
John due home soon. He sent me a photo (featured above) of his non carb salad enjoyed at lunchtime. I had to allow his tomato soup as tomato is one of the few vegetables we are allowing, along with onions and green vegetables (no peas).
I am planning on Dadda’s home made meatballs with tomato and basil sauce tonight, served with garlic/butter fine green beans. Pork mince and finely chopped turkey leg meat. It’s that time of year isn’t it! No breadcrumbs however. Don’t worry, I froze the turkey legs on Christmas afternoon.
Lots of screaming going on upstairs now. I might have to cut this short and attempt to kerb their antics.
My right elbow is still in pain. I probably should go and see the Doctor. But I will give the new diet it’s full 6 weeks before doing so. I really hope that this new lifestyle change helps with health in general. It certainly can’t be a bad thing, can it?
It feels a bit strange this morning. It is 8am and the children are still in bed! They have consistently woken at 6am these last 10 days. Daddy is of course back to work today. Just me here with the not so famous five. Our nanny Sindy is back with us on Monday morning in preparation for the return to school.
Tara and Amritsar were yet again up until past 9.30 last night fooling around on the stairs, with the little ones enrolled on their earlier missions, but they gave in to the Zzzz’s around 8ish.
I forget to comment on New Years Eve yesterday due to my New Years Day post on my dietary experiment. So, I would just like to add, thank you to Auntie Sara, Uncle Gerry and cousins James and Theo for such a great night, plus neighbours Ed and Sandra with their 2 little ones. A great time was enjoyed, we appreciate your sharing your time as one decade slips into another.
Did I wish everyone a happy New Year as yet? If not, I hope you all have an amazing 2020’s.
I’m still fasting this morning. To be honest I am not the type who really craves food, so I’m feeling optimistic regarding the next 6 weeks. John however inquired about chocolate last night after his dinner of sautéed salmon and broccoli. I am a little worried about his luncheon choices today at work. Will he buckle for the bread in his sandwich or choose the boxed salad option at Pret A Manger? We’ll see how he does later.
To be honest, we both had a glass of wine last night. The reality of this big shift in what we eat will have its moments. Completely curtailing wine which was the original plan, I think needed tweaking. To coin a phrase, man cannot live by bread alone. I thought a glass can’t hurt and relatively few calories.
For me, ‘Day 1’ of the diet. I am looking forward to noting any health benefits and to a slightly trimmer body. Though with Johns birthday on 15th January, we are planning a day off from the diet and then an official pause for reflection on my birthday on February 17th.
I will of course keep my blog updated! And finally a big thank you all for reading, it is appreciated in this busy part of our lives that we call ‘Social Media’. Just so many choices…