The Sunday Roast

Tonight’s update is a very positive one. We all ate a ‘Sunday Roast Chicken Dinner’ together at 5.30pm this evening. Oh dear lord (I’m not at all religious). Not a morsel remained. The hounds were most unimpressed, just a few gravy licks as I was loading up the dishwasher. I believe it’s called ‘the pre-wash’ in households with dogs. The good eating might have been down to the promise of chocolate cake for dessert! Aaliyah was a bit screamy to begin with, but like an Olympic Tri Athlete, she went for gold (with the help from daddy), cutting up her chicken, potatoes and glazed carrots. It is true that I have not served boiled carrots throughout my entire adult life. Many moons ago, as a young man, I considered ‘what must I know, to improve myself in life’ and qualifying as a chef was at the top of the list. So I did so, back in the day (when celebrity cheffing was not really an option as a career) and since then I have chosen to eat well in life and share the outcomes with the people I care for! I believe this aspect is one of the reasons that John and I stayed together as a couple through thick and thin over the years. I did give up cheffing a lifetime or two ago in favour of design. Catering wise, I ended up in catering management and that was the end of being an underpaid, overworked idiot. The majority of my life was spent in the fields of designing clothing, accessories and jewellery. My degree was actually in silversmithing, but I guess it’s like ‘Fine Art’, your passion and persuasions find you. Let’s not get too conceptual here and I’m not going to drop the word ‘juxtaposed’ into the conversation. I’m smiling at the memory of certain, condescending, empty headed (or big headed) college lecturers at the moment! Anyhow, we ate roast chicken, roast potatoes, glazed carrots (please note the last paragraph), steamed Savoy cabbage, cooked in its own juices and crushed garden peas (everything well seasoned) – so much easier than regular peas with the little ones still fumbling with peas and a fork. We all ate well and I think we are at a point that the experience of a Sunday roast is a lot less stressful than in the past. A more regular event then. Just like curry nights. And the children used to hate the word ‘Spice’, yet now love their vegan curries and the the various accompaniments that make an authentic Indian meal. Regarding ‘Glazed Carrots’ I have to share something with you. Stop cooking carrots if you aren’t available to the idea of glazing then. They taste crap when just boiled and eating vegetables should not be a chore. I used to follow the traditional recipe for Glazed Carrots’ but bugger that. Just steam them until soft but still with a bite. Stop them cooking by drenching with the cold water tap. Once chilled, put them in a bowl and in the fridge. Now just before service, in a frying pan, a slug of stock or water, a punch of salt, teaspoon of sugar and a knob of butter – melt and reduce until a syrupy consistency is reached, then toss your chilled carrots in the syrup until hot, steamy and glazed. Delicious, tasty and a big goodbye to boring old boiled carrots. A thing of the past. So back to tonight, there was bath time and bedtime and now, almost mine, so more to follow tomorrow, so I bid you farewell.

The New Tent

You know how little ones love it when there are deliveries that come in large boxes! The hours of fun they have playing with the box(s) and the packaging. In this house, bubble wrap utopia to be found and five little pairs of hands pop, pop, pop into oblivion. When the chest freezer arrived a year ago, the massive box became their house for two weeks. We cut out a door and windows for them, but you know how cardboard becomes more and more ragged as the days progress. Well, we now have a permanent residence in the form of a pretty indestructible tent. We can thank Auntie Sara for it as she sent it over from Dublin a couple of years ago when Amritsar and Tara were little. When we moved to the Shires three years ago, the tent was left behind in London. John brought it back from London yesterday, at my request and the hours of fun that have thus far, produced five very happy children. I was taken aback last night when I looked up and even Remus had snuck into the tent, sat there looking as happy as Larry. He was soon ‘hounded out’ and the children regained permanent residence. At present Aaliyah, Thor and Caleb are sat in there selling ice creams, though it has been a castle and a boat also this morning. On another matter, I’m going to make a family ‘Roast Chicken Dinner’ later, so I will add to the diary, if it went well or that I swear that I’m never going through all the grief, ever again. Watch this space!

Poetry

Does poetry still remain in our combined social consciousness? It’s alright, i’m just having a moment to contemplate! A thousand possible diary entries were conceived today, but my mind has filtered away the all consuming daily riot to find clarity in music, our poetry of modern life. It’s not the beat or the rhythm, but the words that are delivered. The children did a late night invasion, just as I was serving up John and my ‘rack of lamb with dauphinois potatoes, asparagus and green beans. After a late night yesterday, when they finally got to sleep at 9.30on, tonight at 9pm, they stormed down the stairs thinking that their ballistic behaviour was acceptable! Yes, they were marched back up the stairs and all is now quiet.

I always thought that, like Benny and Bjorn, of ABBA fame, that writing the lyrics were a much better option than merely singing them. Now, I have not written poetry since my school days, but what are the lyrics of a song, if not poetry to the ears?

Tara always seemed like our most likely candidate to be a writer of her thoughts, but they are still a few years away from producing rhythmic structures for words, wreaking of sentiment. Now, even I am finding that writing a mere diary entry and delivering it on a platter for you, hard enough going, but I’ve just listened to a country and western song, a chalice of what I imagine the poetry of the soul to be. I will enlighten you now!

There ain’t no stars in faded Gloryville. We’ve chased your dreams into the ground. If disillusioned  has some hope to kill. Here nobody wears a crown.

The road can break you coming down a hill, but going up is always fun. And here we are in faded Gloryville
The victory is never won. And I will not forget the good old days.
When I was driven by my will and I won’t give back all the dues I’ve paid – Here in faded glory Ville.

Lindi Ortega

Now Where Was I

Okay, a couple of nights away for me (no diary entries for two days) and now back to ‘Family Life in the Shires’. John has coped very well with our nanny off Christmas shopping in London and back with us on Monday. Even before I left here on Wednesday, there were dramas to be had. Caleb has removed his nappy and smeared its reeking contents around his bed, teddies, toys, books, face and hands. I won’t go into any further details, but all the boy could do was laugh. I am ever so slightly worried as this is certainly not the first time. Anyhow, I arrived back today from my time away and spent two hours ‘picking up’ the multitude of disarray. John tends to have a different focus on how the house looks than I. Did I say earlier, that I am tired of the continual ‘picking up’! With John off to London tonight for his works Christmas party at some belly dancing (North African) restaurant, he is sure to be exhausted on his return. I am already exhausted after having put the not so famous five up to bed with five ‘Kiss and hugs’ and another mass array of ‘picking up’. On another matter, Thor seems to have five duvets on his bed now. I took two of them, not even his, to put in the wash. The two fluffy blankets in question, are in fact Amritsar and Tara’s baby blankets. I’m going to have to stash them, once dry, to be squirrelled away for inclusion in ‘The Baby Box Project’. Yes, I said ‘Baby Box’. We’ve talked about them for a couple of years now and I think that we are about ready to put them together with the stashed baby memories, at present residing in black bin liners in our walk in closet. The bags are occasionally raided, but I manage to corral back in the said, stolen objects. I believe these two baby blankets were misappropriated by Thor and he now has to sleep with just the three duvets. Another time for the ‘Baby Box’ diary entry and a quiet night now for me and the hounds. More from ‘The Diary of a Gay Dad’ tomorrow.

Manning the Fort

(Well done Caleb)

I am finally sat down besides the rapscallion pair, that are Remus and Gracie, our beloved Dalmatian hounds. Gracie is nestling on Remus’s hip. A good sign that they are friends again, after their quarrel of forty eight hours ago. I’ve not really had time to sit down today as there was just me ‘Manning the Fort’. Our nanny Sindy was off today and one of the mums from school, picked up the girls (and dropped them back). I don’t drive, so the little ones did not get to preschool, rather they stayed home with me for the day. This happens every now and then, but we cope well, as long as another parent can help out ferrying the girls to school. Our morning was filled with some TV, colouring in, drawing and a bit of general play. That is, play that involved some shouting and laughing and thankfully, not too much screaming. Cheese and ham sandwiches for lunch, plus they each had an apple. We always have a full fruit bowl and the not so famous five indulge in the consumption of most fruits to their hearts content. Mind you, I am the biggest indulger, as I often raid it in order to ‘get Jammin’. I cook a lot too, you know! I make a vast array of quick and simple soups, though have not made too many of late! I think we did an asparagus and a potato and watercress in recent weeks. My favourite has to be pea and ham. Just the four ingredients really. Pea, ham, potato (don’t bother peeling) and onion, plus a couple of stock cubes, water and seasoning (there’s zero fat and loads of protein and fibre) I never liquidise this one, just pummel with a potato masher when the ingredients seem to be tender. Always check again for seasoning before serving. Best served with buttered baguette, or a cheese sandwich. Yum. Right, back to this afternoon. Everyone pretty much behaving! No nap after lunch, just ‘hanging out’ really. It’s so much nicer when there are no big dramas. At the three years old mark, they are happy to talk about what they are doing or thinking, so much a move on from the the ‘Terrible Twos’. And play starts to make a lot more sense. Thor was running an ice cream van from the back doorway. He made me purchase two flake 99’s and a zoom ice lolly. Caleb did well with his ‘talking’. I know this coming year will make him. We are getting on much better and today was only full of smiles. He’s getting there isn’t he? We didn’t get the girls first steps on video, or Thor’s come to think of it, but I decided to go out of my way to capture Aaliyah and Caleb, as they took their first, momentous stumbles. I decided from the moment that they did two steps, I would be there with my iPhone to film each and every moment that they looked as if they were going to take the plunge. I’ll include Caleb’s video in this diary entry. I am sure it will make you giggle! The girls arrived home safely, after a good day at school. We had fun, playing leap frog, had penne Bolognese with a sand storm of Parmesan followed by Greek yoghurt, topped with Dadda’s homemade grape jelly from the grapes we grew on our terrace. A lot tastier than plain old honey (sorry bees)! Okay all in bed now. John about to arrive home and I’m thinking of pasta on our dinner plates too. Oh so easy, with some chopped up mushrooms and bacon, herb and garlic Boursin and spaghetti – topped with a second sand storm of parmesan. Nite nite.

The Falling Out

The mood around here has been a rather somber one. They are sitting at either ends of the sofa. Some of the looks I am seeing as they accidentally cross eyesight, as if looks could kill. There was a bit of a skirmish in the kitchen last night! And they are now, avoiding each other like the plague. This situation has reminded me of a time in Goa, at the apartment I rented in Panaji, (in India) the states capital city. I had arrived there with two very small babies and Bharti, our Indian nanny. She had brought with her a woman named Geeta. It turned out that Geeta was in fact Bharti’s sons, wife’s mother. The apartment was two bedroomed and I had one room and Bharti and Geeta shared the second room with the twins, Tara and Amritsar. The babies slept on the top of the middle, of a double bed and the ladies either slept on both sides, or more often than not, on a folded duvet or a blanket on the hard concrete, tiled floor. Now sleeping on the floor in the U.K. seems rather strange, but in Indian terms, often a two bedroom apartment might sleep up to ten people. In fact, however many people the family might be. Unlike here in the U.K. there is not only the children to accommodate, but elderly parents maybe, a second set of in-laws possibly, grown children, grandchildren, you get the picture. A lot of people (and I’m talking about the middle class also here), people just get used to (at sometime or another), sleeping on the floor. It is accepted that the culture manages larger family units in this way! There is no care for the elderly outside of the family home. And in-laws, sometimes, must just coexist and get along as one big, happy family. Back to the memory of ‘The Falling Out’ then. I was just back from visiting my very good friend Kayla, who had also used the services of a surrogate in India, to carry her embryos to term. Her twins were born a day before the girls. Anyhow, I arrived in to what could only be described as an atmosphere that you could cut with a knife. I did my very best to try and avoid the situation diplomatically, but the two women were not acknowledging one another. They both looked extremely angry and stormed about the apartment in silence. Occasionally they were just looking into space, completely ignoring the other! Other time was spent in separate rooms, or one would be at one end of the living room and the other at the opposing end. The situation was socially dire, but both, quite independently continued to care for the twins, every now and then as required. Things continued in this manner throughout that evening and although I felt uncomfortable, I left it until the next day to broach Bharti on the matter. I asked if she was okay and that ‘This Situation’ had to come to an end. ‘Mr Andi’ she exclaimed ‘That woman will be leaving on the bus, to return to Mumbai the day after tomorrow, in the morning, very early’. I did not inquire at the time, as to what had brought about the situation, but later found out that it was to do with money, not an uncommon thing in India. Bharti went on to reassure me that her mother would be joining us in a couple of days and that I should also forget that I had ever met Geeta! Well, that was that. The mood continued for another day, Geeta disappeared into the ether and Bharti’s mother arrived on the bus – a journey of some twelve hours. I believe that Geeta had told Bharti that she (Bharti) should return to Mumbai and leave her (Geeta) to look after the girls. And for that Geeta wanted to take the lions share of the money. We were paying Bharti very well by Indian standards, forty pounds a day plus a smaller amount for Geeta. It seems that Geeta wanted it all. From what I believe, the two women have not spoken to this day. Bharti essentially asked her to leave the family home in Mumbai and the doors were firmly closed to any possible return. So back to today and last nights big ‘Falling Out’. I am of course referring to Remus and Gracie. Did you really think it could have been any of the children? The dogs were begging, as they do in the kitchen, after our roast pork dinner. I placed the meat roasting tin on the ground for them to share. I think Remus tried his luck and began to nudge Gracie away. She was having none of it, so she growled at him, barked, then snapped at him. Although he is the top dog, she sometimes tries to assert herself over him. And on this occasion, she was successful and Remus ran off, tail between legs. They have been either ignoring each other or sat at opposed ends of the sofa ever since. Very emotional creatures, dogs. But ‘Falling Out’ over the licks from the roasting pan, crazy! I am sure that they will cheer up soon and things will get back to normal. The same could not be said for Bharti and Geeta.

Piggy in the Middle

As you may realise, I do not generally do a running account of the day! Though on the trip down to East Devon last month, I chose to do that and I guess in hindsight, it was quite amusing. I just thought that I might do a run through of the last hour today for you. It’s all pretty normal stuff I guess. The dogs have been sporadically charging up and down the stairs, cheekily ‘cat napping’ on our bed. That’s naughty as they are no longer allowed on our bed, due to the amount of white hairs they leave behind and the ‘doggy smell’ is not so good. Thor was earlier shouting from the top floor. He wanted various people to go up and open the baby gate to their rooms. He would be released and the person would return downstairs without him. Then he would close the gate again and start shouting for somebody else to come and let him out. I really must read him ‘The boy who cried wolf’ again. That’s one of Aesop’s best. Anyhow, he is now downstairs watching ‘The magic school bus’ on Netflix and is watching contently. Whilst this was all going on, Caleb was just clinging to Daddy’s lap. It is an ongoing problem we deal with, let’s hope he will get less clingy in time (I blame the previous nanny for this). Now Tara and Amritsar have been shouting and screaming for thirty minutes, climbing on to the arm of the sofa (it’s a four person chesterfield) and running the full length of the sofa and jumping off at the other end. It looked like lots of fun and they laughed a lot. I’m sure if I was five years old I would have joined in. Aaliyah has been shadowing me and giggling, much as the dogs often do (but without the giggles)! Caleb has also been clinging to the balloon that I inflated for him earlier, going into meltdown every time it has fallen to the floor. Daddy and Dadda are tired of picking up and reuniting it to him at this point. For the last twenty minutes the girls and I have been playing piggy in the middle with Amritsar’s purple balloon. Again lots of laughs and screams. Tara prefers to be piggy it would seem. Oh! I have just heard Caleb stringing a good sentence together. ‘Daddy, pick up my blanket’? Actually it is my Schott fleecy hoody. Our game of piggy in the middle finally ended with Tara falling off of one of the sofas, backwards and crying. I heard no bump like the banging of her head, so no big drama. After a rub and a cuddle, she’s as right as rain and sat, like Thor besides the television watching ‘the magic school bus’. Caleb has just run into the kitchen and is tearing a piece of kitchen roll, it usually sits on top of the washing machine. It’s a black, hoover model with an incredibly sensitive touch sensor for ‘ON’. You just have to look at it or sneeze too closely and it just turns itself on. Then you spend five minutes trying to turn it off. Pain in butt, so it is. Caleb spoke up ‘Sorry Dadda’ and then continued with ”I get Aaliyah one too’. He is getting there, slowly but surely. Better start thinking about dinner for the children now. I’m not planning on the family roast tonight, but I might do one next week, in order to update you as to any improvements in our little diners table manners. So watch this space! On the subject of piggy, John and I are planning on Roast leg of Pork tonight with the last jar of last years apple sauce. This year I didn’t manage to preserve jars of plain apple sauce. The crop was poor and most of the apples we had from the our orchard I have used as my source of pectin in ‘Dadda’s Jammin’. A trade secret I am happy to share, none of my well set jams contain any shop purchased pectin (sorry Certo)! Okay dinner calls…