What with the girls back to school and the little ones at preschool, all is back to normal. That is as normal as things can be. Very sadly the preschool the little ones attend four days a week is suffering financially and might not make it through this coming term. The head person, Amanda gave two days notice just before the beginning of the Christmas break saying that she was jumping the sinking ship. Okay, the reduction of wages may have been her ultimate realisation, but the three left ‘Holding the Fort’ are in potentially volatile times. This is a reminder that life is static – there is always change, in order to rectify imbalance. We wish them luck. So our ‘Little Ones’ continue their daily routine, however there is change upon their horizon. Today however they attend another preschool that operates from 9am until 3pm, much in line with regular schooling. It’s great that on a Thursday I really do get the day off. So today I went out to a local town Hungerford, to search for a couple of birthday gifts for Johns big day next Tuesday (yes, his birthday). A friend Richard came over for lunch and we then fled the crazy hounds and checked out the antiques shops in the centre of town. I returned home at 3.30pm and they were all home. Our nanny was feeling unwell and went off to the doctors, I hope she is in tomorrow. We then all enjoyed pizza for dinner. And got into our Jim Jams for a 7pm nite nite. All has been quite thus far. Most unlike last night where Thor tormented Daddy (John) three times with outbursts insisting there was something further (a hoop to jump through) he wanted him to do. John and I had words, he thinks that I am being cold when I say for to him ‘let him scream it out for a while’. He wants to be the best ever dad, but as you have previously heard me comment, there has to be a good cop and a bad cop and sadly John never elevates himself to take on the mantle of bad cop, so no sympathy from me when John exulted that he was tired from running up and down the stairs to ‘Entertain Thor’ and his various whims. If you’re a parent, you know how the kids will play you, you’ve just have to try to out manoeuvre them. I know there is a certain wisdom to being four years old (so Thor imagines), but come on! Parenthood can be exhausting if you let them triumph and pride themselves on having the upper hand, time after time, you’re just setting yourself up for despair. Just something to ponder on. Anyhow it is now time for bed now, so nite nite all.
This is a story of ‘Two Blokes’ really isn’t it. Two blokes at the start of it, that is! Why fatherhood you may ask? What prompted it and what changed in order to make it happen? John and I had been together for years and never considered the idea of having children. Well, we were ‘Two Blokes’ weren’t we! On the other hand, female couples have been having children for years thanks to sperm banks or a casual encounter with an understanding male friend. But come on, ‘Two Blokes’… Why? Back in the day when there was such inequality with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and wider communities, we didn’t even have the opportunity of marriage. When we finally tied the knot officially, there was no such thing as gay marriage, only the newly introduced ‘Civil Partnership’. That would have to do for us! We have since considered the difference of this legal union opposed to an actual marriage and to be frank, it is sufficient in our eyes that we are a couple in the eyes of the law. But this new found equality (that was long overdue) had other spin offs I guess. The law is no longer bigoted, so it is not (or should not be) frowned upon that ‘Two Blokes’, if they so wish, wanted to start a family. This is the outcome of equality isn’t it? And so we went on to achieve just that. I have previously brought up this subject in my diary, but it is a theme that is intrinsic to the ultimate outcome and why we are now a full and happy household of ten, if you include our two dogs and full time nanny. Who’d have thought that just a few years ago. Our neighbour in London, Karen thought that I hated children. This was probably brought on by the fact that she had two rug rats and I don’t remember ever really chatting ‘children’ with her. I smiled and said hello to her two little ones, but that was that. I guess she presumed we were annoyed with the constant buggy situation in the shared landing, but we never said anything. One year her brother couldn’t make it to hers to dress as Santa on Christmas Eve and walk down the road with a sack on his back whilst her then four and five year olds looked down from the balcony screaming ‘Santa, it’s Santa’. She asked me to step in and I reluctantly did so with just a little personal embarrassment. Very good training for my little elf story I guess. In hindsight it did make me smile, though even at that point, John and I had not discussed having our own children. That all happened a short while later after seeing a documentary called ‘Made in India’. I have mentioned this for sure, but I am just reiterating that a few small prompts set us out on our journey to fatherhood. We found a common ground and progressed forward as a couple. What we did and how we went about making things happen weren’t simple things, but we believed that ‘Our Journey’ was well worth the complexity and dare I say anxiety of it all. So here we have it! Just ‘Two Blokes’ and a household full of happiness (and quite a few screams).
Well, all off to school like clockwork and the girls just back from school coveting A5 puzzle books for colouring in and full of stickers – oh joy! I have been in the kitchen, pretty much all day. After yesterday’s puttanesca and Bakewell tart, I made a regular bolognese sauce from scratch (using ground pork), turkey and ham pie with Sunday’s remnants of the final Christmas meats (my own pastry), a deep filled beef pie, stuffed with 3 hour braised beef, Jumbo red shrimp Thermidor, two cauliflower cheeses and I am now marinating four skinless chicken thighs in the holy trinity of spices (garlic, ginger, chilli) and a madras spice combo. Rice and gravy (pre made curry sauce) defrosting, I think we’re all set for this weeks menu.
If there is anything better than cooking your own food from scratch – it’s eating it!
Okay – last year (or rather the year before) John and I were asked to be the Xmas Elves at Santa’s Grotto at the girls school. We were accompanied by another parent, Anthea whose son is in the same year – she was brilliant, as were all of the other parents that made last years Grotto (or rather the year before’s) festivity’s and fund raising such a success. One year and a bit belated, a big pat on the back to everyone who gave selflessly. And a round of applause to all of Santa’s Elves who raised money for the schools coffers this year – sorry, now last year!
I am now going to move on! And so begins new adventures and a completely new year to unravel. Did any of that make a modicum of sense – back to a more general diary tomorrow.
Well, with twelfth Night upon us and the Christmas decorations down, I have chosen to begin my diary entries again. To be honest, holidays are holidays aren’t they? For you and for us, I thought it only right to take a few days out and await the Epiphany, the official end of the Christmas holidays. I believe this point represents the arrival of the Wise Men at the birthplace of JC in Bethlehem. I also did not want to preach to you about any New Year resolutions as to be quite honest, there aren’t any this year. That is unless I mention that we’ve all got room for improvement don’t we? And that is something that we should be working on constantly throughout each and every day, year on year, throughout our lives.
The decorations now replaced in the cupboard at the top of the stairs, our living room looks less ornate, but back to its familiar, comforting warmth. With school restarting tomorrow, things are well and truly feeling back to normal. I am sure that traditions shouldn’t always be enacted to the word, but the feast we are looking forward to this evening is our ‘Feast of the Epiphany’ and I have salvaged the remaining turkey breast, ham and last of the Brussel sprouts from the freezer. Bon appetite and Happy New Year to all on this, the ‘Twelfth Night’ of Christmas.
An appropriate heading for this, the final day of this year. How was yours? What was good? What happened that you would you like to change? What is worth persevering with? What would you like to do that is new? And what would you like to stop doing altogether? These are age old questions at a time of reflection. All of that aside, today’s diary entry is all about (and I’m being selfish here), this is about what I am proud of and what’s been accomplished for me in 2018!
This time last year, my life was very much more, a private affair. Who would have thought that by the end of the year, I would be three months in to writing an online diary, pretty much showing openly, a little slice of my family life, here in The Shires. Back then my (historical) memoir was written and I was organising the timeline into a readable novel. But the book was something that I was reflecting on. My present day life seemed to be separate to what the history was of how two guys set about making a family and about the choices they made and how they were committed to seeing things through, even when the ending or endings came with a certain toll. I realise now, that like all books and stories, the life I am living comes with a beginning, a middle and an end. The novel is merely the beginning of ‘This Story’. I completed the novel in August, so for me, this year has been fruitful. Rather than eighteen months of memories spanning three and a half years, I had something tangible, a chronological order to the things that had happened over that period of time. At the present moment, having moved on, I am just considering the last twelve months. Only three of these months recorded in this diary, but I can assure you that I am proud of each and every single month over the last year. The end of my story will always be tomorrow – thankfully another day, one yet to come. I realise that it’s the middle of a story where you find the real backbone. As a family, these last twelve months have had their accomplishments and setbacks, but we have all moved forward. And moving forward is achievement. So tonight at midnight, I will raise my glass to moving forward… will you toast the same with me?
Okay, it’s been a long holiday and quite honestly, exhausting, yet invigorating. Today we had another late night invasion of the living room (5 nights running now), but the reason was not Caleb removing his nappy and smearing the contents over his bed, rather Thor had removed his and rubbed his little smear of poo over the ‘Paw Patroller’ (you need to have little ones who watch paw patrol to understand what that is)! I went up and managed to clear up a little of the mayhem (with baby wipes), that had kept them up until after 9pm. But I had to scorn them when Aaliyah simply threw her empty nappy at me and marched off to her bed! Well there’s gratitude. Tara and Amritsar should also know better at their age.
Enough said, all is quite upstairs now. I will now recount last night and why they were justified in staying up late. We had our babysitter Nikki booked in for 8pm and though we were going to watch fireworks over the neighbours hedge from 8pm. Our table at our relatively local, favourite Michelin started restaurant was booked for 8.45pm. Nikki arrived, as did one of our neighbours, back from Christmas in France, as we all stood, all five children in their Jim Jams, slippers and dressing gowns at the front door, a mass of hysteria happened on the lawn in front of the house and our not so famous five ended up covered in mud, well dressing gowns and slippers at least. The fireworks didn’t happen and we had to flee in order to get to the restaurant for our allotted time. Thank you Nikki for getting them up to bed. The meal was great, though yet again I chose the rib eye steak and triple cooked chips. I always frown at a menu when you end up ordering the steak option. Their menu certainly deserves the Michelin star, but the butternut squash risotto simply didn’t appeal. You know what it’s like!
Talking of food – WOW! Tonight’s dinner of spaghetti and meatballs using 50% pork and 50% finely diced brown turkey meat was sublime. Only breadcrumbs, fresh herbs and seasoning added. Please reassess turkey leftovers and consider meatballs (or meatloaf) as a real option? Maybe next year at least. On Christmas Day I immediately froze the two turkey legs, simply because that way, you get to choose what to do with them considerately at a later date. And today my regular meatball recipe just slightly tweaked, as I realised the perfect ‘turkey leftovers’ dilemma we are all faced with year after year. Just make sure you roll the meatballs as small as a chocolate truffle? Time well spent and practice makes perfect. The taste (opposed to using pork alone) was amplified and I didn’t even think I was consuming turkey leftovers as the texture was soft and tender. Job well done. Off to bed now, signing off.