Mothballs

Time to put the blog officially on ice.

Apologies for the many breaks in service over the last couple of years. Rather than limp on I will say farewell and hope to pick up later when life has calmed down a bit. The heir and the spare are doing well but leave little time for writing. Any time I do get is spent on my beloved podcast, 4amcab. Please do click on the link and explore past and present episodes, I’d love to hear what you think.

Thank you for reading, linking and commenting. I’m sure there’ll be another blog at some stage and you’ll be the first to know about it.

Lots of love to you all,

Rachel

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The Old Manor

On a recent visit to a friend’s house, Him Indoors and I thought we’d swing by a place we used to rent in Battersea. We were curious to see whether the fruit trees we planted in the front garden had survived.

I say front garden. A strip of earth a metre by 30cm barely constitutes a window box, but still. Undeterred, we had planted a couple of apple trees, knowing that they would probably outgrow the space. To our astonishment they were still there, carefully pruned and trained by the current tenants.

“I wonder if Connor still lives here,” I muttered to Him Indoors. Connor must have been 5 or 6 years old back then. He spent his days tearing up the neighbourhood on a three-wheeled scooter, only to be occasionally apprehended by his mother. She would slam an uncompromising hand on the young man’s shoulder as he hurtled past, spitting expletives at the residents, to shout, “Connor! Stop being so f***ing rude!” Or, at a slightly further distance (multiply the matriarchal decibels by a factor of 50), “Connorrr! Get out of that f***ing tree!”

“He’s probably old enough to go twocking by now,” sighed Him Indoors darkly as we parked nearby. Twocking, for the uninitiated, is a slightly mangled acronym of ‘Taking Without Owner’s Consent.’ Essentially car theft, of which there is a fair amount in south London. Luckily, the car survived the evening and we saw neither hide nor hair of young Connor. Perhaps he was inside. His house, or possibly prison, we just don’t know.

It’s difficult to disassociate names from the named. A bad experience can put you right off, leaving an unshakeable conviction that you will never, ever name your child Alison because of that awful girl you went to school with (names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Consequently, choosing a name for a baby tends to result in going through those of everyone you’ve ever met and avoiding most of them.

There’s no reason why naming a child after an old nemesis would make you love them any less. It might even redeem that name for you in the future. Connor however was a pretty pervasive influence. Two couples I know have named their first-born after him, and I eye these lovable infants with utter suspicion against my better judgement. For those awaiting the news of number two next week (hello Mother), I can tell you one name that is definitely off the list.

How did you choose the names of your children/pets?  Did you avoid the names of old nemesises (nemisi?)

Putting food on the table

Most evenings around 8pm, Him Indoors and I embark down a well-trodden conversational cul-de-sac. He removes his head briefly from the Guardian comment threads to ask, “What’s for tea?”

An innocent enough question, you might think. My heart sinks. Luckily my brain rises to the occasion – racing through the full range of options suggested by the contents of the fridge. James Martin would be proud of me.

“Pasta and hummus?” No response.
“Spinach and milk?” Nothing.
“Egg – lette?” One eyebrow imperceptibly rises half an inch.
“What do you want to eat?” I ask, hoping to brilliantly volley the dilemma back into his court (and that the answer will require only eggs, hummus, pasta and milk to make.)
“Tapas.”
“That’s like saying you’d like a buffet.”
“Ooh, I WOULD like a buffet.”
“Soup?”
“That’s a drink.”
“With bread?”
“Still a drink.”

A brief discussion follows about my taking the question “What’s for tea?” too personally, and we go our separate ways. I to write a blog post about my inability to produce a basic meal, he to pore mournfully through the freezer. By now he will have discovered that that particular cupboard is also bare.

Who are these people who keep a freezer full of past triumphs anyway? Who has the foresight to cook for their kitchen appliances? Should I make the toaster a portion while I’m at it? Even assuming I had the organisational skills, I just don’t have the vision to look at a lump of frozen guano and see the chicken casserole I made last Wednesday.

My excuse, and I’m sticking to it, is that the freezer is full. Full of peas, ice, croissants, mince and fish fingers. The idea of shoe-horning a couple of lasagnes in there as well is laughable. Perhaps Alpha Mums have a chest freezer in the garage? Not that I’d be any better prepared if we did have the outbuilding required for such a thing. In that scenario the food would be there, but I’d lack the emotional resolve to reconstitute it.

Thank heavens for Tooting, the curry nirvana of the Western world. I couldn’t possibly move to the actual countryside, we’d surely starve.

Tractor!

The big news is that we’ve given the garden an overhaul.  We’ve ditched the veg beds, the worms have been released into the wild and the compost heaps dismantled.  The small boy needs a football pitch!  Whilst it’s sad to see it all go, we haven’t entirely given up on growing our own.  I hope to be back into it before too long, but the small patch of earth is to be used for sitting about and kicking a ball around for the foreseeable whilst we do more baby wrangling (number two due early May.)

There are four small fruit trees in blossom at the moment, so the garden is not quite barren.  Two apples, a cherry and a plum are all budding away and we hope for some home-grown fruit this summer.  The boy is a fruit fiend and loved the apples last year – fingers crossed we get a good crop.  The raspberries also went in the overhaul, but it might be possible to plant some in pots on our new patio (does that mean I’m finally a grown up, having a patio?)

The most exciting discovery for the small boy was to find that we have a ‘Tractor!’ in the shed.  I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s just a lawnmower.  He was very excited about pushing it up and down, we may have a useful garden helper before long.  No doubt though by the time he’s strong enough to push it around on his own the novelty will have worn off.

Wood collection

“Crash!” (pause) “Uh-oh.”

The Small Boy had caused some kind of collapse of furniture just along the hall.  It occurred to me mid-leap that the pause had at least been followed by speech rather than plaintive wailing, so with a bit of luck he had either dodged the falling masonry or the sound was worse than the reality.

The child brandished a triangular shard of MDF at me and grinned.  It was one of the larger bits of Him Indoors’ wood collection.  He’s a pretty handy DIY-er, but offcuts are never discarded, they are stored away with the other wood on the basis that they are useful.

Despite the extensive and allegedly ‘useful’ collection, a new project requires new wood, which is measured and ceremoniously purchased from B&Q.  “What about the wood collection?” I ask hopefully.  “We don’t have the right wood.”  When the job is finished, several hundred offcuts are carefully stacked away with the rest.  Due to the (still) impending loft conversion, this treasure trove was taking up temporary residence in our hallway and was a great new play-thing for The Small Boy.

I have consulted with a number of friends and colleagues on this and it seems the wood collection is a universal chattel of the modern male.  Often it doesn’t reside in the loft, but behind the dining room door (where it renders said door unopenable.)  Sometimes it takes up residence under a bed, the baby’s cot or a disused cupboard.

Then one day, out of the blue, the unimaginable happened.  The wood collection was loaded into the back of the car and taken to the tip!  Hallelujah!  I could be seen doing a small victory lap around the flat as the car disappeared over the horizon.

Sadly my joy was short-lived.  Not three days later I discovered a small selection of important off-cuts in the shed.  I returned to the house to remonstrate with Him Indoors, only to find him briskly stacking a pile of collapsed boxes and bits of cardboard down the side of a bookcase.  “What are those?” I asked, trying not to assume the worst.  “These,” he explained proudly, “are useful bits of cardboard.”