A Trifle

So, this week was characterised by my youngest son getting a year older. (Well done there little guy!) So he is 4. Going on 45 I think. In the way of modern times, he had several parties to mark the occasion. Other Half made a cake for his actual birthday on Tuesday. Another was taken in for his toddler group which meets on a Thursday and his grandparents brought another over on the weekend. We were up to the fucking eyeballs in sodding cake in various states of being eaten. Am not even that fond of sponge cake.

What was I to do? Let all the piles of leftover cake go to waste? Over my festering corpse. I was raised on a farm in deepest darkest wales. There was no central heating. The fresh water tank would run dry in the summer and there was no TV as the mountains would not let us get a signal. There were also 14 people in the house and it was 6 miles to the nearest shop that sold food. It took me an hour to get to school.

Thus, I do not waste food. I recycle it. I decided to create something I had not made since my teens. A trifle. An old fashioned UK original from the era of bread and butter pudding and cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks. Or so I thought. Wikipedia disagrees.

The earliest use of the name trifle was in a recipe for a thick cream flavoured with sugar, ginger and rosewater, in Thomas Dawson‘s 1585 book of English cookery The Good Huswifes Jewell.[1] Trifle evolved from a similar dessert known as a fool, and originally the two names were used interchangeably.[2]

So it’s old, like most brit food I suppose. Anyway, I hit the shop and brought the goodies home. My mother used to bake for a living, in the days when a farm kitchen was fine for preparing cakes, scones and bread. Modern Health and safety would have fainted. Like her, I opted to go on instinct.

Cooking by my ‘gut’ is not always successful but it has led to some wonderful discoveries over the years. And the ‘stale birthday cake trifle’ was created. For those interested, here is a rough approximation at a recipe.

  1. Take stale cake and break it up into bits in a wok- it was the biggest thing I had.
  2. Open a couple of tins of summer fruit and pour off the syrup into the wok. Add a little strawberry syrup or whatever sweet ya might have hanging about in the kitchen. Honey would do, so would a few tbsp of sugar. Anyway, the cake soaks it all up. Get your hands in there to make a cake mulch, or get passing 7 year old to do this for you, as I did.
  3. Child now licking fingers, get a couple of big ass bowls and shove handfuls of cake mulch into them so the bottom is covered. Lick your own fingers.
  4. Pour in drained fruit. Shuffle the bowl a little so it sits right. Then raid the freezer for some frozen blueberry punnets that have been in there 6 months. Chuck in too, not bothering to defrost.
  5. Could not be arsed to fanny about with jelly- straight onto the custard. Dump on top of fruit.
  6. Whip up some cream to soft peak. Use an electric whisk. Yes, I know this can over whip it, but fuck it. I got eyes, will watch it. 7 year old runs away from the noise.
  7. Add a bit of sugar to the cream and no, I don’t over whip it IN YOUR FACE PERFECT BAKERS.
  8. Dump cream on top of custard. Give it a shuggle (Scottish- shake) to settle it all down.
  9. Sprinkle with- something. I had some chocolate curls in the cupboard. I would advise against using chilli flakes, as returning 7 year old insisted would taste amazing.
  10. Put in fridge. Don’t eat for 24 hours so the flavours can permeate through the- Nah, it lasted till dinner time…
  11. Eat
  12. Eat more
  13. Warn children and Other Half they will feel sick if they eat it all.
  14. Be ignored.
  15. Be smug that you made two for under £7

   

         

No doubt there will be those that will look on in horror at my less than pristine offering. Created with much giggles from eldest child and with a passing nod to hygiene. To those, I say- actually what’s the point? You either get what this is about or you don’t.

Till next week, goodbye friends and strangers.

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February 16th Writing Prompt

“When have you experienced Euphoria and how would you describe it?”

2009- Summer.

Rotten eggs. Another wave of the sulphurous fumes hit me and I gasped, putting a hand to my rounded stomach. Nausea rolled through me and I cursed the twenty five week old fetus that caused it. I had gone through hell for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Unable to eat anything but crackers and marmite. Nausea had been constant. I had lost weight even as my stomach grew. Things were better after that but my stomach was still delicate.

The child was already big for his age and it felt like he was sapping every ounce of energy from me. Was I at home? Feet up? Sipping ginger tea?  

No- I was climbing an active volcano in Iceland.

I had not intended to be pregnant. I had been told I was unlikely to have children and had been unable to conceive after two years of trying. Finding out I was pregnant had been a shock and my life had needed some considerable reorganisation. However, I was determined not to waste £600 of my own money and I went ahead with my planned field trip to Iceland.

The pace was grueling. Had I really let myself become this unfit? The cinder volcano was steep… composed of loose pumice and ash, burnt ochre in colour and fiendishly sharp. Material shifted under my boots and I was obliged to use my hands… crawling.

Maternity trousers bit into my hips. My stomach flopped.

A French tourist had already commented on me, saying I should “Lay off the cake” before I could not walk. I had responded with the most English of accents and a derisory snort.

“I’m 25 weeks pregnant, I have an excuse for being fat, what is yours for being so rude to a complete stranger?”  Oh the glorious backtracking, stammered congratulations and an inquiry as to why I was not at home. I walked off without answering. I was pregnant, not dying!

I struggled onwards, remembered outrage fueling my efforts. I was at the back of the group as usual and it was annoying me. My stomach scraped against sharp pumice. It was everywhere… in boots, socks, bra… I would later even find orange ash in my knickers.

The day was hot, the sky acid blue and as sharp as the material under my feet. Long days of sun. Not what you would expect this close to the arctic circle. I would later find myself sunburnt.

Another sulphur filled breeze pushed the hair out my face. It was a mess, tied with a headscarf and left limp and frizzy. I was too exhausted in the mornings to get up and style it. I rolled out of bed only with enough time to wash, dress and leave.

Foot slipped again and I dug my hands in, cursing as the pumice cut my palms. Why was I doing this to myself?

Why not. How many people could say they have climbed an active volcano? How many got the opportunity to see such a thing? I was not going to miss this. I would make it to the top.

And I did, one step at a time, legs and lungs burning.

I remember reaching the top, crawling over the edge. Arms and shoulders quivering with the effort it took. I straightened, gasping. Then I looked down.

What I saw will remain with me for the rest of my life. Alien orange rock, open vents steaming hot gasses into the blue sky. The air shimmering with heat. Below… black, twisted sharp pinnacles from a previous lava flow, ripples frozen and cooled. Then the sea, the blue an undecided colour as opposed to the stark blue sky.

Waves crashed against black rock, vents hissed. I felt like I was alone on the top of the world.

Elation washed over me. I had made it! So many people had been worried I would not cope, that I was making a mistake. Yet there I was. Standing, on a volcano.

I wanted to bounce on my toes, cry, punch the air and shout all at once. I understood suddenly why people climbed mountains. The rush of adrenaline, the sense of achievement and pride in myself was something I was not prepared for.

I’m British. I let the emotions wash over me yet acted on none, save to smile.

There must have been something in that smile. A member of my group asked to take my photo. I agreed even though I hate having pictures taken.

In that moment, on that volcano, I was gloriously and unapologetically me. That photo is one of the few of myself I like and every time I see it, I smile.

 

Random Post

So it’s been a settled week. Two months and a bit into my maternity leave and I am getting used to this double parenting thing. I was fine with having a 3-year-old and the house ticked over just fine in a nice even routine.

Son two has shattered this.

Example, was up from 4.30am to 6.30 am this morning because son two refused to go back to sleep after his early feed. Son 1 decided this would be a fine time to get up as Mummy and the baby was up. Thus he needed a nap after lunch today and this has thrown him off his bed time routine.

Still, I am adapting. It was not this hard last time round I am sure

Up side, writing! Got the best part of 7000 words done this week 😉

 

Thinking back to the heady days where my enthusiasm would pull me through entire nights of writing… I am kind of jealous of my younger self for having the time and energy to write 10000 words in 2 days. The creative juices are flowing again however and I’m slowly starting to gain confidence again.

Other things that have caught my attention this week.

  • Baby has started smiling and burbling at me. SO CUTE!!! Makes up for the sleep shattering 4am parties.
  • Father’s day is this Sunday. First time round that son 1 has had a say in what to get Daddy.
  • Rose perfume. I bought a small bottle of Jo Malone perfume. Pure red rose scent. It’s divine! Really takes me back to growing up in Wales. We had a huge rambling rose in our garden that was bright yellow and smelt amazing. My Gran killed it by pruning it too hard. She thought she was a fantastic gardener, the garden disagreed.
  • Lana Del Rey. I have like some of the tracks I have heard of hers over the last year but her contribution to the Great Gatsby soundtrack has ear wormed me. I cannot stop listening to Young and beautiful! I even wrote an entire scene with this track on constant repeat. Her voice blended into my head and it set the perfect tone for what I was writing. She is also stunningly beautiful. If I swung that way she would so be my type 😉 Also it’s not often that the lyrics of a song strike me. Lana’s songs are more like poetry set to music. Makes a nice contrast to the vacuous pop I also indulge in. Dark velvety chocolate for the ears.
  • GOING ON HOLIDAY! For the first time in 2 years. Alright it’s to a forest one and a half hours up the road but it’s still away.
  • Thinking of doing camp nanowrimo next month. Not sure if I can commit to it but it might be just what I need to get my novel finished. Laz’s idea (best pal) she says we could share a cabin 😉 We may kill each other.
  • Guild Wars 2. Have 3 characters on the go now. Am enjoying it but again have limited time to commit so not joined a guild or anything, just dipped in when I can. Laz may be hopelessly addicted and that’s my fault. I dragged her into it!

Update- me

OK so first day back at the coal face today after 6 weeks. It’s like I never left. Feel overall positive about the year ahead however. I think this will be a good academic year!


I do like my job, despite the long hours and stress of term time it is interesting. It never goes stale. I like what I teach and the pupils are always teaching me something new. Yes there are bad days and behaviour issues etc but what school does not have those? I am a little worried by the swing towards everyone having something wrong with them. Child a little slow to retain information, has to be dyslexia! Not fitting in with peers, Socially mal-adjusted, must intervene! Pupil does not like eating nuts, might be allergic!

I am not asking for a return of the days where learning difficulties or health issues were ignored. Many pupils need swift diagnosis and support.

As a dyslexic myself and a teacher I think I have a unique perspective and I believe things have gone too far.

People learn at different speeds and that is fine. Some pupils will never be popular, others will always be eccentric there is nothing wrong with this! These pupils don’t need a label. Also I feel labels can be counter productive. Some use it as an excuse. I don’t understand! I’m learing impaired!

My usual response to such comments is not pretty.

I had to fight for every grade I got with no support until the age of 18. I was diagnosed at 15 but there were no educational support structures in place for people like me at that time. Every exam was a battle of will on my part and I had a few good teachers that would not give up on me as well as good friends who would explain things to me and help me. Where does this attitude come from that if you have a label you are excused from even trying? That it excuses you from using your brain? Makes me so angry! yes I am bias I know, but sod it my blood boils when I hear crap like that.

 

Anyway enough vague rants about work. I can’t be specific about anything, nature of the job and all that but I do like to rant about it from time to time. It’s a large part of my life. Still I like to be careful too. I know my pupils have photos of me on their Facebook accounts but I never post anything like that online, even if it is part of my contract and common sense blah blah… people do daft stuff. I was reminded again yesterday about online conduct becoming of a teacher. In other words another idiot got disciplined for tweeting about pupils. Used names apparently.

So this holiday was a bit of a let down. Yes teachers get long hols etc but my summer was pants. I spent most of it either decorating, demolishing or repairing… (house renovations still continue.) Was also stuck for 10 days or so when son got chicken pox and right after that I wound up with an ear infection. Ear is still blocked and it’s driving me nuts!

 

Looking forward to october! Will definitely try to have a proper holiday then. Besides, when the weather in Scotland is like this….

Lovely day at local beach.

 

Who needs to leave home?

 

Might have time to work on Indebted soon but Winterwolves are releasing an expansion to Loren so I will prob be doing that all weekend. Oh, and marking, can’t forget that. No free weekends for the next few months. *shrug* I’m used to it.

Anime review- Lovely Complex and added ramble

So, as a detox to Guilty Crown I again went against my tastes and stepped into the strange world of pure Shoujo. Again I am not one for cute and cuddly but I was recommended this one on twitter and gave it a whirl.

Story is simple enough. Tall girl Riza has love/hate relationship with her school pal, short boy Ootani. They start out hating each other, earning instant celebrity around the school as a real life comedy double act. Finally Riza matures enough to realise… she fancies the pants off Ootani. Enter a string of comic episodes that had me laughing so much I choked.

Anime humour does not always translate well, but this I found cringe-worthy but very funny. Riza, our freakishly tall heroine is a typically dippy shoujo girl, but brash and prickly rather than cute and demure so I did not mind her dizzy character. The object of her affections also falls into the same tired role. Ootani has a temper but is nice under it all. The show livens things up by throwing the odd serious bit in and this gives a nice balance to the comedy. At times I actually said “awwww” at the screen as Riza tries to awkwardly grapple with her hormones and her wholly inappropriate crush. I also squealed like a sixteen year old over certain sweet moments. I felt absolutely no guilt for enjoying the show. It is well written and takes time to build character.

The anime does not rush the plot either and takes the time necessary to cultivate the relationship between the oddball couple and throws in plenty of obstacles. Riza and Ootani are well matched and their friends constantly push for them to get together, just like in any other high school around the world. (Seriously why do people do that? Never match make people it can all go so very wrong!)

So, a nice 24 ep light relief from the blood and guts, but it was not really anything deeper. 3/5.

The reason I unashamedly enjoyed something so far removed from my taste is because it struck a chord with me. OK, I was not a cry baby as a teen. I would not be caught dead crying at school… the rest of the story however is fairly close to my own experience.

I was Riza once and watching Lovely Complex brought it all back. So I am going to tell you a story, about me and how life can imitate anime . (Clichés are clichés for a reason.) Yes this is self-indulgent but its good practice to write about yourself instead of fictional characters all the time. I am going to use a little creative license to shorten things and avoid personal details. Apart from that the story is mostly true and the anime inspired me to write this tonight. Besides, this is my blog, if you don’t like it then click the little X and be gone.

You may know that there is a step between school and university in England and Wales (not so much in Scotland.) It’s called 6th form. Most large schools have a 6th form or separate college entirely for the A level students. These are the exams you need to get into university. It’s an intense two years of study. You have to be incredibly bright to take more than 3 subjects over the two years.

So, a large group of young adults all under pressure and yet at that age pupils are considered responsible enough to have their own common room to hang out in between classes. Some schools even give you the freedom to drop in and out of school between classes. It’s an interesting period of any teenagers life and it was no different for me.

I was a transfer student! (How cliché can we get people!) I’d already done a term in a much smaller school in the back of beyond. Suddenly I was in a much larger school and even had to change a subject which meant I had some serious catching up to do. On day one my fellow pupils introduced themselves to the strange country bumpkin that was now among them. (We are British we do that sort of thing. I met 150 people that day, some of which I never spoke to again in the two years I was there.)

I met my version of Ootani that day. He was short, no higher than my shoulder, had untidy short dark hair, dark eyes that were far too knowing and a cocky grin. I hated him on sight. I hid my dislike quite well, for me. I was not the most even tempered girl back then and I was well out of my comfort zone. Also, my fragile teenaged heart was bruised from an attachment at my old school, but that is a story for another time.

Anyway, it was a week before me and my Ootani locked horns. I was slaving over my first history essay. No word processing allowed back then people. 1500 words on Stalin’s rise to power. I had never written a history essay before and I had 4 days. I was on my third draft and lost in concentration, studiously ignoring some of my peers dancing on the tables to Itchycoo Park… (we were going through a retro phase on the CD player. It was either that or the starwars soundtrack.)

A shadow fell over my work.

“Bloody hell your handwriting is awful Welsh girl,” droned a voice in a mocking parody of my accent.

I looked up to see the cocky grin I had not liked last week. He had just made me lose my place among the purges damit!

I kicked him in the shin… hard… He yelped, clearly not expecting my reaction. We glowered at each other for a moment until I politely told him to piss off.

Things fell into a pattern after that. He would pick a fight, I would react with my legendary Celtic temper. We would practically be in each other’s faces, snarling at each other. ( Although I had to bend down a bit to achieve this.) Oh I hated him.

Yep I was far too stupid to realise I fancied the pants off him, just like Riza.

Also, just like the anime we became a source of entertainment for the whole 6th form. People would goad us into an argument and watch the sparks fly while they drank coffee and placed bets on who would win.

My new so called friends tried to shove us together, using very obvious strategies to get us to notice what was blindingly clear to them.

“Don’t you think he was sweet helping you with your history homework?”

“He only did that because I bribed him! I have to buy his coffee all week as compensation!”

“Don’t you think she has a lovely accent?”

“Her? She cackles when she laughs, sounds like an old woman.”

“I heard that you prick!”

“Yeah? I don’t care if you did!”

*Slagging match across the room …*

This went on for months and I actually looked forward to the arguments. I got a little thrill out of them that became addictive and the volatility between us increased. The big arguments also seemed to coincide to when either of us showed interest in anyone else. Little petite blonde eyes him up at a party.  He drove her home after. Monumental name calling by me on Monday. Me dancing with a lovely Irish lad on Saturday.  Monday he wiped chalk dust on my new jumper.

Of course, I was too dense to add all this up at the time, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Two months before final exams things finally came to a head. I was wandering up the corridor to the common room and I heard my name called. Without thinking I turned. My face was slavered in wet warm cloth. I pulled it off my face and realised it was a towel. The perpetrator was running up the corridor in his gym shorts and shirt laughing like the idiot he was. I frowned; it was not much of a prank. That was when I realised that the towel was soaked in his sweat, not water… I was half disgusted half impressed he would go that far… my mascara and black lipstick were now smudged to hell and I smelt of boy. (It was the 90’s don’t judge the make-up. I went through a mild grunge phase. I recovered I’m pleased to say.)

I ran after the little bugger swearing revenge. He was on the tennis team, so he was much faster than I was but he could only go so far.  I remember people laughing as I passed them, they all knew who I was after. Tracked the swine down to an empty biology classroom. Threw the towel back at him and made all sorts of threats of bodily harm. He let me rant for a bit then finally shrugging and glared at me with those cursed molten chocolate eyes…

“Oh come on,” he said as if talking to a child. “You love me really.”

That brought me up short. I knew he was being sarcastic but it made me think… what was I covering up with all this bravado?

I got angry. This was not fair; this was not the way things were supposed to be between us. We could not hold a conversation without insults, but I went out and got him cold meds so he could take his maths test last month without fainting of a fever. He was the one who stayed with me and talked me down when I had an asthma attack last year, but he told me on a daily basis that I was an idiot. I was comfortable with that. We could be nice, but preferred to be nasty. He was not allowed to see through the act. He was not allowed to change the rules! They had served us well for nearly two years why change now?

I decided to be cruel. In my revenge I went for total humiliation. Next time he picked on me in the common room and got in my face I did not just shove him away, my normal response… I used the skills only a welsh farm girl picks up. I got the little swine in a head lock as if I was about to shear the fleece off him and watched him struggle. He gave up fighting me quickly and retaliated by saying he did not fight girls and I was too freakishly tall to argue with anyway. I remember the smug grin that crossed my face.

I kissed him… right there in full view of the entire sixth form.

*shudder*

You’ve never seen a boy more shocked in all your life. I seriously thought he was going to cry! This was not right! He was supposed to be angry not look as if I’d ripped his heart out and stomped on it! With reflection I suppose I knew then that I had over stepped the mark, I flounced away apparently proud of myself. The guilt hit me about five minutes later. I knew I should apologise… I had embarrassed him… but I couldn’t. Pride would not let me. I wanted to humiliate him and I had. One sloppy kiss and a headlock equated to a sweaty towel in the face and smudged make-up right? Somehow I think perhaps it didn’t.

A month later we could laugh about it, but relations were strained. We did not even argue anymore. He wrote in my leaving book that it was two years he would never forget and a kiss he would never forget… right next to a picture of a sheep.

That was it. He went off to some English uni I can’t recall the name of and I went north 600 miles to bonny Scotland and have never left.

So, sad pathetic story. Well I actually don’t see it that way. I learnt a lot about myself from my relationship with my own Ootani. I realised I was not a nice person. I covered up my insecurities with anger and bluster. I also realised I did not like myself very much at that point in my life and that was something I needed to change. So I did just that.

I should thank my 6th form nemesis if I ever see him again. He made me take a good look at who I was and made me decide who I wanted to be. I would probably stamp on his toes too, just for old times’ sake. XD.

So off I went to university to start a new chapter of my life with a new found perspective.

In my first year I met a really freakishly tall Scottish lad with a pretty face and copper hair… the rest, as they say, is history 😉