Sunday, 24 February 2013

Half Term

So half term is almost over.  Yesterday my daughter nagged me for some last minute quality time together.  In other words, shopping.  Fortunately I’ve been a bit flush in the last week or so, therefore tagged gamely after my daughter as she trotted around the Bluewater circuit.  First stop Forever 21.
            Now the last time we visited this shop, we came out with several shopping bags.  There was much oohing and aahing about reasonable prices and delightful fashion styles.  So what happened since our last visit?  Well the prices were still good – but the fashion was dire.  Nylon this and crimplene that.  Half the stuff looked like gear my granny used to wear.  Well, they say fashion goes in cycles, but I’m not sure I want to look like a 1950’s housewife.  I spotted a lot of monochrome stuff. Fortunately I still have monochrome shoes and a bag from the last time black and white was trending (surely not that long ago?).
            After two hours of trekking about, our purchases had amounted to zilch.  Previous fizzy anticipation of a good splurge had all but sputtered out.  Why is it that when you mustn’t spend money, everything in the shops looks fab, but when you have a few quid to spare everything on offer is dire?  Presumably it’s something to do with the Law of Sod.
            I walked past Ted Baker and perked up seeing a sweater with gems on it.  I’ve always been a sucker for sparkly stuff, be it in jewellery or jumpers, so dragged my daughter into the shop.
            ‘Good afternoon,’ simpered the shop assistant, ‘can I help you?’
            ‘Yes please.  I can’t find the price tag on this sweater.  How much is it?’
            ‘£149.  Would you like to try it on?’
            ‘No thank you,’ I trilled, and did a swift about-turn.
            Mum!’ Eleanor hissed as I stomped along the mall, ‘you sounded really narky just then.’
            ‘Well I’m sorry,’ I sulked, ‘but what a ridiculous price to pay for a jumper.  And I’ll bet all those gems would only go and fall off the minute I showed them the washing machine.  Ooh look,’ I skidded to a halt, ‘Zara.  Let’s try in there.’
            We sailed through the doors and I instantly found another sparkly sweater, this time for thirty quid.  ‘It’s still too much,’ I said grumpily.
            ‘Mum, you’re not in Asda now,’ Eleanor murmured.
            True.  I picked up the sweater and also an absolutely gorgeous cream dress covered in...yes...more sparkles.
            ‘Size large Mum?’ Eleanor peeked at the dress’s label.
            ‘Yes,’ I said firmly, ‘I want it to be comfortable.’
            Needless to say the sweater made me look like a cross-dressing lumberjack and the dress wouldn’t even zip up.
            ‘Any good?’ asked the fitting room assistant as I returned the garments.
            ‘Could you please tell me why your dress label says large but fails to do up?  I’m a size 12.  Not 22.  What do you do if somebody with a....fuller figure...comes into your shop?’
            ‘Evans is just across the mall madam.’
            To heck with that.  I shall return to George at Asda where style may be dodgy but at least it does what the label says.
            Which reminds me.  What do you get if you throw a jacket and pair of trousers into a river?  A wet suit...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Horse meat? Neigh thanks...

Having finally decided that maybe, just maybe, I might like cooking after all (albeit simple recipes you understand) yesterday I was all revved up to cook.  Mr V watched me scribble out a shopping list.
          ‘What’s that you’ve written?’ he stabbed a finger at my notepad.
          ‘Mince,’ I replied.
          ‘No thanks.  I’m never eating mince again.  I like to know where my food comes from.’ Mr V skirted around the notepad as if it was a dangerous animal.  ‘I don’t care what it says on the package label, I’m not eating it.’
          I frowned.  ‘The label has always said 100% beef.’
          ‘But is it?  Where does it come from?  Can you answer me that?’
          What was this?  Twenty questions?  Mastermind?  I put my hands on my hips.  ‘Beef mince comes from a cow’
          ‘That’s the trouble with you Debbie.  You spend all your time on Facebook or writing.  You don’t watch the news or any sort of current affairs programme.  Nor do you read the newspapers.’
          True, true and true.  News at Ten (if it’s still on) was THE most depressing programme ever.  War.  Poverty.  Murder.  Rape.  Corruption.  Famine.  Hurricanes.  Tsunamis.  Child abuse.  Animal cruelty.  Lying two-faced politicians playing God to humanity.  And the newspapers are no better.  I can’t stand it.  So, rightly or wrongly, I’ve withdrawn and now live in my own rosy bubble.  And it’s great.  In my world I say hello to locals, walk my dog with neighbours, spend time with my parents, rejoice when the sun shines, put my umbrella up when it rains but still rejoice, and write fluffy nonsense in a bid to spread cheer and raise a smile or two.  Okay, it’s a cop out.  I don’t know whether it’s iffy hormones or just a bad dose of over-sensitivity, but I’ve reached a point where reading newspapers makes me bawl.
          ‘There is currently a lot of hoo-ha about horsemeat in our food chain,’ said my husband.
          Ah.  Yes.  Unfortunately bits of news filter into my brain via the car radio here and there (you can’t totally fail to hear some misery no matter how hard you try).  I’ve been a vegetarian for decades, so having the screaming heebie-jeebies at possibly consuming horsemeat hasn’t been a personal issue.
          ‘I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss,’ I said.  ‘After all, you’re quite happy eating cute ducklings, and dear little pigs that wag their tails like dogs, or a darling little calf, not forgetting sweet little lambs that go baa and skip around–’
          ‘Yes, thank you very much,’ Mr V put up a hand to halt my diatribe.  ‘I’d rather not be reminded my dinner once had legs and bleated.’
          ‘Right.  So you’re main concern is that you’re dinner never said neigh.’
          ‘Absolutely.  So beef is off the menu.’
          ‘That’s fine by me.  So, tonight, lentil stew all right?’
          As it happened, I didn’t have to cook.  Valentine’s Day occurred earlier in the week so my husband took me out for a belated romantic dinner.  We had a curry.  Indians don’t eat cows for religious reasons, so there was no danger of consuming anything that had once gone moo.  Instead Mr V ate chicken.  I looked at my husband.
          ‘What?’ he paused, fork mid-air.
          Cluck cluck cluck.’
          Couldn’t resist it.  Which reminds me.  What did one vegetarian spy say to the other vegetarian spy?  We’ll have to stop meating like this...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Will You Be My Valentine?

I’ve been alive for…ooh, quite a while now, and have never, ever, received a Valentine card from a mystery admirer.  Okay, I’m probably a bit long in the tooth these days, but hearing my teenage daughter chatting excitedly about this commercialized day of romance sent me crashing backwards in time.  Back, back, back, to those heady days of hanging around the letterbox in my parents’ hallway.  Would a rush of red envelopes addressed to moi and covered in SWALK graffiti plop onto the hall carpet?  The unbearable excitement as the postman delivered a cascade of mail…

‘What are you doing?’ my mother would enquire to my lurking self as she appeared, kitten heels clicking, dressing gown swishing, to scoop up the delivery.  There then followed muttered oaths about too many brown envelopes, and why hadn’t Interflora delivered?  Oh yes, even though she was married, she expected Father Bryant to have organized an annual bouquet in exchange for ironing his shirts 365 days of the year.

Women are hopeless romantics.  And men are…well, not.  They aren’t programmed like women.  They don’t pass a shop window and melt at the sight of a teddy bear holding a velvety rose in paws embroidered with red hearts.  They don’t stop and gaze at a brightly lit window of sparkly earrings or necklaces and think, ‘Gosh I have a sudden urge to splurge on the wife/girlfriend/fiancĂ©e/partner/earth mother to my beautiful child.  Nor do they pause outside Thornton’s and deliberate whether to spoil the missus with decadent chocolate and a professionally iced personal message.

When I first met Mr V, for our first Valentine Day he organized the most stupendous, extravagant, mind-blowingly vast bouquet of flowers.  It took several vases to accommodate all the stems.  ‘Oh. My. God,’ I kept shrieking as I floated around the house in a state of euphoria. ‘There is a romantic man who walks upon this planet – and he’s all mine,’ followed by much gleeful cackling.  What Mr V didn’t tell me was that those flowers were to last for every subsequent Valentine Day that has rolled around ever since.  ‘Do you know how much they cost!’ he gasps even now, which ever so slightly took the edge of that long ago exhilaration.

Never mind ladies.  With a bit of luck, a last minute bunch of roses will be thrust up our noses.  And we’ll ignore the fact that they are curled up supermarket flowers with an oops half price yellow sticker upon the cellophane.  Which reminds me.  A man, who shall remain unnamed, was asked by his friend if he’d bought his wife anything for Valentine’s Day.  ‘Yes,’ said the man who shall remain unnamed, ‘I’ve bought her a belt and a bag.’  ‘That was very kind of you,’ said the friend, ‘I hope she appreciates it.’  ‘So do I,’ said the friend who shall remain unnamed, ‘and hopefully the vacuum cleaner will work better now.’


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Cooking Calamities

In the last three weeks something weird has happened.  I’ve had an urge to cook.  Now anybody who knows me on a day to day basis would be nervous to hear this.  Firstly, they’d wonder exactly what I’d cooked.  Secondly, they’d politely say it wasn’t their sort of dish – pretty yuck in other words.  Gordon Ramsey I am not.  Although I do a mean impersonation when staring at a charred saucepan with a smoke alarm shrieking the house down.

Due to having a hungry family who can only take so many meals of beans on toast, for years I’ve been one of those women who fill her shopping trolley with ready meals and spend a fortune at the check-out.  ‘The weekly shopping is how much?’ Mr V has frequently been heard to cry.  Have you ever seen a huge hairy man having the vapours?  It’s a terrifying sight.  So is it guilt that’s finally got to me?  Up until now I couldn’t have given a tossed pancake about being a cooking goddess.  But the desire to turn my kitchen worktop into a heaving mass of chopped herbs and fresh produce persists.  There is also a little voice in my head saying, ‘Perhaps you are trying to cook properly because your Christmas efforts for extended family were so shaming.’

On Facebook you only have to scroll through your newsfeed to see how people delight in posting pictures of dishes they’ve slaved over.  Whether it’s cupcakes or curry, pasta or puddings, friends and acquaintances display their nosh for all to see.  I’ve always refrained from doing likewise.  I mean, what’s the point of posting a picture of a plastic tray sporting synthetic mash?  But when I gave in to the urge to cook a simple Shepherd’s Pie (the equivalent of a dinner party recipe in this house), AND it turned out to be not only edible but delicious, I suddenly found myself joining the masses.  That is, whipping out my mobile phone and uploading a photograph to Facebook.  The excitement was so extreme I felt as if I’d won the lottery.  Mr V kept saying, ‘Did you really cook this or did your mum do it?’

A macaroni cheese came next, followed by cannelloni, lasagne and then…wait for it…the giddy realms of experimentation.  Stir fries with chilli jam and mouth watering chicken in red wine.  And then I tried a risotto.  Which was absolutely disgusting and tasted like socks.  Unwashed socks at that.  Never mind.  Two steps forward, one back.  But the point is, I seem to have found myself on an adventure. And – I never thought I’d hear myself say this – it’s actually rather exciting!

Which reminds me.  I’ve refrained from experimenting with cereals.  I heard a man drowned whilst making his breakfast muesli.  He was pulled in by a strong currant…