I walk to school in a daze, a child on either side.
“We’ve booked a holiday to Scotland,” I blurt out.
I’m still a bit in shock. The cottage was booked at midnight in a frenzy of panic and exasperation. We have no idea about the area or the local amenities, but there’s a fire pit in the garden and the cottage furniture looks cool. I was determined to get us to the Outer Hebrides on a shoestring but after days of research I finally admit defeat and allow Tom to make the rash decision to Just. Book . Anywhere, because all the decent places are being snapped up and we’re going to end up in a shepherd’s hut at this rate.
“Whats Scotland like?” asks Ollie.
“Ummm,” my mind is still debating whether we’ve done the right thing or not, “well they say och aye the noo a lot and they eat fried Mars Bars.”
“Fried Mars Bars?!” says Ollie appalled.
“Yeah, imagine a battered sausage (who would say that to a vegetarian?!) but replace the sausage with a Mars Bar.”
I hope no one Scottish can hear our conversation because I am sure the country has more to offer than this, (beautiful mountains? stunning islands?) but I can’t think of them right now.
“Oh and the men wear skirts!” interjects Daisy, ” and they wear no pants under them!” she cackles.
Then she launches into an inappropriate story about being in Edinburgh with grandma and pretending to drop a penny on the pavement so that she could look up a man’s kilt.
“That’s enough of that!” I boom.
Ollie looks fed up about our choice of holiday destination.
“Can’t we just go back to Center Parcs?” he whines.
That night I make a Spanish omelette for tea. It takes a lot of effort, all that fine slicing and sweating onions for twenty minutes, but I have limited options. If there were fish fingers and chips in the freezer we would be having those, but there aren’t and I am left with a surplus of hens’ eggs, some potatoes from the bottom of the fridge and a fussy vegetarian (Ollie) so Spanish omelette it is.
Tortilla Espanola is one of my favourite dishes and there’s not much that beats sitting in a bar in Madrid eating cubes of this, warm and only just set in the middle. It’s hard to replicate that deliciousness (the right sized pan would help!) but on this cold day in February I give it a go and try to slow down my usual rushed cooking style. I switch on the radio and have a cup of tea while the onions fry slowly, and the results are better than usual. Unfortunately this view is not shared by everyone.
“What’s this?” says Ollie suspiciously, when I call him to the table. He looks more miserable than is really necessary when faced with an omelette.
“It’s Spanish omelette,” I say brightly, “You’ve had it many times before.”
“Does it have cheese on it?”
“No. Spanish omelette only has three ingredients: eggs, onions and potatoes, so you don’t need to worry.” I say.
“Oh no!” says Ollie as he slumps across the table, “I can’t eat omelette without cheese!”
This battle over mealtimes is a regular, sometimes daily, routine in our house and I brace myself for it. It seems that other people though are at the end of their tether.
As Ollie grumbles away, Daisy loudly pushes her chair away and marches over to Ollie’s side of the table.
“That’s it! I’ve had enough of you complaining at every meal! Just eat it!” she shouts as she boxes him round the ears and violently shakes him by the shoulders.
I’m as surprised as Ollie at this outburst but I can only shrug as he wails, “Mummmmyyyyy!”
She’s saying everything I think.
“Mum! Why don’t you get more angry with him? Why don’t you force him to eat it? It’s so annoying!” cries Daisy.
“Because I’m in this for the long haul,” I tell Daisy, “Ollie will not be one of these children who leaves home only eating sandwiches. I’m going to keep serving up this food until one day I win the battle.”
Daisy pauses for a second.
“I hate to break this to you, mum, but you certainly aren’t winning at the moment.”
I laugh. She sounds far older than her eight years.
Later, I am sitting on Ollie’s bed while he attempts his Biff & Chip reading book. It has not been the most enjoyable evening. Dinner and the lovely omelette were marred with Ollie’s bleatings. I’m feeling fed up and my back aches. I might just go straight to bed myself. Daisy, who should be in her own room, suddenly enters.
“I think we should end the evening on a high,” she announces. “Mum, would you like a back massage?”
She has already laid out a mat on the landing. I don’t need asking twice.
“I need £1.50 to buy my next Sylvanian Family so I’ll give you a 15 minute massage, 50p for every five minutes.” she says, brandishing a piece of paper with her calculations on it. We shake hands on the deal.
Ollie feels lonely on his own so we move the mat into his bedroom, giving Daisy the dual job of massaging whilst trying to teach Ollie phonics.
“Remember that’s a split digraph, Ol, so the ‘a’ in cake sounds like an ‘A’.”
I’ve got a degree in linguistics but it still sounds like a foreign language to me.
When the fifteen minutes is up, Ollie leaps out of bed to continue where Daisy has left off. He wants no money for it. His hands are a bit small for massage so he progresses on to doing my hair. It’s most enjoyable until he says,
“Mum, you’ve got white bits in your hair”.
“That’ll be a bit of dandruff,” I reply.
He seems unsatisfied with this answer and lowers his voice.
“Daisy, come and look at this. I think mum’s got nits.”
“Mum’s not got nits!” booms Daisy, but comes over anyway to carry out a thorough inspection.
“Oh I see what you mean,” she whispers, “it could be nits.”
” I have not got nits!” I protest loudly and sit up.
“Well you have got those little holes on your face,” says Daisy.
“What are you talking about now?” I insist.
What started out as a nice massage has ended in an assassination of my appearance.
” When I look very closely at your face,” says Daisy demonstrating, I can see these tiny holes in your skin just like Miss Jones at school who wears too much make up”.
“Do you mean my pores?” I ask.
“I don’t know what they are,” she says casually, “but if you get close up you can really see them.”
That is why at 10 o’clock at night, I am not in bed as planned, nor watching the next episode of Happy Valley, but am holding a mirror very closely to my face to try and see my massive pores……
This may be to the disapproval of many Spaniards, but the best tortilla recipe I’ve ever found is good, old English Delia: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/spanish/tortilla.html