Vegetarian Mezze 

Nanna and Pops are arriving early doors and I will have done two hours of cleaning before they get here. Except things don’t work out like that. I wake at 8am, Ollie and I wrapped in each other’s arms, with a sweaty teddy between us. 

I’m an hour behind schedule, already on the back foot. Daisy is downstairs, wrapped in a blanket, putting in some hours with Tracey Beaker. Where do I start? The house is a tip. I send the kids to tidy their rooms (a pointless exercise as far as Ollie is concerned) and Daisy emerges moments later in a flamenco dress (the girl has a great sense of occasion).

Ollie’s shouts for breakfast mean I have to feed them, never a simple task, and actually creates more mess on top of the existing mess. They’re bickering at the table and a pile of washing is occupying the only other chair, so on the pretence of getting dressed, I carry my breakfast upstairs,  and eat it staring out of the window. 

I come to my senses when I see Tom pulling up outside. Is that the time? I’m panic-stricken!  I throw off my dressing gown and wipe the crumbs from my face. But I needn’t worry. He has the look of a troubled man – deathly pale and clutching his jaw as he crosses the street. 

I remember that he’s just been to the dentists. An emergency appointment booked by me yesterday. All other NHS dentists had waiting lists of a year, but I’d stumbled across this back street one that could take him on immediately. Ok, so it only had 2/5 stars on its rating, but sometimes needs must. 

I race downstairs in concerned-wife mode, hoping to shepherd him into the lounge, the only vaguely tidy room. He is traumatised. He talks of a flickering light, a dirty reception-area, and a locum who may or may not have been a qualified dentist. I try and sooth him with my words whilst gradually backing out of the door. I leave him to the children, who have no sense of delicacy and leap all over him while I run for the shower.

Nanna and Pops arrive to the usual chaos – Ollie is the only one available to answer the door to them – but then they’ve had six children and are quite used to it.

After a leisurely lunch out, we don’t get peckish til 7, and so the idea of the mezze came about:

Houmous



  • 400g can of chick peas, drained
  • 1&half tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp light tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 50ml of water, approx
  • Sea salt
  • To serve: a few reserved chick peas, tsp olive oil, sprinkle of cumin.

Whizz it all in a food processor until smooth, apart from the water. Slowly add the water depending on what consistency you want the houmous to have. Blitz again. Taste. Add more salt/lemon juice/garlic as required. Put into a bowl. Sprinkle with cumin, put the extra chick peas and oil on top. 

Courgette, feta and mint salad



  • 2 courgettes, thinly sliced length ways, brushed with oil
  • 30g pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 50g feta, cubed
  • Mint leaves

Griddle the courgette slices in batches on a hot griddle pan. Turn after a few minutes so cooked on both sides. Cut them into thin strips. Arrange on a dish, put the feta, pine nuts and mint sprinkled on top. Add a squeeze of lemon if needed. 

Fish Tacos with Beach Bum Salsa



It’s Shrove Tuesday at last. Daisy’s been counting down the days since last March, such is her love for pancakes. And yet we won’t be eating them today. In fact, Daisy positively cried when I suggested having some for pudding. “Please mum! I’m begging you! Not pancakes, anything but pancakes!” 

The family have pancake-fatigue. It’s a condition well-known to food blog families. They have been my pancake guinea pigs for the last few days and we’ve gorged ourselves on breakfast pancakes, savoury pancakes, gluten free coconut pancakes. I even considered a recipe for courgette and sweetcorn pancakes for tea tonight (http://damndelicious.net/2014/07/19/zucchini-corn-pancakes/ ) but I couldn’t do it to them. We’re sick to the back teeth of the damn things. So while the rest of Britain will be indulging, we will be having Fish Tacos with Beach Bum Salsa. 

We need a good dose of colourful fruit and vegetables to counteract all that batter we’ve been eating. This meal is in my Top Ten dinners. It’s from a favourite recipe book Less Meat, More Veg by Rachel de Thample. Essentially, you need to: 

  1. Make the pineapple salsa
  2. Make some batter
  3. Dip fish pieces in to the batter & fry
  4. Warm some tortillas
  5. Place the crispy fish, avocado, lettuce & salsa in the tortilla
  6. Wrap up and eat



Please learn from my mistakes though, and make the salsa before-hand. It’s utterly delicious but takes time. I had two ratty kids in the car, an hour’s drive and the knowledge that I had to spend half an hour chopping up a pineapple when I got home. 





Ham & Cheese Pancakes

This is a beaut of a recipe. I had all kinds of ideas for tonight’s savoury pancake dinner, (they were going to be rolled, stuffed and sprinkled with three different cheeses), but when it came to it, we were tired, it was late and actually this tasted even better (like a pancake version of creamy cannelloni) and was quick to rustle up.

  1. Make a basic pancake batter
  2. Make a cheese sauce
  3. Fry the pancake, toss it
  4. Sprinkle with ham, spoon some cheese sauce over, add some chopped spring onions & sun-dried  tomatoes, grate some cheese on top
  5. Fold and serve.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/savoury_pancakes_with_52388

Grandma’s last day with us. She is reading last night’s blog post on Coconut Pancakes. “Oh what a lovely picture!” I glance over her shoulder. She’s looking at a picture of a cake. “That’s someone else’s blog, mum,”

Grandma observantly points out that most of my food pictures exhibit the same grubby wipe-clean table cloth, and the same worn plates that she rescued from a car boot sale. We decide that this warrants a trip round the chazzas, (we come from a long line of charity shop lovers).

The kids are given £6 each from grandma and we set off for Wymondham, well known for it’s array of charity shops, in particular the one at the top of the high street which only sells toys. (I have condensed three hours of our lives into that paragraph. Getting out of the house was hell. Both children lost their six pounds several times over before even getting in the car).

Once in Wymondham, Ollie makes us race from one charity shop to the next, never content with the tat on offer. Daisy, on the other hand, is an old hat at this, and uses her money to ‘rescue little ones’ and take them home. The first one, a toy monkey, I don’t object to, but by the second, a porcelain doll in 1950s Christmas garb, the size of a toddler, I remember why so may of her little ones have had to take an extended holiday to the loft.

Ollie remains disgruntled about the lack of Lego on offer, and it’s ruining our ability to browse. I see grandma, out of the corner of my eye, darting upstairs to the book section. “Why don’t you go upstairs?” I whisper conspiratorially, “There might be treasure.” He scampers off, but I pay the price five minutes later with a short, sharp punch to the ribs which nearly sends me to the floor. “You lied, mummy! There is no treasure!” “Books can be treasure,” I breathlessly retort.

Grandma ushers us out of the shop and announces she needs a coffee. Shopping has never been so stressful. I look at the coffee shop next door with its teetering displays of china and come out in a cold sweat. One last charity shop then we’ll stop for a drink.

In Age Concern, Grandma and I dash off in opposite directions. We know we have exactly fifteen seconds before Ollie realises there’s no Lego and demands to go. He doesn’t appear, instead a high-pitched beep is being omitted across the store at five second intervals. The elderly clientele look up alarmed. I pass it off as a faulty fire alarm until I see Ollie waving a hand-held metal detector. He is sweeping it over the merchandise looking for metal. He is very happy and demands to buy it. Before I’ve even had time to collect my receipt, Ollie has climbed into the window display and is stroking the mannequins with the detector, hoping to find metal buckles and buttons.

I drag him outside but things are no better on the street. He is scurrying along, hunched over his metal detector and I’m having to hold his hood like a lead. He is madly sweeping the street, letting off loud beeps every time he touches a drain pipe, or manhole cover. Outside the pub the detector goes mad over a metal dogs’ water bowl. Ollie has become a menace to the public. There’s a big scuffle outside the coffee shop and it takes two adults to remove the device off him. Daisy is loving it, we, on the other-hand, have never needed caffeine so much in all our lives.

 

Coconut Pancakes (dairy & gluten-free)



Ingredients

  • 1 cup of Dove’s Farm gluten-free self-raising flour
  • Half cup of dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Half cup of coconut milk
  • 5 tbsp of coconut oil or creamed coconut*
  • 4 large eggs
  • tsp of vanilla essence 
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Zest of a lemon

*day 2 of making these & I’d run out of coconut oil so used creamed coconut (much cheaper). The results were lighter & fluffier.

In a food processor, mix together the flour, dessicated coconut, baking powder and salt. Then add the coconut oil and honey. Cream together. Add one egg at a time and give a brief blitz after each one, making sure it’s mixed in with the other ingredients. Add the vanilla essence and lemon zest and give a brief blitz again. 

Now slowly add a bit of milk at a time and mix. Keep checking that you’ve got the right consistency. I wanted slightly thicker American style pancakes, so I made sure the batter wasn’t too thin. You can always add a spoonful of flour to thicken the batter. 

Pour the batter into a jug.

Melt a spoonful of coconut oil in a frying pan over a moderate heat. Pour out an amount  of batter about the size of your palm. Do two at a time if your frying pan’s big enough. When bubbles start forming on the surface of the batter, flip the pancake.

Serve with maple syrup or honey drizzled over the pancakes & fruit and with a squeeze of lemon. 



Sunday morning. I wake up and try and get my bearings. I’m in the top-bunk. It’s musical beds in this house: you never wake up in the bed you went to sleep in.

There’s scratching out in the hall. It’s the sound of the cat digging up the carpet. He’s worked out that regular meowing doesn’t work, so he’s trying a new tactic that gets our attention every time: attacking the soft furnishings. If is isn’t the carpet, it’s the new sofas. He ain’t stupid. 

I’m up and out of bed and meet grandma in the hall. She’s trying to get away from an episode of The Octonauts which is being screened at top volume in her room. Ollie is tucked up in her bed with the iPad. 

We go downstairs and Daisy’s watching something unsuitable about a children’s care home, so we retreat to the only empty room, the kitchen, for a pot of tea. We chew the fat about news from York and Spain, until Ollie joins us for a cup of milky tea and the fun stops there. 

His whinging for breakfast gets so loud that it’s impossible to hold a conversation over the top of it. Worse than that, when I leap up and say I’ll make some pancakes, Ollie takes it as an invitation to ‘help’ me. This is all very well if I know what I’m doing, but as I’m making it up as I go along, it makes things more than a little stressful, and a bottle of expensive vanilla essence gets spilt in the process. 

Somehow we cobble together something which is not only a triumph, but also extremely tasty. So good, that I’ll be making it for breakfast again tomorrow. Well it is the holidays, after all…..





Valentine’s Fry Up



A bit Valentine’s over-kill? You’re lucky I stopped there. It actually crossed my mind to pipe ketchup and HP hearts round the plate. 

Our Valentine’s morning: lounge in bed drinking tea and eating chocolate. Leap up ten minutes before the kids are due back from sleepover. Both prioritise what’s important: Tom clears the kitchen; I get in to a hot bath and try to get to grips with Twitter. 

I tell Tom my vision for breakfast. I can’t face actually cooking it myself. Last night’s disaster with the cherry chocolate buns has put me off, ( 24 heart-shaped buns on the baking scrap heap). 

If you don’t know already, Tom is a man of precision. When we cook together, I am the creativity and the inspiration, he is the precision and the exact executor of the recipe. If it looks good, it’s because of Tom. 

So this is what I have in mind when I ask him to do our heart-shaped breakfast. But something has happened since I started this blog. I seem to have taken his exactness and his insistence on good presentation, and I’ve left him with, well, not a lot. 

He calls me cheerfully to the table. Breakfast is ready! I’m excited (first breakfast not made by me in weeks), and I’m hungry (man cannot live on chocolate alone!), and I’m presented with….a toast-egg-heart that looks like it’s been thrown around the room, then fried. There’s no obvious yolk, it’s like scrambled eggy-bread gone wrong with a sausage heart on the side. Don’t get me wrong, it tastes good. Like a sausage and egg McMuffin, but certainly not something you could photograph and put on a blog. 

So I eat my breakfast and then, starting again, light the hob and create MY vision. I give it to the kids and they demolish it at the living room coffee table (Valentine’s Day has made me lax on rules). And once everyone’s well-fed, we’re ready to help Daisy with her clandestine Valentine’s operation. Coats on and disguises at the ready. Even grandma gets involved. Can’t imagine whose idea this was (?!)



Valentine’s Fry Up

Ingredients

  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 slice of white bread, toasted 
  • 1 heart-shaped biscuit cutter
  • 1 Heck sausage heart
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Large field mushroom, sliced

In a small frying pan, hear some oil and cook the sausage heart over a moderate heat. In a large frying pan, fry the tomato halves and mushrooms in a little oil over a medium heat. Flip the tomatoes and mushrooms over and put to the outside of the pan. Place the piece of toast in the middle of the pan. Crack the egg into the heart-shaped hole. Hold the toast down to stop egg-seepage. Fry for several minutes, then put a large plate or lid over the pan to cook the egg yolk through. Serve onto a warmed plate. 

Lots of food-love to you all. X



Chocolate Heart Muffins with Cherry Icing



Oliver: lover of Lego, master negotiator. 

We go to the supermarket to buy ingredients for the above cakes. I hope to succeed where I’ve previously failed on our supermarket trips: managing expectations.

Ollie we are only going in here to buy things for the cakes – eggs and sugar – no Lego. Not even a £2.50 Lego figure. Do you understand?”

“Yes, mummy,” he says reluctantly. 

We go in, pick up what we need, have a minor fracas about what to buy grandma for Valentine’s Day (Ollie thinks she’d love a bottle of Celebrations chocolates, I think Thorntons), and we are almost home and dry and at the till when he announces he needs to choose his Valentine’s Egg. A new one on me. 

An argument ensues and from here things get hazy….. The next thing I know, I’m coming round in a Costa and I’m holding a Lego instructions manual in my hand. 

What the heck has happened?! How have I got here? It’s like we arrive at the supermarket, Ollie surreptitiously drugs me, leads me to the toy aisle, chooses some expensive Lego, gets me to pay for it, forces me to a Costa, puts in an order for his regular babychino and slips the Lego instructions into my hand ready for when I come round. 

I look up, confused, and slowly sip the tea that’s been put in front of me.  I obligingly start building the Lego.

Erm Ollie I thought the agreement was no Lego?”

“You know, mum! (his new favourite expression) We couldn’t find a Valentine’s egg, so I had to get some Lego!”

Oh right. The whole Valentine’s egg debacle. So he’s somehow used this to dupe me in to buying him some Lego. I’m still confused as to how it all happened. 

We finish assembling the Lego puppy training camp, and drain our cups. As we walk out into the spring sunshine, I have a feeling of déjà vu. I been here before. Many times. I look down and Ollie is smiling a knowing smile.

I can’t let this happen again, I think. 

If you would like to have a go at these chocolate muffins with cherry icing, please see the link below:

http://www.glorioustreats.com/2012/01/sweet-heart-cupcakes.html

The cherry icing is great. I’ll use it again, but the muffins were light, too light to withstand having hearts punched out of them. This was not my finest baking hour. I’d try a different muffin recipe next time.

And here’s after I went mad with some Jane Asher sprinkles from Poundland:




Chocolate and Almond Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 200ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp cocoa  or cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp oats, (ground in spice or coffee grinder – optional) 
  • 1 tbsp ground almonds
  • Pinch of cinnamon 

Optional

  • Ice
  • 1tsp honey
  • 1tsp milled chia seeds
  • 1tsp ground flax seeds

Put it all in a blender and blitz. Taste. Add honey or more milk if needed. Pour over ice, if desired. 

Goshy this smoothie is good. I’ve grown tired of winter and of the cold, and as a result, I need more chocolate than usual, so why not add it to a smoothie? 

This would be great for breakfast and especially for children who are reluctant breakfast-eaters. It contains oats to keep them going for longer, ground almonds as some protein, and cocoa which can lower blood pressure, reduce memory loss AND lift your mood! I mean really, what’s not to love? 

This smoothie has got me out of a  tight spot today, and for that, I am additionally grateful. 

It started with a stand off in Pets-at-Home. I thought it would be ‘fun’ to go there, buy Alfie’s food, and look at the caged animals for sale. Big mistake. Ollie wandered off to the pet corner while I ladened myself down with three boxes of Sheba, (how has it happened that the cat is now only eating the most expensive of pouches?!), and 6kgs of dental cat biscuits. I only buy these to assuage my guilt, (at £10 per 2kg bag, I have a lot of guilt). 

Last time we visited the vets, she asked me how often I brushed the cat’s teeth. BRUSH HIS TEETH?! Good grief, do I not have enough to do without brushing a cat’s teeth every night? And even if I had the time and  inclination to brush his teeth, does she really think in her wildest dreams that Alfie would just sit there whilst I flossed round his incisors? He’d savage my hand off, that’s what he’d do. 

The vet looked at me disappointedly, when I replied in the negative about the teeth-brushing. She said the only other course of action would be to pay £250 for him to have a general anaesthetic, then the tartar build up could be removed properly.

I told the vet I’d think about it and slunk out of the surgery, weighed down on one side by Alfie in his basket. Since then I’ve been spending a fortune on cat biscuits which, I pray, will do the brushing for me. 

Back to Pets-At-Home, I find Ollie in the aquatics aisle. 

Right, time to go, Ol,” I say from behind my armful of boxes.

 “I want a treat,” says Ollie, “I’ve been a good boy”. 

I want to point out to him that we’ve only been out of the house for five minutes so he hasn’t been good for that long, but he has his arms round a 30″ fish tank and I don’t want to anger him.

Ok. Let’s go home and have a hot chocolate,” I suggest reasonably. 

I don’t want a hot chocolate. I want this tank,” he growls as he narrows his eyes and grips the tank harder. On closer questioning, it turns out he wants the tank, twelve clown fish and four decorative mutant ninja turtles to put in it. He’s giving me the evils. 

Darling, the problem is that Alfie will probably eat the fish and that wouldn’t be nice for them. I say as I put down the boxes and prise his hands from the tank. 

Now how about a smoothie with CHOCOLATE in and an episode of Tintin?” I suggest as I gently push him towards the exit. 

This smoothie was made up on the spot with the boy breathing down my neck. It’s amazing what you can produce under pressure….







Butterbean, Leek & Bacon Soup

I’m upstairs miming in front of the full length mirror. The cat is watching me suspiciously from the top bunk. The mirror is annoyingly narrow so I can’t see everything I need to see. I’m walking an imaginary dog who is out of control and runs rings round me, so my legs become entangled by the lead.

Now I’m in a one-woman tug-of-war competition. I’m pulling hard but the other ‘team’ are winning. It’s making the cat uneasy. He sits up ready to leg it if things get any weirder. I don’t need to practise suddenly-being-trapped-in-a-glass-box. I’ve been proficient in that for nearly thirty years.

Downstairs, I find a clip on the computer of The National Theatre doing a vocal warm up that I’ve never seen before. It would be great for today’s class. I start a call and response thing with the woman on the screen. I repeat back to her all the sounds she makes, going high and going low, going quiet and getting louder, until Ollie complains that he can’t hear Tintin over the din. The cat, who is now by my side, looks equally perturbed. He’d just like to be fed but he’s well aware that he comes bottom of the pecking order.

I get excited when the National Theatre woman talks about the relationship between breathing properly and voice projection. This is one of my things, but I know better than to go on about it in class. I made this mistake before when teaching over at the infant school. I launched into a lecture on intercostal muscles and the diaphragm and breathing properly. When I looked down all the children were rolling on the floor, begging for me to be quiet and to start another game of wink murder.

It’s at times like this that I have a new found respect for Miss Nolan, our drama GCSE teacher (’92-’94). She had an unruly class of 30 to try and control, with the likes of David and Liam who based every piece of drama around a porcelain chamber pot that they found in the props cupboard.

Tintin has finished and the cat is practically savaging my leg, such is his desperation to be fed.  Definitely time for lunch…..

Butterbean, Leek and Bacon Soup

Bacon is to me what double cream is to Nigel Slater: everything tastes better with some added.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 2 leeks, finely sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
  • 1 large carrot, cut length-ways & finely chopped
  • 3 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 400g tin of butterbeans, drained & rinsed.
  • Hot vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh coriander, to serve.

(Apologises for not putting exact amount of stock – it’s a personal thing and depends upon how thick you like your soup…)

Method

Heat a tbsp of oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion for a few minutes on a moderate heat.

Add the bacon. Fry for a few minutes, then add the leeks and garlic, then the carrots.

Fry for a few more minutes then add the stock and partially cover the pan. Simmer gently for twenty minutes.

Add the butterbeans five minutes before the end. Stir through.

Put two ladles of soup into a plastic jug or similar. Blend with a hand blender to thicken the soup. Return the blended soup to the pan and stir in.

Taste and season if needed. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh coriander leaves. Enjoy!

Post-soup: here is Ollie writing up his ‘blog’, as he puts it.

 

Maya Gold Chilli



Daisy comes out of school with her South American recorder round her neck (quite fitting for tonight’s recipe!). I’d forgotten she’d taken it to school. It’s attached by a piece of red wool and she plays the same two notes loudly on the way home. Ollie and I trail behind. It’s like following the Pied Piper of Hamelin. 

At home I suggest they make Valentine’s cards. All the art equipment comes out, but I draw the line at paint and glitter. Tom can spot a piece of glitter a mile off, and he’s not keen on the stuff. For a calm man, glitter can make him surprisingly angry. I think it’s because it inevitably ends up on his face without him realising.

I’m hoping to get some gold out of Daisy as to whom her valentine might be. They work industriously for twenty minutes on their cards, (before the fighting starts). They have made them for their true-loves: Daisy’s is for the cat, Ollie’s is for me. 



While I make dinner, Ollie watches Disney’s version of Tarzan. It’s not long before there’s a upset. Tarzan has killed a leopard, (rightly so, he was fighting for his life), but Ollie’s bottom lip has started to tremble and by the time Phil Collins kicks in with his maudlin lyrics,  Ollie is sobbing uncontrollably. 

We pause the film and I suggest he comes to help me cook (with one of yesterday’s jam tarts as a bribe). I say he can add the chocolate to the chilli (see pic above), and all hell breaks loose because Daisy doesn’t see why he should be allowed to do such a prestigious cooking job. They compromise: Daisy puts the chocolate in and Ollie crumbles a stock cube. There isn’t actually a stock cube in the recipe, but Ollie loves to crumble them then lick his fingers, and I can’t see what harm it can do to the recipe. 

Turns out later it was good that they saw the chocolate going in:

Of course you like this meal, it’s got CHOCOLATE in!”



Of all the many chilli recipes, this is our favourite. It is from a wonderful recipe book: Less Meat, More Veg by Rachel de Thample and the name of the recipe comes from Green & Black’s Maya Gold chocolate which contains spices and a hint of orange. If you can’t get hold of it, use dark chocolate and finely grate some orange into the chilli.

 The chocolate gives the chilli a lovely silkiness, and as it contains lots of beans and not much meat, it would be easy to omit the meat and make it veggie. 

But best of all, there’s enough for two nights’ dinners, so a night off the cooking tomorrow…..







Licked the platter clean! 

Valentine’s Jam Tarts



These were the inspired idea of my friend, Catherine.If you’re time-short, and want a mess-free way of baking which will entertain the kids at the same time, here’s your answer. 

Ingredients

  • 2 x ready roll shortcrust pastry sheets (£1 each in Tesco at the mo)
  • Jar of jam
  • Biscuit cutters
  • Yorkshire pudding tray
  • Butter for greasing
  • Beaten egg & pastry brush

The options are endless. Ollie spent a happy hour cutting out hearts and circles, then went on a Halloween theme with the remaining pastry and cut out bats, cats, snails and hedgehogs(?). I’d misplaced the pastry brush, so he spent another fifteen minutes using a paint brush to egg wash the tarts. Incredible. No mess to clear up, no pastry to roll out, and at the end something delicious to eat too. What’s not to love?!



It’s very fitting that Catherine should be the inspiration for these tarts, because my first memory of Valentine’s Day is about her. Catherine is possibly my oldest and most long-suffering friend. She lived in the next street and we made the trek to secondary school and back together every day. 

At the age of eleven I loved trying to wind up Catherine about who she fancied on the school bus. She never rose to it, she has the patience of a saint. As part of this continuing wind up, I decided to spend my pocket money on a plastic rose in a tube and deliver it to her pretending it was from a boy. 

On Valentine’s Day, 1990, I dressed up in a shawl and a head scarf covering everything but my eyes, and I set off through the alleyway carrying the rose with a forged note attached. I knocked on Catherine’s door. Her mum, Judy, answered and in my best old woman’s voice I said:

“I’ve come to deliver a flower for young Catherine,”

Err ok Sarah, I’ll let her know,” said Judy (there’s no tricking some people!) By this time Catherine had come to the door and in her dead-pan voice said, “I know it’s you, Sarah, I can see your school shoes.”

Nooo I am Zelda, the flower seller!” I protested as I shuffled backwards out of their front garden, muttering to myself disappointedly at the disguise-failure. 

I obviously couldn’t drop the wind up, because not long afterwards we were walking along The Mount (on our way to church, of all places), and I stopped and got my key out and pretended to carve into a wall CG 4 JB in BIG LETTERS. Catherine stood, arms folded, looking indifferent, while I hoped to get a reaction out of her. Little did I know that a police car was crawling up beside me. They wound down the window and called me over. I had to give my details and I was cautioned for vandalism of private property. I was so frightened that I cried, but I hate to say, it didn’t stop the wind ups, (if it wasn’t aimed at my sister, it was Catherine). 

So what started as a post about jam tarts has ended as an apology to the most patient, long-suffering school friend you could ask for. Who else would willingly stand with me at the bus stop and share a flask of hot Ribena on winter mornings? Who would skive off school on my 17th birthday and cook a surprise dinner-party for twelve for me? Or would stand, uncomplainingly at the bottom of my stairs whilst I rushed around, making us late YET AGAIN for school?

Yes, Catherine had her foibles: she would involuntarily laugh if you told her bad news, and she once hit her toe repeatedly with a hammer to get out of Sport’s Day, and in later life she has developed an obsession for all gadgets Lakeland (who knew you could get so excited about an egg poacher or a heated clothes airer), but these are minors, and school-life was a million times more bareable with Catherine to laugh my way through it with. 



(Catherine – far left; me – centre)