Monday 25th May
I drive away from the north Cambridge services with a tight feeling in my chest. It comes from being separated from my sidekicks after four intense days together. A break is much-needed, (they have been picked up by Pops), but it’s strange not to have Ollie sitting next to me balancing his Martin bear and Squirrel on the hand-brake; or not to hear Daisy’s squeals from the back about being squashed between a laundry basket and a Fortnum & Mason hamper.
A phone call from Tom comes through on the hands-free. It’s bank holiday Monday but he’s slaving away at the office.
“Hi! What time are you going to be home? I’ll make sure I’m back for when you get home.”
This throws me into a panic. I have a car-load of what, to the untrained eye, could be construed as junk and I need to ‘lose’ it in the house and garage before Tom gets home.
“Ummm,” I try to do some wild calculations…ETA + half an hour for bad traffic + half hour to unload the car. “Five o’clock,” I say decisively after a long pause.
“Five o’clock! It’s not going to take you two and a half hours to get from Cambridge.”
I persuade him this ETA is correct with talk of Bank Holiday traffic, and then swiftly change the subject on to dinner: What about steak and chips (his favourite)? Maybe he could pick it up on the way home?
I put my foot down and get back to Norwich in record time. I’d like to lie in a darkened room or a hot bath after a day of high emotion, long driving, and furniture removal, but there’s no time for that.
Like a mad woman I leap out of the car and tackle the garage, attempting to pull out nine tangled-together bikes to make room for a fold-down table and three boxes full of I can’t remember what. Why does a family of four need nine bikes? I think as I huff and puff, pulling and pushing my way into the garage.
I get back to the car and am amazed at how much it is possible to cram into one vehicle. The last item out is a wicker chair that someone (my mother?) has painted turquoise. I have no use for this chair but it comes with a fitted cushion in rose-print material made by my grandmother. I am a sucker for any of her handiwork hence its final reprieve from the charity shop.
I’ve run out of places to hide stuff so I put it in the dining room with a sheet over it. The one thing I have in my favour is that for a very intelligent man, Tom has extremely poor observational skills. Sometimes it’s as if he’s blindfolded himself and wandered into a room.
“Do you know where my coffee grinder is?”
“By the fruit bowl.”
“I can’t see it.”
Then I have to go through and point it out.
Later that evening we sit at the dining room table eating our steak and chips and enjoying the quiet. I feel uncomfortable about the large sheet-covered mound directly in his eye line, but Tom seems oblivious and chats away instead about what I’m going to do tomorrow with a whole day to myself.
“Sort out the garage!” I say “I’m going to take everything out and start again. Get rid of a load of stuff.”
He looks at me like I’m mad.
“Don’t you think you should just relax?”
I’m on the verge of admitting that I have a removals van arriving from York with a part-load of furniture and no where to put it, but why ruin a nice evening?
The next day I wish I had taken Tom’s suggestion of relaxation, but Ish and his van could be here any minute now and I need a space for a cupboard, a chest of drawers and two wooden chairs.
I spend all afternoon dragging everything out onto the drive. I shut the garden gates but that doesn’t stop every Tom, Dick and Harry passing by from asking me if I’m having a sale.
“No! They’re my possessions!” I feel like shouting, although in hindsight it would’ve saved a few trips to the tip if some things had been taken off my hands.
By 2pm I’m starving but I can’t leave the house because my life is spread out for everyone to see on the drive. The only thing I have is a surplus of asparagus growing in our adopted asparagus bed in the back garden.
Ish arrives at 4pm (by which point I’ve had three bowls of soup) and laughs as I appear from the back of the garage.
“Having a sale?” he asks in his broad Leeds accent. I commandeer him into helping me lift the old IKEA drawers x 2 out of the way.
“I hope I’m not going to get a call from your husband wanting all this furniture returning to York once it’s discovered,” he says with a twinkle in his eye as we lift grandma’s cupboard off the van. He seems to find my predicament most amusing.
Seven hours after starting, Operation Garage is complete. Everything is tidy and you can get in without becoming entangled in bikes and scooters.
Twi nights later Tom has to go into the garage to get something out. I hang around nervously waiting for the loud exclamation when he sees that half our garage has been turned into a furniture warehouse.
He notices nothing. I’m almost annoyed.
“Err. Hello. Haven’t you noticed anything?”
“Oh it looks really tidy! Well done,” he says as he turns to pull down the door and lock up.
“But what about the furniture?” I say, incredulous.
He steps back in and peers at the wooden cupboard and the drawers.
“They’re really nice. What are they doing in the garage? We should have them in the house,” he replies.
- onion, 1
- garlic cloves, 2
- fresh ginger, 1cm chunk
- olive oil, 1tbsp
- asparagus, 120g
- spinach, 200g
- medium potatoes, 2
- vegetable stock
Finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger or use a food processor. Fry them in the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat for five minutes.
Peel and finely chop (or food processor) the potatoes. Add them to the pan with the asparagus which should be cut into 1cm chunks.
Add the vegetable stock (I’m sorry – I forgot to measure how much I used).
Simmer gently for ten minutes.
Add the spinach. Simmer for another five minutes.
Blend with a hand blender and season.