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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beaten by Beeton

A couple of years ago my mum presented me with a dog-eared copy of 'Mrs Beeton's Everyday Cookery and Housekeeping Book' dated 1894.  I was a very excited recipient, not least because I would finally get to see what all the fuss with the legendary Mrs B was about, but also because I saw it as a surefire way to make my fortune.  In my mind I was guaranteed a spot as the next Julie Powell.  I would follow in her footsteps, cook my way through all 1000+ pages of recipes and merrily blog my journey, gaining squillions of fans as I did so.  Before I knew it Warner Bros would be knocking on my door begging for movie rights and Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock would be fighting over who would get to play the character of yours truly. 

Unfortunately this was before I had taken a good look at the revered recipes inside.  I had imagined a glorious anthology of timeless classics which would make everyone's mouth water just as Julia Child's had done.  Instead I opened the book at page 91 and was faced with my first obstacle - 'Calf's Head, Moulded' - closely followed by 'Calf's Head, To Carve'.  Ohh my giddy aunt.  I'm not even going to share the full instructions with you as they would turn even the strongest stomachs, even without the diagram which contains FAR too much information.  As to serving suggestions however, 'the eye and the flesh round are favourite morsels with many, and should be given to those at the table who are known to be the greatest connoisseurs.  On a separate dish there is always served the tongue and brains and each guest should be asked to take some of these'.  I can just picture the rush at our family dinner table over that, along with boiled marrow bones, whole sparrows or roast leveret (baby hare) for that matter, washed down with a generous glass of egg wine!  Egads!

It's not just the ingredients which proved challenging - I mean what on earth is 'flead' and where do I get it to make my flead crust? - it was the instructions themselves that were so lacking I wondered upon reading the recipes if I would ever actually be able to complete ANY of them.  For example 'as much honey as will flavour the mixture nicely' or 'sufficient pounded sugar to sweeten', I mean how long is a piece of string?  And how hot is 'a good oven' temperature?  Dodgy quantities aside though, I love all the old fashioned terms.  For example, to make beef curry one needs 'a few slices of tolerably lean cold roast beef' and you can be assured that when you go to make any one of the many cake recipes that you'll know exactly what it's for, such as 'Nice Useful Cake' and 'Common Cake, Suitable for sending to Children at School'.  

Mrs Beeton was nothing if not organised bless her, and should I ever be able to make any of her recipes I will never have to worry about what to cook for dinner thanks to her handy menu planner, with such gems as Lark Pie and Roast Ptarmigan topping the billing, complete with French translation if I really want to impress the household!  The parts I love best however which are a real joy to read are the chapters on household management, which recommends everything from the best time to serve meals to cultivating a good relationship between mistress and servant.  Speaking of which, I wish I'd had dear old Mrs Beeton's book around when my kids were small.  Not that I wish them to be servants you understand, but they would have been experts at setting the table and cleaning their rooms from a much earlier age!

All things considered though I feel I must admit defeat.  Alas I will NOT be following in the footsteps of Julie Powell a la Julie and Julia, instead I have been resoundingly beaten by Beeton.  Mind you upon learning that the poor woman contracted syphilis from her husband and died at just 28 I have decided that I would rather be me, servants or no servants.  And besides, as it turns out I can't even make an old fashioned steamed from the modern day Edmonds cookery book!  Full of nostalgia for the yummy, sticky golden syrup puddings my mum used to make me, I was keen to share this childhood memory with my boys.  The recipe was easy enough, it was tying the blasted string around the bowl to keep the foil lid on which proved most challenging!  By the time I had got it to stay put and refrain from ricocheting off the bottom of the bowl the air in the kitchen was a brilliant shade of blue but I did it and triumphantly popped it into the biggest pot that I had. 

Well, I figured that was what I was supposed to do; to be honest the Edmonds people were about as clear with their instructions as Mrs Beeton.  It said the recipe was for a 'steamed pudding' but it didn't actually tell you HOW to steam it.  I had no idea whether I was supposed to bring the water to a boil before plopping the pudding in and let it simmer, or chuck it in and bring it all to the boil or what!  Still, it looked alright to me as it bubbled away and before I knew it, the cooking time was done.  Or so I thought.  Upon excitedly removing the foil I was gutted to find just a big brown gooey mess - a bit like when you make bread and you're waiting for the yeast to rise.  'Stuff this, I'll finish it off in the microwave!' I said huffily.  Five minutes later it was done.  It looked and felt like a concrete brick and the syrup, which I remember being all warm and drizzly on top of the pudding had all evaporated IN to the pudding and was dry as a bone.  On the positive side the kids had never eaten it before so didn't know what they were missing and attacked it with their usual enthusiasm.  Even so, from now on I'll be sticking to Aunt Betty's!

TODAY I LEARNED: That progress is sometimes a very good thing!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Following my heart

One of my dearest friends said to me recently 'I believe you should always follow your heart - and you have'.  At the time I thought 'Aw, what a lovely thing to say!' but upon mulling things over further I can categorically say that I am indeed a heart follower, if there is such a term.  Sure, I may not always make the smartest or most logical decision but when it happens I can no more ignore it than the nose on my face and I can't imagine this will ever change.

One prime example of following my heart was running off to the other side of the world with the local barman when I was 19.  That's me on the left, with one of my best mates Julie shortly before I left.  Prior to meeting a real Kiwi bloke it was fair to say my knowledge of New Zealand was limited.  I thought it was about as far away as France, that the entire population was Maori and wore grass skirts and lived predominantly on kiwi fruit.  Such was my enormous life experience.  I had no money, no qualifications, no real job prospects and my domestic skills were limited to say the least.  I remember the first conversation I ever had with my prospective father-in-law, in which I was stuffed into a public phone box and handed the phone.  It went something like this:

'Hello!  Um - is it alright if I come and stay then?'
'Well that all depends!  Can you clean?'
'Er yes, yes I can clean!'
'Oh that's good.  Can you cook?'
'Well... I can cook scrambled eggs!'
'Ah.  Well it should be alright then.'

Of course as soon as I met him in person a few weeks later I realised he was the biggest joker I had - and would - ever come across but after that I spent many a sleepless night worrying about my lack of domestic prowess.  It didn't help that everyone said I wouldn't last five minutes over there.  My friends, when I announced I was going to live in New Zealand in six weeks' time naturally thought I was mad.  After all, I had never managed to hold down a relationship for longer than three weeks before, what in heaven's name was I thinking?  'You'll be back in six weeks', my best friend's mum said confidently, patting me on the shoulder.  As for my elderly next door neighbours, they were utterly convinced I was being taken over there to join the white slave trade and that would be the last they saw of me.  'How can you let her go?!' they asked my parents in genuine horror.  Granted, mum and dad had more than a few misgivings but were working on the theory that if they kept me on a long enough piece of elastic eventually I would bounce back.

Walking through the departure gate and leaving my parents and my friends behind, all of us in floods of tears, was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.  They had given me letters and gifts, which I had strict instructions not to open until I was on the plane, but not being a patient type I opened them as soon as I sat down in the departure lounge.  Upon reading them I swear the only reason I didn't run back out to join them was because I knew it was too late, they would already have left Heathrow and be on their way home.  There were no mobile phones back in 1992 either, which was probably just as well!

I knew I had no choice but to stay put in the departure lounge and nervously await my fate.  To say I hate flying is an understatement.  Even just being in the airport is traumatic for me as I eye everyone up suspiciously, assessing whether they are likely terrorist material.  So I was more than a little perturbed to spot a dodgy looking bloke across the other side of the lounge carrying nothing more than a guitar.  Covered in tattoos and with dreadlocks Bob Marley himself would have envied, I hoped and prayed he wasn't on my plane.  Not only was he on my plane, I was soon to discover he would be my constant companion all the way from England to Australia as we occupied the two seats next to each other at the very back of the plane.

'Hi, I'm Danny', he said with a huge grin and shook my hand.  Appearances can of course be deceiving and apart from his overpowering body odour and a rather sort of - herbal scent, I soon decided Danny was alright.  'So where are you off to?' he asked.  'I'm going to stay with my boyfriend in New Zealand', I told him.  'Oh cool!  Yeah, I'm going to visit my girlfriend.  She's in Sydney'.  However as we settled into deeper conversation I realised that Danny's situation was quite a lot different to mine.  Instead of being met at the airport by his adoring girlfriend, she had no idea that he was coming.  I mean, she knew he was coming one day, but just not exactly when.  On top of that, he didn't know where she lived and had no way of getting in touch with her.  Talk about a leap of faith!  I was more than a little concerned at the prospect of my new friend being unceremoniously deposited on the other side of the world without knowing a soul and nothing but a guitar to his name but he didn't seem remotely worried.  'If it's meant to be, I'll find her', he said confidently.  I still wonder what happened to Danny and hope everything worked out for him.  At the time I thought he was mad - brave, but mad - but this morning I realised for the first time that he was simply following his heart.  That's pretty cool!

I left Danny in Sydney and continued the final few hours to Auckland.  As we began our descent I took one look at the new country I was flying in to and burst into tears.  I was a long, long way from home.  At this point I also got really scared.  Noel and I had only been together four months - what if he had changed his mind?  After all, our first date was going to London on the train to book his plane ticket back home.  Hardly the most reassuring start to a relationship!  I came through the arrival gates in fear and trepidation - but he was there and hadn't changed his mind.  I knew right then and there that things were going to be alright, although it showed how little we really knew about each other when he packed my cases into the car.  'Um - are you sure you know how to drive?' I asked him nervously.  'Of course I do! I got here didn't I?' he laughed.  So off we went, to my new home where my new family was waiting for me.  Turns out my father-in-law wasn't scary after all.  And he never did make me cook him scrambled eggs!

The rest, as they say is history and it struck me today that, although the situation is somewhat different, once again I'm following my heart.  And, like Danny I'm taking a huge leap of faith.  I basically have six months to prove to myself and my family that I can really write and make my dreams of being a novelist come true.  If not, to put it bluntly we're screwed.  We could literally lose everything we have worked the last eight years for.  Nothing like a bit of pressure to make life interesting!  Oh - and Danny - if by some miracle you happen to be reading this, drop me a line :-)

TODAY I LEARNED: That if we all spent our lives saying 'what if?' we would never achieve anything at all.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Carpe Diem and all that

Years ago I came across a lady who finished all her emails with 'Dominus tecum' before signing off.  No doubt she still does it and I always thought it was a very cool thing to do but I never had the foggiest idea what it meant until just now when I finally looked it up.  Turns out it means 'May the Lord be with you'.  Now I admit I'm not a religious person by any stretch but what a nice thing to say!  Sounds really caring, don't you think? Much better than 'cheers' or the dreaded 'laterz' my children favour.  It makes you sound really intelligent too I reckon.  I mean, I've never even met the 'Dominus tecum' lady but nonetheless I've always pictured her as someone super smart and assertive.  This is a lady who knows her stuff; someone not to be messed with.  It would be brilliant for writing letters of complaint too!  It doesn't even matter if like me, the recipient has absolutely no idea what it means, it just gives your correspondence that added edge.  Don't argue with me buster, I know Latin!

I decided I should take a leaf out of her book and from now on sign off with a suitably intelligent sounding phrase.  It didn't take me long to find one; it's been my favourite for years, ever since I watched Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.  Wow, guess I've been a Latin buff all along, who knew?

This picture is in a frame to the left of me as I type.  For anyone who isn't familiar with it, 'Carpe Diem' means 'Seize the Day' - in other words, life is short so make the most of it and grab whatever it has to throw at you.  Very apt at the moment I feel!  Mind you, upon doing a little extra research as to its origin I also uncovered this wee gem "Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus" ("Now is the time to drink, now the time to dance footloose upon the earth").  Yep, I could live with that!  It's not really short and snappy enough for signing off your emails with though, is it?

Each to their own though I suppose.  For a more modern, distinctly un-Latin twist I rather like 'When the world slips you a Jeffrey, stroke the furry wall' as famously quoted by Russell Brand in 'Get Him to the Greek'.  OK it sounds weird but basically it's saying when the world gets you down, find peace in the things around you.  Strange but true!  Not sure I'd hang that one on my wall but other favourites I have next to my desk are 'If you're going through hell, keep going' by Winston Churchill and I love this one my family gave me - 'To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world'. Aw shucks :)

In case you're wondering where I got the above picture from, it came from a brilliant website called 'Feed Your Soul' - it's so cool!  I know absolutely nothing about art but I know what I like and here you can find a huge bunch of talented artists who are all nice enough to share their works of art online and allow you, me and everyone else to browse to our heart's content and download and print whatever we like for free.  You can choose as many as you like, all it will cost you is the ink and the paper!  Well worth a look and art lover or not, I guarantee you'll find something there that will make your day that little bit brighter.

Carpe Diem!


TODAY I LEARNED: That you can talk about getting completely legless and still sound cool and intelligent!  As long as you do it in Latin...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Puppetry of the...

My life is full of 'moments' at the er - moment.  It's full of 'Ahh, bless!' moments, such as watching Liam the learner driver expertly swing his father's tank into the gate like a pro.  It's full of feelgood moments, such as listening to the tui's going crazy outside and feeling the beat of their wings above my head as they swoop across the garden.  It's full of lightbulb moments such as suddenly knowing EXACTLY what I'm going to write my next book about (no I'm not going to tell you yet!) But none of these is quite so memorable as the moment I recently experienced, thanks to my youngest son - and rest assured it will be stashed safely away in the 'Really Embarrassing Things I'm Going To Drag Up At Your 21st Birthday Party' category.

Ali is, quite simply bonkers.  I can say that quite comfortably because he gets it from me.  At 13 people try to blame it on his age but he's always been bonkers and I've known him longer than anyone.  We have the exact same sense of humour and we crack each other up.  Together we are walking jukeboxes, champion face pullers and masters of impersonation.  He is no angel but basically he is an all round Good Kid.  Still, even good kids have their moments and lately Ali has been misbehaving at school.  He is however nothing if not honest and when he does do something wrong he always owns up as soon as he gets home.  Which is rather fortunate as it turns out because it meant at least I was slightly prepared when I was called in to meet with the school principal. 

The principal of the boys' school is a very nice man and, as the indulgent dad of two teenage boys himself he knows just how they can be.  Even so, as I took a seat in his office I could tell things were rather serious.  'Tell me' he said, waving a large object in front of me, 'Do you know what this is?'  'I have heard something about this, yes' I confessed.  As mentioned, Ali is unfailingly honest but I was still a little taken aback at the sight before me.  It's not every day you get to witness a school principal wielding a giant penis.  Because that's what I had been dragged in there for.  Unbeknown to me, my youngest son had a hidden creative side and together with a couple of sidekicks had constructed a really quite impressive three-dimensional structure using nothing but plain paper and masking tape.  Had it been anything else - a flower, a cat, pretty much anything else - their efforts would no doubt have gained them recognition for an entirely different reason.  However, the English teacher whose desk it was generously left upon was by no means a grateful recipient.

Now don't get me wrong, Ali was severely dealt with and make no mistake but I'm sorry, I really did find it quite amusing.  Make that hilarious.  And no matter how I tried to keep a stern face when Ali arrived home from school that afternoon, I took one look at him and he took one look at me and we both fell about laughing until our ribs hurt.  'Mum, I'm really sorry', Ali spluttered.  'I promise I'll behave in class from now on.  But honestly - I don't think I'll forget the sight of my principal waving that thing around for as long as I live!'  You and me both mate, you and me both...

TODAY I LEARNED: That it is possible to keep a straight face when absolutely necessary - but you can't hold it in forever!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Comfortable Nub

I don't know what it is about winter but year after year it never fails to transform me into a raging hippy.  Aside from the previously mentioned candles taking over the house I also have accumulated Himalayan rock salt lamps for almost every room in the house over the years - all purchased over various winters, and I love lava lamps so much I even plonked one in each of my children's bedrooms from an early age.  Still, I think I reached new hippy heights recently when I was hit by an overwhelming urge to listen to Pink Floyd on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  The fire was roaring, the soup was simmering, the lamps were glowing and all was well in my little world.  'Ohh!  Comfortable Nub!' Ali remarked appreciatively as the soothing vocals of Roger Waters helped me through an enormous pile of ironing.  Liam however was not so impressed.  'What's HAPPENED to you Mum?  What is this gay music anyway?!'

Honestly, when I was growing up gay meant nothing more than happy but even 30 years ago I think we would have struggled to call Pink Floyd's music gay.  In fact, quite the opposite as I learned a couple of days later.  I cannot drive without music, the louder the better, much to my kids' embarrassment and faced with a two hour drive to the city I thought Roger and Dave would provide the perfect soundtrack for my journey.  How wrong I was!  Isn't it amazing how music affects your emotional state?  Only a couple of minutes into 'Hey You' I found myself wanting to hurl myself off the nearest cliff.  Which was worryingly easy to do considering I was driving over a winding mountain road at the time.  I was late, I was frazzled and these poor unassuming legends of rock just were not helping my state of mind.

Yet amazingly, on the journey home the following day they were exactly what the doctor ordered!  I was happy, I was relaxed and positive and I sang along joyfully at the top of my voice all the way home until my voice literally conked out and Dave Gilmour had to be a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl without me.  What a difference a day makes! 

I have to say that now the dust has settled, the grieving is over and I have got over the shock of no longer having the job I thought I was going to have until death, I am surprised to find that I am actually happier than I have been in a very long time.  I have discovered I can get through life quite contentedly without all sorts of things I used to buy without thinking.  After taking a carload of hulking great teenage boys to their rugby game at the weekend I realised how if I had still had a job I would have thought nothing of shouting them all McDonalds on the way home and not even noticed the $40 or so coming out of my bank account.  Now however that seems incomprehensible to me.  $40 is HUGE!  In comparison, the biggest luxury we've splurged on in the past week is a jar of tartare sauce to accompany the fresh fish we caught.  I don't really need anything - and I don't care.  Although I do admit to struggling a little at morning tea time without my Russian Fudge Yoghurt from The Collective Dairy but as it was rightly pointed out to me, I can't justify spending the same amount on a pot of yoghurt just for me when it costs the same as a whole frozen chicken to feed our entire family.  I daresay I'll survive...

What does make me rather miffed however is that even after a whole week of not spending anything - and I mean ANYTHING - there is still money haemorraghing out of our bank account.  Oh curse you direct debits and automatic payments!  It may be convenient and it's nice to know the bills are being paid but it's pretty soul destroying when one minute you're patting yourself on the back for a job well done and then you go and check your bank balance only to find you've got almost $2,000 less in there than when you last looked and you haven't even left the house or got as much as a stick of chewing gum to show for it.  Still, I refuse to lose any more sleep.  We're all doing the best we can and can take comfort from that - and better still, we're happy! 

TODAY I LEARNED: Money is magic - it disappears without a trace and nobody has a clue where or how it went.  And I still emphatically believe you can never have too many salt lamps.

PS: Ali's interpretation of 'Comfortably Numb' made me chuckle but not as much as my friend's eight-year-old did at the weekend.  Happily plugged into his dad's iPod he had his parents in stitches at his loud vocal pleas to 'Free Nelson Nutella!'

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Chicken soup for the unemployed's soul

I confess to being a complete and utter soup fiend.  I would happily live on it every day if I could.  As we speak I have a massive pot of chicken noodle soup bubbling away!  Perfect for today's chilly weather and, as the inspiring books of the same name imply, I firmly believe that chicken soup is indeed food for the soul.  However, once in a blue moon a situation arises that even a steaming bowl of comforting soup won't fix and when that happens, this is where I go.

This is Whangamata beach, where I am lucky enough to live.  The island on the left hand side is technically called Clark Island but I've been calling it 'my island' as long as I can remember, much to the annoyance of my children.  At low tide you can walk across there and you can even climb to the top of it, although this I have yet to do as I'm far more comfortable sunbathing at the bottom of it.  This beach resembles chicken soup on a big scale for me.  I've walked along it, ran across it, played cricket on it, lazed on it for hours and cried many a tear on it when nobody's looking.

I don't know what on earth my problem was at the weekend, maybe I just got out of bed the wrong side, who knows?  But whatever the reason I was stuck in a big, blue funk and nothing seemed able to get me out of it.  No amount of reassurance from my loved ones would convince me I wasn't useless, jobless, friendless, penniless - I know, I know, break out the violins!  As my horrible day drew to a close and the light started to fade I had two choices - one, retire to my bed, pull my duvet over my head and hope everything was better in the morning - or two, drag my butt down to the beach for some fresh air.  Hopeful looks from a rather overweight spaniel forced me to choose the latter and I'm very glad I did as this was the scene that greeted us as we appeared over the top of the sand dunes.  The sea was like glass, a boat cruised silently past and a lone paddle boarder, er, paddled.  All at once my dark thoughts and endless woes disappeared as I realised I was in quite possibly the most beautiful place in the world at that moment and I had everything to be grateful for.  I challenge anyone to go to the beach and not feel instantly better!

TODAY I LEARNED: That everyone has their own, personal 'chicken soup'. You just have to find it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

When the chips are down

The great thing about when the proverbial hits the fan is that you can pretty much always guarantee someone is going through a much tougher time.  I mean, I still have a gorgeous little house (at least for now, I'm hoping against hope I don't lose it) a good, reliable car and (touch wood) my health.  The night I joined the ranks of the unemployed I was in the bath checking in with Facebook - as you do - when I saw it was a friend's birthday.  I immediately went to send appropriate good wishes when I saw a post from him 'Thanks for all the birthday wishes, unfortunately I have to confess it's been rather shit!  Unbeknown to many of us, he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and had spent his 27th birthday completing the first week in a rigorous six-week course of chemotherapy.  Yep - now that IS a bad day and as I walked along the beach the next day, I thought of Matt and wondered how I could let myself get so down in the dumps about such a teensy thing as a job when he had so much more to deal with.  Jobs are a dime a dozen, they're easy to replace.  Your nuts however, are not!

A couple of days later I heard of the sad passing of five month old Avery Canahuati, a beautiful baby in the U.S. who had been born with an incurable genetic disease called SMA.  Her life expectancy was never going to be more than 18 months but her amazing family were determined that they would make the absolute most of every single day of their baby's life.  By sharing their story (check out 'Avery's Bucket List' on Facebook) they have managed to raise almost a million dollars for SMA.  Sadly I do know what it is like to lose a child.  My first son Luke was born on December 16th 1994 - my 22nd birthday.  He was seven weeks early and the plumpest baby in the ICU!  But he picked up an infection called Strep B when I went into premature labour which few babies are strong enough to fight and he passed away at just two days old.  That sucked.  It was the suckiest thing which has ever happened in my life bar none.  You never get over losing a child, ever and every birthday still breaks my heart 17 years later but at least Luke had a chance.  There was still a chance that he might, just might pull through and I never gave up hope until all hope was gone.  I feel so incredibly lucky compared to Avery's family.  To give birth to a beautiful daughter and welcome her into your heart and your home, knowing that every day could be her last is just beyond imagining.  I remember just after we lost Luke, a friend of mine gave birth to a stillborn baby girl and we actually argued over who was worse off.  I felt that what she went through was much harder; going through labour and delivering your baby knowing that she would never take a breath.  She on the other hand thought what I had gone through was much worse, to have a living, breathing baby only to have him taken away!

Things come in threes so they say and the final, slightly more light hearted 'thing' which made me see that I didn't really have too much to worry about in life was a Forum post by a 30-something woman entitled 'Bought a black Porsche when I was feeling low'.  I thought she was actually joking, but no!  Feeling down in the dumps, this dear lady actually went and splashed out on a $40,000 Porsche and is now paying the price, literally.  She's now doing her utmost to pay it off and I wish her all the very best in her mission - in fact, I think she should write a book about it, I know I'd buy it!  Jeez, last time I splashed out when I was feeling low I spent $50 on a jar of mineral make-up - I'm still beating myself up about that!

TODAY I LEARNED: There really is always someone more worse off than yourself.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The best medicine

You learn something new every day, so they say.  I've been wanting to explore this theory for some time now and it seems an opportunity has finally presented itself to do so.  Having suddenly joined the ranks of the unemployed, I find myself with nothing.  Or do I?  I mean, what is 'nothing' anyway?  Maybe I should re-phrase that, because when I look around I have heaps of stuff, just no money - and I mean none.  I literally don't have a cent to spend and I have no idea what the future holds but the strange thing is, I haven't been this happy for a long time.  Which just goes to show the old chestnut 'money doesn't buy you happiness' must indeed be true.  I kid you not, I've been floating around like a flat chested Nigella Lawson, indulgently whipping up all sorts of wondrous creations for the family out of all sorts of random bits and pieces and heartily patting myself on the back for not spending a cent on dinner whilst accepting lashings of praise from the family for my bona fide domestic goddness-ness. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm under no illusions that the days that follow are going to be easy.  On Friday I cried buckets all day.  Come to think of it, I did on Saturday as well and on Sunday I got drunk, which didn't take much as a tee-totaller.  But there's nothing like a good old fashioned shock to make you evaluate your life and once the sense of panic and loss had subsided, I was left with an overwhelming sense of calm.  My children, bless their hearts have been wonderful.  When I broke the news to my 15-year-old, Liam on Friday night he immediately stopped chatting on Facebook, jumped out of his chair, picked me up, carried me through the house and swung me round and round the lounge.  Seeing how much joy this brought me, his younger brother valiantly tried to do the same but not being 6'3" like his sibling, the swing was more of a stagger but nonetheless equally hilarious and much appreciated!

He - or I should call him by his name, Ali - short for Alistair - has gone on to become a self-appointed Chief of Candles.  In an attempt to save on power we have taken to leaving the lights off at night and as soon as it begins to get dark, Ali goes around lighting candles in the living area.  The effects have been quite profound!  All of a sudden, dinner has become a cosier, chattier affair, with the kids talking animatedly and at length rather than scoffing their dinner and rushing off upstairs to finish their Xbox Live battle.  Once we have gravitated from the dining area to the lounge, the TV no longer goes on but we all sit and talk instead.  We figured we had better get used to having no TV as we probably won't be able to afford to pay for Sky much longer but so far this doesn't seem to be any hardship - in fact, quite the opposite, I haven't laughed so much for ages!  And as I looked around last night at everyone relaxing and laughing in our cosy, candlelit lounge I found it hard to believe I thought I had nothing, because right then I felt like the most fortunate person on the planet.  Laughter is free, which is brilliant because in our house we have a never ending supply!

TODAY I LEARNED - That laughter is free and really is the best medicine. I don't ever want to forget that, even on my darkest days, hence I named my blog so I can't!