Archive for June, 2010

The Food of Love

When I was pregnant I asked on this blog for film and TV series reccommendations, for all those long hours I would spend feeding the baby. Turns out I just watch Come Dine With Me on 4OD. What? At least it’s not Jeremy Kyle or worse (?), Loose Women. In the early days when feeding was an epic tale rather than a haiku, I could get through half a week’s worth of CDWM in one session as Leila snorfled and messed about at my bosom.  I grew to love the enormous television- G’s redundancy gift to himself which, when first unveiled, made me cry (I was heavily pregnant; and it just looked vulgar). Culinary disasters and dastardly sidelong glances are so much more enjoyable 42 inches wide.

These days Leila is an old pro and can gobble down a feed in the time it takes for an onscreen souffle to collapse or a dog to snatch a starter from the kitchen counter. So my CDWM sessions are curtailed, but I plough on, picking up where I left off during Leila’s next feed. We even cooked a recipe from the programme the other day- does anyone actually do that? Ben de Lisi’s Italian sausages with peppers (it was a sleb episode, natch), if you’d like to know. Quite tasty, but misleadingly simple. Nil points for effort, BdL.

All this Come Dine With Me-ing got me thinking about my ideal menu- which remains a secret, lest  I decide one day to enter myself to the programme- and then about the most memorable meals I have had. A few stand out: Granny’s chicken and ham pie with peas and mash on my 18th birthday, over which my best friend and I drank too much wine and disgraced ourselves slightly; a meal in a beautiful lakeside restaurant in France whilst on holiday with my family as a teenager- I don’t remember what we ate, just the warmth of us being all together, enjoying an extravagant treat; the fine dining experience G and I enjoyed on our anniversary last year, with melting wafers of tongue and marrow jellies and bread rolls so good I stashed them in my handbag- we were the only customers in the small, veh posh restaurant, which was at first disconcerting and then luxurious.

But the best, the very best and most delicious thing I have ever eaten came wrapped in tin foil and served up on a table over a hospital bed. After 12 hours of labour, 3 hours of pushing, a post partum haemorrhage and an operation; with my nethers in tatters and my heart exploding and my hormones going haywire ; as my tiny baby, not even 12 hours old, snoozed next to my bed whilst I had not slept for over 30 hours or eaten properly for nearly as long; amid all of this G came into my hospital room and presented me with a home made smoked salmon sandwich. A perfect sandwich, my ideal sandwich: brown bread, butter, salmon. No  messing about with mayo or salad. Salty, soft, satisfying. It was pure, unadulterated bliss.

But the best thing about it was the consideration behind that sandwich. G knew it was my favourite, knew that I had been hankering after smoked salmon throughout the regimented pregnancy months, knew that it would be just the thing to restore me to at least a sliver of normal. Like all my most memorable meals, it was made or eaten , or both, with love.

And for that reason, I’m going to give it a ten.



Especially for Grandpa in far-away Thailand…

Sleepless in Manchester

Many of the stories I wrote as a child ended with the words: “and so they went home, tired but happy”, or “and so she went to bed, tired but happy”. Each adventure seemed to leave its heroine tired but happy.

These days the story of my life revolves around one little heroine, and an adventure it is indeed. Its latest chapter is a fable with a moral: woe betide the woman who boasts about, or even commits to paper/laptop that her baby is sleeping well. Thy smugness will bite thee on the bum.

My clockwork baby, who as I reported breezily last time, would wake once a night for a feed and be back snoring lightly within 20 minutes, has been treating us to an array of nocturnal tricks and antics in the last few nights. I think it’s partly the heat, partly the light streaming round the edges of the curtains, partly the ruddy birds making a racket. Partly that Leila is a wee baby who has no concept of time, or of lie-ins. This morning was a cracker: up at 4.45am blowing raspberries and wanting to play. Soothing whispers, edged with pleading, didn’t work. A comforting hand on her tummy didn’t work. Rocking her in the pram while I lay on the sofa and both us dribbled, one through tiredness and one through habit, didn’t work. So I stayed up with her til 6am when I was relieved to hand her over to her Daddy and crawl back into bed.

The last few nights have, on and off, each followed their own path of sleeplessness.Although I manage to tot up a decent number of hours sleep a night, the broken-ness of the sleep weighs me down. The tiredness is thick, tangible, I could almost bite it. It pulls at my eyelids and swirls treacle-like around my head and face. I feel like I’m about to sneeze, all the time. It’s not the fraught, anxious tiredness of the over-stretched worker. It’s actually quite seductive, if only I were able to be seduced and sink into sleep.

Luckily there are two other babies within a few houses of ours, almost exactly the same age as Leila, with two accompanying tired mothers. These babies have also abandoned their sleepy ways and are leading their parents a merry night-time dance. We meet, us three, to recite blearily numbers which should not be spoken with the suffix “AM” unless in reference to a great party: 1.30, 2.45, 3.40. As my mum cheerfully tells me, you’re never too tired to remember exactly when you were woken and how many hours sleep you racked up.The babies- all peachy and fresh, adding insult to injury, no purple-smudged undereye shadows for these three-  riverdance on their playmats and grab handfuls of each others faces. We cradle mugs of tea (oh tea, tea, glorious healing tea!), mainline cake- the vice of breastfeeding mothers- and swap reassurances about four month sleep regressions, and how we know someone whose baby wakes every hour, we’re lucky really, and how it will pass, like all things this too shall pass.

And the babies laugh at how clever they are, to wake their Mummies up at night, or maybe at the glint of light on a mug of tea (easily amused, these babies). And the mums agree that we wouldn’t change it for the world. And we head home, tired but happy.

Letter to Leila

To my darling Leila,

I’m writing you a letter because you’re 16 weeks old today, because you’re playing happily in your bouncy chair and allowing me some internet time, because I want you to know, however old you get (and may you get so old that your wrinkles grow wrinkles, my love), how happy you make me. In the words of the M&S advert: Just Because.

When I couldn’t sleep at night, I used to visualize the place I’d like to be the most. A treehouse in a beautiful forest, a luxurious candlelit spa, a meadow.  But one night, soon after you were born, I started this visualization and had to stop. I realised that there was nowhere I would rather be than where I was- tucked up in bed with you in your moses basket at my side, ready to wake me up two hours after I’d gone to sleep.

You’ve outgrown your moses basket now, and thankfully you only wake once in the night these days (you slept through the night for almost two glorious weeks. Hey, why don’t we try that again?). Soon you’ll be going into your own room, where perhaps I won’t be woken by your new hobby: scratching the side of your cot with your nails, like a little beast sharpening your claws.

At nearly four months old, the world for you is a fiesta, a sqealapalooza, a grinathon. You’re hilarious. You have no manners. Life is one long social faux pas: from burping loudly in the quietest part of a church service, to learning to blow (a constant stream of) raspberries whilst at Great Granny’s house, to managing to spread dribble across your entire face with your fat little wrist.

It’s all a big joke to you, my smiling, chuckling girl. Your jolly disposition does not come from your mother, but I’m glad of it. And you’ve made me jollier. You have managed this by just by being you. But you’ve also done it by banishing my demons. Before I had you, I was so scared of whether I would be a good mum. But, like a great gust of fresh air, you’ve blown away all these terrors. I know at last that I can be a good mum, that I am a good mum to you- though you make it  easy, I have to tell you.

I could wax lyrical for hours on all the things you’ve taught me. But right now you’ve grown tired of cramming the teddy bear that hangs from your bouncy seat into your mouth, your socks have come off again, and each time I peer over the top of the laptop, you smile at me winningly and emit a loud shout. Clearly there’s fun to be had, and I can’t wait to share it with you.


Mummy x