You know how Nigella (Team Nigella all the way here, by the way) always has these supper ideas in her books, described in such a way that you can vividly picture her curling up on her sofa, pyjamas on, bowl in her hand, inhaling the scents of a dish made up on the spot, all of ten minutes earlier? Well, tonight, for the first time ever, I was Nigella. With Lily in bed and John doomed to spend one final night in Liverpool, I found myself hungry and alone with a fridge full of almost-on-the-turn ingredients, and so, I knocked up this: a Magpie supper.
Consisting of tagliatelle and a sauce made out of onion, garlic, bacon, white wine, creme fraiche, black pepper, basil, oregano and (in the absence of Parmesan) cheddar cheese, I knocked up a surprisingly tasty and very comforting little dish. Sure, the bacon might have been a little closer to ‘turning’ than I would ordinarily like (if you don’t hear from me again. assume death by bad bacon), and the basic mild cheddar didn’t add a whole lot, but otherwise, it was pretty decent. It’s quite good to know that all the time spent in the kitchen over the past couple of years has taught me skills outside of just following a recipe to the letter and hoping it turns out edible.
(And no, I definitely did not create this dish solely so I had an excuse to eat a chocolate caramel cake afterwards. What do you take me for?)
I’m wracking my brains trying to figure out what convinced Lily that any play she sees must involve clowns in some way, but damned if I know. Sadly for her, she was correct: Tallest Tales from the Furthest Forest, playing now at Northern Stage in Newcastle, did not have any clowns. It did, however, have a runaway bun, a bear, a fox, a spider, a witch (who threatened to jab Lils personally in the belly button), a ghost, a cat, a dog, and some Leshies…and so, in the end, I think even Lily was willing to forgive the lack of clowns. All of the above, by the way, were either acted or puppeteered (does such a word exist? I don’t know, and as I’m tired and have autumn allergies threatening to make me blow my own brains out, I don’t care) by four superb performers who also sang, danced, played string instruments and created a sense of lovely excitement and wonderment amongst an audience of mainly 3-5 year olds for a solid hour.
The actual plotting of Tallest Tales… was rather loose. A little girl, who had run away from her father and was lost in the forest, was befriended by mythical creatures named Leshies. Through a series of short stories/vignettes (all of which had roots in old European folklore tales), the Leshies taught the girl the art of storytelling, which, in turn, persuaded her to look at herself and learn important life lessons about fear, family, truth and love. The telling of these stories was done in increasingly imaginative ways, with audience interaction encouraged and the tiny performance space ensuring a constant connection between performers and children that never seemed forced. Every moment exuded charm, and for a show aimed at the under-six set, I was delighted to find that there was never a hint of ‘talking down’ to, or patronising those watching; something that I’m sure the children watching appreciated just as much as I did.
In conclusion, then: I loved it, and despite the lack of clowns, Lily loved it (when asked about it later, there was little of the show that she was unable to recount in detail). At £9 for a child’s ticket, and £12 for an adult, it is extraordinary value for money for the levels of entertainment and excitement provided, and I really, really can’t recommend it enough to anyone in the Newcastle area this Christmas. I’m already excited for what next year’s show might bring.
I have a notebook, written in the summer of 1996, in which I proclaim:
My heart belongs to: Boyzone – 50.1%. Spice Girls – 49.9%. IDST.
I know it was written in the summer of 1996 for three reasons. Firstly, there are quite a lot of pages filled with the words ‘I love Colin Jackson’; a love that I remember was so deep that it lasted for the entire two weeks of the 1996 Olympic Games. Secondly, I’m not a neanderthal. I would never make such an important statement without dating it. Thirdly, and most importantly, the time in which my silly little brain recognised Boyzone as a superior pop act to anybody, never mind the Spice Girls, was thankfully short-lived. By the winter of 1996, I had already found myself facing up to the possibility that, actually, the Spice Girls were kicking Boyzone’s arses in the pop stakes. By the spring of 1997, the acronym ‘IDST’ (If Destroyed, Still True, for those of you who we’re never ten years old) had finally lost all meaning in my life; after all, I did not have to destroy that page to know that those words were completely, embarrassingly, ridiculously untrue.
I imagine it’s highly unlikely that I have to explain why this was the case. The Spice Girls were the Spice Girls, and Boyzone were Boyzone, and that is really all that needs to be said on the matter. Still, I am going to offer up one piece of irrevocable proof; the proof, in fact, which led to my embarrassing realisation in early 1997, and which stuck with me for so long that I now find myself writing about it almost seventeen years later. Having dropped Lily off at playgroup this morning, I was eating my breakfast while perusing the new, guest-edited by Victoria Beckham, issue of Vogue Paris. This put me in the mood to listen to ‘Spice’ (let’s be honest-I don’t need much of an excuse), the sound of which then got my mind wandering back to those crazy days of 1996/1997, and the song that changed everything. A quick Spotify song change later, and it was all flooding back: the horrible lyrics, the horrible, mawkish, sentimentality, the particularly horrible hair (both head and chest-ick) in the video. Boyzone’s ‘Isn’t It A Wonder’: possibly the dullest song ever committed to record, and as a result, probably the most offensive.
The hardest thing for me to cope with when this song was released was that I didn’t want to hate it. I wasn’t quite ready to give up on the fact that I might not love Ronan Keating enough to marry him after all, and that, in fact, I probably disliked him more than loved him at this point. I bought the single (despite already owning the ‘A Different Beat’ album), I recorded the video from the Chart Show and watched it far too many times, I learnt all the lyrics. The problem was, the more I listened and watched, the more I disliked it. I learnt the important life lesson that everyone needs to learn at some point in their lives: Boyzone were a bit poo, and Ronan Keating had annoying hair, and an even more annoying voice.
Of course, it didn’t help Boyzone that, at the time of ‘Isn’t It A Wonder?’ ‘s release, the Spice Girls were coming out with this:
Boyzone had seen their competition, tried to match them, and failed on a spectacular level. They were beaten. Knocked out. Done for. I thank them, though, for teaching a naive thirteen year old girl that pop music can be, and often is, wonderful; it’s just rather unfortunate for them that this was a lesson learnt through the power of unfavourable comparison.
I woke up this morning with an elf in my bed. A little blonde elf, of three years old, wearing stripy trousers, a green jumper, a candy cane belt, and a green hat. To some, this might come as a bit of a shock. Me? Well, I was just amazed to discover that the elf hadn’t bothered to put on its little black shoes before crawling into my bed in the early hours. I distinctly remember smiling on waking, and kissing the little elf on her scabby, just-getting-over-the-chicken-pox head. It seemed like the perfect start to the week.
Three hours later, as that little elf stood (fake) crying in the middle of the living room surrounded by toys that she refused to play with, yelling because I wouldn’t let her help Fireman Sam load his fire engine on the ipad (a one day ipad ban being the result of another tantrum the previous evening), throwing a cup of water away in rage, I was inwardly laughing at my naivety. Parents hear constantly about the ‘terrible twos; well, Lily’s started at about 14 months and haven’t yet stopped at 37 months, and as far as I’m aware, she is actually a well-behaved child. Dear me. The week was not a full morning old, and I was already on the verge of losing it. So, despite the fact that what Lily should actually have earned with her behaviour this morning was a ban on all fun activities for the remainder of the week, I decided to try a different tactic: it was time for a mammy-daughter day.
Of course, when you are a stay-at-home mother, every day is a mammy-daughter day. In fact, when you are spending five days a week as a single parent, as I have been lately, every hour feels like a mammy-daughter day. And when one of those weeks involves being house-bound in order to stop your highly-infectious child spreading her pox across the whole of Newcastle, every minute…well, you see where this is going. It remains a nice little label, though; one that comes in particularly handy when both mammy and daughter are on the verge of kicking each other and need the idea of something fun and special to steer themselves away from the prospect of serious injury to mammy’s shins.
An hour later, Lily and I were on the metro heading over the River Tyne to Bill Quay Community Farm in Gateshead. The farm (a five minute walk from Pelaw Metro Station) is quite tiny, with just a smattering of sheep, goats, chickens and pigs, but it is free, and its position practically on the banks of the Tyne make visiting a pleasant prospect even without the animals. We were the only visitors, which meant Lily could annoy the half-asleep pigs to her heart’s content (I could have stopped her, but as long as she was shouting at the pigs, she wasn’t shouting at me. Sorry, pigs: you lose), coo over the piglets, hold conversations with the sheep, and run wild amongst the toys in the little farm shop without anyone barging past or distracting her efforts to empty mammy’s purse (she came away with a rubber snake and a flower collage maker, two things I am sure will provide seconds of fun). I, on the other hand, was distraught to have to leave behind some delicious-looking bacon and sausages due to my inability to get it home in time, so I treated myself to a large orange lolly instead,
(yes, I added a corny heart sticker. It was too cute not to, alright?)
Opposite the farm is a park, and given Lily’s desperate insistence on visiting every playground in the whole of the North East, a wander over was never going to be avoided. This was unfortunate, because of all these playgrounds we have visited over the past three years, I have never encountered one quite so scarily…rapey-looking. I spent our entire visit there suspiciously eyeing every tree, every bush, every skate park ramp, for unsavoury characters, and-despite the fact that this was the one and only playground to be so kind as to provide a TV for the kids’ enjoyment-I was quite relieved when Lily got annoyed by her hat blowing off on the swing and her subsequent insistence on leaving.
(My child, high-maintenance? Don’t be so rude!)
Another quick metro ride and we were back in Newcastle to do a spot of shopping (during which not one, but TWO, old ladies complemented my child on her wonderful behaviour and cheerful demeanor. Ha. Ha. Hahahahaha.), spend the usual hour staring at Fenwick’s Christmas Window, before finishing off at the pub for chips and my presentation to Lily of her final treat of the day, sneaked earlier into my pile of TK Maxx buys: a Doc McStuffins Big Book. It went down well. Very well.
We were home by 5pm. At about 5:10pm, Lily threw herself on the settee in anger at still not being allowed the ipad, and almost had her new toys confiscated. At 6:10pm, she screamed in my face because I wouldn’t let her wear her daddy’s watch in the bath. At 7:10pm, she was fast asleep, elf hat hanging at the end of the bed, ready for it all to begin again tomorrow.
In January, Lily will start going to preschool five mornings a week. On the first Monday, I have a sneaking suspicion that I will return home and cry over the loss of these days.
It has been over three months since I last wrote anything on Tiny Magpie. Up until a week ago, I was content with my decision to give up. I didn’t want to write, I didn’t want to be part of the blogging world; frankly, I just wasn’t bothered.
Then, I stopped taking my medication. My last 25mg was swallowed seven nights ago, and it was around four nights ago that I started feeling a pull…no, an urge. I wanted to write. And, despite my efforts to resist, and my fear of this being just another example of my flakiness, I’m here now. Whatever my worries, I couldn’t keep away.
Now, don’t get me wrong…it’s not that I haven’t written at all over the past three months. It’s just that my writing has consisted of little else than ramblings in my personal diary, usually along the lines of “Can’t believe Katy Perry tickets are so expensive. What a pile of dog poop”, and (in response to my husband working away) “Urrrrrrrrrgh, I’m so aloooooooooooone”. So it is of great surprise to me that I suddenly find myself wanting to properly *write*. As in, think about what I want to say, phrase it in what is hopefully an intelligent, entertaining manner, and have people read it and enjoy it.
Not only that, but it’s a little terrifying. I was content on my medication. I was content with my life as a homemaker, not feeling like I had to be pushing myself to achieve more because that’s what other people might expect of me. Centering my efforts on my family was all I needed. And now? I’ve been writing again for mere days and I suddenly feel a weight of pressure; a feeling that just blogging won’t be enough, and that if I don’t start making money from this or become a world famous writer within a year, I’ll be a big fat failure.
In conclusion…I think it might be too early for me to be back here. This could be a start, though. Maybe it won’t be three months before I post again.