Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Lost shoes, black & white photos and music - that's where the magic begins.

If we all have a book inside of us then I must have taken a few other people's share of books. I'm always coming up with ideas for stories and when I was younger I used to make up stories for my younger sisters. I created characters based on their toys and incorporated their favourite things into songs and stories. They still remind me of the silly songs I would sing during story time and it makes me blush. Hubbie does the same thing with our boy and I trust he will have some lovely memories of story time too.

So, the Big Idea are running a great competition and have asked what inspires me to write ? Well, to be honest I'd be hard pushed to say what doesn't inspire me. Overheard conversations, news events, absent-mindedly listening to the radio, everything does. I have, however, chosen some things that I find especially inspiring.

Photos: in my parents house there was a black and white photo on the wall unit - which was in the home of every family member. I had no idea who the Sikh man in the photo was, but he was very serious looking and quite young. When we were looking through my parents' wedding album I remember carefully turning back the crinkly tissue paper leaves that concealed magical images from another time and place, people I hadn't met and who I might not. I asked Mum who the elderly Sikh man was and she said it was her father. The man from the photo on the unit. I thought he had died long before I was born, but apparently he was alive until just before I went to India aged 2 and a half.  The story of time in between those two photos captivated my imagination and I have created so many stories based on that time period and the adventures he had.


Music: I love music and hearing a tune or a short clip of music often reminds me of a moment or a place and immediately I have a story taking shape in my head. Growing up with Bollywood music in my home was amazing with the contrast of the sombre and romantic ballads and the crazy pop tunes. From soothing tones to upbeat dance numbers all songs are the potential soundtrack to the script in my head.  

Walking is inspiring
Walking: I used to walk everywhere and would often see things that would make me stop. People having an argument, or an unusual event going on. Having travelled for work I have spent a lot of time observing the world around me. I remember seeing a jacket on the ground by a telephone box - it was sad and sent my mind swirling into the possible reasons for how it had ended up there.  By the time I was home I had imagined the whole tale from the messy break up to the girlfriend throwing the clothes out of the window and one thing being left behind in the melee. 

Windows: Looking out of trains, buses, hotels and in fact any windows provide a wide range of
opportunities for finding stories. The shoe on top of a bus shelter could be either a heartening tale of childish high jinx or a sad and frightening one of bullying. It entirely depends on what mood I'm in whether the tone is dark or light really. 

There is so much more that inspires me, but I'm not going to go on about it. I've got writing to do over here. Now go shoo, get out there and live a bit to get inspired yourself :) 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

National Crisp Sarnie Week goes Bollywood

You know how at the weekend some meals are just a put together thing and you don't want to try too hard ? It's usually before or after a Sunday roast for us so it balances out the massive meal with all the trimmings. We either have a leftovers sandwich for dinner or a simple soup lunch if it's roast for dinner.

This weekend, however, I made an indian meal for all of us with masses of food and as usual there was plenty left over. As we're celebrating National Crisp Sarnie Week (yes it's a real thing) I decided to go for a slightly different take on a sarnie. You see Seabrook crisps kindly sent us some of their delicious crinkly crisps to make a sarnie with and they are based in Bradford. As this city has seen such a lot of asian cuisine over the decades I thought I'd celebrate this with my Bollywood take on the  humble crisp sarnie.

We had a delicious veggie curry made of paneer (soft cheese) and mixed vegetables in the fridge. I made this myself and it's not difficult - give it a go with my paneer vegetable curry recipe. Of course that's a lot of effort for a sandwich, but that's what makes it so special, well that and the addition of delicious and decadent crisps. If you want to make your own here is how:



Ingredients:

Paneer vegetable curry

Mini pittas

Cucumber

Tomatoes

Seabrook crisps - we used sea salted



So firstly heat up a small portion of the curry and pop the mini pitta(s) in the toaster to warm up. This will also help open up the pittas to make filling them easier. While this is going on slice the cucumber and open the crisps - at this stage you can test some of the crisps to make sure they are suitable. Mine were lovely.


When the pittas are done carefully cut open along one side and fill with as much curry as you like then with plenty of crisps for added crunch - the quantity depends on your taste.  I added a small salad of cucumber and tomato to the side rather than into the pitta so that it wouldn't go soggy. There were also some crisps left (amazingly !) so they made a nice side garnish too.


Ok, it's not a conventional sandwich, but it's my portable version of an indian takeaway. The addition of Seabrook crisps is a modern take on poppadoms and if you like a tasty and filling sarnie this one will definitely fit the bill.

Bollywood music and dancing is optional :)

This recipe is an entry into the National Crisp Sarnie Week competition with Seabrook crisps

Saturday, 30 August 2014

"Don't kiss me Mummy, I'm a big boy"

Tonight I've been sewing labels into my boy's school clothes. I had no idea how distressing the entire operation can be until I started - it made me question whose idea it was to get sew in rather than iron on ones. I blame Hubbie.

The preparation for his start at 'new nursery' has included getting his haircut last week. The lovely Emma came to our house to do it for him and he was ever so proud of his 'big boy' haircut. I also had my hair coloured and cut. There is no way I'm going to be the frumpy mum at the playground drop off.
Not an official photo :) 

Then yesterday we went for his uniform photo with my lovely friend Lucy at the studio where she works. My boy was great at posing with his book bag, cap on, cap off and with Jiggles bear as well as some cheeky 'naughty schoolboy' photos. It's just as well we had them done as he came back today from the park with some impressive scars from a fall when he was out on his scooter. He really does look like 'Just William' now.

In the next few days I'm going to find a convenient space for his clothes and shoes so that he doesn't have to rifle through everything to get ready in the mornings. I also have to write his name on his scooter as we will be walking to school and he can leave it there until I go to pick him up. I have it on good authority that nail varnish is the best way to label a scooter.

So that's my to do list for school. Well, it's not strictly school, it's 'new nursery,' but it is very different from what he was used to before and it's a bit of a change for me too. I'm sure you will have seen many posts about the trauma of sending your child to school for the first time. The tears as you leave them in the playground. The disbelief that they are starting school already. The realisation that they will be fine and it's you that is getting all upset about this. Yes, yes it's stressful and yes, yes, it's all very emotional, but let's be honest it's not like you didn't know it was coming and it's not like you don't have a choice. If you really have an issue with sending your child(ren) to school you can always choose to home educate.

I used to think home educating was for weirdos and hippies, or those pushy parents who believed their children were geniuses who shouldn't mix with boring and stupid average kids. Then I met and talked to parents who home educate and I realised that I may have been a teensy weensy bit prejudiced. I've spoken to some lovely (and very normal) parents who have chosen to home educate and I've even done a radio show about it. What I realised from talking to those who do is that I wouldn't be suited to it at all. Well, I knew that already, but it turns out to be for different reasons than I had originally imagined. You see I thought I didn't know enough to home educate, that I wasn't clever enough, but the reality is that I don't want to spend 24 hours a day with my son. I love him, he is my pride and joy, but if he and I spent all day together every day there would be all out war. I want him to go somewhere else, to mix with other people and to come home and tell me about what he's been doing while we've been apart.

You see me and Hubbie both had very conventional schooling in state schools. It wasn't exactly a bundle of laughs being at a state school and getting picked on for being a bit too smart and later full on bullying which I do not want my son to ever experience. What I do want is for him to have a space that he can be whoever he wants to be in. You see however bad it was at school it was away from my parents and their authority and their expectations of me. I didn't get to school and fold over the top of my skirt to make it shorter, or backcomb my hair or put on make up in the toilets before lessons. I did, however, have an alternative personality from home and it equipped me for what life would be like on the 'outside.' My parents wouldn't have done that. They were very protective and wouldn't have wanted me to go anywhere or to talk to anyone they didn't like or do anything they didn't approve of. Being at school was - for me - an escape. A form of freedom that I could not have had any other way. 

So, when I take my son to school next week I will, of course, feel emotional. I won't, however, feel guilty, because that is his space to be who he wants to be and to find out what he likes and what he is like.

Just bear with me while I cry a bit and look at photos of him as a baby and cry, "where did the time go ?"
There he goes off into the world... 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

It's all getting a bit personal.

I grew up in a family that was very private - my parents didn't like talking to people outside the family about personal matters. To be honest they didn't really like talking to each other much never mind to us so we didn't have much knowledge about them. I never wondered if this was normal - it was for us - and didn't really notice it was odd. However, I've realised as time has passed that this is a very un-indian way of being. Sharing too much and asking personal questions seems to be a cultural trait that just missed my family entirely.

I used to go to a salon in Southall where as soon as anyone walked in the woman would say, "You need to lose weight," or, "You want a facial for your bad skin ?" It was like a really bad comedy sketch. However, it's actually not that unusual as my family in India will often do the same sort of thing and think nothing of it. It was when we visited India when I was 11 that I noticed that social distance just isn't a thing. People openly stare and ask questions like, "why aren't you married ?" (erm... I'm only 11) or "is everyone in your family fat ?" (yes, Auntie we are). It is very disconcerting indeed. What I wasn't prepared for was for that to continue over here. 

Of course living in and around London my whole life - apart from a few years in the Midlands at Uni - I often meet other people of indian heritage. The thing is I'm not wearing a sign that says, 'not equipped to handle indian inquisitiveness,' so they just pile in. It's not their fault, they just don't know.  I'm always amazed that some people will say things that are personal and ask questions that are inappropriate as a matter of course and just to be conversational.

Only the other day I was out with my boy and a woman with 4 kids started telling me about her infertility issues and followed me around adding detail to the story. I hadn't asked, but in response to her questioning my having an only child I'd said it wasn't all that easy and it opened the floodgates.  She concluded by asking me not to tell her family what she'd said - I've never met her family and wouldn't know them if I did. 

Then last week we were out at the shopping centre where there is a ride on fire engine and my son was playing on it with another boy. As the kids were playing the other child's mum started off asking if he's my only child, how old he is and why I don't have more. I was a bit taken aback, but politely said that he was an only child at the moment - I'd learnt from the last time. She asked what my husband does for a job, if I work, where I live and much much more. I felt a bit as though I was being checked out, it was quite disconcerting. 

The exchange I really feel uncomfortable with is the typical "where are you from ?" I hate this from anyone. I've known people for years and never asked where they're from as I consider it rude. I assumed my lovely pal Soraya was at least a bit indian and found out in recent years that she has roots in South Africa and Guyana - I had no idea ! It was only when we walked together for hours training for the Moonwalk earlier this year that I finally found out and after years of friendship that I felt I could even ask.

My lovely friend who I thought was called something exotic like Essjai (I'd only ever heard it not seen it written down) and whose dark hair and olive skin suggested some ethnic heritage turned out to be called Sarah-Jane and have some Irish parentage. I knew her for about ten years before I learned the latter.

You see I don't pry. If someone wants to tell me their life story I'll happily listen, but I don't enquire unless we are already friends. I think it must appear rude when someone asks me how old my son is, what his name is and other stuff and I reply politely, but don't ask the same questions in return. It just isn't in my nature to do it, but I think it must look like I'm not interested. To be honest if we just met I'm not really interested unless it's likely we're going to meet again. 

I'm hideously embarrassed when I'm confronted by people in the street, at the gym, in the shops who have no such qualms about nosying into my life. It makes me feel a bit out of touch as I'm using social media and sharing my life, but when it comes to doing it in person I want to just hide.

Here's a hint, if you meet me and want to ask a personal question, just tweet it to me, ok ?


Monday, 25 August 2014

"All I want is a bus of my own" - my boy

On Friday me and the boy had tickets to go and watch The Tiger Who Came to Tea at the Lyric Theatre in London. As it was so close to Covent Garden I told him that if he was really well behaved I'd let him go to the Transport Museum afterwards.

If you are a fan of My Fair Lady you will know Covent Garden used to be a flower market with Eliza Doolittle singing about her hopes and dreams in the early hours. Now it's a tourist destination of choice with street performers (Eddie Izzard used to play the streets here) and many, many stalls and fancy shops. Walking through there in the early morning you no longer see fresh flowers and street hawkers, but some very nice coffee and cake is on offer for those who partake.

Hmm, patisserie for breakfast 
It's also a place with many memories for me. It's where I told my lovely friend SJ for the first time that I was expecting my boy when we went for a pampering evening at the Sanctuary. It's where I spent a Saturday afternoon wandering round debating whether to spend £70 on the Tin tin jumper that I'd seen Sting wearing in the video for "We'll be together." Shuttup !! It was a nice jumper ok ? And no, I didn't buy it in the end anyway. I used to love going to the Covent Garden General Store which was a genuine treasure trove, selling nothing you needed and lots that you thought you'd find a space for, it's now the site of M&S. My favourite pastime, however was spending days hours rummaging through all the vintage goodies at Flip on Long Acre, in they days before vintage was all the rage and it cost very little for fifties Americana chic.

A dog dress-up shop - for real
Old fashioned sweet stall





















Now it's the home of many an ad agency and lots of trendy shops, some of which are stranger than they are useful, but they are all busy. There are little nooks and corners with stalls selling all manner of tourist tat and some random elements too. My boy loved looking at all the wares and in turn asked me to buy him; vintage sweets (no), a trilby (yes it looks very cute, but still a no) and finally a dog outfit (we have a cat, so that's a no).

All of this, however, was just the time filling before we got to the London Transport Museum which is our boy's favourite place in pretty much the whole world, so far. We are friends of the museum so we can go as often as we like and it's free. As it's the school holidays everywhere is a lot busier than usual, but it was nice to take in the sun in the piazza itself and not be surrounded by thronging crowds as that was uncharacteristically quiet.

Shadow dancing
Promenading the Piazza





















Of course the museum itself is so much fun with tube trains, buses and this visit we went to story time where we met Constance the bus conductor and the children were all given little coins with which to join in. It was great fun - if a little too real for some of the younger children who were upset by the noisiness of the storytelling, but a lovely activity for the older children who joined in with the singing. Since we last visited a cafe has opened in the museum and they do a packed lunch in a bus shaped box which I will definitely get for my boy next time we go. Knowing how much he loves it there, I have a feeling it won't be too far in the future.

An old train carriage 
Organising station names 





















Coming home we were very tired indeed, but not too tired to take the secret woodland passage that leads home. Our outdoor adventures were both urban and rural this week and lots of fun.

Woodland walk home


This post is part of the #countrykids linky with the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill.

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

How to stay married and (mostly) sane

It's the August Bank Holiday weekend and me and Hubbie are spending some 'quality time' together while our boy has a mini holiday with Grandma. We did it for the first time last year and despite it being really weird to not have our boy with us we did get used to it - eventually - and had a fab time. So much so that we've decided to do it again this year.

Hubbie pointed out the other day that we've been together ten years and it occurred to me that we must be doing something right. You see we're both on our second (and hopefully forever) marriage. We made some mistakes in our respective first marriages and we hope we've learned enough to not repeat them. We're by no means experts, nor are we saddoes who buy each other teddy bears declaring our mutual love all the time - when a friend suggested recently that we are quite lovey dovey I tried to work out where she had got that impression from and I still have no idea.

What I can do is tell you what I've found helps to keep marital harmony - or at least some semblance of sanity in an otherwise chaotic toddler management programme that we both seem to be entrapped within. I can't promise that these will work for everyone, but here are the main ones I can share:

Don't point out that the gaps (that are still growing) in the kitchen floor are a result of his shoddy work in plumbing in the washing machine. This caused flooding under the laminate boards and they've separated while drying out - and yes, I do realise the irony of mentioning this online. 

I've realised that it's not a good idea to try and hang anything from pictures to coats on hooks that Hubbie has put up. We know that DIY isn't his thing and it takes many attempts to put up hooks, etc and leaves the walls looking like an inefficient and short-sighted sniper has had a go at them.

Don't mention weight gain. This works both ways, of course, but especially as Hubbie's parents like to point out how big he is every time they see him (he's not). They know better than to say anything to me besides, 'have you lost weight ?' He does the classic, " you always look lovely to me," line, but is also honest if I ask him if a dress suits me or not. Honest in a way that won't get a vase thrown at his head, though, not in a, "did you wear that when you were pregnant ?" way.

When we were on holiday Hubbie set the TV in the gym to Radio 4 so I could listen to the Archers while I was on the surfboard thing that he told me about. This was while he took our boy off for a play so that I could have some 'me time.'

When we met I earned more than him and it never bothered him - it might not seem much, but some men don't take too well to that sort of thing. Now I don't earn anything and he's fine with that too - I'm not, but that's another story for another day.

I love dim sum, but Hubbie doesn't do 'communal food' that everyone dips into from the table. If I want to have dim sum I go out with my friends, but sometimes I will buy it from the big Chinese supermarket and make it at home so that he can enjoy dim sum without having to dip in with other people. Same applies to indian food like bhajis.

Shared interests: we present a radio show together - ok not everyone will do this, but Hubbie prepares the songs and does the pre-production and I do the on air production stuff like the desk and mics. We joke that it's the only time we talk to each other, but it genuinely is something we love to do together.

Having separate interests: I have no interest in sport whatsoever. I may have mentioned this before - many times. However, Hubbie takes the boy to football every week during the season and I do things that I like. I might go to a matinee or an exhibition or just go for a nice meal / afternoon tea with a friend.

When we were first dating we went out for dinner one evening and I wanted to order gnocchi, but they had run out. A few days later when I was at his place for dinner he made me gnocchi because he wanted to make me happy. I know, I know it's sappy, shut up it made me happy ok ?

Lastly - and this is either pathetic or romantic depending on what your take is. When we have a bowl of sharing food like prawn crackers or nacho chips or pretzels I eat all the broken ones so that he doesn't have to. I honestly think Hubbie has no idea that I do this. It's daft isn't it ? We both love to eat chocolate, but I don't do pralines so he eats all the ones I don't from a selection box.

Maybe my mantra for a successful marriage should be:

"Share the love, the music and the laughter, but eat the crumbs when he's not looking and he'll always make sure that nuts don't ruin your day."

Have a super bank holiday weekend :)

And matching glasses - natch :)






Wednesday, 20 August 2014

It's only Wednesday...

... and already this week:

  • To save on cooking I bought the bargainous Asda 'vegetable' jalfrezi only to find it contains almost entirely cauliflower - which Hubbie hates. So much for saving time then. 

  • Since we re-organised the sofas in the front room, the cat is able to take up the whole of one of them on his own. As there have been fewer sunny days this week it's been a bit of a bun fight for space on the sofas. 

A sunny spell outside for Neo
  • The DVD player packed up so I swapped out a non-working DVD player and wired up a working DVD player into the TV without instructions and it works - go me !! 

  • My boy took off his armbands in the big pool and stood up on his own in the water. He also learned how to play tennis. He's still not even 4 yet !! 


video


  • I realised that when I listen to the radio it makes me very sad and very upset - and I'm not talking about the Archers, so I'm spending less time with the radio on these days.

  • We've been very late to the party with Despicable Me, but frankly it is worth it for me just for this clip alone: 


You know what ? It's only Wednesday, but I'm done in. Me and Hubbie have a fabulous weekend planned and I'm calling time on this week already thanks. 

I've decided to let it go: