Himself, Toddler (Formerly known as Baby) and Dog have whizzed off in the car.
I say whizzed, they’re behind the removals lorry, so it was more of a bumble.
After the huge fuss of, “Byeeeee,” ’s, “See you soon.”’s and “Love you!” ’s that were exchanged on their departure I had gone inside and returned to the front garden ten minutes later with some rubbish to see them still indicating to turn left behind the lorry that was now having trouble manoeuvring around the sharp corner at the top of the road.
“Byeeeee!”, “Love you!”
Ok. Go now.
This march out was going to be very different. I wasn’t going to the next quarter … yet. I was doing my very first march out clean.
I’m not even going to begin to explain why. Lets just say the idea started with too much Prosecco and ended with too much pride.
Closing the front door of our Puddle* quarter I stood in the living room and marvelled at the silence. Blissful.
The silence and the DIRT. My goodness, for someone who waxes lyrical in most posts about her obsession with Shake ’n Vac and calls herself a housewife!
Dog’s hair, His hair, my hair, the stickiness, the cobwebs, the scuff marks, the grease, the dust.
Echoing room after echoing room my ‘to do’ list grew.
Sitting at the bottom of our stair case I pulled out the most important piece of my cleaning equipment, Himself’s hip flask, and began procrastinating.
After procrastinating by topping up the hip flask (with very old, left over rum that wasn’t worth packing that had come with strict instructions to ONLY be used in emergencies), eating half a chicken and bacon sandwich, e-mailing my mother in South Africa and checking the weather forecast in Croatia I stood up, selected an empowering Whitney Houston playlist and marched up the stairs with a steam cleaner, four cans of furniture polish, dust cloths, bleach, a hoover, eight scouring pads, a step ladder, a bucket, a feather duster, a french maid outfit … Sorry, sorry, wrong post, and began in the smallest bedroom to the opening bars of, “I Will Always Love You.”
For 36 out of the 48 hours that I had given myself to complete this task I ate the other half of the chicken and bacon sandwich, discovered a hair dye stain (mahogany brown) on our bedroom carpet that I had hidden from Himself with a well placed rug, wiped down walls, dusted light fittings, door frames and skirting boards. Choreographed ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ Scrubbed window frames, mopped ceilings, scraped the grouting, polished mirrors, bleached toilets, de-fluffed air vents and radiators. Emptied 5 tubes of Shake ’n Vac – Lilly of the Valley. Couldn’t breathe. Went to the shop looking for a hip flask re-fill, finding out the hard way that Prosecco doesn’t work in this case. This is the only case. Too many bubbles, not enough time.
Hoovered the same carpets a hundred and thirty eight times. Waaaaay too much Shake ’n Vac.
Filled picture hook holes with polyfiller and newspaper (naughty!) Painted over them with Magnolia coloured paint – Satin, not the free tester pot Matte. I washed windows, watched it rain, washed windows again, buffed taps and scoured plug holes.
Look, I’m not going to lie, you’re supposed to wash and iron ALL of the curtains. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Fabreze’d the curtains, swabbed the floors, baby-sat the neighbours kids, erased the scuff marks on the walls, picked at a toffee that had melted under the fridge for twelve months, burned a million calories and four hours of my life scrubbing the oven to mirror reflecting standards. Did a wee. Buffed the letterbox, mopped the porch entrance. Swept out the garage, sprayed the bins, broke a dimmer switch. Buried a dimmer switch in the far corner of the back garden.
I was just piling the last of empty furniture polish tins and twenty three soaking, blackened polishing cloths onto a pile in the front garden when the housing officer arrived at 12:30.
I knew he was going to be a little pickle when he smirked upon seeing me, a spouse. A spouse who had thought she could achieve a march out cleaning ‘pass’ to the same exacting standards as the MOD contracted company that he worked for. The company that had quoted £380 to manage the march out clean.
In all honesty, he could have smirked because I looked, and probably smelt, appalling.
He could have smirked due to a medically confirmed condition.
Maybe he was remembering the god awful fart that had escaped him that morning at the breakfast table and successfully convinced the Sheself that it was the dog.
Strolling through the kitchen, in blue plastic shoe covers, opening all of the cupboards and the oven he slid a pristine white glove over his pale, clammy hand (I’m being bitter now, I have no evidence that it was clammy. Git) and whisked his finger tips delicately over their surfaces.
“Fail!” He announced, delightedly.
He practically danced on the spot as he pointed at a dog hair in a cupboard and a spot of carbon on the the grill elements.
Parading around the house with a clipboard he swiped at the walls, door frames and window hinges. Licking the floors, the toilet bowls and the window sills, ticking little boxes each time.
“I’ll be back in an hour.” He says sternly to me.
I look at him blankly.
“You have an hour to sort this place out.”
“My train leaves in an hour,” I squeak.
“Shall I put you down for a full house clean then… £380.00 was it?”
He left. Pinching the bridge of my nose in an attempt not to cry, I fumble through the pile in the front garden, searching for a clean-ish cloth. Nothing.
Standing in the middle of the house with the check list of things that need rectifying I begin removing items of clothing.
As I chuck my now sodden jumper and my ONLY pair of socks onto the pile of fabrics that have now cleaned the quarter he reverses back into the driveway, his hazards flashing with an air of importance.
He smirks. This time is is definitely because I am now barefoot, in a t-shirt, in the middle of February on the Scottish border.
I am sitting on a Virgin train bound for middle England, seat 40E, it is an aisle seat.
I had made it with 90 seconds to spare.
I am still enveloped in a dust ridden t-shirt, a pair of black and white aztec print trousers. They are tucked into a pair of brown suede boots.
My hair is scraped back into a top knot, my hairline has allowed for a large, natural bald spot to appear on the left hand side of my head. I have absolutely no make up on, bags under my eyes and three huge spots on my chin. I am not exaggerating, they are huge and throbbing.
My dry, cracked hands clasp a miniature bottle of Rosė and a plastic cup of ice from the catering trolley. My March Out paper stamped with a ‘Pass’ is clamped between my lips.
I must look incredibly attractive to the majority of the bold, loud suits that surround me as we whizz through the snow laden countryside in the dying light of the end of winter.
The young girl next to me is pretending that she is not next to me. She has plugged herself into her phone and drifted off into a very disappointed sleep.
To be fair to her, I am trying to avoid eye contact with anyone if I can help it.
I had smiled at the young man on the opposite side of the aisle when he had caught my eye as he unwrapped his cheese and ham panini. Forgetting my appearance i had mouthed, in my usual candidly social manner, that it looked incredibly yummy. I think … no, I know, he thought that I wanted him to give me the panini. He had glanced apologetically at the sandwich and then at me and went ahead and ate it while awkwardly staring out of the window and taking a very fake phone call.
It was as I was remembering that I wasn’t wearing any socks that a passenger approached from the end of the carriage on her way to the toilets. Discreetly placing a pound coin on my table and patted my shoulder as she continued past.
A few hours later and I am curled achingly on our sofa in our new quarter, my dry cracked hands clasping a cheese laden slice of pizza and a sparkling flute of Prosecco.
I am watching Himself pack his kit up. He is off to Spain.
For a while.
Until next time xoxo
*Puddle. Not its actual name. Not an actual village. Villages have pubs. There is no pub.
If you have ever pondered the life of a military spouse and then stopped and then pondered some more. Then poured a glass of wine while you’re cooking and pondering. Leaning against the kitchen counter waiting for the kettle to boil for the Bisto gravy, you must have pondered about the sex life of a military housewife whose husband is away/ abroad/ AWOL.
What fills that gaping hole *ahem* (Cringe) in their lives? What do we do to while away the twilight hours?
Soooo, while you are having passionate, frequent, spontaneous sex with your partner, here’s what I am up to. Or not up to. As it seems. *
Bed time normally happens before the light truly fades from the skies. It is a glorious luxury knowing that you have all of those hours in front of you to just lie there. This novelty wears off around day four.
A spaghetti bolognese sandwich is an appropriate midnight snack.
I will pick at a toenail, only to glance down and recoil in horror at their state, this will then entail throwing back the duvet and lugging armfuls of nail polish remover, cotton buds, cotton balls, nails files, pumice stones, moisturisers, dried out, cracking gloopy nail polishes to the centre of the bed for an annual throw down.
Watch every episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Watch QVC. And really get into it. I mean REALLY get into it. Nodding away at what the presenters are saying, my finger hovering above the dial pad, checking the last 3 digits on the back of my card.
Have a bath that is too hot. Lie sideways in it with my legs hanging attractively over the side. Look despairingly at my tummy.
Attempt to hone a craft. Candle making. Over order on the soya candle wax and scrabble to find 800 jam jars/ shot glasses/ cereal bowls for 5 litres of melted wax.
Having watched Legally Blonde very late at night and feeling empowered and feminist, order a designer power suit online. Even though all I have had to wear for the past year is wellies thanks to our current posting. In. The. Middle. Of. Nowhere.
Scratch the back of my neck for the 1264974538567th time and begin googling the cause of my demise.
Fiddle around my bedside table for a forgotten Ferrer Rocher/ chewing gum/ paracetamol. Anything to break up the monotony of the evening.
Desperation will often allow me to iron socks and pillow cases.
Get overly excited about my freedom and order pizza, chicken wings, fries and coleslaw. Eat it all.
Feel slightly concerned when even my pyjama bottoms feel a little tight.
Take them off. Leave my socks on.
See how long I can grow my leg hair.
See how much water I can drink in one evening.
Wonder if, perhaps, He hasn’t actually gone on deployment, but in fact, has whisked his mistress off to Tenerife.
Ponder this while downstairs in socks, knickers and an oversized t-shirt mixing a rum and coke.
Lie in bed and do butt clenches. 63 of them.
Register to sell a lot of stuff on eBay. Unsuccessfully.
Scroll though motivational quotes online, screen shotting the best ones to text to loved ones.
Wonder if I feel like having sex. I don’t.
Wonder if I should worry about not feeling like I want to have sex. I don’t.
Scour RightMove for international properties that I’ll snap up when I’m wearing my designer power suit.
Google ‘Toddler activities for a rainy day’
Sign up for Kindle audio books and then promptly forget that I have.
Contemplate self pleasure. Discover I have a headache.
Decide that I would quite like to study for a degree in psychology.
Research study options.
Ummm and ahhh over the £20 000.00 price tag.
Decide I would probably like to open my practice in New York.
Somewhere over looking Central Park.
Open a bottle of Prosecco, because I am an ambitious, power suited, hairy-legged potential psychologist with a Kindle audio contract.
And also it is Tuesday.
Remember that I left my Kindle charger in a hotel a few months back.
Get quite tipsy on Prosecco and power and bid on a crystal decanter set on eBay. Wake up to find that I’ve won it. At least I hadn’t paid for the Psycology degree.
Email the seller of the crystal decanter set and plead guilty to Prosecco Purchasing.
Check the toddlers monitor is definitely working for the nth time.
Turn the heating on and blissfully forget about it.
Put on some jazz music and cook a meal that doesn’t involve defrosting turkey dinosaurs and steaming broccoli.
Leave the washing up until the next morning.
Change my mind and do the washing up. And steam clean the oven. And move the fridge to clean behind it. And bleach the sink. And get all of the breakfast things out for the next morning.
Keep the water jug next to my side of the bed instead of the neutral wash stand.
YouTube Grime music for ten minutes. Feel enlightened/ worried.
Buy some sexy lingerie online.
Feel rather sexy having done that.
Take a rudey nudey selfie in the bedroom mirror.
Decide to send the lingerie back and order some Spanx
Affectionately pat my hairy legs before shaving them.
Download the “My Fitness Pal” app.
Do twenty sit-ups while watching Family Guy.
Spy a Ferrero Rocher under the bed.
Then eat three slices of toast, a satsuma and a bowl of cornflakes.
Do another thirteen sit-ups.
Apply a lot of make up at 22:30 to Face Time Him. Because thats normal.
Look for signs thats he’s in Tenerife.
Consider removing make-up. Tomorrow.
Re-organise the linen cupboard.
Contemplate having a second child.
Check SkyScanner.com to see how much it would cost to fly a family of four abroad on holiday.
Set a reminder to repeat current contraception.
Watch 43 minutes of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Think about sex.
Text Him to tell him.
Take a suggestive photo of ‘not my face’.
Edit it. A lot.
Send it to Him. Feeling smug. I’m still cool.
Take out previously purchased sexy lingerie from its packaging.
Take another selfie of ‘not my face’ wearing the sexy lingerie.
Editing is not going to help.
Re-package and slap on the ‘Returns’ label.
Pluck my eyebrows.
Read the Daily Mails tabloid column.
Feel dirty. Say a Hail Mary.
Ponder my belief in Angels and spirit guides.
YouTube some inspirational videos on Angels and Spirit guides.
Click on a link that advertises Angel Card readings.
Get side tracked by a pop up and complete my online grocery shop with a 10% off voucher.
Realise regretfully, in the lingerie aftermath of shame, that all I have purchased is fruit, vegetables and Quinoa.
In my head try and pronounce it properly. Keen-Wa.
Do seventeen sit ups.
Gin and Tonic.
E-mail my grandparents.
Make a list of names for a potential second child.
Feel guilty that I forgot Dog was still outside in the garden.
Calculate how many (not) realistically pounds I can lose before He returns.
Eat the chocolate digestives. All of them. To remove any temptation from the diet starting the next day.
Look through unpacked boxes for gym-style work out gear.
Find some wrinkled, faded maternity leggings.
Shrug. They’ll do.
Look through photos from when our child was born. Feel broody.
Wish I could have sex to conceive.
He better not be in Tenerife. With his lover, Shirley, and her three kids; Shane, Louise and Bennet.
Pour a Baileys over ice.
Put a garlic loaf in the oven.
Drink a litre of water.
Go to the loo for a wee and then weigh myself.
Scroll through images of bikini clad celebrities and finish the garlic bread.
Binge watch every movie Julia Roberts has ever been in.
Expedia flights to San Fransisco and New York.
Watch QVC for the second time in my life. Almost buy a crimpolene blouson.
Run a bath, light all 800 candles, YouTube day spa music.
Pretend to meditate.
Eat the cucumber slices meant for my eyes.
Scroll Pinterest for healthy meal plans.
Pin 138 pictures of American style kitchens.
Remember to put Toilet Duck, Mayonnaise and Dog’s Dentastix on the next grocery list.
Change the bedding in anticipation of his return later that night. He better not be tanned. Or smelling of Piz Buin.
There better not be sand and a cocktail umbrella at the bottom of his suitcase.
Poke my lady area for signs of life and imagine the Microsoft Windows re-boot music playing.
Look around in disgust at his kit strewn through every room in the house and the huge puddles he has left from the bathroom to our bedroom.
Look in admiration as He slides a long stiff package from his bulging pyjama trousers.
Shiver with the excitement.
Have sex knowing that I have a tax and duty free size Toblerone on my bedside table. That should keep the passion alive.
*All activities are performed in a safe environment. No Toddlers or Dogs were harmed in any way. All empty bottles were taken to the recycling depot. Before Christmas. Okay, before New Year.
Shortly after I married Him I was sitting amongst a group of fellow airforce wives, listening intently as they bandied about names such as ‘Chinook’ and ‘Tornado’
I was pretty sure we were discussing the Nando’s lunch menu.
We were not.
Which was a shame, because in my head I had already decided what sides I was going to order. Coleslaw and sweet potato wedges.
What they were talking about were the various forms of aircraft their husbands flew or instructed to fly.
I was partaking in a conversation that, as usual, I knew nothing about and in hindsight a list would have been helpful. Lists are always helpful.
Even as a civilian it would be nice to be able to look skyward and smugly point out the specifics of a Hawk. Or win a pub quiz. Or just feel humbled.
Here is that list:
My personal favourite. Look at that hulk of metal. I mean, I actually get butterflies. Is that odd? Am I attracted to a helicopter? Is this the wrong platform to be discussing this? Could this be a documentary?
This beauty can be operated from land or ship. In the arctic, the jungle or the desert. Piloted by two and crewed by another two it is used for trooping (the transporting of cavalry, armoured vehicles or artillery) resupply and battleship casualty evacuation.
More recently in Afghanistan the Chinook became known for its emergency response role whereas the rear of the aircraft was used as an operating theatre. Yes, I know. How proud are you now?
I need to have a little lie down.
Initially used as an advanced flying and weapons training aircraft these bad boys you know as being used for the RAF aerobatic team, The Red Arrows.
They fly fast and play hard.
You’ve seen them performing for our Royal Family to mark numerous special occasions and they are always showing off at an airshow somewhere around the country.
Powered by a Rolls Royce engine …. They, like their pilots, are pure class.
This is a combat aircraft, used in all areas of air operations including air policing, peace support and high intensity conflict.
You know when the Daily Mail spew enthusiastically that the Russians have intercepted our airspace and “OMG, Is. This. The. End?!”
These are the aircraft that politely show them the door. No fuss.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Day or night, low level or poor weather, these pilots are ‘ard as nails.
The aircraft are capable of night vision and infra red and are carriers of weapons and missiles.
I’m actually feeling rather nervy just writing about them. Maybe I should stop. Am I even allowed to be mentioning them?!
*Breathe* Ugh, I’m so dramatic.
Piloted by sons, husbands, daddies and mates, for everything they’ve seen, experienced and protected us from, we are eternally grateful.
Sea King – Coast Guard
First introduced in 1978, the Search and Rescue aircraft were operated from six locations in the U.K, with each location supporting two aircraft that were on call 24 hours a day.
We were very lucky to be here in Puddle*, which is one of their locations, to be summer long spectators before the magnificent aircraft were retired last month in favour of a privatised service (Boo!)
There isn’t a home video of Toddler without the whirring of the grand Sea King in the back ground. Its presence so significant that, to the delight of the pilots, “ellio-ha-copter,” was Toddlers first word and every day throughout the dreamy summer on our march down to the beach, through the village and the farm they would fly low enough on their way to training that Toddler and Dog could exchange excited woofs and waves with the crew.
My chest bursts with pride at having been able to be in those moments with them.
Quote of the Week is a salute to our beautiful heros:
The Real Military Housewife and Co. went on holiday last month. Our first holiday abroad as three.
It’s not really a holiday in the traditional sense when it’s no longer the two of you, is it?
We pretty much followed Toddler’s (formerly known as Baby) routine as we would at home. Only now I was acutely aware of beads of sweat creeping towards my shorts clad bottom and was vaguely horrified, yet curious, by the fistfuls of sand that were being eaten in delight.
I jest. It was fabulous.
Where else am I able to have a glass of Prosecco for breakfast on a Tuesday?
Besides in my kitchen. With the curtains closed.
Upon our return we were scheduled to participate in the annual Engineers Walk. A airforce tradition that has been going for over fifty years, first trodden by our Fighter Controllers. It was the first time we had heard of its existence, let alone entered it. Rumour had it, it was a pub crawl.
I didn’t know much about it. All I knew was that as I don’t drive I was going to be very, very good at an activity that involved walking. I was probably going to win. I was going to have to get people to fill in application forms in order to be on our team, the demand was going to be that strong. I’d probably be awarded a medal. I would have to make a speech. Look, in all honesty, I was probably going to be on the news.
The Friday night before the walk commenced Toddler was dispatched to my in laws, who we had brought up for the occasion and He and I drove to the Officers Mess for the scheduled health and safety brief. According to the flyer that He had brought home, it would be followed by a warm welcome from the station commander along with dinner and a drink. A drink. That is why we specifically drove, because in our minds it was to be a serious affair with high vis jackets and emergency contact numbers, some curry and a glass of wine. We would be in bed by 21:00. At THE latest, we agreed.
Walking into the Mess we were greeted with the sight of a rock band warming up and an enthusiastic pregnant lady waving us over to sign us in and collect our walking packs.
(Hail Mary Tally: 1)
Proudly brandishing our bag of goodies we headed for the bar and sought out our usual table of companions. Sitting with our little glasses of wine we diligently announced we’d be leaving after dinner so we could rest up for the big day. We said this as I began some nonchalant lunges to make sure everyone knew how serious and committed we were.
Everyone that had done the walk before looked at each other and smiled knowingly. Some gave us a thumbs up. Some snorted and signalled another round.
It was just after 1am that I realised I was about to down my fifth jaegerbomb with a woman that I hadn’t seen in years, surrounded by a generous heap of empty wine bottles, cackling loudly. He was deep in his lager and conversation with fellow colleagues and a mosh pit had formed on the far side of the bar, no where near the band. The band were nowhere near the band. It was carnage.
He and I eventually tumbled through our front door. We hoped it was ours. We set our alarms for 05:30 which would get us back to the Mess in time for the scheduled greasy fry up before we were all bussed off to begin the charitable trek (The one that I was going to win) and then we both fell down on or around our bed.
There was a sharp, grey light falling about me and grappling for my phone I realised that it was 06:30.
“Ah, Ding Dong!” I shrieked as I leapt out of bed and into the shower. I am joking. I did not shout, “Ding Dong.”
“We are very late,” I grumble to Him. He doesn’t stir, “We’ve missed breakfast.”
(Hail Mary Tally: 4)
We, and when I say we, I mean I, manage to have a shower and blindly pull together a vaguely sporty ensemble. He managed to walk down the stairs and out of the front door.
By 07:00 we are roadside with a back pack, Dog and a map, ready to flag down the passing coach.
Scrambling up the steps, greeting the driver and a sea of pale, grey hungover faces we find seats. He ends up a few rows ahead of me. His head is lolling. Some one motions to me that he is dribbling.
I am slumped next to an elderly army general in a three piece tweed suit who reeks of tobacco, strong coffee and opinions. He immediately begins to rant his old mans rant. Saluting at random. The air is permeated with diesel and weak chatter.
I pretend to be having a chat with Dog while being a little bit sick in my mouth.
As he begins a monologue about his third wife I motion to him that I am probably going to be a little bit sick in his lap. He stops talking and gravely looks out of the window at the thick fog creeping across the silent farm yards that we keep passing. He mumbles a few expletitives and bangs his wooden walking stick on the floor before falling silent once more.
(Hail mary Tally: 2)
We are encouraged off the bus in front of an old, elegant hotel, The Victoria. The grey stone work dewy and cool. The waiting staff usher us quietly inside and begin handing out pints of lager and Bloody Mary’s. I feel smug as I accept mine and watch Him creep towards a sofa in a quiet corner. For some reason the horrendous hangover that I should have been suffering has merely brushed past me and I down my vodka and tomato juice in one.
There is an excited buzz building in the air. There are 150 officers and their spouses with a few dogs and kids, all beginning to wake up, a few are stretching, others are throwing about playful banter in accordance to the debaucherous night before, everyone is smiling or trying to. I rally our team together, another couple, Harry and Amy (Yes, I was surprised at the lack of force people used in order to gain a guaranteed spot on this winning contingent!)
We set off.
(Bloody Mary Tally: 1)
“20 miles eh?!” Quipped Harry as we set our pace.
“Sorry?” I asked, confused, “20 miles?”
Harry nodded as he adjusted his backpack and began setting his sports watch, “Yeah, the walk? It’s 20 miles.”
Dog squatted and did a massive poo.
I felt like doing the same.
This was news to me. I fumbled in our walking pack and skimmed the map, he was right.
The first pub on our route was another three miles away.
“Walk faster!” I command.
After a hearty fry up of bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, mushrooms, fried bread, fried potato, grilled tomato, a few cups of coffee and an orange juice in the third pub, The Craster Arms, He is feeling more like himself and can just about manage a pint of Ale at the next pub, The Joiners Arms.
(Bloody Mary Tally: 3)
As we perch on a picnic bench in the beer garden watching the walkers trickle in and out, high fives and back slaps aplenty we sip on our drinks and attempt to fill in the quiz that accompanies each pub stop. The table next to us have just downed 20 shots of sambuca. It is not even 10am. They are not going to win. I am filled with confidence as I march towards the marshall to have our quiz verified and stamped. I smugly inquire as to how far in front our team is.
“You’re right in front,”
(Hail Mary Tally: 3)
“For next year.” He finishes.
(Hail Mary Tally: 4)
I break the news to my team mates. They all shrug and continue nibbling on a shared packet on Mini Cheddars.
(Bloody Mary Tally: 4)
The next part of our walk involved an exquisite trek across the vast expanses of coastline. The sun is failing to burn through the low set cloud and fog, as the sea mist settles over us. The ripples of the grizzly clouds mirroring the patterned, damp sand. Dog hurtles towards the waves that are breaking on the horizon as we climb gingerly over monstrous hunks of whitewashed driftwood and through colossal pools of water, a breeze rustling through the dune grass rising above us as we navigate around mounds of sodden, decaying kelp. We finally cut through the dunes into a silent caravan park and down a gloomy, oak tree shrouded lane and begin our descent to the half way point. A golf club nestled in the shadows of the almighty Dunstaburgh Castle. The cliffs fall away unveiling gentle waves and a menagerie of sea gulls and black crows that circle the ruined turrets.
It is at the golf club where the men folk pay a fee to be dressed, made up and accessorised to finish the walk as women. All in the name of charity and tradition. The results are outstanding, floral tea dresses and sparkling head scarves are the source of many shrieks of hilarity and a warm feeling towards the innocence in dressing up for a good laugh. Watching as unknowing, conservative businessman stroll off the 18th hole ready for a cold one and being overwhelmed with the confusion that is a bunch of very hairy women gulping pints.
Unbeknownst to us:
…in order to win the walk you must cross the finish line at 15:00.
We trundle on. The rest of the walk is familiar ground for us. Dog, Baby and I explored this part of the coastline many times over the summer and Dog shoots off to excitedly greet the cows and the sheep. The clouds are darkening and there is a distinct autumnal chill in the air. Thick fog is rolling over the still slate waters as we trudge to our local pubs.
The Jolly Fisherman in Craster is hidden behind the tiny harbour. The little fishing village is cloaked in the pungent scent from the local smokehouse and is sheltered from the North Sea gales by the deep harbour walls. He had been saving himself until we reached the beer garden with its sheer drop to the crashing waves below. He had been dreaming of the smoked kipper pate he was going to devour with fresh, crusty slabs of bread. Of which they had stopped serving by the time we minced in.
He had a KitKat instead.
It’s 16:00. I’m not going to be on the news.
Which is a good thing really as my hair is beyond windblown, plastered to my face, my make up has evaporated, and I’m carrying a bag of dog poo.
(Hail Mary Tally: 7)
(Bloody Mary Tally: 5)
We have four miles to go. Our team has somewhat broken down. Dog is out front, rustling through the undergrowth, searching frantically for something or anything as we approach the farm that we walk through every day on our way down to the shore. Harry and Amy are ahead of us, secretly discussing a short cut and quick marching home in time for the rugby.
He and I are in a comfortable silence, walking with the wind, day dreaming our own day dreams. Too tired to talk. There are plenty of teams dotted about in front and behind us.
Huffing and puffing up the long, steep path that winds from the beach up to the refreshingly cooler coastal path we spot a rotund figure in the distance. He is bulging beautifully out of a suit, resting on the bonnet of his car. He has an ironing board with a white table cloth thrown over it. Breathing in sharply he lurches up, twiddling his handlebar moustache he shouts down to us, “last two Gin and Tonics here if you want them!”
(Hail Mary Tally: 63)
We are coming to up to the final mile. The last pub is glowing in the dusky distance. The twinkly lights from various harbours add a bit of romance to the sweaty, achey bodies that are being drawn to The Fishing Boat Inn. He, Dog and I are walking side by side. The Gin and Tonics providing giggles and glory. Or Goggles and Gory. At that point, who knew.
Stumbling up the driveway to whoops and cheers we claw our way into the humble fisherman’s pub. A fire is roaring in one corner and the rugby is roaring in another. The heavy beams soaking up the ambiance of achievement. The windows are steamed up and the bar staff are gritting their teeth as almost 150 people place an order for pints and packets of bacon crisps.
We’re done. We high five and collapse into a gasping, pained heap.
There is a rumour spreading that we’re all heading back to the Mess for curry and A drink.
When people walk into our home there is generally an underlying waft of Shake’nVac accompanying whatever is cooking in the kitchen.
Whether He is around or out of town I am fanatical about meal plans. I like to keep it cheap, exciting and above all, easy. All of the following you can make if you are home alone and need to constantly wander off after children, hoovers, disappearing sanity.
I am constantly being asked for a copy of what I am making for dinner the following week so I thought that perhaps I would pop it on here too, just before you begin your grocery shopping list.
Monday: A Sneaky Roast Chicken
Use the best chicken you can afford. A corn fed supermarket bought one goes for around £7.00
PreHeat oven to 220*C
Stuff the inside of the bird with a whole lemon (pricked and microwaved for 30 seconds prior) and a handful of whichever fresh herbs you have mincing about at the back of the fridge. We tend to have thyme and mint.
Slice the flap (excuse me?!) above the open cavity and slide thin slivers of butter beneath the skin. Massage them down until you have covered its whole body. Pierce the skin surrounding the breast and thighs with cloves of garlic and end off with a grand seasoning of salt, pepper and olive oil.
In a roasting tin chuck in washed carrots, potatoes, parsnips, anything thats lying around from the week before, no need to peel or chop, and plonk your chicken on top.
Pop into the oven and adjust the temperature down to 200*C, set your timer for 45 minutes, sit down and watch DinnerDate. When that ends you’ll baste the chicken in its juices and if the veggies look a bit dry you’ll add some water to the tin to prevent burning. Re-set for the final 45 minutes and settle down to watch Millionaire Matchmaker with a glass of ice cold white wine.
Serve with gravy (We use Bisto) and a smug smile.
Tuesday: Chicken Pie with Green Beans
Using the chicken leftovers from the night before.
Preheat the oven to 200*C
Saute a chopped onion in some oil for around 10 minutes
In a separate container add 300ml of boiling water to a stock cube, before pouring into the saucepan, holding back around 50ml.
Add a tablespoon of cornflour to the remaining 50ml and stir into a paste before adding to the onions and stock.
Add 2 or 3 chopped carrots, celery, leek and some salt and pepper and allow to gently simmer for around 20 minutes.
It’s at this point you can pour a glass of wine while taking the puff pastry out of the fridge to reach room temperature and fold any laundry that’s just come off the line. The kids are fine. You’ve checked on them.
Pour the chicken pie filling into a pie dish and ease your rolled out puff pastry over the top, allowing it to hang over the sides – we aren’t entering any competitions for presentation, we are aiming for maximum yumminess. Pierce the centre of the pastry lid a few times and if you have the inclination crimp the borders. Finally brush the pastry with a little milk and pop into the oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Chuck your green beans into some salted simmering water and cook for 5-7 minutes. Dress with olive oil and salt.
Serve with pride and a bottle of cider. Also gravy and, if you’re feeling adventurous, a carrot and swede mash.
Wednesday – Chicken Broth with Cheese Dumplings
Look at what you have done! You are about to have created 3 meals from a £7 chicken. What?!
Into a stock pot or a large saucepan, toss:
The chicken carcass with remaining skin, fat, herbs & lemon from the initial roast..
An onion cut in to quarters
4 to 5 whole crushed cloves of garlic
3 to 4 carrots washed and cut in half or quarters
3 stalks of celery washed and halved.
750ml of chicken stock.
Stick it all on a very low heat on the stove top, covered, and … walk away. Hoover, watch Homes Under The hammer or Judge Rinder, check e-mails, drink coffee, chat to yourself, your child, your neighbour. Cut the grass, do the online grocery shop, iron some shirts, badly.
After 90 minutes or so, uncover and allow the stock to simmer and reduce.
I reckon one more episode of Escape to the Country and you can drain the stock through a sieve into a clean saucepan and allow it to simmer for a further 30 minutes to an hour, season to taste, skim the fat and nod to yourself at how flipping great you are.
For the Cheesy Dumplings, so, SO easy.
Makes 12 dumplings.
30g cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups of self raising flour
60g finely grated cheddar cheese
Rub the butter into the flour until crumbly. You can do this with the bowl on your lap if you are catching the end of Come Dine With Me or overseeing any homework that is being done.
Mix in the cheese and about 1/2 a cup of water to bind it all together. It will be sticky.
Roll large teaspoons of the mixture into balls.
Pop them into your simmering broth and cover for the around 8 minutes.
Season to taste.
Serve with a mothering glow and an ice cold glass of whatever is left in the fridge.
Thursday – Mexican Bean Burgers with Coleslaw, Beans and Chips.
Its a meat free meal and it’s one our favourites.
It is so straight forward.
Into the oven go the burgers – we use the Sainsbury’s Mexican smoky bean burgers. In go the frozen homestyle chips.
Coleslaw – grate cabbage, carrots and a few apples, mix with mayonnaise and a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard.
Beans – Heat up in a saucepan with the optional addition of some hot sauce and a few handfuls of grated cheese.
1 minute before the burgers are due out chuck in some brioche rolls to toast and layer a few slices of cheese on the burgers to melt.
To plate up; Build your cheese bean burger with salad leaves, tomatoes, avocado slices and lashings of mayonnaise, serve with a hunk of coleslaw and your hot beans. Salt and vinegar the chips. Naturally.
Serve with a wink, a, “Howdy!” and a refreshing beer or an icy rose wine. You are the best mum. Ever. Oh and the kids don’t get the beer or the wine. But you knew that.
Friday – Spag Bol that becomes Saturday Sloppy Joe’s
Saute onions and garlic (a lot of, like 4 cloves, I know! I’m sorry.) in a little oil on a very low heat for as long as you can stand there stirring. It’s a great excuse to have Him child mind for a while. If you can get to around 15 minutes you’re golden. As are the onions.
Add 500ml of beef stock, diced carrots and celery.
In go a tin of tomatoes.
A hefty shake of the Oregano bottle.
In a separate frying pan, brown off the mince and drain in a sieve. Sounds laborious, however it rids you of the excess water from the beef.
Browned mince into the bubbling tomato sauce. Salt and pepper. A glass or two of red wine (One for you, one for the pot etc.) and turn onto a very low heat to simmer.
Go and see if Him and Child are still alive. Hint that the washing needs to be brought in. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Cringe) is about to start. During the advert breaks pop back to give your amazing bolognaise a stir and a taste. One it has reduced, if you have a hand held blender, get to work and turn that sauce into a SAUCE.
Pour your spaghetti into a vat of salted, boiling water and leave to cook for 15 – 20 minutes until al dente. Drain and plate up.
Serve with grated cheese, a garlic loaf and a tomato & mixed leaf salad. Along with a large glass of the red. If there’s any left.
Saturday – Brunch – Sloppy Joes
Sloppy Joe’s -These can only ever be eaten for Saturday brunch. It is the rule. Nay. It is the LAW. Unless you have a mid week hangover (Silly Billy Mummy!) Totally cancels the first rule out.
Heat up left over bolognaise sauce.
Butter a sweet, soft Brioche roll.
Heap buttered fresh roll with hot bolognaise sauce. A handful of grated cheese is absolutely necessary.
Thank me later.
Serve with anything bubbly. Prosecco or a Berocca. Depending on the reason you have had to make a Sloppy Joe.