Smirking From Home

Turning ideas into words.

Respect for the Ladies.

One month has passed and I’m utterly banjaxed. This looking after a baby malarkey whilst trying to keep some normal sense of tidiness about the house is the greatest test known to man. Which explains the title of this post as I cannot fathom how our mothers, grandmothers and their fore-mothers managed it without ending up in various lunatic asylums. It might explain why a lot of them are still rather religious and why they sought solace in the church. It was the only hours’ peace they had all week.

IF you’ll permit me, I’ll indulge myself in a spot of “woe is me”. Now those of you who know my situation will say, “but you only have one child to look after during the day!”, the other being at school, at least for the next 3 weeks. I’ll accept that as a valid reason for me not to have a gripe or three, especially since most if the afore-mentioned ladies raised screaming gaggles of greater numbers, but sod it. I’m a bloke, I get man flu and I’m allowed to waffle on the strain of raising one bairn, whilst my follicles rapidly resemble a badger’s arse and my ability to think coherently disappears off into the wild beyond. (I’m only going to partially blame this for my lack of scribbling in recent weeks)

Up front, I have to stress, that the wee fella is totally adorable and has a belly laugh on him that would make a sailor blush. If he could talk, with a laugh like that, I’m positive the air would be blue and the jokes would be filthy. Not for me a demure wee darling. Rambunctious all the way I say. He possesses all the standard wily ways of the wain, luring you in with sweet smiles and giggles before throwing a feckin’ great box of howling spanners into the false calm which was your life for those few minutes.

“Feed me ye big bollix!” “Remove this shite off me arse and use an unfragranced wipe this time, you insensitive tool.  Me hole stung like field of nettles after you used them cheap ones that smelt like a hoor’s handbag”. “What do you call this crap then? Apple and Blueberry Puree? Puree d’Turd more like”.

“Actually I don’t mind that one. What was that foul-tasting spew you gave me for breakfast? Oats? OATS!!? I’m a flippin’ baby ye gobshite, not a donkey”.

How he manages to fit this invective in amongst the howling yaps and crocodile tears I’ll never know. One minute it’s like he’s receiving electro-shock treatment, the next, full of joys of spring. They learn the methods of emotional blackmail early these days. “You’re not looking at me. Waaaaah!” “Not BBC News 24 again? Waaaah! Put on the Teletubbies and move yer fat arse out of the road so I can see what Po’s wearing today.” Where’s my bottle? Waaaaah!”

Christ on a bike. Imagine doing this with 4 of the wee feckers.”More Weight in the nappy, fat boy! Uuuhhhhhhh, Waaaah, gruuuunt! Waaaah.” Followed naturally with a huge smile and all the pleasantries of the day.

This is my day before lunchtime. In the interim I’ve taken the wee lass to school, tried to eat a slice of toast, maybe washed a dish or two and if I’m truly lucky, sterilised the bottles. Needless to say he charms the knickers off the mothers at the primary school before resorting to type and yammering for most of the remaining morning. Maybe he was expecting more at the primary school? They do grow up quickly these days after all.  I comfort myself in the knowledge that he’ll get a rude awakening when he’s 21 and it takes more than a wink and a smile to seduce the ladies. Mind you I’m no expert in that field so he’ll probably gravitate to his uncle for advice on such matters.

By the time Stella arrives him from work after 5pm I’m ready for joining the Foreign Legion. The dinner’s a half-baked concoction of something vaguely edible and himself is usually serenading me with Rage Against The Machine in the unholy key of Waaaaaaaah once more. The house could be tidier but it’s not as bad as it could have been. I like to think I’m slowly but surely discovering a method of persevering through the mayhem and madness and finding brief snippets of time achieve something worthwhile from my list of chores.

Respect to the ladies. It’s no wonder ye live longer than us. It’s your thoroughly deserved reward for keeping us all on the straight and narrow, right from the word go.


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June 7, 2010 Posted by | Bringing Up Baby | , , | 2 Comments

Cheesecake

They say Baileys is the drink for people who don’t like alcohol. In an odd way it reminds me of the ham made from turkey they give you when you’re in a predominantly Muslim country in the Far East. You want something what’s considered bad for ye so they invented an unsuitable compromise. Well frankly, turkey ham tastes like the reconstituted scrotal sac of a decaying horse, or so I imagine. Baileys is that guilty secret of a confirmed drinker. You might publicly denounce it as heresy but ye’ll drink it if offered and sure if there’s nothing left in the house, you’ll gladly welcome it’s comforting sickly sweetness. The majority of ye will also know that it helps make a damn fine cheesecake as well.
 
One of my earliest blog entries described my apparent ineptitude in the kitchen. I’ll admit to being a little disingenuous in that post. I can cook but only when I put my mind to it. It’s a spontaneous thing really. Daily dinners don’t count as they have to be done or no one eats in the family. I have to suddenly brave the creation of something, generally a concoction that I’ll have a craving for at that exact moment in time. Weirdly it’s usually on a Sunday and involves desserts, or food of a sugary confection. 
 
My last attempt at a meringue was a success. Huzzah! It was pointed out that it more resembled a Pavlova but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to the delicate process of adding sugar to eggs and fluffing them up into a whippy goo. Hell I even threw in some blue food colouring for increased bada-bing. A little dash a cream and some berried fruits and voila, 500 calories (conservative guesstimate) on a plate. That particular day though was like the old story about waiting for buses. Yup! The true spirit of culinary adventure took hold and the end product was a cheesecake, which in the grand scheme of things, was bloody tasty, if admittedly not 100% perfect.
 
Our next door neighbour gave us a recipe for a cheesecake, albeit not your traditional method of creation. This one’s baked in the oven as opposed to setting in the old Frigidaire. It’s called baked cheesecake. Seriously. No word of a lie. I could give the recipe but that would involve typing here at the keyboard for longer than I want to. Being a lazy bastard in lay mans terms. However I will say that the ingredients are virtually identical to your standard cheesecake and similarly ye can add yer own flavourings to suit your mood. As mentioned up above, Baileys is a good one, guaranteed to appeal to the palate of lovers of all things dessert. With nary a drop of the creamy booze in the house, I plumped for rum and whiskey. Oh yes! Let the good times roll.
 
Honestly speaking, I regret not putting more of the bloomin’ stuff in it. The kick was missing. It was delumptious but could have been better. My favourite ice-cream is rum and raisin so I’m tempted to try that as my next foray into the land of the cheesy cake. What’s ideal about this recipe and cake is that it’s simple and undemanding, perfect for a baking novice. It will allow for a certain level of experimentation and barring a complete brain fade in the flavourings department, should never taste truly pants. 
 
Next expedition may well involve a chocolate pie made with Dime bars. The afore-mentioned neighbour dropped round a piece that she threw together yesterday in  baking tray she had borrowed. Just imagine Homer drooling and you’ll understand why this pie will have to be attempted. I almost wept when I took my first bite. Marie Antoinette was right you know. 

April 12, 2010 Posted by | I Am What I Am | | 1 Comment

DIY: The Manly Way Part 1

When it comes to making life easier for yourself, product promoters will try to tell you that having a gadget for a particular task should fit the bill. Our house has it’s fair share of technological and electrical gizmos, the majority of which are gathering dust somewhere. From onion shredders to power washers, the list is unfathomably long. From my point of view this lust for gadgetry derives from having a dislike of anything which requires manual dexterity or hard labour. Why give yourself wrist strain when you can use a cordless screwdriver instead? It’s a known fact that screwing something onto a wall will invariably involve twisting your body into bizarre contortions in order to achieve success. 
 
We’ve all had our fair share of DIY disasters. The clue’s in the name itself. If we wanted to expertly assemble cupboards or mount curtain poles we’d all have left school at 16 and became carpentry apprentices. Actually I’m being a little facetious here. A lot of people I know are extremely capable of a spot of DIY and look upon these tasks as a challenge to be overcome, usually with resulting success. It’s just me and my two left thumbs. Oh, and an inherent dislike of assembling stuff. Despite this, I have, as part of my responsibility as a houseowner and parent, have undertaken some “projects” about the house, with mixed outcomes. 
 Last Summer, the curtain pole in the bedroom decided to leap dramatically from the wall, spewing dust and various bits of masonry everywhere. The feckin’ thing took an age to put up in the first place and even then it always felt inevitable that there was going to be a disaster. So it was no great surprise that it did. Hateful a job as it was, I consoled myself with the knowledge that a case of rinse and repeat would correct the problem and the neighbours would no longer have to bear the sight of my bare arse as I changed my keks in the morning. I bet their Cheerios tasted funny during that time. To cut a long and painfully stressful story short, 4 weeks later we had a new curtain pole. Drilling holes in obstinate walls was never my forte but even I managed to create half a dozen of the bloody things, the unused ones now stuffed with parrotfood. B&Q did a roaring trade in screws, drill bits and masonry glue and the neighbour’s children now possess a vocabulary in various shades of blue. Remarkably it hasn’t fallen down yet although I’m not getting too comfortable just yet.
 
Despite being a drilling novice I once managed to attach a retractable washing line to the back of the house. Naturally it has since fallen down, but the blame for that rests squarely with the wee lass who had decided to train for the London 2012 Asymmetric bars. Honestly speaking, I’m not dreading re-attaching the line. For some bizarre reason I found that drilling into the outside wall was a lot easier than the one inside the house. One of life’s little paradoxes I presume, the dime bar of DIY. I wouldn’t recommend undertaking a similar project if you’re the owner of dentures. You could always use the masonry glue I suppose.
 
Every Summer when we, well I say we but really I mean she, as in the good lady herself, attempt to clear out the shed, it never ceases to amaze the alarming number of tools and gadgets we possess. The bright blue plastic cupboard on wheels, originally intended for the bathroom, is awash with screwdrivers, hammers, cheap Stanley knives and who knows what else. Yet when it comes down to finding the relevant item for a job in hand, the obligatory phone call to a neighbour is required. Either that or another trip to the father-in-law’s garage. A man dearly missed by us all, my father-in-law was Mr DIY and possessed every known tool available to mankind. IF World War Three had ever broken out suddenly we knew we could have relied on him to knock up a fallout shelter out of old furniture, some paving slabs and a few rolls of string. MacGuyver had nothing on him. No job was too innocuous nor too daunting and he had the equipment always at hand. There’s none like him and unlikely to be in the future as us males become more DIY deficient as the years go by. We’re losing many skills which were virtually essential amongst the older generations. I doubt if the latest iPhone has an application for assembling computer desks.
 
As the harshest Winter we’ve had for decades shows signs of disappearing and the trees, normally ablaze with blooming blossoms by now, showing new signs of life, the impending doom of cleaning up the garden approaches. Manual effort again, you see. The paths are manky and the grey muck of winter has splattered the outside walls. Time to produce the power washer. It’s in the shed somewhere.
 

March 24, 2010 Posted by | I Am What I Am | , | Leave a comment

Ironing: The Manly Way

Her facial expression said it all when I told her. It was as if I had announced that I had converted to Islam, or worse again, in her eyes, turned Prod. Not only had the evil Presbyterian temptress stolen her eldest grandson away from the all the innocent sweet Catholic colleens in the South, she was now forcing me to do the ironing. A man ironing!? Surely that was the job of the woman of the house. Before you know it there’ll be Famine, Pestilence, Death and War riding the apocalyptic Grand National. I was unleashing the destruction of masculinity upon the world, committing treason against what she had believed in for so long. All matters housework were not the responsibility of the man.
 
What she couldn’t comprehend was the fact that I said I actually enjoyed ironing. No word of a lie. Pop the telly on, get out me board and start smoothing. In an odd way it’s remarkably therapeutic, duvets and all sorts of bed-linen excepted. There’s little heavy thinking involved, unlike bloody DIY and a damn sight less strenuous. Those extreme ironers can pish off with their cliff-top extravagances and underwater starching. A good cup of tea and the 6 Nations is all I need. Hardly adrenalising but if I wanted that kind of buzz I’d run through a mosque eating a bacon sarnie and singing viva la Diva. A good life or death chase should always involve an Israeli transsexual and Friday prayers. I’d better patent that idea before Endemol do.
 
Aye, it’s not the worse way in the world to relieve some stress. After your first few efforts you do start to get the hang of it, finally succumbing to vanity when you’ve ironed the perfect shirt. To me that’s the pinnacle of ironing achievement. The Morphy Richards Prize for Smoothing Excellence. Feck, I should get out more. Though there’s no denying the pleased feeling you get when the shirt you’ve just spent 5 minutes on looks sharp and supermodel flat, with nary a bump or crease to be seen. To be brutally honest, everything is tailored to the situation required. NO need to worry over a garment’s smoothness if it’s going underneath another item of clothing. It’s the manly shortcut again I suppose. Why should it be ironed if no one’s going to see it? I’ll admit to ironing my keks mainly because they’re easy to do, a nice breather between the blouses and vests.
 
I took over doing the majority of the ironing mainly because we had run out of carpet to vacuum. The vacuuming used to be my main household chore when we lived in Belfast. Back then I played a lot of Final Fantasy and I had to earn my brownie points in some way. The same applies now, as I’m soon approaching my fifth year immersed in Azeroth. Ironing is my gaming currency. My interest in PC gaming led me a number of years back to build my own PC. Boys and their toys eh? Funnily enough when I set foot on my ironing path, I adopted the typical man approach of finding the appropriate tools for the job. Hence we’re now in possession of a board which no feckin’ cover will properly fit and a digital iron. Well if the job’s to be done right the tools have to be fit for manly purpose.
 
Like I have mentioned previously I enjoy this task. As long as there’s something to watch on the telly then I’m good to go. Next up? Learn to love gardening. That’s what.
 
Oh and I recommend for company when yer de-wrinkling yer jeans. 

February 22, 2010 Posted by | I Am What I Am | , | 1 Comment

Mince and Potatoes

Is Atychiphobia an irrational state of mind? Whether it is or isn’t is not the focus of this post today. As much as I love to bullshit as much as the next man, I am not in possession of a psychology degree. Reading peoples’ minds is a one way ticket to insanity if you ask me. It’s bad enough having your own demons to contend with without trying to help someone realise they’re not the lovechild of Michael Jackson and Bubbles. I’ll apologise now for that rash moment of flippancy in the full understanding that I know the practice of delving in to the human mind is more complex and demanding than that.
 
When it comes to cooking I admit to being a little atychiphobic though. When you leave the relative safety of your own comfort zone everyone has the fear of failure in some small shape or form. It’s only natural. The common belief is that leaving ones’ comfort zone helps one develop as a human being. The element of risk involved, the discovery of hidden talent and the joys of having created something you didn’t think was possible for you to achieve. This is evolution in one of its’ most common states. That and co-operating with other life forms as opposed to eating them.
 
I’m lucky enough to be married to a lady for whom preparing quality food is as natural as Eric Morecambe’s comic timing. There’s little she cannot turn a hand to in the kitchen and for that I am extremely grateful. Every once and again I’ll be in charge of the dinner and that’s where the fear kicks in. All of a sudden the simplest task becomes a matter of life and food poisoning. My corner of cooking calmness is mince and potatoes. Simple, effective and completely devoid of stress. Most of the time. I can prepare mince and spuds with my eyes virtually shut but even then I’m always afraid it’ll not turn out right. The mince will be too chewy or the gravy too lumpy. Even though you are generally at the mercy of the quality of potato, there’s still the chance that I’ll bugger up the mash. You can have all the fancy meats and sauces you want but producing pure, delumptious mash is a gift handed down from the Gods. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise about cooking the family dinner. If the mash disappears up the left, you’ll end up experiencing a texture close to chewing underpants full of porridge.
 
Thankfully I generally like to think I’m more successful than not. A fear of failure even in the simplest dish provokes furious concentration. Every now and then I’ll swipe Jamie’s magic torch and disappear off into the culinary unknown. Usually it’s in an attempt to concoct a tasty dessert, a meringue based mulch of some sort. I get the creeps even thinking about making a meringue and yet I’ll persist in the vain hope that one day I’ll get it right. Nigella’s meringues are a personal favourite but even she cannot rescue this hopeless cook. My most recent attempts ended with copious dollops of unsweetened language and in the bin. Cheese and feckin’ biscuits it was that Sunday afternoon.
 
It’s hard really to conclusively point a finger at the crux of the issue. Methinks I like the idea of cooking something special for the family and guests but without the realisation that’s it’s best left to the expert. The wonderful notion of people worshipping at the foot of my Eton Mess remains firmly in the background of remote possibility. I should really stick to vacuuming the mat.
 

February 15, 2010 Posted by | I Am What I Am | , | 1 Comment

Cleaning: The Manly Way.

The downstairs of our house has no carpet. You have to love tiles and wooden floors, although I would much prefer to partake in a spot of vacuuming as opposed to “down on the knees” scrubbing and mopping. There is, however, a solitary maroon mat in the family area. Right behind me now as it happens. It acts as the communal gathering point for rebellious crumbs and hooded cat hairs, the dust particle equivalent of the local park, only without the bottles of Lurgan Champagne. One minute it’s nice and Dyson fresh, the next it possesses a furry stubble. The damn cat’s the main offender. How she manages to open the packet of digestives I’ll never fathom.
 
Sunshine slashing through the window blinds usually exacerbates the problem, the same way it show’s just how much dust can congregate on your 32″ LCD. Today was no exception and for fear of the rug standing up and walking out of the house in open rebellion, I gave the Dyson its weekly outing. Two minutes is all it takes. Nice and simple, no nooks or crannies to negotiate and nothing that should worry anybody who has a talent at cleaning or housework of any sort.
 
Or so you would think. I do my fair share about the house but in a manly way. Not by wearing a loincloth and wrestling grizzlies kind of manly, but more like shuftying things about the place kind of manly. Think Phil Spencer and Kirsty Allsop. Think hunt the thimble. And more importantly, understand the male appreciation of the shortcut. In today’s case, the mat was easily and quickly sucked clean. As were the surrounds and beneath the sofa. By beneath the sofa I mean the first inch and a half the nozzle can penetrate. Robert’s christening is a few weeks away so the big spring clean can wait another day. What I shouldn’t have done was attempt to clean the computer desk the manly way. No need for a dustcloth or polish. Attack the fag ash and toast crumbs with the hoover, that’s the way to do it. Just be careful about items on your computer desk that have temporarily dropped by to say hello. Say, for example, a half drank cup of coffee. Or a fabric baby’s bootee.
 
It’s that split second when you know something’s about to happen, you know you should be doing something about but the connection between your brain and your reflexes blows a fuse. Whoomph! “Pants”. At least the camel and the eye of the needle idea could be proved if you had a large enough vacuum cleaner. Where had it gone? Well I can now honestly say I know how the extruding accoutrements of a Dyson are assembled. Meccano training as a 10-year-old has finally had its uses. Putting it all back together was naturally trickier than expected. That’s one of the predictable facets of life, rarely disproven by man or beast.
 
So what have I learned today? The bloomin’ obvious mainly. Sometimes it’s better to sacrifice the manly, shortcut method of cleaning the house and use yer paws. We men eh? We’ve all been there at some point, haven’t we? And does the hoover still work? Can’t answer that. The mats already been cleaned for this week.

February 12, 2010 Posted by | I Am What I Am | , | 1 Comment