Thursday, 19 March 2015

St Patrick's Day Woes, etc

I feel like I ought to be posting a recipe for something green, it being The Day It Is and all  [sorry – I started writing this on Tuesday – Belated Irish Greetings to you all!]  but I won’t – not because I don’t have a fantastic Green Recipe (I do, in fact, just no photo), but because I had a major Irish Parent Fail today.  I wished my children – Irish children – a very Happy St Patrick’s Day, and they looked at me bewildered and confused.  “Is it my birthday Mummy?” the Girl asked;  “Do we have to go to school?” the Boy asked, his voice wobbly with hope.  And then, even worse, later on when I hissed at the Boy to wish my mother HSPD, he said:  “Happy... Jackson?  Michael Jackson day?”  (At which point I gave him a clip across the ear with a wooden spoon, so I haven’t truly forgotten my roots.)
Anyway.  Things of note (in my small, dull, world) from the past few days:
  • I got stung by a wasp for the first time in almost 40 years.  Direct hit on a neck vertebrae.  It felt exactly like a needle going into my spine – I half expected someone to start rummaging about in my guts and produce a newborn - and 5 days on is still itchy as hell.  However!  It has cured me of my wasp-phobia – which was fairly enormous – because while it was sore, it didn’t kill me, as I’d always assumed a wasp sting would.  (I don’t know why I thought that either. Something possibly to do with my 2 yr old mind taking the last wasp sting I got and blowing it out of all proportion.)  
  • I am inhaling the latest David Mitchell book (The Bone Clocks), which is just so brilliant that I am wishing about twice more often than I normally do that I didn’t have any children to parent and could just sit and read this wonderful, amazing, incredibly imaginative book non-stop, all day long.   Get it, lock your children in a shed / car / kitchen drawer for three days, and start inhaling.
  • I went to a 70s party at the weekend, which was great;  what was not so great, however, was that I was able (bar the ‘fro wig) to dress for the party by simply reaching into my wardrobe and pulling a few random (actually, not that random) bits out.  It is somewhat mortifying to realise that you dress much the same as a character from The Good Life.
  • I decided, most uncharacteristically, to get organised about our summer plans.  So I steamed ahead and bought our flights, and yesterday started the process for the various visas I need to get for our helper (of course she’s coming with us;  I can barely do the school run on my own with the kids, so a 14 hour overnight flight – two, in fact - alone with them?  Don’t be silly).  Anyway, because I did it all last year, and managed to not wipe the letters etc off my computer, it was just a matter of putting aside an afternoon and filling in forms.  Halfway through the first form  I noticed that her passport expires 16 days short of the required 6 months on our return to Singapore – which means she can leave but wouldn’t get back in – and then where would I be? (Alone, at home, with my children and the laundry, that’s where.)  So just get a new passport, right?  10 weeks minimum.  Change the flights?  Yes, except all whizzing-across-Europe flights are booked too.  All of which are non-changeable,  because, you know, Ryanair. Get an extension on her passport?  Ah, I thought of that.  Alas the earliest appointment I can get for that – and there’s no guarantee they’ll extend it – is three days after we leave for Europe.  Meanwhile, I need the damn passport to get all the visas.... Christ, I feel like I’m juggling rabid cats. Why is anything to do with passports just do deeply stressful?
  • As a Fuck You to everyone responsible for the scourge that is Kiddie Menus in restaurants – chicken nuggets? Hot dogs? “Pizzas”?  COME ON PEOPLE, WTF?? – I cleared out all the half-dead bits and bobs at the back of the fridge / freezer and gave the children Rainbow On A Plate for their Sunday dinner: Red (peppers), Yellow (corn), Pink (salmon), Green (soy bean and coriander), Orange (carrots), Purple (noodles) and... no blue (are there blue foods, other than blueberries?)  AND they were delicious, AND the children wolfed them down (possibly because they hadn’t had any lunch because even they, with their no-standards-whatsoever wouldn’t eat the shite offered to them at the kiddie play place), AND they were easy and cheap.  (Did I mentioned delicious?) While I know it’s probably unlikely you can get purple noodles in your non-Asian neck of the woods – the colour is apparently from Purpleberry flour (whatever that is) – give these a go with the regular sort. Because even with only 5 colours of the rainbow, it’s still got to be better than a hotdog with a consistency, colour and sell-by-date which even David Mitchell himself couldn’t have dreamed up, right?

Rainbow Noodles

I’m not posting a proper recipe for this  - in fact, I’ve just remembered that I’ve posted a recipe for noodles before – you just bung in anything you want:  any type of fish, meat or seafood, any vegetables , fresh or frozen (just defrost anything frozen  first, by leaving to sit in boiled water for at least 5 minutes.)    Measurements are up to you.  A handful or this, a spoonful of that – whatever you have or need to use up.  I used two small “blocks” of dry noodles and the end product would have served 6 kids.  
What you can’t deviate from, really, are the fundamentals of Asian stir-fries (or, at least, my take on them):  ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and lime.  And noodles, obv. In fact if you only have these ingredients, you’ll still have a fairly delicious quick meal.  (Re chillies – no chance in hell my kids will eat spicy food  but by all means add them for your own selves, or your more adventurous offspring;  just fry at the same time as the ginger and garlic.)
First steps – cover the noodles in boiling water;  put anything which needs defrosting in boiling water, separate to the noodles.  Don’t leave the noodles too long or they’re be mushy.
Then fry the ginger and garlic in hot oil, in a large pan (or wok).  Add vegetables, in order of what needs most cooking to go in first (eg grated carrot, red pepper, uncooked meat / fish etc);   then cooked / defrosted ingredients (tinned salmon, defrosted soy beans, defrosted / tinned corn);  then noodles, soy sauce, and lime sauce.  If you have it, add some chopped coriander at the end.  Keep the heat high throughout, don’t let the garlic burn, and keep stirring. 

Best eaten while wearing a ‘fro and your favourite bellbottoms - nothing says the 70s like psychedelic noodles, baby: 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Bits and Bobs. (The Bits are tucked away, thankfully).

I feel like I have a lot to tell you all, but every time I sit down to write something – puff – it’s gone.  When I think of what I’ve done in the past week, all that really springs to mind is more shouting and getting beyond annoyed at a variety of  useless and possibly negligent service providers, and wondering why it is I get so terribly het up (is that a global expression, or just an Irish one?  Whatever - it means teeth-grindingly riled and agitated) by people failing to meet my expectations.  And I don’t think my expectations are particularly high – eg try to employ someone who won’t bully and intimidate my kids (ESPECIALLY IF I’M PAYING YOU AN ARM AND A LEG TO DO IT), or put sunscreen on them when you said you would (or else don’t but then don’t lie about it when I return and they’re burnt to a cinder), or even simply bring me the fucking bill within fifteen minutes of my asking for it – but I just get really really annoyed by bad service.  I always have done, but particularly so here.  I suspect because I’m not working I have time to get embroiled in the minutiae and even more time to get worked up. 

What else... Oh yes, I have been confounded by my emotional reaction  to the Baby starting nursery, which was initially “ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, but then – wholly unexpectedly – I WANT TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY.  I know!  Me! Jesus wept.  And just as suddenly as I’m yearning, with every fibre of my being, for a newborn to hold and stroke, it’s gone, and I’m left thinking – what the fuck? This has happened three times in the past few days, including a pang of jealousy when my new yoga teacher (oh yes, I’ve started yoga) announced she was pregnant, and I looked at her teeny bump and thought “I want your teeny bump”.  Seriously folks, what the actual fuck? Is this the so-called “baby hunger”?  (I’M NOT HUNGRY.  I have had a very very large meal, thank you. In fact I continue to be fed intravenously, and I am replete.)  Or maybe it’s just the after-dinner mint of baby-hunger?  

Anyway, what with the shouting and the yearning, it hasn’t been a good time to be in my vicinity.

Other things I have done this week:
  • Rung a person about a job (I know [again]!). 
  • Gone to TWO yoga classes (I am taking India Knight’s advice in In Your Prime very seriously).
  • Thought about joining a club (but then they scorched my children alive and LIED ABOUT IT (see above) so I am revising these thoughts)
  • Joined a French conversational class – which is wonderful.  The teacher looks just like the woman who played Amelie, and is deeply Parisian and chic and lovely, and it’s just great.  (I have images of self cycling gently along one of Singapore’s many motorways, my Chinese produce glowing radioactively in the front basket, the air fragrant with exhaust fumes wafting through my face mask.)
  • Oh, sent the Baby to nursery.  Which was not in itself an emotional event - the Baby is the Margaret Thatcher of small people  (there is no emotion, other than fury, ever. Also – thin wispy hair.) –  but I outdid myself by being late for both drop off and pick up.  On both days.
  • Failed to find any wellies in all of Singapore for the Baby (wellies required for the nursery garden play, I assume to fend off both mud and snakes)  except for one pair for $70. Which is about twice what the anti-venom shot costs, so I’m willing to take my chances.
  • Marvelled at this:
  • which is one half of the nest’s occupants, the other half having – literally – flown the nest already.  Who knew that a two-week-old bird could resemble Winston Churchill?
I will leave you with this, at which I laughed myself stupid - which I call “What colour is this dress?” (The only answer to which can be, as one of my friends put it – “What dress?” Also, when did Buffalo Bill get out of jail?):

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Babies, beaches and more babies.

Baby update.  She starts nursery next week! Holy moly. That light at the end of the tunnel just got a whole lot closer.  Just two mornings a week, so hardly opening up a whole new world for me, but still.  Two will become three, will become five, will be boarding school before she knows it.  (That’s what she gets for coming out with this, after months of us yearning for a full sentence from her:  “YOU NO COME MY PARTY!” Any slight, and we are NFI’d. “Me have party.  Big party.  Big Amow-Woof-Woof party.  Dada come.  Yaya come.  Deddie come. MAMA NO COME.  Mama MEAN.” )
In other news, we fled Singapore last week, three hours’ drive  up the Malaysian coast.  So, if you live in London (and managed to find a time of day with no traffic, and a route with no road works) it’s a bit like you driving to... Poole?  Weymouth?  Anyway, somewhere coastal and beachy.   Which is, I think, where the similarities end. 

(Listen, if I can’t show off on my own blog, where can I do it?)  Of course, because we had children with us, it was less Paradise, more Paradise Lost.  The usual refereeing and cajoling and berating and trying to work out the best sleeping arrangements, and cut feet and insect bites and sunscreen in the eyes etc.  Also, the most atrocious table manners I’ve seen outside of the zoo’s Orang Utan enclosure.  But still, LOOK AT IT:

(If you want to know why we moved to Asia, that is why.)

Much excitement when we got home – not least because we’d had a return car journey devoid of any vomit – to find that these little balcony dwellers (aren’t nests amazing?  How do they do it? I’ve got hands and opposable thumbs and I can barely make my bed*):

Had turned into this: 

I must admit to having gotten a teeny bit choked up.  Little babies!  But then I got a grip and called the nursery to confirm the Baby’s start date.  AND THEN, giddy with the whiff of FREEDOM I went online and looked up jobs.  But it turns out that I am good for nothing, and so I did something equally optimistic, and loaded a few books onto my Kindle. 

First up:  Elizabeth Is Missing – about an old woman losing her marbles who spends a lot of time shouting at her daughter.  Hmmm.

(*Theoretically speaking, of course...) 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Happy Chinese* New Driving Licence (*sort of)

Happy (Chinese) New Year!  It’s sort of great having another go at New Year resolutions – because I really didn’t do too well at the last ones.  Two weeks since my last post?  Ridiculous.   What could I have been doing with my time? 

Well, mostly I was driving hither and thither, as usual, and when not in the car I seem to have been queuing.  Also, shouting.  There has been a lot of queuing and subsequent shouting the past couple of weeks.   (Which reminds me - a warm thank you to the manager of Universal Studios for those complimentary fast passes.) Oh, and studying the Highway Code – I had my driving test on Monday.  (You can only drive on a foreign  licence for a year here, then you have to convert it to a local one.)  It’s simple enough – a multiple-choice exam on the rules of the road – but the logistics involved in getting it done would make you bleed from the eyes.  In fact the entire morning  - as outlined below - was one of deep, traumatising stress. (By way of background - the test was at 1030.  Registration was at 1015. I was aiming to get there before 930 to take the mock test beforehand.)

850 – Put test centre address into Google, and set off.
915 – Arrive at test centre address.  Slightly puzzled to find self at a factory.  Security guards puzzled too.  Also amused.  Get directions to the other road with basically the same name.
925 – Pull in to housing estate to ask for directions.
926 – Ask someone else.
927 – And again.
928 – Give up and revert to Google.  Goole basically says Why didn’t you TELL me it was THAT street, and we set off.
940 – Arrive at test centre, park in test centre car park.
942 – Ask Information Desk assistant [so many misnomers in that title] for assistance in topping up cash card (needed to pay for new licence.  Test centre rules – No cash.  No cheques. No credit cards.  No debit cards.  Only option for me was $50 on the car-parking card thingy you keep in your car. Top up is done at most petrol stations or small shops.)  Assistant unable or unwilling to assist whatsoever.  Is confused about mere existence not only of cashcards, but also petrol stations or other commercial outlets.  Also, looks bewildered to be approached by a stranger asking questions.  
942.30 – Start to mildly hyperventilate.
944 – Back into car and off to find a petrol station. Get caught in a one-way system just outside the test centre which brings me straight onto the highway. Curse loudly.
954 – FIND ONE!
955 – Back into car and to find a petrol station which does cashcard top up.
1000 – FIND ONE!
1003 – Breathe deeply and head back to test centre.
1008 – Arrive at test centre. Car park full. Car park “assistant” tells me to park at “government car park”.  “Where is that?” “Out there,” he says, gesturing towards the road. 
1009 – I head “out there”, and find self back on the one-way road leading to the motorway.
1010 - Perform illegal U-turn. Hope no-one looking out of Test Centre window.
1011 – Find street parking.  Parallel park like a mofo, then reach for street-parking coupons.  Remember that had made a mental note to self to buy more street-parking coupons,  and then ignored said mental note.  SCREAM AT SELF. Smile and wave at concerned passer-by.
1012 – Set off to find another car park.  Sob slightly.
1019 – Give up and just park on side of the street.  Do something very illegal, which may or may not involve reusing old car parking coupons  I find under my seat.
1021 – Jay walk.  Also illegal. 
1024 – Arrive, panting, sweating, and shaking, at test centre.
1026 – Try to explain predicament to stony-faced test centre “assistant” then start to get slightly hysterical.
1027 – Sit down. Breathe.  Curse. Breathe some more.
1030 – Start test.  This is easy! I am nailing it. 
1032 – Computer breaks down. Look around. Everyone else going hell for leather. Karma is not biting any other single person on the ass.   
1033 – Go looking for assistant.  Nowhere to be found.
1034 – Sit back down and stare at frozen screen.
1035 – Apologise, mentally, and belatedly, to all those people I have shouted at in past week.  Pray to the Gods of Driving Tests.
1036 – Assistant appears! Prayer is a wonderful thing.  Shouting is not.
1037 – Restart test, and skip through it, because I am a very excellent studier of road rules.
1045 – 98%!  I ROCK THIS SHIT.
1047 -  Take queue ticket  - C58 - for licence conversion and sit and wait.  Screen shows C41, A33, A34.
1130 -  C42 has disappeared from screen.  Now on A66, A67, A68. Try the prayer thing again.
12.10 –A93, A94, A95.   Put on mean mummy face and go find someone to shout at.
12.15 – Leave test centre with receipt for new driving licence.   

Moral of the story?  Shouting is better than prayer for getting shit done. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Baby

Toddlers are totally insane aren’t they?  This isn’t exactly news to me, but the sheer magnitude of the insanity is more obvious the third time around – possibly because when the Boy was 2½ I had an 8 month old to deal with, and when the Girl was that age I had (HORROR) a newborn. (And a 4 year old. HOW DID I DO IT??)  Now I have a small crazy person who exists in an orb of craziness containing only herself.
Here she is – proof of the dementia:

That photo wasn’t staged, by the way – she hissed until I passed her the teeth and popped them in all by herself.  (She’s been hissing – and spitting – ever since she saw Jurassic Park last week*;  seems that the large spitting dinosaurs made quite the impression on her.)  Then she wore them for two hours, drool running down her face the entire time. (Also, that photo, teeth aside, isn't very flattering.  She is really quite cute.  We just have to remember not to put her in the Boy's scraggy old pjs and to brush her hair occasionally.)
Like all the best mad people, she likes to collect things - in this case, cats – stuffed, plastic, paper, wooden – and carries as many as she can around with her at all times. They are all called “Am-ow”, the name solemnly declared after protracted thought.   "Am-ow" is actually her favourite word. We play an after-dinner game, whereby I ask the kids three questions (eg: What would you eat for your last dinner?  What will you be when you grow up?  Who do you love more, Mum or Dad?), and to these questions, every single time she answers – deadly serious – “Am-ow Woof Woof.” The other kids then shriek with glee and the Baby stands up in her high chair and takes a bow.  It’s fucking hilarious.  
Her madness comes into its own at bedtime – when, unsurprisingly, she refuses to go to bed until the others are  going too.  This, I think, is at the root of her very being:  she thinks she is one of them – older, calmer, in need of less sleep.  So I lie on my bed reading bedtime stories at 730pm – half an hour after the Baby’s bedtime - the Boy snuggling on one side, the Girl on the other, and the Baby sprawled on top of me, wriggling unceasingly, cackling manically and periodically ripping pages out of the book.  Then we have the great Go To Bed Charade, where the Boy and the Girl pretend to go to bed, and I whisk the Baby off to her room, zip her up into her bag (inside out and backwards), tuck her in with her retinue of cats, and begin the process of... emptying her room of everything in it.  She’s very polite about it – sits up in bed pointing at objects, banishing them for the night. “Aaaaaaaand... DAT! Da, Mama.  Aaaaaaand... DAT!  Da, Mama.   Aaaaaaand... DAT!  Da, Mama.”  (She is nothing if not well mannered.) Then, once the room is suitably empty, she lies back down, pulls the blankets up over her face, and whispers to all of the Am-ows; when I go to check on her later on, she’s lying there, still under the blanket, a halo of stuffed cats encircling her.  It’s very sweet.  
I’m tempted to wish that it continues for as long as possible, but I think that only a 2 year old can get away with it.  Any older and it stops being funny and sweet and becomes... troubling. 
Anyway.  All this because it struck me today that she is now the oldest youngest child I have ever had.  That teeny speck of light in the distance? That is the end of the tunnel my friends... I am both jubilant and a little bit sad.   

*What?  Jurassic Park is TOTALLY appropriate for a 2 year old. It's the 4 and 6 year olds who've been having the nightmares... 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

One. (But at the same time, Middle-Aged. It's very confusing.)

It was our first anniversary of moving here a few weeks ago – an event which passed by, not unnoticed, but unmarked, simply because the Man was away and the children were not.   Since then, in between driving the kids all over the island, random doctor’s visits, and entertaining my mum, I’ve been giving some thought to how I feel about being here.  (Better late than never, right?)  The good news is that overall, I like it, particularly the following:
The sunshine.  Yes it can get overly hot, yadayadayada, but knowing it’s going to be sunny everyday is FABULOUS. Also, when it rains, you can be fairly sure that it’s not going to last for 37 days’ straight and wash away most of the houses around you.  (But if it did, it’s be warm flooding.)
Outdoor life.  Living in a decent climate enables you to gently kill – as oppose to frantically try to murder – parenting time. These are some of the suggestions we bandy about when faced with the horror of A Full Day With The Kids:  Splash park? Beach?  Botanic gardens?  Cycling? Picnic?  Zoo?  Riverside? Jungle walk? And then having decided what we’re going to do we get up and DO IT.  (Well, eventually.)
Great roads.  I saw my first pothole last week and it was sorted by the time I’d dragged the Man out to see it, less than 24 hours later. (This might seem quite a strange, and possibly middle-aged (ahem) observation, however, if you’ve ever lived in London you will appreciate just how underrated a smooth road-surface is.)
Going for a swim in your tropical pool after school v. schlepping to Clapham Fucking Common every single day. (Aka - no more losing toes to frostbite/trench foot.)
Related to the above, your small children turning into merpeople.  (Albeit merpeople with water-born skin diseases – see below.)
Singaporeans do not, in general, tend to flock to the Arts.  And so last-minute tickets to the theatre and concerts are fairly easy to get.  (Not that we’ve necessarily done any flocking of our own, however it’s good to know that if the urge ever arose, we could do it.) 
Oh god, how haven’t I mentioned live-in-maids yet?  LIVE IN MAIDS.
And by default - because some other poor soul is wrestling the kids into the bath - a gin & tonic on the balcony at sundown.  Northern European balconies in February have nothing on their Singaporean counterparts.
Baking with yeast!  None of your 2 hours’ rising time nonsense here.
I have forgotten what a runny nose looks like on my children.  Which is fairly incredible, considering that just over a year ago I would barely have recognised them without a trail of slime on their upper lips. 
Shops selling – with a straight face - stuff like this, which always amuses me NO END:

And things I don’t love, so much
Doing anything which involves bureaucracy or someone vaguely official.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH. Just as well I have experience dealing with recalcitrant toddlers or we would have no bank accounts, electricity, internet, or phones.
Ach, the expense.  Even coming from London, and even a year later, it still catches my breath.
The logistics involved in putting together a semi-decent grocery haul. (See also “Expense”, above, and “the Drivers” below.)
We really are very far away from anyone who isn’t also in Asia. And flying with three feral creatures just isn’t conducive to bridging the family-and-friends gap.
Singpost.   When you post things to go abroad here, you have about a 50:50 chance of them getting there.  (Mind you, you can be pleasantly surprised sometimes - I posted a birthday card to my god-daughter in London last September, which she got!  Admittedly she got it LAST WEEK, but still.)
The drivers.  For some reason when Singaporeans get into their cars, it seems that all traces of decency and consideration are wiped from them.  (Not so long ago I had to get out of my car at traffic lights and go knock on the window of the driver behind me to ask him to remove his car from where it had crashed to a halt, on top of the back of mine.  He stared straight ahead and refused to look at me. Like, you know, it was normal for his car to be essentially humping mine, and that I was the weird one.)
More often than not you have to be a total bitch to get even minor problems sorted.  (See also the example in “The drivers”, above)
Singaporean newspapers: awful awful awful.
Singaporean Radio: ditto.
Having to shout at your children Every. Single. Mealtime  to PUT SOME CLOTHES ON .
Clothes shopping.  Who knew that polyester was the fabric of choice in the Tropics?
Shoe shopping.  There’s something undignified about the way shoe-shop assistants gawp when they see my majestic European feet.
Random tropical kiddie inflictions.  “We” (the Baby)  are currently experiencing water worts.  (They’ll go away in about a year, apparently. Until then, her new nickname is Lumpalicious.) 
Frizzy unmanageable hair.  (God damn all the Singaporeans and their beautiful, humidity-proof, locks.)

And really... That’s it.  Yes I know that there are question marks over censorship here, and the justice system is somewhat... strict.  BUT.  I am old and cranky and only getting more so, and as such these things do not bother me unduly.  If I had to narrow it down, I’d say that the only thing I truly miss about London – apart from my friends, obv - is the Sunday newspapers, and Radio 4 droning on in the corner. 


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Tea AND crisps AND newspapers. I'm almost in heaven.

Excitement – and by that I mean near-hysteria – levels in the house are at an all-time high at the moment.   
First of all we have this:

Which is about 1/10th of the amount of gifts brought by my mum who is - joy! - visiting. So as well as having their beloved grandmother here (note to all grandmothers out there:  to ensure undying love of your grandchildren, give them Doritos and 7UP for breakfast while you’re minding them), the kids have IRISH JUNK FOOD also.   (I must admit to being pretty excited about this myself).
We also have these –

PROPER ENGLISH WEEKEND NEWSPAPERS!  (And look – it’s Esther from Recipe Rifle on the cover! [No need to explain yourself to me, Esther; anyone who enjoys playing with children is either (a) lying (b) insane or (c) being paid]) The Guardian remains unopened because I’m keeping it for this weekend.  (Pathetic, I know.)
Less excitingly for me, we also now have this:

Which is one half of the Furby Horror Show*.  If you’re fortunate enough to be ignorant on this matter, they are electronic pet-type things, not unlike Gremlins, but FAR more irritating. In fact they appear to be the creation of a very troubled mind indeed.  I think – although my limited experience on this does not so far back me up – that their behaviour changes the more they’re attended to;  in which case perhaps we have the faulty ones?  The faulty porn star Beavis and Butthead ones?  They seem to say little other than “Oh YEAH, Oh YEAH Baby”, and then snigger in a disturbing 15 year old male sort of way.  There is no Off button.  They fall asleep eventually,  but only if you put them on the balcony with a large cushion over them.  They can be quite cute if you put them facing each other, but within 3 minutes they’ve reverted to sniggering and panting like cheap hookers, and occasionally demanding food. It  goes without saying that the children LOVE them, cart them about everywhere, and leave them in unexpected places to cackle at me when I least expect it (the car;  the bathroom cupboard;  under my desk).  I am demented by it all.  
(*The other half was hidden away somewhere soundproof, and now we can’t find him, and I suspect the batteries have run out, so he cannot moan / thrust out his pelvis for help.  HUZZAH!)
And so I have been retreating to the kitchen more often than usual, despite the heat and the humidity and the lizards (one leapt out of a cupboard at me last night, frightening the life out of me.)   During one of these hideouts I happened to combine a drawerful of slowly-dying red peppers with my favourite easy dinner turn-to, and - Ta-Da! - a new easy dinner turn-to was born. 

Pasta with Red Pepper and Tomato sauce.
You need (for 4)
  • 4 peppers (red or yellow),deseeded and roughly chopped.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped (or crushed)
  • Generous splash of olive oil
  • A few basil leaves (not a deal-breaker if you don’t have them)
  • 2 tins of tomatoes (whole, chopped or pureed)
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Pasta, to serve.  (Any type, and shape, any amount.)

Place a generous glug of olive oil in a large heavy pan, add the garlic and a couple of the basil leaves (if using).
When it starts to sizzle, add the chopped peppers. Stir well, turn down the heat, cover, and go have a cup of BARRY’S TEA while sitting on the balcony, feeling nostalgic for the sleet and damp of home.
Once you’ve got that out of your system – about 5 minutes – return to the peppers, stir, and add the vinegar.  Let it sizzle, then add the tomatoes and basil. 
Raise the heat, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover.
Go have half a block of Irish cheese and three packets of crisps, then go for a run / vomit. (Or not.)  Either way, after about 10 minutes, make your pasta, then drain, and add to the sauce (you want to give the sauce between 15-20 mins to simmer). Which you’ve taken off the heat, of course.
Mix well, and serve, with or without parmesan.

Actually, don’t limit this sauce to pasta;  it’s great with almost anything – eggs & warm tortilla wraps;  cold on hot buttered toast;  atop roast potatoes – or even better, eaten alone, warm, and topped with grated parmesan.  (Alone, that is, apart from four sinister robotic eyes watching your every move.)