Occasionally, when I’m feeling guilty, or bored, I drag self and the Girl off for some one-on-one time to the local toddler stay ‘n’ play (‘n’ yawn) group. It’s very handy, run by lovely people, always awash with biscuits, and offers a guilt-soothing balm of sociability for the Girl; but... there’s something about sitting in a circle with twenty other grown women who are all singing nursery rhymes and clapping manically and pretending to enjoy themselves that makes a small piece of me die slowly.
However, livening things up a bit last week was a new attendee, with her VERY new baby, and I found self chatting to her and thinking about how lovely and sweet and EASY newborns are, and how lucky she is (and, by contrast, how hard-done-by I am, natch). My reasoning was as follows: with newborns there’s really nothing to do. You try to feed them, you try to clean them, you try to get them to sleep, you try to get yourself to sleep, and then 4 seconds later you start the whole process again. It’s terminally dull and it goes without saying that it’s completely knackering, but it’s not actually that difficult. It’s not like you’re trying to get them to eat their greens or stop thumping their sibling or stop ROARING in Sainsbury’s about needing a poo or explaining for the FIFTEENTH TIME why they can’t watch Spiderman AGAIN etc. Seriously – how hard can it be dealing with a newborn?
I suspect I upset the Gods of Parenting with my stupid stupid reasoning, and new parents everywhere will be happy to learn that I have been punished accordingly.
Within two hours of getting home, the Girl had sneezed a couple of times. That evening her nose started to run. By the middle of the night we were knee-deep in another hacking cough / chest infection thingy, which so far is showing no signs of abating. I am on day five of snatching pockets of sleep here and there and feel... crushed. I feel like I have a colicky refluxy baby (a baby who was born after a 72-hour labour followed by a c-section with no anaesthetic).
I had forgotten how frustrating, heart-breaking and bewildering it is when your baby cries and screams and sobs and you don’t understand why or how you can help or stop it. And, even worse, I’d forgotten just how SHIT it is to function on no sleep, and how sleep deprivation warps time and fucks with your memory.
I know that at some point over the weekend the Boy muttered, inevitably, his first “fuck” (“Bloody bloody bloody hell. Stupid bloody thing. For fuck’s sake, stupid thing”) through gritted teeth, and I was too dazed to react, or indeed care much.
I have a vague memory of bringing him to a family swim at the gym’s pool for the first time, where he got thrown out of the hot-tub, and got so pissy and indignant that he started to shout at the woman, and we had to leave. And then on the way home he asked the baldest man I have ever seen where his hair was.
And I recall, vaguely, having friends to dinner on Saturday night (I think it was Saturday night) who, with their kids, had been due to spend the weekend with us, and who were suitably frightened off to seek accommodation elsewhere.
But really, the rest of the past few days has sunk without trace in a pool of phlegm-vomit and sssshhhhh-ing and utter helplessness.
And so I apologise. To new parents and to their gods. I was wrong wrong wrong. Newborns – and sick toddlers who behave like them - SUCK. Dealing with them is the HARDEST THING IN THE WORLD.
The brightest spot in an otherwise murky weekend was settling down last night to FINALLY watch the final episode of The Killing II, a feat which took us four – five? – days (tho’ this could have been because there were two episodes more left than I had realised; either way I NAILED it with my prediction of who the killer was, sleep or no sleep...) and tucking into this:
It's Hugh FW's lentil and spinach soup, and while I concede that it doesn't look like much (in fact truthfully, it looks a bit disgusting) I swear, it's the nicest thing that has come out of my kitchen in weeks. It’s easy, relatively quick, and tastes like something you’d pay £14.50 a bowlful for at the River Cafe. (The things that look like teeth floating in it are bits of parmesan. I decided that, given my current state, it was a bit risky to attempt to use the grater.) A couple of points: I’ve doubled the quantities of the original recipe, which yielded only three big bowls; there may have only been two of us eating, but right now we need every source of energy we can get. Also, his recipe calls for spinach, which I replaced with cavollo nero – much nicer I think, but not so easy to get, so feel free to use spinach instead. Finally, it’s actually a relatively light soup – if you fancy something denser, throw in some diced potatoes or parsnips.
Puy Lentil and Cavolo Nero (or Spinach) Soup
You need (for 6; or two drained parents):
- A good glug of oil, for frying
- Two onions, finely chopped
- Two carrots, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (believe me on this)
- A small handful of thyme, finely chopped (this, and the garlic, makes the soup)
- Six tomatoes, deseeded and chopped; or a tin of plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 300g of puy lentils
- 2.5 litres of stock
- 300g cavolo nero, or spinach, stalks removed and finely chopped / shredded.
- Parmesan / other hard cheese and olive oil, to serve.
Heat the oil in a deep pot, and add the onions, carrot and thyme once hot. Fry over a medium heart for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the garlic and tomatoes and fry for a minute or so. (If you’re using potatoes / parsnips, add these now too.)
Stir in the lentils, then add the stock. Bring to the boil, the turn down the heat and leave to simmer, lid on, for about 20/25 minutes.
Add the cavolo nero after 20 minutes and simmer for another 10 minutes, or the spinach after 25 and simmer for another 5 (so there’s 30 mins’ simmering time in all).
Season to taste, then pour into the largest bowls you can find, sprinkle with parmesan / other hard cheese, and add a few glugs of good olive oil.
Serve with bread, Danish serial killers, and a firmly turned-off baby-monitor.