Porcine Body Parts

Is it possible to make a pig’s ear out of a pig’s leg? In Teflon Man’s case, absolutely!

  

Now rumour has it, some people have immaculate, sparkly kitchens with work tops void of anything but tasteful-yet-essential utensils. (Or is that just on Pinterest?) 

  

Not my kitchen.

  

No, not mine either.

  

*Sigh*

Generally speaking though, there still tends to be room for me to cook and plate up amongst the tubs of peanut butter and tins of lunchbox goodies. There is still room for me to do my thing.

Or at least there was.

And then Teflon Man decided he needed to buy a leg of Serrano ham. Lidl was doing a special deal on them and who doesn’t like Serrano ham?

Yes, I like a nice slice of dry-cured ham… But when it comes in pre-sliced packets that fit so neatly in the fridge. Not when it’s a whole pig’s leg – complete with trotter – sat on the worktop in my kitchen!

  

‘Seriously, what are we going to do with that?!’ I asked, not unreasonably, I feel.

‘We can hang it up and slice bits off. It’ll last for ages,’ TM replied.

Those of you who’ve read my blog for a bit can imagine my overjoyed response to the prospect of having a porcine joint hanging in my kitchen for several months. 

My kitchen is NOT some domestic version of Jamie’s Italian! What look great in a traditional charceuterie does NOT translate to the home.

  

Also not my kitchen.

I was even less thrilled when he told me how we only needed to wipe any bits of mould off and keep on eating it.

Considering how long the Independence Day mango hung around our kitchen before being binned I was increasingly concerned.

By the time he was showing me slicing methods on YouTube I was also pretty much convinced that there would be at least one trip to A&E in our future, quite possibly with severed fingers on ice.

  

‘It’s ok. My mum’s got a spare holder and knife for Serrano ham at home,’ he said. So, I put up with the damn leg on my worktop for a fortnight before the logistics could be sorted for its delivery. She delivered it on Saturday and Teflon Man set about its construction.

  

Experience has taught me to stay out of the way when Teflon Man is doing anything practical. There was a lot of banging at one point…and quite a few expletives.

Once it had all quietened down I ventured into the kitchen. There was no guarantee that Teflon Man would still be breathing, after all. 

‘How’s it going?’ I tentatively asked as he wrestled with a screw and the main board. 

He’d clearly not got very far.

‘Fucking piece of shit. It keeps splitting and there’s no instructions and this fucking screw doesn’t fit…’

He demonstrated how the screw was clearly too long for the thickness of the board so that the holder for the ham would never fix tightly. Plus the hole drilled for the screw wasn’t deep enough and had been done on the skwink.

It was making IKEA flat pack look like the king of all product design.

‘And the banging?’

‘Well, there’s a drawer and I didn’t know which way it went up, so I tried it this way [patently upside down] and it got stuck. So I had to hammer it out. And it split.’

‘But what made you think you had to put it in upside down. It’s obviously a drawer for holding knives. If you put it in upside down incredibly sharp knives are going to fall out, which doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.’

Seriously, this man has a degree. He has a job that requires a substantial amount of intelligence. And yet…

I took Boo to dancing and went shopping.

When I got back the ham was still sat on the kitchen worktop, rather than in its holster.

‘The board’s in the bin,’ Teflon Man dead panned.

And thus the ham is still sat on the worktop. The packaging had been opened slightly however as Teflon Man attempted to use the knife. I sliced a bit off.

It tasted disgusting!

And thus Teflon Man has indeed managed to make a pig’s ear out of its leg. 

How long I’ll have to put up with the porcine disaster for is anyone’s guess too. *Sigh*

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The Mystery of the Invisible Post

I wrote a post last night. It showed up on my page:

 

   

…but left no trace on my Reader:

Where my post should have been.

Maybe it’s taken to British Summer Time clock-changing time travel too. Maybe it’s fending off Boo’s aliens!

Maybe the Reader took offence to my musings and overrode my aspirations of reaching into the ether for likes and comments and increased stats.

Or maybe WordPress just likes messing with my head.

Just in case you don’t want to miss out, take a jump through time and space to here. Nobody likes being censored by the Reader after all.

Time Travel

A conversation at bedtime last night:

Me: Please go to sleep. The clock’s go forward tonight. And it’s already crazy late.

Boo: The clocks go forward? You mean we’re going to time travel?

Me: Well, no not exactly. More like we’ll lose an hour’s sleep and be grumpy in the morning.

Boo: Will there be aliens?

Me: We’re only going forward an hour.

Boo: But there could be aliens. With laser guns. And we’ll have to throw old buns at them.

  

Me: Old buns? We don’t have any old buns! (Although we do have some delicious hot cross buns, but I’m not wasting them on aliens.)

Boo: What are we going to do?!

Me: Well, as there isn’t going to be an alien invasion I think we’ll be ok.

And to be honest, the conversation deteriorated from there.

Thankfully this morning we woke, tired and grumpy, to an absence of an alien invasion. 

Maybe they’ll use the extra hour to attack in the autumn when we travel back in time instead, although then we’ll have already lived that hour so will be prepared. Oh I’m confused. Better get the buns in anyway.

Square Peg, Round Hole

The Easter holidays have begun. Which means a fortnight off from school runs and extra-curricular chaperoning. I can both simultaneously have more time to get ready for work and arrive on time. My house will be an even greater disaster zone for the next fortnight though. 

But for the next fortnight I also don’t have to worry about Noodles. Which is not to stay the I won’t worry about him, just that I won’t have to. It’ll be worry generated by myself, which is still exhausting, but comes with smaller side orders of guilt and annoyance.

I haven’t always worried about Noodles. The terrible twos were pretty ghastly in terms of his  tantrums and quests for independence that confined us to the house. But he has always been cheeky and perky and pure poppet when he’s doing his own thing his own way.

  

He’s not overly fond of Teddy (I half expect a David Attenborough film crew to rock up when the two of them are in the room together, so primal is the display of dominance)…but after a term at nursery school it seems it’s not just Teddy he’s not fond of, but other children in general.

He used to run into nursery with a bright and perky ‘Hello, other children!’ and we thought his settling in was a done deal. His key worker even said that he’d settled in far more quickly than she’d expected. Everything was happy and sunny. (Well, apart from being called through the door at home time to discuss nits or ear wax or other cringe-worthy features of having a toddler boy. But Noodles, as far as I was aware, was happy.)

But then he wasn’t. After half term I was asked to meet with his key worker. 

‘He’s outstandingly bright – his numbers are phenomenal…But he plays in parallel with the other children and can’t cope when they get in his space. And there are times when he just disconnects from what’s going on as a way to cope. We’re not quite sure why he’s like that. We really wouldn’t like to say. We don’t quite know how to reach him when he’s like that. So we’re getting a specialist in to play with him.’

I signed the permission form. And cried.

  

Then a letter came in the post from the health visitor. She wanted have a home visit development check.

It turned out the nursery sent her. I felt betrayed. The nursery could have at least had the decency to say they’d requested the visit. Maybe they didn’t want me to cry on them again.

But it got the visit off to a bad start. And that was before the barrage of ridiculous questions. Noodles underscored because I didn’t know the answer to:

If you did up the zip on his coat and then kept zipping it up and down and then left it half way would he be able to zip it right up if you asked him to? Or right down if you ask him to? Who has ever put a coat on a toddler just to play with the zip?!

  

No, we put our coats on to go places!

Would he know what this is?

  

What is it anyway? A person? More specifically, an amputee? A rubbish unfinished picture? (In fairness, it’s my own version, but it’s not far off.) A phenomenal waste of everyone’s time? What answer are you looking for?

Does he know that he’s a boy? Physically? Like comparing bits in the bath? Not really. He’s shown no curiosity there at all. And definitely not when it comes to gender stereotyping, even if it would relieve me of the Frozen obsession as Boo is over it, but it remains one of Noodles go-to DVDs of choice. But if he wants to play cooking rather than cars I’m not going to stop him and tell him it’s girlie.

Then, there were the questions that even the right answers didn’t satisfy:

Does he use complex sentences? When I answered that although he’s nowhere near as verbose as Boo at his age, he does use complex sentences when he wants to, I was then asked for examples. Anything he’s ever said slipped from my memory at that point! Obviously. When I came up with something I was then asked if he uses verbs. I guess so? As soon as she left we went to the kitchen. ‘Time to wash our hands, Mummy!’ he chirped. A complex sentence with a verb right there

If something he wanted was out of reach would he use another object to get to it? At that point Noodles climbed onto a box to reach a DVD. But it didn’t count because the box was there already. To demonstrate ‘problem solving’ he would’ve had to have moved the box and dragged a chair from the kitchen (ie up two steps and along a hallway) even though there was no need. He’s not stupid enough to expend such energy in a futile and unnecessary practice. I’d say the bigger problem was rigidity of the stupid questionnaire.

Can he draw a circle? Yes, as it happens he was happy to prove that he could, but she took no notice when he declared that a skwinky, three-sided ‘circle’ was a triangle. Instead he got a cross in the ‘failed’ box when he didn’t then want to draw a horizontal line. ‘No thank you,’ he said. ‘Well, at least he’s polite,’ she said. Then he had a tantrum. But then he’s a boy – he’s not meant to like girlie things like drawing. (You can’t both have your cake and eat it, health visitor lady.)

She also had no interest in anything not contained within her range of questions. So no interest in the things he can do. Just the things he’s expected to do, as if he’s a pre-programmed robot with no autonomy. No interest in him as a little person in his own right, with favourite stuff and foibles like any person big or small.

‘Do you have any concerns about Noodles’ development?’ she asked just before she left.

‘Well, I didn’t before this, but I do now!’

And, yes, I cried.

Because it seems he is a square peg. Even if he’s engaged in something he tends to keep things in. Watching him at Nursey this week, he listened intently to the story, but he didn’t shout out the answers like the other kids. He searched for plastic squares during the Easter egg hunt, but he did it on his terms, away from the groups of boisterous other children. He sat and looked at books rather than colouring in or crowding round the table with the wooden railway on it. It wasn’t that his way was wrong it was just different.

  

And by-and-large there’s nothing wrong with different. The most interesting people are the ones who’ve bucked the trend and done things their own way. Who wants to be a sheep?

BUT we live in a world of round holes. He’s only at the beginning of his education and with school it’s all about fitting in. Those square pegs are the ones who get in trouble for acting up or not doing things the ‘right’ way. They’re the ones labelled unfavourably. They’re the ones bullied and not invited to the parties. 

Noodles is three. Surely that’s too young to be told that behaviourly he’s the wrong shape. Surely at three your headspace can be pretty much any shape you want it to be? 

But what if the nursery staff and the health visitor are right? What if there is something wrong? I find myself questioning everything he does. From the way he builds his bricks to the way he bites his t-shirt (pica is a sign of autism), from the things he laughs at to the things that freak him out. 

Isn’t life easier for the round pegs?

Should those corners be shaved off to fit the holes? Should I be looking for labels and support? Or is it the re-shaping that does greater harm? Making children aware that they’re not right if they’re not the same? I don’t know.

Mercifully my sister shed some relief on the situation:

‘Well, I hated other kids when I was little – I still don’t much like other people to be honest. Plus I was also thick and I had an eye patch. I was a right old mess. Sounds to me as though Noodles is going to be fine.’

I think my sister’s right. When we were growing up I thought she was perfect. She wasn’t thick – she was in fact so damn bright she was off the scale, but that can translate as thick because people become exasperated regardless of which end of the spectrum you’re off. But she also had to have a lot of eye tests and wore thick plastic glasses with one lens painted out to strengthen her lazy eye. So again she was different. And it’s hard to mix when you’re off kilter with the other kids.

It hasn’t stopped her from turning into an amazing adult though with a great job and a loving boyfriend and great friends. For a square peg she turned out just fine.

And quite possibly Noodles will too. There are plenty of places that accept the square for those strong enough to hang on to their corners.  At worst he can live in Cambridge, surrounded by other academics who struggle socially. Nothing wrong with that.

And it could be that once he sheds his early years his peg might not be so square after all.

So I shall try to stop worrying so much about him and instead enjoy those gorgeous belly laughs that he’s so willing to give when he’s happy. Although I can’t say I’ll give it up completely. Worrying’s one of those things us mums do so well. We’ll just wait and see if it’s something worth worrying about.

  

Attempting the Impossible

Way back in January I predicted that I would need to get my passport photo taken and it would be hideous.

 

In an effort to make it less hideous than it did last time…

 

(I mean, who the fudge is that? Every time they’ve looked at that picture at Passport Control and then looked at me and then let me into the country I’ve wanted to cry. It’s possibly a good thing for my ego that I don’t travel much.)

 …I resorted to scouring the web for the best tips I could possibly find.

Because it couldn’t get any worse, could it?

Flare.com didn’t present the best of starts as being naturally gorgeous seemed to yield the best results.

 

Not a supermodel? Give up already and accept the gargoyle that will be your passport photo. Let’s ignore’s Flare’s advice and move on. Or cry. In a dark corner. And decide that travel is unnecessary and driver’s licences are for losers and surely I can just restrict my geographical boundaries to places I can get to on my bike. Except my bike attracts Jesus-touting-crazies so maybe I’m best just staying at home.

Besides, the actual government guidelines for what’s ok in the world of passport photos isn’t  going to bring out the best in anyone:

  

A ‘neutral expression and your mouth closed’? It’s as though they specifically want the world to look like convicts. People do NOT look good with a neutral expression. 

Well, not unless you’re this guy (who, ironically is a con):

  

And, for the record, my mouth doesn’t naturally close. (Yeah, bring on the ‘won’t shut up’ jokes.) But, seriously, without conscious effort they don’t. 

  

I had enough teasing as a kid as a result and now the government are getting all judgemental on my arse. My face is also made of rubber. So I had to aim for a neutral expression whilst consciously doing something that my face doesn’t naturally do. I was going to end up pulling a face!

  

I was also concerned about the photos having to be ‘without tears or creases.’ Does that refer to the photos or my face in the photos? If it’s my face then I’m in trouble!

Help was definitely going to be needed!!!

WikiHow suggested getting enough sleep to look ‘vibrant and approachable.’

  

I haven’t had enough sleep since 2007. I’m on a one-way journey to looking like a psycho. But then, seeing as the only people approaching me at an airport would be security, do I want to be approachable? Or is it the shiny vibrant passport people who get upgraded to first class so they can look even more shiny and vibrant once they disembark? You don’t want sleep-deprived zombies stepping out of first after all. Not a good advert for those reclining chair/bed things they (allegedly) have which has reduced the leg room for the rest of us.

I’m condemned to cattle class forever.

LilyPebbles recommended avoiding anything trendy.

 

Boom! At least I had that one nailed.  I don’t think I’ve ever been trendy.

Other pointers from various websites condensed to:

– having a hair cut. I was a bit too 11th-hour for that, but I did colour it so I wouldn’t be mortified at the onset of greys (although in fairness I would probably look back in 10 years and lament the lack of grey in my hair);

– applying a natural make-up, just a dusting of powder and bronzer and a sweep of mascara. Obviously these authors are in their early-twenties and can get away with that. Needless to say, it was going to take more than that to look camera-ready for me. Especially when they fade you to ghostly on the passport;

And the biggie:

SMIZING!!!

  

Now, I was an ANTM addict until we stopped getting Sky, but I could never work out how to smize (because as an ANTM addict you have to try to put Tyra’s advice into practice in front of the mirror – no one said addiction was cool or pretty, kids). I’d always go from dead-eyed to glary to what-in-the-name-of-God-are-you-doing-with-your-face?!?!  But this was going to be my passport to having a decent passport.

I practised some more with the selfie function on my phone. It wasn’t good.

  

Why the long face?

Seriously! What is it about a camera that stretches my face to equine-proportions compared with what I see in the mirror. 

  

Maybe it’s the dust on the mirror that makes things more flattering. Who said life in HD is a good thing?!

It was clear that despite taking all – well some – advice on board, this was going to be a car crash.

It was also recommended that instead of using a booth, best results come from going to a photographer. Except, how could I possibly go through the smizing/not-natural-neutral gurn-fest in front of another human being. Even if it was their job there would still be judgement, possibly even smirking and suppressed laughter, and I couldn’t handle the pressure. Plus, without a mirror in front of me, how was I to know what face I was pulling in my endeavour to be neutrally smizy?

People had advised taking time to get ready, getting the hair and make-up right, choosing the right top, yadda yadda; what they didn’t say was to leave long enough to actually have the photo taken. Especially when you’re going to have to get change. After spending all morning getting prepped I only had 15 minutes to actually see things through. By the time I’d queued at three separated desks in the supermarket there were no happy thoughts left. I was harassed, stressed, over-hot and frowny. 

I inserted my money, adjusted the seat, gave up adjusting the seat and just slouched a bit and tried to put all I’d learned into practice. The first attempt was hideous, I hit the try again button…still hideous. I hit the button again…’your photos will be ready in 30 seconds.’ Hey, what?!?! I’d just spent ¬£5 to look like a scowling Egyptian woman with a lazy eye and wonky face. I can’t say it was the look I was going for.

You’re not going to see the result, trust me.

So two days later I was back again to face my nemesis. More money fed into the slot. More time adjusting the seat and making sure my eyes lined up just where they should be and my face fit into the oval and my hair was off my face. And breathe. Think happy thoughts. Chin out, mouth shut, happy thoughts, happy thoughts, relax all tension, smize, try to copy the example woman, try not to move, relax, happy thoughts, mouth, don’t smile, smize, press the button…‘THREE’…relax, don’t move...’TWO’…keep smizing, be Tyra’s…‘ONE’…argh! I’m going to blink! Don’t blink!…‘CLICK!’

I give up.

The photos weren’t great.

  

God, I have such a wonky face! My eyes could belong to two different people and my nose and mouth are on the skwink. I look like a bad effort at a 1970s photo-fit. In fairness it’s been kind to my perma-forehead frown (the crease that makes Teflon Man think that I’m pissed off at him even when I’m not). And I have had worse haircuts (they’re filed under lock and key and labelled 1979-1995). So it could be worse. Just.

Besides, it’s too late now. The woman in the post office was kind enough not to smirk when I presented them to her for the check and send process today. So they’re winging their way to the passport office for further analysis. I wonder if the second photos are not used on files, but rather for a rogues’ gallery of the best of the worst shots in the staff room? I’m not sure whether I’m hoping they’ll be rejected or not.

I don’t particularly want to go through the whole trauma again. (So much so that the same shot will also be adorning my driver’s licence.) But if they are accepted I think I shall shudder each and every time I have to look at it. I’ll try harder next time. I guess that gives  me ten years to practice smizing.

Christ on a Bike!

Leaving work today I found this in my bike basket:

 

It’s not my birthday, it’s not in the handwriting of anyone I know and, as far as I could tell, my bike didn’t have any new scratches/parts missing to warrant an apology note. But my bike is quite cute, if you like beat-up-vintage. Maybe it was a fan note to my bike. A love letter from someone with a dull job and too much time on their hands. Which would have been a bit weird, but cute.

Nope.

Instead it was this:

   

 

Okaaaay. Not cute; just weird.

Now, because my bike was the last on the rack, I don’t know if this was a serial drop (although that’s a handwritten card and not a cheap one either, so if someone’s seeking to convert the town’s cyclists that’s going to take some time and money. And I’m not sure Jesus lets you claim expenses, no matter how much you love Him). Or whether I was a targeted err target. In which case, does my bike cry out for religious conversion?

   

Or does Heaven just have some kick-arse cycle routes?

Although, in that case, why the Mini on the card? Is whoever also trying to convert us to the automotive? Is cycling one of the sins I should repent? I don’t remember Jesus mentioning cycling in the Bible.

Whatever. The one thing I should probably be converted to is driving to work!