Saturday, 24 March 2012

Blazing napkins and the Caveman Grillmaster of Doom

After a miserable winter in a house that's over a century old - complete with stone floors, badly-fitting doors and no double glazing - I'm relieved that the weather in our area is finally improving, The Monk’s general outlook on life with it. You can tell he’s a spring baby; any form of adverse weather turns him into a whiner of epic proportions, as it prevents him from dangling out of the living room window, commenting loudly at passing dog-walkers. He can’t be blamed for not liking crappy weather, I suppose, but when your life amounts to little more than being toted around in a snuggly-warm buggy (complete with deeply fashionable raincover), you really do have shit-all to complain about.

"Call that a dog? That's a gerbil, mate."
Sunshine, of course, means barbecues. I fucking love me a barbecue: I love catching a hint of that unmistakeable charcoal grill scent on the breeze, and there’s nothing like getting heavily refreshed and watching my dad turn poor, innocent food into something that really belongs in an urn on the mantelpiece.

My dad is an incredibly intelligent man of many talents, with endless practical skills, but effectively combining food and fire is not one of them. It's so obvious that wielding a pair of tongs and a bottle of beer over the grill totally makes him feel like he's unleashing his inner super-macho caveman, so I'd be a daughter with a hard ol' heart to take that away from him. Did I mention he's also generous? Anything that Dad cremates on his Altar of Manliness comes with a freebie. Sausages come with a sprinkling of grass, from where 'the tongs have a rubbish grip'. Chicken legs come with their own salmonella colonies, thanks to 'your mother buying stupid chickens'. Burgers are heavy on the carbon coating, because 'the smoke got in the way'. Corn on the cob is still frozen on the inside, or else 'it'd be too hot to eat'.

Okay, I admit that one or two of those things don't quite class as generosity (Dad applies a similar mentality to driving and parking), but the man tries his best. And I have to say that his best, no matter how jaw-droppingly poor it is, is far superior to our local supermarket's best. They shall remain nameless to protect their expiry dates.

Local Supermarket is selling a range of barbecues and summer garden furniture, and although they're not known for their displays of marketing genius, today they really outdid themselves. Whilst manoeuvring The Monk's buggy through a maze of pensioners and Jeremy Kyle Show hopefuls, I noticed a firepit amongst the barbecues and deckchairs. It was a fairly nice firepit, all blackened cast iron etc. etc: you could just imagine yourself lolling around outside on a summer's eve, enjoying a nice quadruple vodka by your shiny new bowl of fire.

So, how do you make your target audience want to purchase this fiery biscuit? You make them think of fire, just like I did (and preferably not in a Wicker Man-style scenario, like I did). And how would one go about conjuring up this scorching inferno?

Not like this.

Napkins. OF COURSE. Five or six haphazardly scattered napkins. Oh, and the coal-stirring thing, for authenticity. Let's not forget the coal-stirring thing.

That's a piss-poor fire you got going there, Local Supermarket. DADDY CAVEMAN JUDGES YOU.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Motherly love and food fights at Château Deng

Today is Mother’s Day, my very first one as a full-on honest-to-goodness mama. All week leading up to this momentous occasion, I had rose-tinted visions of being told to ‘stay in bed and relax’, a lovingly made breakfast (ferried up to my bed of relaxation on a silver platter), and a smiley, immaculately-behaved little boy. A little boy who isn’t quite a year old yet, but would somehow have grasped the magic and the sentiment behind the day, and presented me with a thoughtfully chosen bunch of slightly wilted daisies picked from between the paving slabs by the front door. I had dreams, people, dreams. I tripped off to bed last night with the warm glow of anticipation in my stomach (though in hindsight, that was more likely to be the bottle of red I’d quaffed earlier). G’night, monkles my baby. G’night, fiancé – it’s your turn to get up early. Mama’s gonna SLEEP.

But OH NO, that’s just not how my son rolls.

5:30AM. A rustling noise issues forth from The Monk’s bedroom, along with his usual tuneful morning greeting, today enhanced with atmospheric coughing and spluttering. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH. Hack, sniffle.”

5:32AM. The bars of the cot are being rattled by what sounds like a yeti. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH. Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba. Ah-CHOO.”

5:40AM. By this point, I’ve given up hope of The Monk (sometimes he’s called Gabriel, but not all that often) ever realising he’s actually quite tired and should in fact be slumbering peacefully, fingers corked in gob as usual. Of course, one of us is still asleep *casts hateful glare at snoozing man-shape on the other side of the bed*

The Monk’s sleeping patterns have gone to absolute shit at the moment, thanks to the stinking cold he got from some other snot-nosed imp at his toddler playgroup. He goes once a week, spends the whole two hours trying to escape through the village hall’s kitchen, and spends the rest of the week fighting off bubonic plague or whatever new and exciting tropical disease kids are into nowadays.

To add insult to increasingly knackered injury, he’s also going through a phase described by one parenting website as ‘discovering his autonomy’. I describe it as ‘being an awkward little shit’. He’s developed an intense distaste of his plastic baby spoons and bowls, like they’re not good enough for his rosy pink ass now; if I have the temerity to proffer a (plastic) spoonful of something otherwise delicious from the hated yellow bowl, I get THIS face: 

"Foie gras-stuffed three-bird roast with gratin dauphinoise? Off a plastic spoon? Bitch, please."
When confronted with the Spoon of Doom, Gabriel's first instinct is to wrench it out of my hand and fling it across the room, but! Mama's got the speed of a cheetah, the reflexes of a prize fighter, and the sheer bloody-mindedness of a woman who gets TOO. LITTLE. SLEEP: the Hand of Righteousness is clamped around the back of his head, the spoon is shuttled into his mouth (and quite possibly halfway down his throat, sometimes), past the Teeth of Peril, and the dollop of culinary goodness is home free. There's a bit of gagging and sobbing involved, but I get myself together soon enough, and all in all it works very well. 

I'm just thankful he can't talk yet, as I'm having night terrors about the boy morphing overnight into a Stewie from 'Family Guy'-style fiend. I'm quite happy with The Monk's one-word vocabulary (the word is 'deng'. I don't know either). On that front, all is good. Or deng. Just about everything in our house is deng, from teddy bears to staircases, plants, and toilets, up to and including door locks and postmen. Maybe next week's toddler group disease du jour will be dengue fever, ba-dum TISSSSH!

Happy Mother's Deng, everyone.