Sometimes I feel really sorry for my mum. She is sorely tried by having me as her daughter. Not only does she regularly step in to help me with my ironing, or to find things, or to pick one of the children up because I have failed to appreciate the fact that I am supposed to be in two places at the same time, but she has been saving my bacon for some considerable time.
Actually, I feel sorry (sometimes) for both of my parents. They have seen me through teenaged angst (why is my hair so curly?), teenaged clothes (what do you think you look like in that?) rants (all ages, these have yet to abate, although the subjects of my ire changes fairly regularly) and various stages of poor organisation.
There was always something I was forgetting when I was growing up. Mostly it was PE kits (the torture of having to wear spare kit was never quite enough to help me to remember). Sometimes it was homework (although I generally managed to get it in – just – in time; when questioned my dad confirmed that I probably had done it sitting on the end of my unmade bed), but by far the most exasperating, to my mother at least, was cooking ingredients.
I was quite excited about cookery lessons. My sister, two years older than me, loved them, and she would regale us at the tea table on what she had learned about such fascinating subjects as bacteria and albumen. She brought home dishes she had cooked and we ate them with great ceremony, and every so often, fruit cobbler was one of these that springs to mind most easily, made with some sort of 80s tinned cherry pie filling, a recipe she had learned at school made it into my mum’s repertoire.
She used to hum away happily in the kitchen (except for the day she made éclairs; as a family we rather wisely went out for a walk and returned to find her, looking somewhat ghostly, in a kitchen visible only through a film of flour, or the time our mum went away and our grandma came to stay and she made quiche and our dad ate all the cheese there was in the house which she had somewhat unwisely left grated and unattended for a matter of moments) chatting away to our mum while she filled a sort of red-riding-hood basket with ingredients. Mum had made an embroidery anglaise cover for it.
When it was my turn, however, it took on a different hue. The basket was big and clumsy and got in the way. (What did she do with all day? Surely she didn’t lug it around everywhere. I must ask her.) There was never any time to do the washing up without missing some of your break. You had to stand mournfully at the sink, your hands in luke warm water, making sure you stacked the clean things the Correct Way, while you watched everyone else out of the window, eating their crisps and getting their full fifteen minutes.
And the recipes. I never got to make fruit cobbler. I never got to make meat stew that I brought home in a flask because of the bacteria. My dad manfully ate my bananas in custard (cold)(brown), but I could tell he wasn’t very keen.
Whether or not I actually had the right ingredients was always a bit hit and miss. Not for me the gentle chat over the kitchen table, lovingly placing every packet and tin into the hallowed basket, no (my ingredients never stayed standing up anyway). Instead, it was the whirlwind. The rapid slap of butter and lard into greaseproof paper bags (it’s fat, it’s the principle Nancy), while I wailed about the fact that what I was given was not what was specified on the list.
Ah, how it all comes back to haunt me. As I scrabble around on a Friday morning, examining my empty cupboards with thinly (ie not at all) veiled patience, I know how she must have felt. I know mummies are supposed to be all powerful and all knowing and all, but the presentation of the list of required ingredients/equipment/costumes/cakes/cash on the very morning such things are required, or just as they are going to bed and after the shops have shut, is enough to try the patience of anyone.
When it comes to cookery lessons I much prefer the way Sam’s school do it. They tell me how much I have to pay, I do and that’s it. They even take him shopping. Much better. Much less capacity for disaster.