To say I have been pretty useless in the kitchen for the past nine months would be an understatement. First there was the fish fingers and smash stage, then the "Oh my god is that onions and garlic frying?" stage followed by the "I can't eat that it made me sick last time" couple of months. BUT given that I haven't been sick for two weeks now - yes a whole two weeks - whoooo hoooo! I have been getting myself back in the kitchen. I've even made Mr Jones' packed lunch on several occasions.
On Tuesday I made bread - homemade foccacia in fact - this was not due to some latent desire to awaken my inner baker, but actually because it's pretty tricky to find a good foccacia around here. M&S have changed their Italian Bread range and it has gone from distinctly edible to horribly bland. And Waitrose - that home of all things delicious - has been found extremely wanting in the bread department. We have the Hambleton Bakery of course - but waddling into town seemed like more effort than a bit of cursory kneading.
So to Jamie Oliver I turned. I cheated and used the Kitchenaid for the messy bit - why have a dough hook and get your hands covered in flour and yeast I say. Once the dough was suitably mixed and smooth I pummeled it myself until it became gorgeously plump. Then I left it in the airing cupboard to prove amongst the towels. After a bit more pummeling I doused the each loaf in chopped homegrown rosemary, salt and olive oil. Then it was back to the airing cupboard for a bit more proving.
A word of caution - when proving bread in your airing cupboard ensure your tray has high sides. I now have several towels scented with rosemary olive oil waiting to be washed.
After baking for 20 minutes we had warm fresh bread to eat with our homemade chicken caesar salad - sans homemade croutons - because I burnt them by leaving them in the oven while I watered the veg patch!
Also occupying me this week has been the quilt for Baby J. It's pretty much finished - not bad for a first attempt. Some of the blocks don't quite line up and the edging was a handstitching mission - but I'm pretty pleased with it, especially as I only had some patchy (no pun intended) instructions from an old book to guide me.
One day perhaps I'll be able to make beautiful quilts like this talented lady or my Godmother Sue - who sent me a beautiful one to commemorate my wedding day. I think my sewing machine skills need improving first - I seem incapable of keeping seams straight!
You may remember that one of my manifesto pledges was to take Baby J to the sea. I had thought we might make it to Thornham, Brancaster or maybe Blakeney - or perhaps we might have headed for Southwold or Aldeburgh. But when I suggested this to Mr Jones he was less than enthusiastic. Quaint seaside charm, long walks and pricey shops cannot lure Mr Jones to the sea. Throw in a fair, pier, cheap donuts, fish and chips and everything else Skegness has to offer though and he's off in a shot.
He went to boarding school there for a while, before he got "asked to leave" for sneaking into a girls room (tsk), so I think he holds a soft spot for it in his heart. We went with Mr and Mrs Swift - Skeg is their hometown. We paddled in the sea, drank slushes, tucked into ice cream and donuts and ate fish and chips in the 30 degree heat (only in England would you eat fried fish for lunch on a scorching hot day). I waddled along the seafront, perspiring in a very unladylike manner, but enjoyiong every minute - everyone needs a bit of cheesy seaside once in a while.
Baby Jones was so impressed that he/she seems to have decided that a another two or more weeks inside is a good move and is making no signs of joining us anytime soon - no matter how much gardening, cleaning and jiggling I do.
Living with Mr M certainly wasn’t much fun, but I managed to avoid him as much as I could. I finally had a University social life to be proud of. No more sitting at home watching TV and playing housewife – no I was out until the early hours at nightclubs, dancing and drinking with my friends. We went to street parties, house parties and club nights. We carried small bottles of vodka in our handbags and ordered straight cokes so that we could afford more nights out. My liver, I’m sure, was begging a return to the days of Gardener’s World.
Mr Jones and I went on dates – we watched films, went out for dinner, went to the seaside and drove around in his beaten up white Astra. One night, about four months after we’d first got together, I cooked Mr Jones dinner. I can’t remember what we ate, but I do remember drinking a lot of Blossom Hill White Zinfandel. We made short work of the first two bottles and popped to Jacksons ( a very handy convenience store just down the road) for two more.
Suffice to say it all goes a bit blurry after that. We were lying on my bed talking drunken nonsense to each other. I made a joke and Mr Jones pushed me off the bed and onto the floor. I lie there laughing in a heap. “Come back up here” said Mr Jones
“No,” I slurred. “I’m staying down here with Eddie” (Eddie is my teddy bear – I’ve had him since birth and he is my most treasured possession). “Eddie loves me,” I said.
“I love you too,” said Mr Jones.
The whole world (which had been spinning rather rapidly) stopped. My brain clicked into action. “What did he just say? He just said he loves me. I can’t believe it. Say it back. NO! Don’t say it back – he’s drunk, he probably doesn’t mean it and then you’ll say it back and the words will be out and you won’t be able to take them back and then you’ll have left yourself open and vulnerable and he’ll run off and leave you. Just keep quiet…..”
I laughed and climbed back on the bed and gave him a big kiss. My heart was pounding in my chest and I felt giddy with happiness. Or perhaps it was the wine. The room started spinning again and I suddenly felt very hot and very sick. I leapt up from the bed and ran the downstairs to the bathroom where I was violently sick.
To my utter horror Mr Jones had followed me – I begged him to leave, embarrassed that he should see the girl he’d just said “I love you” too retching and vomiting. But he refused. He sat on the floor behind me, his legs around mine and rubbed my back and held back my hair while I was sick for the next hour and a half.
I woke up the next morning with a pounding head and a furry mouth. Mr Jones went to Jacksons for a curative breakfast of Chicken Super Noodles. He brought me the bowl of steaming hot noodles in bed and smoothed the hair from my forehead. I looked up at him weakly, feeling very sorry for myself.
“I meant what I said last night,” he said.
“When I said I love you last night – I meant it,” he said smiling at me.
I tried to stop the huge grin spreading across my face. “I love you too”
Unhampered as I am by coalition talks, I've been able to get on with bringing my manifesto to life pretty much unhindered. It's going well. Aided by the fact that (other than yesterday, when I just overdid it and clearly needed to be punished) I haven't been sick or really felt sick for a week! I know - hurrah!
Thanks to lovely mummy the kitchen cupboards have been rejigged to make way for baby equipment and the oven has been cleaned to sparkly gloriousness - so much so that I don't really want to use it.
I have planted carrots, fennel and salad in the veg patch and strawberries in pots. These will soon be joined by courgettes, tomatoes and runner beans - once the weather looks reliably nice.
I have eaten breakfast outside in the sunshine.
Yesterday I spent a small fortune on bedding plants and prettied up some pots - until I ran out of compost. Photos to come of these once they look a little more filled out and pretty.
I spent yesterday afternoon on my hands and knees (which before you all start tutting is actually a good position for a pregnant person to adopt) scrubbing the hall floor - hopefully you can see the difference from the picturs. Before scrubbing is on the left - it's more impressive in real life.
Restoring Victorian Floors - a guide - by Mrs Jones
*Find yourself a lovely Victorian tiled floor (ours was hidden under a hideous 1970s carpet. This is what it looked like before I started 18 months ago.)
*Spend a whole day on your hands and knees scrubbing it to remove 135 years of ingrained dirt (probably less than that because I'm sure the original owners were very proud of their tiles and kept them pristine)
*Attempt to protect tiles with a sealant - which fails miserably and means you have to start all over again in 18 months time when your nesting instinct has well and truly kicked in.
*Arm yourself with marigolds, scouring sponges, HG Quick Porcelain Cleaner (this stuff is truly magical - it literally seems to dissolve dirt), a bright pink gardeners kneeling pad, and a bucket of hot water.
*Spend a couple of hours scrubbing - worrying all the while at just how much pleasure you're getting from cleaning a floor.
*Mop with fresh water and leave to dry before applying traffic wax with a paint brush and buffing the floor with a floor buffer. (Feel slightly disappointed that it's not marvellously sealed and shiny after the first coat - especially as you're too tired to do anymore today)
Please note - these pictures were taken with the new camera - though clearly I have a lot to learn because they still look rubbish!
On top of this I have also been making a quilt for the baby, listening to the hypnosis for birth cd and swallowing raspberry leaf tea capsules in huge quantities to encouarge Baby J out. My ribs are experiencing some welcome relief because Baby J has started his/her descent into my pelvis. My bladder is less happy about this, especially when it's being used as a punchbag.
For the first time I think I'm actually enjoying being pregnant - I feel somewhere nearing normal, other than the huge bump - of course. But that said, I'm not enjoying it so much that I wouldn't welcome the arrival of the little one anytime now. We're pretty much ready.
Last night we went out for a curry (unfortunately it wasn't spicy enough to bring forward the arrival of baby J - boo). We waited ages, and ages for our meal so by the time my chicken tikka and chana massala arrived I was ready to chew off Mr Jones' arm. Suffice to say I tucked right in and all was going well - until forkful number five.
I'd stacked it neatly, a small piece of chicken, a few chickpeas and their spicy tomatoey juice, a couple of grains of rice all topped off with a smidgen of minty, yoghurty sauce - it was looking good.
I moved the fork towards my mouth. Up, up, up it went, traversing the huge expanse of bump and then - thwack - the whole lot dropped off the fork and onto my top. It rolled down my mountainous stomach and onto the table cloth. I looked around in mortification, hoping that none of my fellow diners had seen it happen. Luckily I was wearing black and managed to mop up the excess with my napkin before too many people noticed.
The thing is this isn't the first time this has happened. Although it was the first time I had demonstated this lack of table manners in public. Having a bump means that you have to sit some distance from the table, which makes reaching your mouth with your food that little bit more tricky. I am constantly fishing things out of my cleveage and I worry every night when I get undressed what exactly I might find caught down my top. When I'm home alone I've given up wearing anything nice because invariably I spill something down myself at some point during the day - and quite frankly I can't keep up with the washing.
These days Mr Jones tends to comes home, survey the state of me and then asks politely I enjoyed my lunch. If I'm eating something particularly dangerous I have taken to tucking a tea towel under my chin. Perhaps I've spotted a gap in the market - attractive bibs for pregnant women - what do we think?
I was feeling a bit grumpy this morning and getting rather impatient about the arrival of Baby J, which could still be weeks away. Boo. Then I opened my inbox and found a lovely email from someone I don't know in Austraila. Amongst other things it said this:
I was having one of those nights last night where sleep was just evading me and I happened upon your blog.
The entries about your wedding made me cry! It sounds like it was such a wonderful, beautiful ceremony, and I only hope my own can evoke such emotion in people on the other side of the world (if I am ever lucky enough to find someone who wouldn't mind keeping me around for 50 years) (and happen to blog about it).
It really cheered me up - so thank you very much for taking the time to email me and tell me what you think. And for prompting me to reminisce about our lovely wedding. By coincidence yesterday I was going through some pictures to frame and found these ones of our registry office ceremony. Despite being over in a matter of minutes it really was special and means far more to me than I ever could have imagined.
Oh how I am looking forward to being that thin again and I can't wait to get back into that dress!
Thanks again for making my day - love not so grumpy Mrs J
Oh yes - I retrieved my phone and sent Mr Jones a text – “Mr M knows!” I have no idea what Mr Jones thought when he read this text and I can’t actually remember what he replied. No doubt it was a suitable mix of panic, terror and guilt. The next few days are a bit of a blur. I had to contend with living it what felt like the world’s smallest house with an understandably surly Mr M and endure hundreds and hundreds of conversations in which we discussed why I’d “run off”, “cheated”, “lied”.......
One day he asked me just what it was about Mr Jones that had made me choose him. Hundreds of reasons sprung up in my mind – he makes me laugh, he understands sarcasm, he lets me out on a Friday night, he’s handsome, he has charisma, he doesn’t make me cringe when he speaks, he loves a damn good argument and is more than happy to tell me to take a running jump if he doesn’t agree with me, he’s unpredictable and he doesn’t follow me around like a lost lamb. But I didn’t think it was wise to bring up any of these things. So I just said – “He has dark hair.” Mr M was blonde.
I’ve always had a thing about dark hair. For years and years the man of my dreams was strictly based on Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. I was completely obsessed with Jonathan Crombie who played him in the screen version. Whenever I imagined getting married the groom was always dark haired and handsome. I dreamt of him taking me in a passionate embrace and promising me the world – while knowing exactly how to calm my red headed temper and impetuousness. Had I thought about it my relationship with Mr M was doomed from the outset – fickle as it sounds there was no way I’d have settled for a blonde.
Mr M had no answer for “He has dark hair” and I congratulated myself on the swift curtailing of yet another lengthy discussion about our relationship and its evident failings.
Two days later I was sat in an umcomfortable wooden chair at our dining room table working on an essay in my pyjamas. Mr M came home and sat for a few minutes in silence staring at me while I ignored him, hoping that he might just disappear. “I went to the hairdressers today,” he said.
“I asked the girl in there if I could dye my hair brown and she said it was entirely possible.”
I looked up at him to see if this was some kind of joke. But he looked deadly serious. “You’re joking right?” I asked wondering whether I could get away with laughing.
“No, I just thought that if the only reason you’re going out with Mr Jones is because he has dark hair….” he trailed off – perhaps realising just how ridiculous he sounded. I didn’t know what to say. On the one hand I wanted to laugh, but on the other I just felt pity. After everything that had happened he still wanted me back – and was willing to dye his hair to get me.
“It’s not the only reason,” I said. “I’m sorry but our relationship is over and dying your hair won’t make any difference.”
While all this was going on Mr Jones and I were having a great time both together and apart. Released from the clutches of Miss B, Mr Jones no longer had to go home every weekend and I could finally go out with my girlfriends guilt free.
When Mr Jones and I appeared in public together there were a lot of whispers. Friends took sides and I was seen as the most immoral of all of us. But I didn’t really care – I completely understood that Mr M’s closest friends would consider me a cheating harridan and would turn against me. Happily I had plenty of friends of my own and I had Mr Jones and he made me happy.
While in public Mr M maintained an appearance of complete dignity. Something which I have always been incredibly grateful for. There were no public scenes or hideous arguments. He just played the part of the cuckold with great aplomb which just made people feel more sorry for him.
Behind the doors of our house however it was a different story. He eavesdropped on my conversations, went through my things, tampered with my course work and generally made me feel watched.
Every Wednesday night he would go out to the Tower nightclub with is friends, giving me a welcome night of peace. Some days Mr Jones would come round to see me and we’d live dangerously, wrapped in each others arms, half fearing that Mr M would come back.
Other nights I’d stay at home reading novels for my course in bed. On one such night Mr M came home drunk at about 9.30pm. He came thundering up the stairs and into my bedroom. “I think I’ve let you get away with too much, I think I should have been more forceful in our relationship, perhaps then you’d still be going out with me,” he said.
“Oh right,” – I was stumped and couldn’t quite see where this conversation was going.
He started moving towards the bed and it suddenly occurred to me what he had in mind. I asked him what he thought he was doing and told him to get out of my room. He refused.
I heard someone clear their throat downstairs and realised that he’d left his mates in the lounge. I clutched my pencil in my fist and waved it in his face – “Come any closer and I’ll scream and stab this pencil in your eye,” I said.
His drunken bravado seemed to leave him and he sunk back to sit on the bed. He looked sad, but I was in no mood for soothing his ego. “Get out,” I spat. My temper was unleashed and I slung a string of names and expletives in his direction. He beat a hasty retreat to the door. A moment later they all left. I sat there shaking wishing my bedroom door had a lock on it.
I've had all the bits for my hospital bag for ages - but I've been putting off actually packing it. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I was hoping that if I was totally unprepared the baby might decide to put in an appearance a tiny bit sooner. But with four weeks to go (please not any longer) and everyone telling me I really should get packed I decided to get on with it.
I'm fascinated by people's hospital bags - Jules Oliver must have had an entire luggage collection for the amount of stuff she took with her, I've tried to pack light - but I will confess that the baby has its very own bag of bits too. And I'm sure I'll be adding to this. In case you're the slightest bit interested so far I have:
Two button front Matalan Nighties (one in a size 22(!) to accommodate the bump and another in a size 14 for post birth comfort)
One pair of Matalan PJs - just in case I have to stay over in hospital for any length of time.
Dettol Wipes - because I'm a clean freak and I'd like a water bath - but I'm not getting in it until I know it's been disinfected.
A mini fan - because it is ridiculously hot in the delivery suite.
Snacks - Marilyn our NCT teacher was all about fruit and jaffa cakes. The midwife at the hospital recommended high sugar sweets for instant energy. So I've gone for Haribo and Fizzy Bootlaces and some amaretti biscuits because I don't like jaffa cakes. I'll probably add some fruit in later. I'm putting Mum in charge of drinks (including the post birth G&T - Bombay with ice and lemon if you please )
Wash bag with essentials - a water spray - for more cooling, toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel, nivea, paracetamol and a nail file - just because there's nothing more annoying than a broken nail. Oh and of course some delightfully large maternity pads.
A dressing gown - for moments when only marching the corridoors will do
Four pairs of great big black knickers - they really are HUGE and I thought I'd spare you photographic evidence.
A towel - do they supply them in the hosptial? No one seems to be able to tell me so I'm taking a small one just in case.
Slippers - leftover from a spa day - why ruin a decent pair of slippers when these ones and any hospital yuckiness attached to them can just be binned?
It's just occurred to me that my birth plan includes using the birthing pool so unless I plan to sit there totally starkers I should probably pack something to wear for that too. Oh and some antibacterial hand gel - just because. Oooo and some socks in the very unlikely event that I get cold feet. Oooo and something to wear to come home in. See I knew I'd need a bigger bag. I'm sure I've forgotten other things too.
...It seems I am incapable of doing nothing. I thought I'd cruise into this maternity leave lark and enjoy lie ins, afternoons indulging in marathon sessions of detective capers at the hands of Angela Lansbury and possibly even develop a penchant for Bargain Hunt. But no - I can't sit still. I've done my accounts, filed everything that needed filing, sorted out cupboards, cleaned the fridge, washed things, sorted things, repaired my favourite teddy bear, organised birthday presents, got my wedding dress dry cleaned..... the list goes on. I haven't sat down all week. I went for reflexology on Wednesday and spent the entire time lying there contemplating my to do list - it was most frustrating.
Today my lovely mum came to "help" me do a thorough clean of the house. But she wouldn't let me help. She kept telling me off. Then I had to go to the hospital for a scan and thanks to the NHS and its super powers of organisation I was gone for four hours. By the time I came home the entire house had been blitzed. She's so good - I wonder if the selfless-I-don't-mind-helping-you-with-pretty-much-anything gene kicks in when your baby is born because I certainly don't possess it at the moment.
Baby Jones behaved very well at the scan and is apparently in the ideal position for birth (which is nice to know - and fingers crossed it stays that way for the next four weeks). Currently the little monkey is weighing in at 6lbs ish - and the sonographer assures me that means that if I go full term I should pop out a nice 7lb something baby and if I go over due it shouldn't be more than a little over 8lbs - lets hope she's right.
Mrs Jones is a far from yummy mummy with a penchant for M&S fudge bars and a mojito on a Friday night. She became Mrs Jones in 2009 and a mummy in 2010. In 2011 she is attempting to remember her own name and not put washing powder in the dishwasher....