I find that when it’s tipping with rain outside, and you’ve got to wait in for a delivery, and you’re shattered from a very demanding thirteen hour shift the day before, and everyone else is at work or school, one of the nicest things to do is to spend the morning pottering around the kitchen cooking and baking.
This morning I made yogurt, two loaves of bread, a cake, sweetcorn fritters (for the freezer), tomato pasta sauce (also for the freezer), and bolognese sauce.
I had a pot of coffee in one corner of the kitchen, the radio in another corner, and the back door open so that I could hear the chickens grumbling about the rain out in the garden. Radio 4 had some very interesting programmes this morning: the bishop of Gloucester guest editing Woman’s Hour (I particularly loved the piece by the seamstress who designed and made the new bishop’s cope and mitre), Stella Rimmington doing some detective work about the World War One nurse Edith Cavell’s links with espionage, and then a sweetly old-fashioned dramatised Miss Marple story.
After lunch, I retired to the sofa with a slice of new bread and jam to watch a film (Amélie) and do some knitting. Fresh brown bread and jam is one of the nicest things to eat, don’t you think?
I have always loved the school summer holidays. I feel as though the children belong to me again, and it's a pleasure to see them unwind, please themselves and chill out. Now that I'm working full-time (for the first time since Cam was born, nearly sixteen years ago), I wasn't sure how we'd get on – but it's turning out to be absolutely fine.
My shifts mean that I am still around for half the week, and the children only have a couple of days at a time by themselves while both Graham and I are at work. They are nearly sixteen and nearly thirteen, and are perfectly able to look after and amuse themselves without any input from us. I finished a run of nightshifts this morning, took them out to breakfast, and caught up on their news over cappuccinos and egg McMuffins. Cam has dyed his hair bright red, and had eaten his way through pretty much an entire loaf of bread in two days by scoffing endless toasted cheese sandwiches. Olivia has been working her way steadily through the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and managed to vaguely tidy her room.
After breakfast we went to buy hen food, and then they put it away while I had a quick shower and crawled into bed. When I resurfaced at about 3pm, I found that Olivia had made more cupcakes and Cam was out with friends. I lay on the sofa with a massive cup of tea and one of the cupcakes and wondered what to cook for supper. Olivia and I watched Pitch Perfect (she is obsessed and I had never seen it before), and flicked through some magazines. It turns out that my level of tiredness after nightshifts matches perfectly with their own well-earned levels of summer idleness.
It's all good. It always is.
The children finally broke up for their summer holidays at lunchtime today, so for the next six weeks I will have their company (at least partially – they're teenagers, so they are pulling away from home and towards independence), on my days off. I am very happy about this. They are excellent company – funny, interesting, challenging and thought provoking – at this age.
I made a plum and almond cake this morning to celebrate the start of the holidays, and Olivia is now making lemon bars (from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, which she loves).
Cam wants to play on his guitars, listen to music, and go to the cinema occasionally. Olivia wants to bake, draw, watch endless episodes of emotional American teenage TV series (Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl mainly), and has also said she want to do some more exploring of London. I reckon I can accommodate all these requests, with a mixture of work days and days off.
Nightshifts finish at 8am (ish). The day after the last one is officially a day off, but it is spent adjusting sleep patterns rather than having adventures.
Today I am napping on the sofa, drinking tea, and enjoying a lemon cupcake, baked by my daughter after school yesterday. Aren't teenagers great?
It's been a gently-busy, pottering-around sort of day off today.
After the children had gone to school, I made some spicy apple and nut flapjacks.
I sat in the sunshine and wrote some Thank You cards.
And then on impulse, I popped out to a local pub for lunch and a pint of cold cider with a friend. We sat in the cool, airy main lounge and discussed chickens, teenagers, work, holidays and our mutual love of chips with mayonnaise. We both agreed that an impromptu lunch date is always going to be a good call.