little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: soccer

The Wellington summer post

P1090875A funny day to be writing this, with 140km winds and the rain gusting in. It’s been nice though, and will be again, so I shall reserve the snark. In any case, I’m tucked up in a café while Ian braves the zoo with the boys, so it behoves me to be civil.

Ian’s up here for work reporting the Summer News, and we’re his hangers-on. We did this last year too, and we were a bit quicker to get into the swing of capital holiday mode this time. We’re only halfway through the visit, so there might be more to say later.

In the meantime, lists, I think. With illustrationP1100023s from an event I wasn’t part of.


Beautiful sights

  1. Dear family friends standing together as their baby boy was baptised, a little oasis of loving calm that we didn’t completely ruin by arriving late and dramatic after a delayed early morning flight.
  2. Rabbit wearing full soccer kit — Barça shirt and shorts about five sizes too big, knee-length socks, boots, plus red-framed sunglasses — and walking along the street eating his first chocolate éclair. His face a perfect mix of wonder, delight and determination to finish the damn thing.
  3. P1090999The Cat, who has a tendency to freeze when grown-ups attempt to engage him in conversation, confidently and politely advising a couple of women about which bus would take them to the railway station. Also his strong sense of the necessity of giving some money to anyone busking or begging.
  4. My lunch today — a coffee with cream, a tasting platter of small and delicious vegetable dishes,  flatbreads and crackers. I feel vaguely greedy and conspicuous, but mostly very happy. There’s a salad of garden vegetables (chard, slivered carrots, radishes), beautifully dressed and enriched with nuts and dates, there are pickled plums and salsas of avocado and eggplant, there are creamy potatoes, green beans in a tomato sauce, a soft, spicy tangle of onions and capsicums, and a little dish of capsicums, olives, walnuts and herbs.
  5. P1090922The boys playing in the rocks at Plimmerton, looking for crabs and discussing the characteristics of sea worms/centipedes.


Memorable meals

  1. This lunch, obviously. It’s like my Platonic lunch ideal, the lunch of all my dreams and desires and imaginings. It’s from the legendary Lido café, and you should try it if you ever get the chance. The chef is going to send me the recipes. None of the staff seem to have seen the dish before, which makes me wonder about any number of things, but mostly makes me hope they get a taster soon. I think it’s only just made an appearance on the summer menu.
  2. P1090923Pizzas at the Mediterranean Food Warehouse. We walked up to Kelburn through the bush and via a soccer match. The children scrapped like feral warthogs until the food arrived and peace descended. The adults shared a glass of red. We worked out which European and Asian cities we each most resemble.
  3. Lunch at our friends’ house in Petone. Beautiful food, a soccer match on the lawn and another at the school, easy, enlivening conversation, the kids enjoying each other.
  4. A café lunch in Plimmerton, but only for the gossip, which cannot be shared.
  5. Still to come, I hope.


P1090957Best activities

  1. Football matches on Sky.
  2. Working through maths and reading activity books with the Rabbit, who is VERY KEEN.
  3. Bouncing along the street with the Cat while he assembles dream football teams and I nod sagely from time to time.
  4. Sleeping.
  5. Seeing friends.
  6. Running and walking up lots of steps.
  7. P1090964Buses, trains, no car.
  8. Long, ranting conversations with my fella.
  9. Discovering that GoFugYourself recapped a TV series of Wolf Hall, which brings together, I don’t know, at least ten of my favourite things in this world.
  10. Visiting my favourite ceramics and knives shop.
  11. Gelati.
  12. Walks along the esplanade.
  13. Family football matches. In case anyone was missing the theme.
  14. Popping into Unity Books every time we walk past.
  15. Riffing on the new family insult: you great, big … potato.




Peasant soup

P1080936It’s one of those scrambly afternoons today (soccer), so I’m going to be making peasant soup. That’s my name for it. Jamie Oliver wrote the recipe I base it on, and he calls it “Leek and Chickpea Soup”, which is either a more or a less descriptive name depending on your leaning towards connotation or denotation. You can probably figure which way I tilt.

P1080934Anyway, it’s a terrific soup and at the moment everyone in the house seems to be on board. I often find a meal that I think everyone likes, but, with time, preferences for variations emerge and so I can end up making three different tweaks of the same meal, which is a big pain in the arse. And, yes, they could all cope with the same version (apart from the allergy issues), but what can I say, I’m a sucker for an appreciative bunch of eaters, often to my own detriment.

This is another of those earthy protein and greens type soups. You can blend it to varying degrees or leave it unmushed. I used to blend because that’s what Jamie says to do, but now I blend half for the boys and leave the adult version straight. I find the textural ying/yang of al dente potatoes, round chickpeas with their slippy skins, melty leeks and hot, sweet broth deeply satisfying — the blended version tastes good but is more boring.

As opposed to an actual proper recipe, I’m going to live-blog this one. If that turns out to be a DISASTER, I’ll bail and update once everyone is fed. There may be typos. Fair warning.

5.25pm It would be good to get started now. We got home at five after soccer practice. The Rabbit was tired and hungry and the Cat was tired, hungry, hysterical and thirsty. A drink, some food and the iPad seems to have solved most of those problems FOR NOW. Preemptively, I am going to have a drink and unpack the lunch boxes.

5.30pm Am actually going to start now. First empty lunch boxes, then light the fire.

5.49pm Fire is going well, lamps are on, curtains are pulled, screen time is in final lap, compost is out, animals are fed, bedroom heaters are on. I CANNOT BELIEVE A UNICORN DID NOT MAKE DINNER WHILE I WAS DOING ALL THAT. DOES THAT MEAN I HAVE TO DO IT? Briefly scan what is left of my brain for other chores that need to be done first.

5.51pm Right, will get out ingredients.

5.55pm Have bread, parmesan, yoghurt, leeks, chickpeas, potatoes, salt, pepper, stock, olive oil and garlic. Forgot to have a drink. Doing that now.

5.57pm Boil kettle and peel potatoes. I’m not going to give you quantities. It’s too hard. I do what I need to do in this household, but if I had my way, there’d be less potato and more leek and chickpea.

5.58pm Ian is home and I hand over responsibility for children.

6.07pm Potatoes are chopped and in a pot to boil. You want them in chunks. Small enough to fit on your spoon, but not so small that they’ll fall apart if you boil them five minutes too long.

6.08pm Ian wants to help. I tell him he’s on accompaniments. That’d be oily toast and yummy things. Actually, he just reads this over my shoulder and gets to work. Don’t you, darl?

6.11pm I’ve drained a can of chickpeas and Ian has poured a glass of red. Cheers!

6.17pm Washing leeks is annoying. Nevertheless, do that, then slice then thinly and sweat them in olive oil with sliced garlic and a bit of salt. That’s what I’m doing now.

The children are at the end of screen time and getting ratty. Ian is starting on the bread.

The potatoes are boiling, so I turn them down.

6.23pm Drain potatoes. Decide to move half the leeks to the rinsed-out potato pot so that I can cook the boys’ soup separately and therefore adjust potato/chickpea quantities for their respective audiences.

6.26pm Ian has oiled the bread and put it under the grill. The Rabbit is doing train work. The Cat is dragging out his screen time by deciding to do something too difficult and time-consuming for this point in the evening. The leeks are all sliced and starting to cook.

6.32pm Ian has been commandeered to play hallway soccer. The bread is out and the leeks are a juicy tangle. The garlic is in, more for the big people than for the small. I add the potatoes and chickpeas to each pan, pour on some stock and take a deep breath.

P10809336.36pm Lids on for ten minutes. A word about the stock. I just used powdered, okay. THEORETICALLY, I understand that homemade chicken or vegetable stock would be ideal here, simmered with loving care for an hour or so, the chicken — had there been one — organic, free-range, the centrepiece of a calm and delicious roast meal. But, clearly, we’re not in those realms tonight. We’re never in those realms when I make the soup. If you’re in those realms or are one of those horrendously organised people who not only has homemade stock in your freezer but can also remember which pottle it’s in and how long ago you made it, then bless you and go right ahead and use it.

I have more chopping to do.

6.40pm Oh, and put some pepper in that soup. And turn it down to a gentle simmer.

P10809316.49pm Table is set, soup is done. I’ve put out little bowls of olives, sundried tomatoes, some leftover tuna, cucumber and a bit of avocado. I take photos and realise how much crap lives semi-permanently on our table. Time to blend and serve. Also yoghurt and parmesan.

P10809376.59pm Everyone is eating. Of COURSE I got soup on my top when I blended it. It looks good though. The soup.

If you have lemons, add a squeeze of lemon juice. That’s life advice right there, not just for this recipe.

North of the river

P1060953Our friends offered their house in North Melbourne for the school holidays, and we took it. Financially, not our most prudent move, but it felt important, tempting in ways that weren’t easy to understand. Now that we’re here, I can see that we were chasing nostalgia, wanting to recapture youth and adventure and the sparkly newness of our relationship when we were unwrinkled, unmarried, un-childrened, and living just up the road in Kensington.

And the truth is that we can’t go back entirely, of course we can’t. We’ve all had a horrible cold, for a start, and there’s been less wandering in art galleries and doing crosswords while drinking coffee in small laneway cafés than I remember. There’s been more soccer and early nights and shockingly early mornings.

IMAG3558But we have been able to tell the boys some of our stories, to point and wander and look, and say, “We were here, we did all this once before, and this bit has changed, and this bit hasn’t, and you can make this your own if you want to.” Which they do, very much. So they’ve been hopping on and off trams, navigating train lines, choosing fruit and vegetables at the market, prowling bookshops, eating kangaroo and prawns and passionfruit and oranges, kicking balls in the parks and stuffing their faces with noodles. The Rabbit has a whole storyline about driving the tram into the water and seeing fish and seahorses and sharks swimming past, and the Cat is a trove of soccer tips and facts.

And through all this, like a drumbeat, a thrum, is the memory of these old stomping grounds from not so very long ago, from the distant past, from yesterday. We lived here once before; we knew this place.

P1060941Just this bit, though. We crossed the river yesterday, to visit friends in the south. It’s fucking weird over there, man. I don’t even know why, but it’s like entering foreign territory. I float along the surface of it, marvelling at the strangeness, which looks more or less the same as everything this side of the Yarra, but with a shimmer, a haze on it that says, “Head back, this is not your place.” I feel like Hannibal crossing the Rubicon with my elephants and all of that, only instead of conquering, I sit down in a small circle of unease and can only think of home.


Peaks and troughs, y’all

I read an article the other day that talked about how parents are generally about as happy as non-parents (although way more worried, stressed, and angry), but experience higher highs and lower lows on a daily basis. Which seems pretty accurate to me. The emotional roller coaster of parenting often leaves me feeling wrung out and bewildered, and I can only imagine and dimly remember what it’s like to be a little person in the middle of that maelstrom. I guess the best I can do as a parent then is to be the steady base, the centre they can return to or hold onto when their feelings get too big for comfort.

Yesterday was a case in point, and I can tell you, the wine bottle came out pretty damn fast once dinner was in the oven and the fire was on. The Rabbit is generally a sweet and thoughtful child, but there’s some three-year-old thing going on that’s got me and Ian fully on the razzle. All of a sudden, he’s Very Particular about how he’d like to do things, what crockery, cutlery and glassware would suit him, which socks, undies, trousers, shirts and jerseys meet his aesthetic requirements for the day. Life has become a steady round of negotiation and boundary setting, letting go of our own preferences when his wishes are possible, explaining limits and the capacity of our clothes-washing system when they are not. I keep finding myself hard up against my own stubbornness, frantically searching for the chinks in a conflict where I can offer him a solution, a helping hand, a madcap plan, then step back long enough for him to tear down the walls of his own obstinacy.

Yesterday, I took Rabbit to the supermarket while the Cat was at soccer practice. He’d agreed to the plan earlier in the day and we desperately needed a stock up after the pre-payday scrimp, so I foolishly ignored the signs of his mounting tired-and-crossness (refusing to get in the car and running away from me down the hill really should have tipped me off) and sallied forth. We had five minutes of him crying in my arms on the bench outside the supermarket, then a relatively good run round the first aisle where all I had to do was carry him, push the trolley, remember the grocery list, and choose fruit. By aisle two, he was in the swing of it, putting things in the trolley for me and consulting over whether to buy the olives with or without pips. By aisle four, he was choosing crackers and getting excited about having yoghurt in the house again. By aisle five, he was wanting to push the trolley and his pants were drifting down around his nethers. By the turn into aisle six, I was encouraging him to pull his pants up, while a helpful lady shopper counselled me about the advisability of braces. At the same time, Rabbit couldn’t push the trolley, but he yelled at me every time I pulled it back into line. By checkout, I was alternating between 1). holding Rabbit while he yelled and whacked me as I loaded groceries onto the counter and 2). letting him down only for him to stand in front of all the checkout counters with his pants around his ankles as he surveyed the world with grim, exhausted fury. Bizarrely, in the middle of all this, the checkout operator asked me how my day was going, and all I could do was laugh with a kind of hysterical edge. I’m sure she thought I was mad, but one of the other operators asked me if I needed help getting out to the car, which made me feel both grateful and deeply embarrassed. Anyway, we survived, although I fear this may be the beginning of a protracted Pants War.

Soccer got us back on the upswing, fresh air and a bit of a kickaround, a cuddle in the falling dusk while the Cat got in his final run. By 5.30pm, we were home — cold and tired, but with the kind of solidarity that holds a mother-son team together after they’ve weathered meltdowns and mayhem and scored a few goals and lugged groceries inside. Then I threw dinner in the oven (an unexpectedly successful combination of leftover rice, chicken, tuna, roasted fennel, carrots, olives, and peas, drizzled with olive oil and baked until it was crispy and hot), set the fire, and poured wine, while Rabbit methodically unpacked all the grocery bags in the hall and one by one carried items into the kitchen, asked me where they belonged, and put them away.


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