09 January, 2008

piles of paper

Well, I'm ashamed to say I have nothing of any importance to tell you about from my grey, dismal town today. Aren't the first weeks after Christmas hard to recommend. All the boring things you (or at least I) shoved to the farthest corners of your desk in favour of receipts for glamorous presents, Christmas cards from farflung friends, invitations to concerts and parties... all those boring things come back to bite you in the bottom.

So Tuesday came, I dropped Avery off at school feeling somewhat forlorn as her straight little back walked up the steps, unbent by the enormous backpack full of her responsibilities. I came home, looked at my desk and thought, "I wonder what's under there?" and lifted up the giant file folder full of Christmas cards to find... all sorts of dreadful things I had neglected to do! School fees? Hadn't paid them (it's lucky they let her in the door). Had I signed her up for her school singing lessons? Nope. Or renewed her beloved Saturday acting class? Not exactly. Then there was the donation to the Moorland Mousie Trust that she was so keen to make, after her experiences on Exmoor. I hadn't seen that form in WEEKS. Never mind, off it went, along with insurance forms for last fall's doctor visits, and birthday cards for neglected chums, and all those recipes I cut out of magazines at Christmas? Whatever made me think I'd make "Stem Ginger and Cranberry Fudge"? I don't even have a sweet tooth! But there it was, along with instructions for making the Ghent altarpiece out of croquembouche. Well, I exaggerate, but that's the sort of holiday ambition that I never ever achieve, but always plan to around December 15.

What I'm not getting down to with any enthusiasm is my eventual driving test. I hope no traffic cop reads this blog, because I am definitely, but definitely super illegal. Would you believe that John gave me, for Christmas, two special books about traffic laws and parking regulations in London? Let the bells chime. But seriously, I have to buckle down. I am very lazy when he is away and almost never move the car from its prime parking spot. I tell myself I need the exercise and walk everywhere, but truly, it's just laziness and fear that I'll commit some minor infraction and my dirty little secret will be found out.

Avery's nerves are reaching something of a fever pitch about these dreadful exams, which begin on Friday and continue for the following two Fridays. To the powers-that-be in British girls' education: have the wretched things BEFORE Christmas, and have them three days in a row. Forget this dragging it out over three weeks. It's torture. Yesterday she actually told a taxi driver that it's impossible to be friends with one's schoolmates during January because if you think about it, "we're all competing for the same spots in school. So we sort of learn to not think about each other too much, until next month." Well, that's just awful!

I hate to think what I have contributed to this state of affairs, but actually I am pretty sure the answer is: not much. I really lack the competitive spirit necessary for the Olympic sport called "getting your child into the right school." First of all, I have very little conviction that there IS a "right school." Second, as soon as anything becomes a competition, I want to withdraw. This slacker attitude is in direct contrast to my husband's instant wish to turn everything into a contest, so between our influences I suppose Avery will come out normal. I hope.

Ah, well, at times like this you can but clear your desk, and cook some salmon. I'm quite sure all the Omega Whatever oils will increase her test scores by at least nought point something.

Tagliatelle with Salmon and Broccolini
(serves four)

1 1/2 lb organic fresh salmon (in one fillet if possible)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp Maldon sea salt
fresh ground pepper
3 tbsps creme fraiche
juice of half lemon
3/4 lb tagliatelle
large bunch (perhaps 8 stems?) tenderstem broccolini, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup light cream
salt to taste

In a baking dish lined with aluminium foil, lay the salmon skin side down. Lay the bay leaves across, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and smear (hate that word) the creme fraiche across the fillet with a butter knife. Sprinkle the lemon juice over all and bake at 425 degrees (about 215 celsius) for 25 minutes or until done in the middle, but not overdone!

Meanwhile, steam the broccolini just until it turns bright green and set aside.

At the same time, boil the tagliatelle for the recommended time (about 11 minutes, probably). Heat the light cream in the microwave or a little saucepan. Remove the salmon skin and the bay leaves from the baking dish and then break up the salmon into bite-size pieces with a fork. Toss gently with the tagliatelle, broccolini and warm cream and salt to taste.


This is LOVELY. Of course you could always serve the broccolini in whole stems on the side if you like, but I like the green and pink of the salmon together. This is a hit with a child, believe it or not. Of course just to be perverse, Avery claims to prefer ordinary broccoli florets, just because I do not. So we have to compromise: sometimes one, sometimes the other. And interspersed with the Undisputed King of All Vegetables, the red pepper sauteed in olive oil.

Well, I just got a call from Avery's school informing me that my tuition cheque specified "2007." I do this on cheques all throughout the month of January, not from any evil desire to postpone payment for a couple of days, but because I just cannot get my mind around the new year in time for the first few bills. So I must rectify it and get ready for "Enchanted, Part Three," after school. Or rather "Enchanted, Part One, Seen for the Third Time." Sigh, the things we do for our children.

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