I Just Found a Chicken Bone in My Cheesecake… Is that Bad?

Having founded his own internet solutions company, run the New York marathon and purchased his first sports car, my brother Oliver decided recently that 2012 would be the year he finally learnt to boil an egg. Cooking has never been a priority to him, with culinary talents at the age of thirty-something on par with my neighbour’s cat.

So to address this glaring oversight, Oli set himself a challenge to cook a different meal every day for thirty days, in the hope he would magically metamorphose into a slim, follicly-challenged Jamie Oliver. Once a week, he held a ‘Come Dine with Me’ style dinner party where each guest rated his cooking and general hosting skills.

I was fortunate enough to be invited along with my mother and youngest brother Mike for Sunday lunch at the end of this process, once Oli had mastered the basics.

Oli's attempt at a pancake didn't exactly fill me with confidence

There was still a moderate risk of food poisoning, but having taken advantage our mother’s cooking for over thirty years, we were all in agreement that it was about time Oli returned the favour. I should have noticed the warning signs though:

1. The roast chicken was the size of an albatross and had only been cooking for an hour and twenty-five minutes.

2. The carrots made a bid for freedom by jumping off the kitchen worktop.

3. Oli referred to his colander as coriander.

But the food was surprisingly yummy. Had it not been for the fact the chef needed to nuke the undercooked albatross in the microwave three times after it first came out of the oven, we may have eaten within an hour and a half of schedule.

Dessert was also delightful – a fabulous boozy cheesecake, laced with glacé cherries. The biscuity base was quite crumbly though, due to Oli neglecting to purchase butter at the supermarket. Praying alone was insufficient to bind the biscuit crumbs together. Mike however loved it. I think… 

Oli took the liberty of documenting the event for prosperity. See if you can notice the subliminal jessseeker plug. It’s really quite subtle:

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that the camera adds ten pounds – and there were at least six cameras on me at the time.

I Really Should Have Thought This Through

I once had a large gecko inked on my back, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I was secretly relieved that it was gone within a fortnight; you’ve got to love henna ink.

I’m not strongly opposed to tattoos, but my reasons for not personally having any are threefold:

  1. They are permanent.
  2. I am indecisive.
  3. They are permanent.

Fortunately for me, the impact of most lapses in judgement is fleeting. Just imagine if every decision you made stayed with you forever…

At five years old, I gave one of my Trolls a particularly striking Mohawk haircut. Hairdresser of the Year, I was not – so I couldn’t wait for his radiant pink locks to grow back. Much to my horror and disappointment, they never did.

At six, I decided that I wanted a fringe. I tried to bribe my mother with a fairy made from half a discarded kitchen roll, two goggly eyes, several pipe cleaners and some sticky-back plastic, but she was having none of it. So I resorted to the tried and tested method of pester-power. It went a little something like this:

“I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I want a fringe. I WANT A FRIIIIIIIIIIIIINGE!”

Just three short months later, my mother finally caved – and I was granted my wish. I changed my mind within minutes, cursing her for “forcing me to have my hair cut”. How dare she?  Stomp stomp stomp.

Studies have shown that it is beneficial to let your child dress themselves, to help them develop a ‘sense of self’ early-on in life. I have strong evidence to the contrary:

 

I vividly recall a nativity play my brothers and I performed for my parents, at a young age. The shepherds wore towels on their heads, secured in place by y-fronts. My hobby horse was the donkey, Kermit the frog stepped in to play Jesus and our menagerie of barn animals present at the birth of the son of God included a giraffe, two lions, a talking parrot, three Velociraptors and a Tyrannosaurus rex. Eat your heart out Andrew Lloyd Webber. Regrettably, the pants-on-head look never caught on.

At twelve, I wanted all the boys to fancy me – so decided that the way to their hearts was cropped tops and head to toe denim. It wasn’t.

At the age of fifteen, my parents foolishly allowed me decorate my own room. I think they hoped I’d favour sophisticated salmon pink or soothing lavender. I actually opted for a postmodern self-conscious homage to the Teletubbies – namely lime green and purple passion, with a hint of turquoise. It looked like Tinky Winky and Dipsy had collaborated with Laurence Llewelyn Bowen. Delightful.

At seventeen, I was keen to find out for myself whether blondes really have more fun. So I saved my pennies and took myself to the best hairdresser in town, who dyed my brunette tresses a sexy shade of ash blonde. I smiled at the hairdresser, paid him a massive tip for doing such a fabulous job, then ran to Boots, bought a brunette home hair dying kit for £2.99 and ran home to change it back immediately. I really should have read the instructions – as not only did I ruin a towel and stain my forehead, but my hair came out bright orange (and to clarify – I really do mean ORANGE, not ginger). Not quite the look I was going for. Hats were my favourite accessory that season.

I’m pleased to report that my fringe grew out, I disposed of my denim jacket/skirt combo and the pants-headgear incident was a one-off. The bedroom I share with my husband does not glow in the dark and although I still don’t know whether blondes have more fun, I can verify that oranges certainly do not. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when your mother full-names you – she means business

Allow me to demonstrate:

 “Charles Phillip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor – I think you’ll find young man that those are my Crown Jewels. Return them to the Tower of London immediately or I shall set the Corgis on you!(Circa 2011)

Your mother’s body language in this situation was always key. With an eyebrow raised and arms crossed – the death stare was employed. That was your cue to return her Crown Jewels / put down the hammer / take your brother’s GI Joe out of the microwave (even if he had decapitated your Tiny Tears).

Let’s face it – nothing else your parents said carried as much weight. You always knew better:

Being told “No you can’t watch that” merely resulted in you screening the desired 18 rated slasher horror psycho chainsaw massacre hell-raising blood-fest at your mate’s house instead. You’ve slept with the light on ever since.

As a child, being informed that something was prohibited, only ever made it more beguiling. As such, any of the following statements would have, quite rightly been wholeheartedly ignored:

“Your father’s nail gun is not a toy”

 “Calpol is not fruit cordial”

“Superglue, bleach and WD-40 are not fair weapons to employ in a water fight with your younger sister”

So, when stating the obvious didn’t work – your parents attempted reverse psychology:

 “I really love what you’ve done with your jeans. How do you get the waistband to sit just below your buttocks in that way? I hope you wear them like that forever”. If that failed, they resorted to outright lies:

My father used to tell my brothers and I “We’re nearly there” roughly an hour and a half into a 6 hour journey to Dorset. “I wonder who will be the first to see the sea?” he’d ask, midway through Luton. 

I had an epiphany in my late teens and I didn’t like it. I realised my parents actually knew more than me.

Here’s some whimsical wisdomness, from older, wiser grown-ups. Show-offs:

“Never be afraid to ask for help or say you don’t understand” Anon

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” Einstein

 “Be whoever and whatever you want to be” My Mother

“These are the days of our lives” Queen (Roger Taylor) 

“Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice normal family”

1989 ROCKED

  • I was 7.
  • Kylie still loved Jason.
  • Alice bands, shell suits and scrunchies were in vogue.
  • I mastered handstands, cartwheels and cat’s cradle.
  • My troll collection quadrupled to an outrageously impressive: 4.
  • Wallace took Gromit on a grand day out and they ate lots of cheese.
  • A big wall fell down in Berlin and all the grown-ups got very excited.
  • My youngest brother Mike was born.

Admittedly, I didn’t necessarily greet the latter with the enthusiasm it deserved. I actually recall telling my parents in no uncertain terms to send him back.

My three other brothers failed to sympathise, as unlike me – they were delighted to have another man about the house.

After a year or two – I grew to love, adore and mother him.

Not just 2.4 children

There was a Simpsons’ poster on display in my father’s study for several years when I was growing up. It read –

“Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice normal family”.

I was never entirely sure what constituted ‘normal’ but I was pretty confident we weren’t it.

  • Oli was a nerd.
  • Chris sang. At all times.
  • I was the only girl and as such – terribly misunderstood.
  • Joe was into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, aliens and dinosaurs.
  • Mike liked whatever Joe liked.
  • Dad worked roughly 87 hours a week.
  • Mum was the glue that held us all together.

There were certain logistical advantages to being the only girl – I got my very own room for example. I also got a lot of sympathy from strangers. “Four brothers? You poor thing. They must pick on you an awful lot”. God no. I was a red belt in Tae Kwon-Do, they wouldn’t dare.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing however:

  • Oli’s bedroom was next to mine. He played Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ on repeat at 140 decibels for about 3 years. I played Boyzone.
  • Chris decapitated my Tiny Tears doll. I punched him.
  • Joe shot me with Nerf bullets. A lot. I locked him in the garden shed.
  • Mike copied Joe. He also ended up in the shed.

Grown-ups (well, almost)

I’m pleased to report that Oli is still a nerd. A wildly successful one (they’re the best kind). As far as I know – he no longer listens to music that makes his ears bleed.

Chris no longer rips heads off dolls. He gets paid to buy stuff (genius I know) for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

I am still claiming to be misunderstood. On a positive note – I no longer have cause to punch my brothers or hold them captive.

Dad confiscated Joe’s Nerf gun on a Sunday afternoon in 1992, following an unfortunate incident with our neighbour’s pet goat. I don’t believe it was ever returned to him. He’s currently a Team Leader for Costa, loves playing host and is highly domesticated.

Mike no longer copies everything Joe does. He closely resembles a Wookiee and favours music that makes his ears bleed.

Families rule!