My husband went out the other night and didn't come home until 3.30am. I know because a car alarm woke me up at 3am and instead of thinking "I'll just go back to sleep," I crept downstairs to check if he had come back and was asleep in the spare room. He was not. For some reason I hit the fucking roof, calling him 11 times, texting saying "Where the fuck are you??" and trembling with rage.
He hustled back immediately, apologising. In the morning he apologised more, in different ways, trying to find the right combination of words to make my face not do the I Hate You Death Stare I'm Going To Kill Myself And The Kids thing.
He didn't understand what the problem was. He sometimes comes back late, it's not a big deal is it? He wasn't doing anything bad, just, you know, messing about with R--- B--- and J---- C---- in the Groucho. There weren't any girls! Except C---- L--- but she doesn't count! And look, here he is, giving Kitty her breakfast at 7.30am and burping Sam and stuff. He's not a shit dad! Or really a shit husband either!?
I didn't know, in truth, why I was so pissed off. But then I got a bit teary and without even thinking said "Do you know what a c--- I feel when I'm at home flicking through magazines and washing fucking bottles and you're out ripping up Soho? I never, ever get to do that. I never go out for dinner, saying I'll be back at 11pm and then don't fucking come back till 4am. Never. I just look after the children and work and do Ocado orders and cook. And VERY OCCASIONALLY I go to sleep."
But you could go out, he said. I'd love you to! Why don't you? Go! I'll do the kids in the morning you don't even have to do that!
That wasn't the point though. That wasn't it. I don't want to go berserk in the bloody Groucho and crawl to bed at 4am. I didn't even really want to do that before I had kids. I certainly don't want to now. But I want to want to. Do you see? What I crave is my husband's freedom to want to do things like that. To go out and have actual fun, not just pretend grimly to have fun, (all the while wondering when you can go home), and be having so much actual real fun that you can just see where the night takes you. If I managed to organise some night out in town it would come to it and the pressure would be so immense that I would fail to enjoy myself for even three consecutive minutes and be at home in bed by 11pm.
My husband thinks that he is not free because he is always home for bathtime and barely looks out of the window without asking my permission. But he is: in his head, he is free. He can let go of his domestic life, if only for a few hours, if only aided by 17 gins, and feel like tomorrow doesn't matter. Or at least, he will deal with tomorrow when it happens.
I, on the other hand, am a prisoner in a cage that I built for myself out of layers and layers of responsibilities and routines and insecurities and neuroses and the awful knowledge that a father's absence, no matter how involved he is in family life, is, in the end, neither here nor there. But a mother's absence is like a massive crater left by a huge neutron bomb. You are always being watched, and judged - if only by yourself. It is mad but it is a fact and it is suffocating. It's not fair. It's just NOT FAIR. And it is why women with small children can get so very angry.
[Pause. Look down. Look up. Smile.]
When I started to learn how to cook I was such a completely rock-bottom beginner that even now I tend to think I am being really extremely adventurous for cooking something as complicated as lasagne.
I am always utterly baffled by those things they do on Bake-Off like "yes I'm making orange blossom, cardomom white chocolate and thyme shortbread dippers with a curried Florentine crumble topping" and you're like WTF? What's wrong with chocolate chip cookies? (Don't answer that.)
Anyway I thought I ought to try something more exotic and that is how I ended up making Edd Kimber's passionfruit tartlets. His original recipe was for caremelised banana and passionfruit tartlets but I thought that might do my head it, so just stuck with the passionfruit.
It involved the making of a passionfruit curd, which I was excited and nervous about as it involves cooking a lot of egg yolks without scrambling them. And usually if there are eggs to be scrambled or a sauce to be split or pretty much anything to go wrong in a recipe I will get it wrong.
But they turned out well! Despite being a bit fiddly. And incredibly impressive for an after-dinner treat when no-one feels much like a huge slab of actual pudding. I took the leftovers up to Kitty's nursery and the teachers there said that they kept well overnight. I know! I'm such a creep.
1 pack puff pastry from Jus Roll (all-butter, in the gold packet)
80ml passionfruit puree, strained (which is the insides of about 5 passionfruit whizzed in a blender or whatever and then passed through a sieve. Do not worry, the blender will not mash up the passionfruit seeds, they will just get left behind whole in the sieve. Passionfruit seeds are INDESTRUCTIBLE. Like Lego.)
5 egg yolks (gulp)
175g caster sugar
1 Grease a 12 hole muffin tin and then roll out the puff pastry thinly.
2 Cut out 12 pastry rounds. The recipe specified a 10cm cutter, but I thought that was too big so I went one down. Press each round carefully into a muffin tin depression and prick the bases with a fork. Stick in the fridge for 15 min.
3 Line the pastry with a triple layer thickness of cling film - it doesn't melt I promise - and fill with baking beans (or whatever you use if you don't believe in baking beans). A reader has pointed out to me that you can also use fairy cake cases to hold the baking beans against the pastry. Very brilliant idea - I will be doing this in the future. Bake these in a 180C oven for 15 mins, then take out the beans and film and bake for another 8 mins until brown. I did not leave mine in for long enough and they turned out a bit anaemic so make sure yours are nice and tanned.
4 Allow the shells to cool in the tin.
5 For the passionfruit curd put the egg yolks and passionfruit puree into a pan over a medium heat and whisk constantly until it becomes thick. This will take a while, about 10 mins or so. It will get really quite thick, too - so if you're wondering "Hmm, is this only how thick it gets?" then keep going a bit longer. Once it is thick add the butter and stir to combine.
6 Set this aside to cool a bit and then fill your pastry shells. Sprinkle the tops with caster sugar and either caramelise with a cook's blowtorch (or a real blowtorch if you are also an electrician) or more likely shove under a hot grill for 30 secs.