Wednesday, August 31, 2011


When our son first left home about three years ago, I found it very difficult to do the supermarket shopping. It was especially hard to walk past the packaged mango and pineapple pieces because I always used to buy them for him to eat as snacks.

Now I'm ok with this. Kind of.

Missing Daughter 2, I now have trouble driving through the district of Leith - which I've had to do on several occasions in the past few weeks - because she used to work there and her flat, now rented out, is there.

And then, the other night, I was lying in bed listening to the radio when this came on:

It's a choir singing Eric Whitacre's "Sleep", which her Edinburgh choir used to sing so beautifully.

I couldn't listen to it that night. I can't listen to it now.

I suppose it'll get better eventually.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Can it really be...?

It's Son's 27th birthday (Happy Birthday, Son) but he's not here. He's having a few days off in the Lake District. According to the weather forecast, it might not be raining. This is him a few weeks ago, giving his nephew a professional (washed) pinkie to cheer him up.

Here, never before published (world exclusive) is an extract from my diary, written slightly post-event:

7 September 1984

... Anyway, around 6.15 am - ish, I suppose, I began the second stage of labour and felt the possibility of pushing and [Son] was born at 6.42 am. The cord was wrapped round his neck. The midwife tried to untangle it but couldn't, so cut it, and so he started crying when only his head was born - which was weird but quite encouraging.

He was born a bit chilled so was taken away to spend the morning in an incubator, but not before he'd had various cuddles and a little feed.... He's beautiful - quite perfect, no missing limbs or birthmarks or anything. He's very like [Daughter 2] at that age - a slightly longer head and bigger nose, but otherwise her spitting image... .

Well, I suppose he still has a longer head and bigger nose than Daughter 2 (who has quite a small head, with nose to match) but he doesn't look like her any more, I don't think, apart from the thick, dark, wavy hair. And he doesn't have a big nose - in fact it's rather an elegant one, I think.

It doesn't seem 27 years. And I would wish that I was back there again if I didn't have the diary to remind me that it was quite hard work:

15 October 1984

[Son] has now (famous last words) started sleeping through the night. He went on waking twice a night for four weeks, which was somewhat tedious, but then took to waking just once, and in the last week this has changed from being 4ish to being - today - 7.30. However, at the moment it's midnight and [Daughter 2] is coughing away, which makes me wonder if the night is actually going to be unbroken. Both she and [Daughter 1] have been waking occasionally, [Daughter 1] with night terrors.

But then, there's -

January 9, 1985

[Son] - I adore him. He has a lovely little, smooth, soft, bouncy face, with a dimple in his left cheek when he smiles, which he does a lot. I love carrying him around. He's at the stage when he just leans against you in a relaxed way, not struggling to get down. I can't help being surprised that I'm so besotted with a boy. I really did think girl babies were much nicer!

I did indeed think girl babies were nicer, just because I loved my own girls. I mean, I knew it was silly; but I felt it all the same - until I had my son, at which point I fully saw the charms of boy babies. Ah, nature, how it programmes us to nurture our young!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


I've been in the study most of the day (and quite a lot of the previous days) fighting with the computer in the attempt to arrange the church magazine, which is more complicated than usual this month. I think I may have won the fight.

But look at Grandson! Isn't he delicious? Aren't all babies delicious? The shiny eyes; the bouncy faces; the hopeful expressions; the squashy limbs.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why don't cats eat slugs?

Why don’t cats eat slugs?

I have a wide selection of these slimy horrors in my garden. They come in two principal colours: the tan and the black, though I do also have the earth colour.

Of these, the tan are the most disgusting… or maybe the black. The tan ones are the colour of the contents of Grandson’s nappy, only slimier, moving and with horns. The black ones are perhaps more evil-looking – (why am I, the owner (servant) of two adorable black cats, saying this?- it can’t be the blackness so it must just be the slugginess) - but they have the advantage of being more visible on paths and therefore less likely to be trodden on by mistake. I mean, I wish someone else would tread on all my slugs (sorry Buddhists) but I’m not keen to do so myself.

But why don’t cats eat them? Cats eat all sorts of disgusting things, such as cat food, which smells revolting. Unfortunately, Cassie and Sirius can easily differentiate between, say, Whiskas sachets, the contents of which are slimy and evil-smelling, and the much more expensive Sheba mini-cartons, the contents of which look and smell much the same to me. I imagine that our furry friends favour them because of the word “Premium”, which is printed on the outside of the Sheba. I knew it was a mistake teaching them to read.

Anyway, surely slugs are made of meat? They look quite nourishing. I know that cats are attracted to moving things, whereas slugs don’t exactly gambol across the grass. But then Sheba doesn’t move very fast either and they’re very attracted to that. And prawns. And Dreamies. Wouldn’t it be great if our cats spent their days prowling in my herbaceous border, hunting down the slugs who munch on my hostas and phlox?

Snails might be a bit crunchy.

Yes, you’re right. I have better things than this to do and am procrastinating. Onward!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Another ending

Two funerals a week is perhaps a bit many, reminding one of one's mortality: the skull beneath the skin and all that.

Today's was of an old lady whom I visited in her care home because I was her church elder. She was very confused and kept bursting into tears and begging me to take her home to her own house. I never knew her unconfused so didn't ever find out much about her except that she was a widow with no children and had a niece in England.

There were only 13 people at this funeral (contrasting with the 350 or so at the previous one). On the other hand, this lady was 91 ("I'm 46!" she used to tell me) and I imagine that most of her friends were dead. It turned out that she used to be a nanny / housekeeper in Canada to a family with five children, and they thought so much of her that they named the youngest after her.

It made me realise that I'd kind of assumed that she hadn't had a very interesting life - just because she wasn't able to tell me about it. Whereas she clearly had.

When my confused aunt was in her care home, I took care to put pictures of her when younger around her room: photos of her in Pakistan, wearing Pakistani clothes and talking to children; or with her husband, young and cheerful. I wanted the staff to know that she'd been competent and lively in her time.

(Well, that was an uplifting post, wasn't it? One day, we'll all .... )

Meanwhile. little Grandson looks around thoughtfully, working out what it's all about. Do let me know when you find out, little G.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I went to the funeral of the lady in the cycling accident today. The funeral announcement asked all her cycling club friends to come on their bikes. And they did. If you click on the photo, you'll see some of the bikes locked to a bench which was brought out from the hall. And the church was packed with people of all ages, many in brightly coloured lycra (though most of them were still inside the church at the point that I took the photo).

It was a wonderful celebration of 75 years of energy and cheerfulness.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another weekend older

It's been a busy weekend, though not (for me) in any productive way. Daughter 2 came home at the weekend for a wedding dress fitting and to discuss various weddingy arrangements with her husband-to-be, who's in Edinburgh appearing in the Fringe. The fitting was on Saturday morning and Daughter 1 also had the first fitting for her matron-of-honour dress - Grandson having been up till now a limiting factor in this process. Here he is, above, recovering from his exhausting life. (You can almost imagine from this photo what he'll look like when he's 80 and having a nap in his armchair with his hat at a rakish angle.) And here he is below, having a kick on his mat. Those socks didn't stay on for long.

Then she and the chap discussed cakes and hymns and ... well, I'm not quite sure but it took a long time. Then they went off to discuss photos with his friend the photographer, and then Daughter 2 came home again while he appeared in a show and then she went off again to see him in another show. Meanwhile they were going to be here for a meal, and so were Daughter 1 and Son-in-Law (who was going to come over on his bike) but then Daughter 2 and future husband didn't have time for a meal and so SIL decided not to come over and Daughter 1 thought she'd better go home...

It was that kind of weekend. Today Daughters 1 and 2 spent the afternoon with Daughter 2's Edinburgh friends in a mini-refined-hen-afternoon-with-various babies and now Daughter 2's gone back down to London exhausted, poor lamb, for another far-too-busy week at her very tiring job.

Big sigh.

Mr Life and I spent this afternoon with friends in the country, which was nice. Because Daughter 2 had our (one) car, Mr Life and I used a car belonging to the City Car Club, which we've just joined. You book a car over the internet and then go and collect it when you want it. We joined mainly because now that Grandson has joined the family, we can't transport Grandson, his parents, my mum and us, all in one car. So this seems like a useful way round the problem.

What a boring post. Sorry. Never feel full of inspiration when Daughter 2 has gone. And she'll arrive in London at midnight thirty or something. Alone. Hmm.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Distracting myself from my thickness

Oh, it's a terrible thing to be thick. And I am. Having signed up for Facebook, I can't really see how you're supposed to work it. Possibly I might understand it if I tried a bit harder, but I can't be bothered. There seems to be a lot of information about friends of friends, which seems irrelevant to me. (Yes, I know I spend lots of time reading the blogs of people I'll never meet...) What I need is a young person to instruct me. Daughter 2's coming home at the weekend but she's got lots of weddingy things to arrange.

Anyway, I'll distract myself by posting pictures. Son came to visit us twice within a few days (we were honoured) and Sirius lay on his legs. These big blue things are Son's feet. It's funny how Sirius looks in photos. In fact he's the nicest natured, most tolerant cat in the world (I've met all the cats in the world, of course) but he looks rather severe and reproachful here.

Here's my mum cuddling her great-grandson. Thank goodness that he's here to cheer Mum up, because she's not well, she can't sell her flat and her upstairs neighbour is being difficult about downpipe repairs. "I just want to run away," she keeps saying.

This is the second of Son's visits. Look at those butch bootees. Son used to have a pair just like them.

They had a bit of a chat. It's so odd (but sweet) seeing the person who was (it seems to me) a baby himself such a short time ago, and was the baby of the family, cuddling his tiny nephew. Tempus (as I'm not the first to remark) fugit - and extremely fast.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Today, pursuing the philosophy of reminding ourselves (well, me) why retirement is a good thing, we went to Flotterstone at the foot of the Pentland Hills, on the southern edge of Edinburgh, and walked in the sunshine. It was glorious. It's a long time since we did this - just because there has never seemed to be time - but it's about 20 minutes' drive from home and we shall make it one of our retirement habits. We didn't exactly walk up the hills; mainly round them.

It was very quiet. The reservoir made little plishing noises.

The heather glowed on the slopes.

The grasses whwhwhwhed. A peewit went "Peewit". (Is that a Scottish word? Not sure. Lapwing is the other name for this bird.)

It was very peaceful.

It didn't rain.

And I wondered, as I so often do, why I live in a city.

(Mind you, I wouldn't like to have been there in last winter's snow...)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Isabelle cuddling Grandbaby

Bowing to popular demand (it must have been at least four people...) here's a picture of me with Grandson. Admit it: he's lovely!

And here he is again. Look how he's growing out of his newborn-sized suit. He looks as if he's going to have long legs like his dad, which is good.

My colleagues - my ex-colleagues - have now been back at work for two days, which makes me feel that I've really and truly retired. And it's a very odd feeling. Mr Life is on holiday this week and yesterday we went on the train to Berwick in the north of England, which was very pleasant. We walked around the walls in a holidayish fashion. I wanted to do something on this first college day to distract myself from feeling that I should be at work. I actually felt a bit sad about not being there, which is silly because I made the decision to retire so that I can (among other things) spend time with Daughter 1 and the baby.

Several of my colleagues emailed me to say that they were missing me, which made me feel better, though of course it may not have been entirely because of my wonderful sparkling personality; it could also have been that I normally do things that other people are now having to do. Guilt...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Birth (and life) and death and thoughts of these

This is a photoless post because though I got Box Elder's fine instructions (for which many thanks) for reducing photo sizes and have printed these for future use, I feel it's a bit late at night to try anything new. I'm not really good at new things in the technological line. Mr Life has just organised me to join Facebook - well, he did it last thing last night - and I haven't fully grasped what it's about, despite having just finished watching "The Social Network".

In fact, the film has made it all seem somewhat sinister, which it doubtless is in a way. I only want, pathetically, to read Daughter 2's ... um... page (is that the word? or do I mean wall?) to brighten up my life - though she phones more or less every day anyway so it's not as if we're out of touch. I never signed up for Facebook when my offspring were younger so as not to be instrusive but these days, Mr Life's on it (with her permission) and keeps me telling what Daughter 2 has posted so I reckoned that I could join too. I don't think the other two offspring use it much. And I don't think my friends do much either, though I could be wrong. Anyway, doubtless I'll get used to it, though forgetting my password between yesterday and today wasn't a brilliant start. I eventually remembered it.

A nice lady in our church, a lifelong keen cyclist, decided to do a 75-kilometre bike ride to celebrate her 75th birthday and to raise sponsorship money for the church. So she did. That was at the end of June. On Wednesday of last week, she was in a collision with a car when she was cycling and she died of her injuries. It's so sad. But I suppose that, looking at it another way, maybe it's not that sad to die doing something you like, when you're in good health and have led a reasonably long life. Though what is a reasonably long life? I'm sure one's opinion changes as one gets nearer the three score years and... whatever one has in mind.

I'm editor of our church magazine and when I looked in my pigeonhole today there was an article that she'd written a week ago for the next edition, enthusiastically describing where she'd gone on her fundraising excursion.

It's all a bit sobering, this life thing. Meanwhile, Grandson is looking around with his big blue eyes, gazing into our faces and smiling. Or looking indignant. Or tragic. Or hopeful. Don't you love that feeling of being bumped on the cheek by a sweet, soft, blunt little baby face?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lifting mine eyes

Life is somewhat dreary at the moment. Not half as dreary as for those poor souls who've lost their homes or businesses or jobs because of the riots in England (which appear to be over... let's hope) but somewhat less than splendid all the same. Also it has been raining in Edinburgh for what feels like the past forty days and nights. Though, miraculously, not actually today (yet). And it can't have been raining the other day either when I went on the above short walk, which is all I really have to tell you about today.

Edinburgh is surrounded by hills, even though it's in the Central Lowlands. You can imagine what the rest of Scotland is like - the other bits are the Southern Uplands and the Northern Highlands.

In the photo above, you see the Pentland Hills, which are slightly further away than they look, but not much.

And on my return towards home, here is Corstorphine Hill.

I may have blogged about this before but here is the garden of a chap in the next street. He likes to clip his plants into neat shapes, which he trims with small clippers every few days. Wonderfully appropriately, he's a retired hairdresser.

Here's his hedge. The photos are a bit sideyways because you can't really stand directly in front of the houses of people you vaguely know, taking photos of them.

Nearing home, there's the hill inside the city, Arthur's Seat, in the distance.

The Pentlands again - we would have this view from our house if we just lived up the hill a little bit. But we don't.

According to my son-in-law, who knows about these things, I have nearly used up my Blogger photo allowance. I didn't know there was such a thing. I wonder if this will publish.

Ah well. Off to change the bed, do a bit of dusting and then go to the supermarket. Have a good weekend, one and all.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Oh, for the days when my children looked like this.

Currently, as I have bemoaned before, Daughter 2 (in the middle) is in London. She's there mainly because her husband-to-be wants to be an actor and therefore feels he has to be in London. I have no idea why anyone would want to be an actor. And there are too many actors for the work available so he's impecunious. And at the moment, he's in Edinburgh because he's appearing in the Festival Fringe. And London is suffering horrible riots, which have been breaking out all over the place for the past three nights. Idiot young men are looting and burning shops and houses. And she's there - not at the moment near any riots but who knows where they'll go next? Any parent can imagine how we feel about this.

She often works late but, thank goodness, is not going to do so this week. And she and some friends have agreed to spend the night in whoever's flat seems furthest from danger - not that this is easy to assess, since the rioting has been breaking out in various places. How ridiculous does it seem, in a so-called civilised country, to have to evacuate your home and seek shelter with friends? And yet I'm very glad she won't be alone.

I'm not a person who is often angry but I'm angry now. Angry (not just on behalf of my daughter) and totally helpless.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Grandson mainly sleeping

The weekend featured a lot more adoration of the Grandson because he's so delicious. SIL keeps putting him in this hat because he thinks it makes Grandson look like a little fisherman. We suggest that it has more of a gnome-like effect (a very lovely gnome).

Grandson napped on Mr Life.

He and Daughter 2 cemented their relationship.

SIL cuddled him while Daughter 1 took the opportunity to knit some (more) socks.

Grandson then took a nap on my knee. Daughter 1 was kneeling beside me and I couldn't resist the urge to take some of her very long hair and drape it round Grandson.

"He looks like Rab C Nesbitt," said Mr Life. (If you're not Scottish, you probably don't know who this is. Be grateful.)

I can't be having that, so I tried again. Better. He doesn't look his best with his face all squashed. Neither would the rest of us.

One shouldn't take advantage of innocent children. Sorry, Grandson.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Festive rain

Daughter 2 is up in Edinburgh for the weekend for a wedding dress fitting but also to see her family (including her nephew) and her actor husband-to-be, who's up in Edinburgh for three weeks to perform in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (while she's down in London - yes, quite).

The morning was quite sunny but then it deteriorated. Above, you see our local hill, Arthur's Seat, swathed in mist. Very seasonal. After the fitting, she met up with her chap and they got very wet. Later we picked her up and all went to see Daughter 1 and the baby.

They bonded.

He napped in a somewhat melodramatic attitude. "Ah," said Daughter 1, "the Death of Chatterton pose."

I can see what she meant.

Daughter 2 tried on Daughter 1's veil, with a view to borrowing it. Her jeans were still somewhat damp so she had rolled them up. "My bottom's wet too," she mourned.

"You need a better fitting nappy," suggested Son-in-Law.

Then things got a bit silly.

Friday, August 05, 2011


I just included this photo from last weekend for the benefit of our son-in-law, who's doing semaphore in the background. I'm not entirely sure why he was doing it. He seems to be signalling Q. It's a long time since I did semaphore - in the Guides - and it's never come in handy till now. Or come to think of it, not even now. But I'm fond of the lad and it's nice to see his smile.

There are quite a few things that I've learnt and never used. Algebra, for example. Geometry. Well, most school things, I suppose: the imports of France and the date of the Reform Act and the Latin for "My girlfriend's sparrow is dead." ("Passer mortuus est meae puellae.") And I suppose that knowing what metaphors and similes are isn't vital for one's continuing existence either. It's quite satisfying to know about these things, though, as a sort of compendium of vaguely familiar knowledge. However, there are lots of things I don't know that other people probably consider rather important. Who was in Status Quo; what colour an earth wire is (everyone ought to know that but alas, all I remember is that it's not brown - which is the obvious colour for it to be, in my opinion); how to change a tyre (well, I think I know that in general principle but I wouldn't attempt to do it); how a computer actually works; who the Home Secretary is (I might remember after a while); most stuff about well-known films.

I've just come in from a pleasant evening hour in the garden, driven in by tiny biting beasties. That's something I don't know: what's the point of tiny biting beasties? Yes, yes, to feed birds. But could birds not eat tiny non-biting beasties?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Mislaying one's head

Am exhausted with various minor tasks and crises. Am beginning to think longingly of a nice desk with some nice simple marking on it and some nice cheery students to teach.

Still, I did manage to pop into Daughter 1's to have a little fix of Grandson. I don't know why the room seems to be at a very severe angle. What can I say? Art photography.

While Daughter 1 and her son admired each other, SIL (you can see him in the background) wrote thank-you notes for baby presents. He's a New Man. He also tidies, does washing, shops, cooks etc. He's impressive.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Not being Lang Lang

Thank you for all your helpful piano-related comments. Actually, I've just had another little go and it went better. My playing was a touch on the halting side - well, ok, it limped along - but my hands operated independently for much of the time. Not necessarily independently and correctly. But if I made mistakes, they were different mistakes for each hand - which is progress.

I need distraction from the sadness of missing my son and daughter and of dealing with my mother's constant outpourings of her worries. I feel that the only solution is to find something new in my life. Well, there's lovely Grandson, but I can't expect the little soul to rescue me singlehandedly from my slough with his tiny little starry hands. So my retirement hopes - I wouldn't call them ambitions because I don't feel any confidence in being able to do any of them - are to try to learn the piano and maybe, if life ever becomes less complicated (suffiently uncomplicated to be able to strew the house with bits of fabric and to wrestle with a sewing machine - I am not good with machines either) to do some patchwork. Or at least something creative. Which might involve writing something more than a blog. Or might not.

The piano is the only one that I feel I have time for at the moment. The odd fifteen minutes, creating no mess, is just about do-able. And I must say that I quite enjoy it, in a feeble and incompetent sort of way.

I must stop blogging, or at least posting, every day! It's fun but doesn't exactly move my life forward. Though actually, fun is useful for cheering one up.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

All cows eat grass

No, alas, I haven't seen Grandson today - not since Sunday. I must remedy this, though life is currently a bit full of thrills such as booking a coach for guests at Daughter 2's forthcoming wedding, taking my mum to the hairdresser, hearing her various woes, arranging for a chap to come and unblock her downpipe and so on. Tomorrow features the dentist and getting Daughter 2's oven cleaned in preparation for her tenants.

In between, I've been having a go at teaching myself to play the piano. I'm not impressed with my progress.

I have various problems. One is that I'm not good at reading music - though I can read it a bit. Many years ago, at school, I played the violin, but was never really taught any music theory. I know about the length of the notes and what sharps and flats are and, if I think about it, which lines/spaces signify which notes. But the notes I know best are the ones of the violin strings - GDAE - and of course these are all in the treble clef. Though I've sung in choirs for most of my life, being a soprano hasn't necessitated any great familiarity with the bass clef either. Both in playing the violin and in singing, I've relied a lot on my ear and my memory - the music is a great help but really I need to hear the piece first and then I can read the music. I don't really think that this is reading! It's more following.

However, I think I can learn this all right. It will just take practice and a book - which I've bought. But the thing I find really difficult is getting the two hands to do different (but similar) things at the same time. I'm sure everyone finds this problem. I just wonder whether there are some people - maybe including me - whose brains find it particularly hard to divide themselves into two. Or if you practise enough, does the breakthrough happen?

I only started last Wednesday and haven't practised every day so it's not suprising that I'm not at concert standard yet, and I am getting slightly better at playing the little tune at the beginning of one of my children's old piano books. Maybe it's a mistake to start with Book 3, but we don't seem to have Books 1 and 2. And I can play the hands separately - neither is difficult. It's the co-ordination! I'm okay for a few bars but I keep falling apart.

However, I often think that, if I couldn't read words and someone told me about it, it would sound like an impossible accomplishment. But it's easy. Touch typing sounds hard but can be learnt within a few hours. And piano playing (with both hands) can't be impossible. People do it. Children do it! My children used to, though none of them practised enough to become particularly good. My father was very good, though, as are my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew and my niece. But they're all scientists. I wonder if this is relevant. Maybe my arty brain isn't up to it.

I'm going to have a go for a few weeks and if I feel there is hope of ever achieving even modest skills then I'll probably find a teacher. I just don't know whether I'm going to live long enough to train those hands to work independently.

Is there anyone out there who has succeeded in learning the piano at my advanced age?

Monday, August 01, 2011

A baby-free post

This is answer to someone's enquiry as to what was happening to our old plates now that I'd got new ones. It's hard to throw out perfectly good tableware, isn't it, even if you're reduced to fewer than you need when the family come round?

Apart from in the early years of our marriage, when our everyday plates were Melamine, we have had, for daily use, the pattern you see above. As someone said, I like blue! The pattern is called Indies and John Lewis used to keep it, so that whenever I needed to replenish the supply I just went and got more bits and pieces.

Eventually, John Lewis stopped stocking it and a few years ago I thought perhaps I'd go a bit more minimalist and get a plainer design instead. By this time, the children were beginning to leave so we kept the remaining bits of Indies for when it was just the two or three of us, but for bigger family gatherings, I chose Nil from Habitat.

This is it. I'm not minimalist by nature and now think it's nice but perhaps a bit plain (for me) but the real problem with it is that it chips very easily and because of the blue line round the outside, even the smallest chip shows up, as you can see in the photo. I was contemplating throwing away the chipped ones and buying some more, but was reluctant to buy more (because it chips...) and then Habitat went bust and that was that.

So: I've thrown away the worst-chipped Nil and am using the remainder together with the remaining bits of Indies for Mr Life and me, while using the new stripy/spotty china, padded out if necessary with the plainer unchipped Nil, for family lunches. Mix and match, you see. Thrift. Or something.

Anyway, enough of that. Would you like to see what I made for pudding the other day? We were having friends for lunch and since we've been having them for lunches for the past ... oh, nearly 40 years, I keep having to find something different to give them. In this case, Toffee Truffle Bombes. Not a vitamin in sight. Sorry, the picture above should be lower down.

First, you melt toffee or fudge in milk. Then you whip cream and fold it and some fromage frais into the toffee mix, and freeze the result.

Then you beat it and put it in your Nil cups, making a hole in the middle of your toffee mix.

Then you melt chocolate in cream (as in the saucepan picture), put this in the holes and freeze it again.

Later you unmould them, and - I forgot to take a photo of this bit - decorate them with toffee or whatever.

They're quite filling! But delicious. Not exactly healthy... though we did have them with strawberries. That's got to help. Or not.

Here's the recipe. Sorry if it's not in the right terminology.

Toffee Truffle Bombes

150 g (3 oz) toffees or - I recommend this - fudge (see note at end)
150 ml (quarter pint) milk
150 ml (quarter pint) double cream (ie thick)
75 g (3 oz) plain fromage frais (I'm sure you could use thick yogurt)

Chop up fudge, put in pan with milk and heat till fudge dissolved. Cool. Whip the cream but only until it's thickened a bit, add the fromage frais, mix into the chilled fudge mix and then freeze in a shallow container for an hour or two. Take out, beat enough to soften a bit and then spoon into six cups, spreading it up the sides to make a hollow in the middle. Pop cups in freezer.

Filling -
150 ml (quarter pint) double cream
105 g (5 oz) plain chocolate, chopped

Place the cream in a pan, bring almost to boil, add chocolate, leave to melt a bit for a few minutes, beat till smooth, allow to chill a bit and then spoon into the hollows in the cups. Put in freezer for at least two or three hours.

Remove from freezer about 20 mins before you want to eat them and put in fridge to soften slightly. Unmould by putting them in bowl of warm water and then fighting them out with a palette knife. They should now be chocolate side down.

Garnish -
2oz chopped fudge, fudge sauce or whatever.

Note: the recipe said to use toffees: to put them in the freezer for 30 minutes before you started, to make them more brittle, and then to chop them into little bits to facilitate dissolving them in the milk. Mr Life happened to wander through the kitchen just as I was about to wield the knife and he kindly offered to do it. Some considerable time later, when there were little bits of toffee flying around the kitchen and he was covered with fine sticky toffee dust up to his elbows, we decided that fudge would have done just as well. In the interests of science, I tried the fudge version the following week and it was fine, much quicker and about 1000% less sticky.