There is this girl I know – not very well, I just follow her on Twitter – and the thing about her is that she is about to have her first baby, like any day now. And the reason that she is on my mind is that I am so appalled, really AH-PPALLED at the things that people say to her about the imminent arrival of her child.
Anything she tweets, anything at all – “had some toast just now” or “feeling happy today” – gets an avalanche of responses like “Ha ha! Forget eating toast once baby’s out. You’ll be living off dust bunnies! LOL” or “You’ll never feel happy again after you have a baby! Best u know now! Ha ha ha LOL.”
I mean what the fuck is wrong with people. Really what the fuck. The only correct response to anyone who is having a baby, first, second or whatever is “Oh that’s so wonderful congratulations how brilliant.” If the pregnant person actually presses you for more detail, (which they never do), then, and only then, you say “Yes okay look, life isn’t really the same again, and sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s shit and you wonder what the fuck you’ve done. But once they hit 18 months everything’s pretty easy.”
And they look at you like “18 months… 18 MONTHS?!?!” Because they haven’t had a baby yet and they don’t fully understand how glacial everything becomes. How s-s-s-l-o-o-o-w-w and b-b-o-o-o-r-r-i-n-n-n-g it all is when they are really small. But it’s not their fault. And nobody, least of all my acquaintance on Twitter, ever declared or really seriously thought that having a baby was easy, (except Tanith Carey in that thing in the Mail the other day, but she just wrote that for money, like we all do).
I understand the motivation: I get it. When you are the parent of very small children, you are so vulnerable, you are in such a tight spot, so much on the back foot, that there is huge tempation to claw back a bit of an upper hand by laying into those lower down the food chain. You might not be having a glamorous time, your marriage a shambles, your hair neglected and your face a roadmap of despair, but you can – at least! – turn to those less experienced and laugh nastily and say those dreaded words “Just you wait,” and feel briefly victorious before going home and spending the evening chipping Weetabix off your surfaces and sobbing into a tumbler of gin.*
The “just you wait” thing barely happens second time round. People keep their distance. Although there is a little bit of a thing where people say “With the first one you can carry on pretending that life is sort of normal but with the second one you just give in and it’s all about survival.”
And I’m like, I’m sorry – at no point have I ever with Kitty pretended than “life is normal”. We live, still, as if we are under siege. (The deputy books editor of the Evening Standard, Katie Law, once said to me “You get your life back a bit once your youngest is three,” and she is right about most things, so I believe her.) I can’t see how having a second can possibly make me leave the house less, have less fun, curtail my freedom more.
It’ll all be familiar. It’ll be the difference, says my husband, between driving somewhere unfamiliar, and then driving back home. It’ll be the easiest time I’ve ever done – I’m going to chew up the next three years and spit them out. Bring it on.
While I wipe the foam from my chin and repent my hubris, please turn your mind to cheese scones. These are a thing my friend Becky B makes all the time, as she says that she always has all the ingredients – and she has a very good point: in a tight spot when only something homemade will do, these will save your skin without, probably, having to dash madly to the shops.
This is not Becky B’s recipe, but they are nice all the same.
Makes 6 biggish ones
225g self-raising flour
40g butter at room temp or as close as possible
a pinch of salt
some milk – about 150ml
2 large handfuls of cheddar – reasonably strong – grated on the fine whatsit of a box grater
Preheat the oven to 200C
1 Sieve the flour into a bowl (or just dump it in and swizzle with a whisk)
2 Cut in the butter and rub together until it is crumb-like
3 Add the pinch of salt and 3/4 of your grated cheddar. Now incorporate this together using your hands, trying to distribute the fine strands of cheese evenly through the flour.
4 Now add a long sploosh of milk and mix in with a knife. Then add another sploosh and you ought to start being able to gather the mixture up into a sort of dough.
5 Turn this out onto a floured surface and roughly shape into a round. Don’t worry if the dough looks a bit scratchy, just make sure it is at LEAST 1in thick (use a ruler because I guarantee you don’t know how thick this is). Scones don’t rise much in the oven and so you need a scone to be reasonably thick before it goes in the oven or you’ll get some miserable little pancake. Cut out your scones, re-roll and cut until you’ve used up as much of the dough as possible.
6 Arrange on a greased baking tray and finish off with the rest of the grated cheese piled on top of each scone.
7 Bake for 15 mins
*In their defence – “just you wait”ers are often the most helpful, solicitous and kind once the baby is actually out.
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