Monday, 25 February 2013

Cheese scones

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.

Cheese scones
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.


  1. I have a friend who has used the expression "you can't do that when you have children" more than any other I have heard her utter in 6 years. Last week when her son had his verucca an inch from my face (he was "showing it" to me) while simultaneously wiping snot on my arm she told me I had "better get used to that sort of thing" as I am now pregnant. I pointed out my child might have one or two more manners than hers. Didn't go down well.
    PS. Oddly you have not managed to put me off having children, though you'd think I'd be crying myself to sleep every night for the next 5 months.

  2. I absolutely hate people like that...makes me SO cross!
    P. S. It's all infinitely less scary second time.

  3. Delicious!!! I cannot wait to make these! I love them warm with Marmite or with Granny Smiths - not together though!

  4. 18 months??!! Fuck-a-doo. Only 15 more to go then. Am I allowed gin yet?

  5. Your husband is totally right. There are a few moments that are about survival, usually when everyone is crying at the same time. On those occasions I dealt with the baby first as todders are buggers at changing their minds about what their tantrum is about and you just get stuck in a tantrum loop. If that failed I would just put cbeebies on.
    Generally, though it is so much easier, far less anxious. You know some stuff and you realise that you the stuff you don't know doesn't matter anyway. You also know that they grow out of the tricky bits and that's a massive comfort.
    People generally say stupid things to pregnant people anyway. It's one of the reasons pregnancy makes me so bloody grumpy

  6. I hate people like that. Second baby not nearly as much of a shock as first, and I was infinitely more chilled about second baby once born than the first. People said some pretty awful things to me both time I was pregnant, and only a small fraction of it came true. Mummy Limited is right - For the most part 2 is easy, unless both are playing up at bedtime. In those moments the older one is banished to our bed while I deal with the younger one - works a charm, both asleep in under 10 mins that way! Then just have to perform child transplant to get Maddy back to her bed before collapsing into a relieved heap on the sofa. For daytime emergencies we have for peppa pig recorded than can be healthy, but it is a godsend.

    1. Elizabeth Medovnik26 February 2013 at 23:23

      I have been so thankful over the last fortnight for St Peppa Pig and her blessèd box-set. How did I manage the first 2 years without it?

  7. Esther, I PROMISE YOU it is all about phases ... new-baby-no-sleep phase... what the fuck am I doing phase... why are the teachers so horrid to my baby phase.. why do their friends keep falling with each other phase (this does not happen with boys).. why is their homework so difficult phase first boyfriend/girlfriend phase... dealing with emotional fall-out phase... how to tell them about sex phase... then, when they are about 20 you can stop worrying quite so much and they start worrying about you...

    Mary-Jane x

  8. Oh dear, I can't have these as I've gotten terribly fat since Christmas and am not allowed carbs, even though it's making me feel completely demented and as though I could eat an entire loaf of bread in about five minutes.

    I will bookmark them and eat them when I'm thin again.

  9. I had the WORST pregnancy with my first. I was sick from the off until the day of my 18 hour induced-ending-in-forceps labour. I had cholestasis from 25 weeks (itching like HELL, literally wanted to rip my skin off), SPD, pregnancy asthma...who knew that even existed?! I had a MASSIVE aversion to garlic and onions (i am normally a garlic fiend) and i could tell (and gag) at 10 paces if someone had eaten it up to 3 days previously...i PROMISE that is not an exaggeration. Garlic is everywhere and in everything. Except Marks & Spencer's cheapy pizzas. It was HORRIFIC. I hated EVERY second of it. Which was destroying because i always thought pregnancy was about floaty dresses, eating pickles, swimming and yoga. NOPE. SO. When one of my closest friends' started lecturing me about how it was only going to get worse afterwards, she had to be temporarily banned from my life. As did ANYONE who thought telling me that you "forget the pain" of labour was in anyway helpful. You have to GO THROUGH the pain before you forget it, right???! Anyway in conclusion, having a new baby and not puking constantly and gagging each time someone breathed in the same room as me was BLISS in comparison. Of course it's hard but it's not horrific. and there are terrifying moments but not 9 months of constant hell. And guess what? I am doing it again! (of course the new theme of the doomsayer's now is "Oh it's MUCH harder with two"....ugh!!!!!!!)

    1. I think this is one of my favourite comments ever left on this blog. And there is some stiff competition. I hope pregnancy #2 is less hellish so far?

    2. It's very early days (but i feel safe saying it on here but it's NOT REAL LIFE or anything) and so far, so good. But each morning I open one eye, wait for the blanket of nausea hell to envelope me and then spring out of bed in a whirl of grateful delirium when it doesn't! So fingers crossed!

  10. Thank you for saying this, I had started to think it was just me! I'm at 20 weeks with my first, and as I've 'popped' everyone is determined to tell me life will be unbearable in so many ways. I've found myself talking more to those without babies in the house as its the only way for me to cope at the moment, apart from my very best friends. But I hope your last comment is true, and I'll just have to wince internally and just remember I am the smaller fish at the moment. And try not to do it myself later.

  11. Ever since being pregnant and having my son who is now 3 months I have been compiling a mental list filed in my head under 'things I will try never to say or do around pregnant women or new parents'. A couple of examples are:

    When a poor pregnant women complains of sickness/backache/lack of sleep NEVER wheel out the predictable:
    'Well this is NOTHING compared to labour/caring for a newborn.'
    Piss off, this is how I'm feeling NOW, don't belittle it.

    Never, as my sister in law did to me when I said I thought I was as ready as I could be for the arrival of the baby, turn to another parent and say:
    'Ready? She thinks she's ready? Hah, she's got a lot to learn' *smug face*
    Well fuck you very much, you asked!

    Comment on the size of someone's bump/baby.. 'Ooh isn't it big/small'... 'are you sure you're/they're ? months?!'

    Also, now when visiting someone else's new baby I do not wear perfume if I know I will be having a cuddle. There is nothing worse than your beautiful, delicate newborn being smothered in the scent and then stinking for the rest of the day of someone else's Anais Anais. (Ahem, mother in law).

    I know generally people mean well and I'm sure I will fall foul of my own rules at some point but I hope at least some of the time I will be aware of what comes out of my mouth!

    P.S. love the blog!


  12. Oh god. I thought being knocked up was bad enough. Last 14 weeks have been like speed dating all the bad dwarves; itchy, grumpy, sleepy. I am the furthest thing from a magical pregnancy unicorn that there possibly is. And if life after this is worse, heaven help us all. Bring on bunkering down with box sets and toasted cheese (or scones. Yes, cheese and carbs can heal all). Nb, and if one more person looks at my husband and me says 'oh gosh, he is large, isn't he... Best of luck getting his baby out', I may throw a shoe.

    1. It won't be worse, it'll be fine, because you won't be bloody pregnant anymore. xxxx

  13. Tori - Congrats on the pregnancy! regarding the itching - tell your midwife asap (if you have not already), it could be a sign of cholestasis which needs monitoring. I only mention it as I had it with both babies. Main sign is Itching itching ITCHING, especially at night, and especially palms and soles of feet. They can give you something for the itching (thank god!), but will have to do regular bloodtests to keep an eye on your liver. Good luck and fingers crossed for you.

  14. On giving birth to our 2nd's my friends and I have all done immediate high-fives you NEVER have to do it ever again unless you want to - elation!

  15. When I was pregnant and constantly nauseated, one of my friends suggested that the pregnancy fairies are always fair... you may glide gorgeously through pregnancy, but then have the labour from hell... you may have a perfect sleeper at 4 four weeks, but then the devil-spawn toddler... you may have a child prodigy at 6, but watch out for 14... I take great comfort that for every bloody testing moment of parenthood, there is the potential that the little horrors will be great fun as they get older. It seems to be working so far (even with Miss 9 having mastered the 45 minute tantrum at 18 mponths... and still pulls it out). With my two, once past the first few months when Miss Older Sister pulled out a fair bit of testing behaviour, they generally take turns at being horrid rather than using the power of superior numbers to overwhelm me!

  16. About those scones - the less you handle them and the more damp the dough, the better they will rise. I make the ugliest scones on the planet but they are light and delicious. Handle with floury hands on a floured surface until just mixed - the dough needs to be precariously soft. A cutter won't work, so cut the dough with a knife - hence the ugly. For something different, I cook scones with paprika baked chicken pieces on the bone (near the end of the cooking time) and they soak up some of the flavour. Or, I did do that until husband went low carb (and lost a truck load of weight). So maybe don't do that.

  17. It could be worse, you could have twins second time around like I did last April - try dealing with 3 under the age of 3 during one of the longest winters ever. I'm a broken woman....

    1. that, my friend, sounds like an effing nightmare