I'VE seen a glimpse into my future - and it's quite an amusing sight.
Travelling into work on the Shoeburyness Flyer this morning, my perusal of the Metro was interrupted by the arrival in the seats opposite of two young boys, aged about 5 and 3, closely followed by their mum.
As the journey progressed she warned them that the train was designated a "quiet one" and people were only allowed to whisper on it. Amusing, and the youngest lad lapped it up, speaking in hushed tones for the next 50 minutes.
Mum was certainly going to have her work cut out. She had a journey all the way to Doncaster and would have to keep her two boys amused for several hours. There would also be a lot of to'ing and fro'ing from seat to pushchair to retrieve various drinks, snacks and toys. But judging by her efforts on the way to Fenchurch Street I imagine she was going to sail through it.
Why my optimism? Because this lady was able to give her kids a full and comprehensive analysis of Star Wars.
Having mentioned the films the eldest boy began to ask questions and mum had the answer to everything. Good knowledge for a girl, I thought.
In fact, even my own, rather piecemeal recollections on the subject were put into context. I reckon she would have got big marks if she had adopted it as specialist subject on Mastermind.
This clever lady gave fine descriptions of the main characters, remembered which one was R2D2 and which one was C3PO, explained the battles between the good forces and the evil ones, and gave a pretty good description of Wookies, the Force, the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star.
Here's an example...
SON: So Luke Skywalker has the force, is he like Dr Who?
MUM: No because the force is like magical powers. Dr Who doesn't have those, he's not magic. He just has a sonic screwdriver."
My favourite moment, though, was when mum actually got stuck over one of the army of villains. She knew of Imperial stormtroopers and the like, but this one fact evaded her.
Suddenly, the dry looking businessman opposite folded his Times under his arm, removed his glasses and looked across earnestly.
"I think you will find they are called X-Fighters," he said.
I guess being a parent you need to be the fount of all knowledge.
Meanwhile, Livvy continues to grow. She is now pretty snug in the Big Boy's old Winnie the Pooh pyjamas, which were hanging off her a few weeks ago.
And she is advancing in other ways, too. She managed to roll over on her own the other day, and punched her little soft toy Mr Cow off the changing table this morning.
Don't know where she gets her temper from.
Newsflash: I am applying for a job online. Oh yeah, it's a happening thing this new web thingy. Apparently it could be the future...
The other day I did a great Anthony Bourdain recipe called Daube Provencale. I borrowed it from one of his books and fed it to wife and mum in law, who loved it (or so they tell me)...
WHAT I NEEDED:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Boneless lamb shoulder joint, cut into 2-inch pieces (had to use my electric knife for this because wanted to keep the bone)
A packet of cubed pancetta (or bacon cut into lardons)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup white wine
1 cup strong, dark stock
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 bouquet garni
Zest of 1 orange
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
4 sprigs of flat parsley
WHAT I DID:
Salt and pepper the lamb
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan (or dutch oven) and add the butter.
Let the butter bubble then die down and add the lamb in pieces (you may wish to do this a batch at a time so they cook better).
Cook on high heat until the lamb is all deep, dark brown. Do this with the bone and any meat left on it, too.
Remove meat from pan and set aside.
Add the pancetta or bacon to the pan and cook until crisp, then set aside.
Pour away some of the oil, then add onion, celery and garlic and cook over medium heat until it softens.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for a minute.
Stir in the flour and cook for another minute, then add the white wine, scraping up the brown stuff from around the pan.
Bring to the boil, reduce the wine by half then add the stock.
Bring back to the boil, reduce to a simmer then return all the meat and bacon to the pan, together with the bouquet garni, carrots and orange zest.
Season with salt and pepper, cover the pot and simmer low over 90 minutes, occasionally skimming the fat from the surface of the stew.
After 90 minutes add the potatoes.
Cook for another 15 minutes, skim any oil from top, then add parsley at the end and serve.
I steamed some broccoli with this and added chunks of bread but it can be served as it is in big bowls.