My favourites

Thrift in the kitchen

IMG_4748(Note: you should read this post as if you are mimicking Nigella)

My enduring and long-standing passion for food and cooking has recently turned to improving our kitchen efficiency. This sounds awful and not about deliciousness, but it is. It is about reducing waste, using smart ways to cook more efficiently and most importantly turning left overs from worthy but not that satisfying meals to truly special dinners. Just because there are only a few of us, doesn’t mean we can’t make meals as if we were a huge family, I just need to be clever about it. It takes planning for a small family to cook well without wasting things. Sure I could just buy portions, rather than a whole chicken, and I could forgo food like slow roasted lamb shoulder, but I won’t. Essential to my recent efforts is the idea that I could do better. Cook better, plan more successfully and have routine dishes that follow on from one another. I am less successful with a strict menu planner with a week’s worth of recipes to shop for and cook. I need more spontaneity than that. I need to be able to see bargains at the markets, then plan around what I’ve sourced.

While I usually make everything from scratch, stock, tomato puree made by my indefatigable husband who processed hundreds of tomatoes over summer, home grown veg and herbs, with very few processed foods, I have improved on this lately by creating meals in a series. This works particularly well in cooler weather. I will be working harder in summer to continue this project. Let me give you an example. (Look away vegetarians).

Our family is small. Three people, one of whom may or may not eat dinner with his parents. A leg of lamb feeds 6 or 8 people. Lamb is expensive, you can reduce costs by buying from the farmer, which we do. What I really needed was a way to use the leftovers in a more sophisticated way. I hate cold lamb, hate it with a passion and will not eat lamb sandwiches. Introducing lamb pilaf – I started with recipes that were designed to use up leftovers, but a bit of research lead me to Azerbaijan’s national dish, delicious and fragrant with saffron. What I did then was modify the recipe. The roast lamb is already cooked, so I add it – scattered on the top of the cooking rice – only at the last moment, so it is warm but not more cooked. I also force myself to cut up the lamb straight away after dinner (or more frequently, ask my lovely husband to do it) and put it in the fridge ready to go. Planning, planning, planning. Roast lamb Saturday night. Pilaf Sunday night and lunch Monday. Tick. Tick. Tick. Thrifty and low effort.


Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice – Ottolenghi

Some of my more recent meal series are more elaborate. There is a rice recipe in Plenty More, Ottolenghi. I could eat it every single day of the year, I love it that much. It’s easy, a few ingredients, some of which can just live the freezer until it’s time. Then I discovered this chicken dish, Lebanese Chicken and Rice. This dish has similar flavourings to the Lemon and Curry Leaf rice. The Lebanese Chicken is made by poaching the chicken and the resultant stock is not all used in the final dish. Saturday night make the Lebanese Chicken, a family winner. Reserve the left over stock – measure it exactly for the rice recipe. Freeze. When it is time for Lemon and Curry Leaf rice, use the frozen stock as the base for the rice rather than water. It has an improved depth of flavour and takes no more time and makes full use of the chicken. No wastage.


Roast Lemon Chicken

Roast Lemon Chicken is another dish on high rotation in my kitchen. Without a chicken, the weekend is fine, but it just feels a bit off kilter. Roast a chicken. I like to use lemon and thyme, perhaps sage, or tarragon when I have some. I also like to roast chicken with a pool of white wine in the base of the casserole. Enjoy delicious chicken for dinner. Then straight after dinner, strip the remaining chicken from the bones and put in the fridge, then make stock from all the bones in the pot you cooked the vegetables in – be careful to remove all the herbs and lemon from the cavity or the stock will be bitter. Then leave the stock quietly simmering on the stove while you watch a movie or RockWiz or what ever it is people watch on Saturday night.


Left over roast chicken soup

Next night make this soup with noodles, some corn, coriander and chilli or indeed if you want the chicken to go even further make Chicken, lentil and kale soup. You have already cooked the chicken, you have made stock while you watched tv, and the lentils take a short time to cook. The left over chicken will make two dinners – or even soups for two grown up people and one small person’s chicken noddle soup – as well as two lunches.

Less waste, more taste. Less work in the kitchen. My newest favourite idea which is gaining momentum is a pasta bake on Thursday nights. We shop at the markets on Saturday. By Thursday night, the fridge is often full of odds and ends, a few of this, a bit of cheese, a handful of this, handful of that. Most of that will go with pasta, particularly if it is then topped with left over bread made into crumbs and topped with parmesan or better yet other delicious melty cheeses. By Friday night I am aiming for a near empty fridge, ready for the next day. Last week it was a small amount of bolognese based sauce (one serve for small boy for dinner) with silverbeet and kale added to it and stirred through pasta elbows and topped with bread crumbs and cheese. I aim for a single two person serving. Use all leftover vege and other ends but not too much pasta or sauce so it fits neatly into a small pyrex baking dish. This week it was mushroom, kale and cheese sauce with tiny bit of left over bacon. Topped with primo sale – which is a fresh cheese that softens rather than melts. Left over stale bread turned into rough crumbs – I didn’t even bother to dry them first.

Pasta bake

Pasta bake now on for Thursday nights

This new addition to the routine gives me something to work towards for the end of the week. Soup of veges and lentils is also a good way to turn nothing into something, particularly if there is stock and pulses on hand, you can make anything. I am working to increase my base recipes made from what is to hand repertoire so I can use everything up. Feels satisfying, will make full use of costly protein and other nutrient dense foods, and is simpler that trying to think through options when I’m busy. I now have options for post roast meat dishes, I have ideas for Thursdays, I have lunches at the ready. While I love the idea of Nigella’s pantry, particularly that scene from the early series of her throwing open the enormous space full to the ceiling with glass jars and natty bits in snap lock bags, it is wasteful. It uses too much plastic for one thing and it encourages shopping for particular specific meals. This is fine for special celebrations but for every day more thrift is my new goal. Use what is on hand. It takes water to grow food. It takes effort to make a garden. I am working to make full use of my resources.



The cat’s out of the bag


The problem with being a control freak, is that the conceit only works if everyone else plays along too.

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Hottest 100 – 20 years of paths I didn’t take

This weekend there was a return to the good times. The anticipation. The radios blaring all over the suburbs. A return to old times, when radio was a lifeline for lovers of music. A return to a time when waiting and anticipation was all part of the game. No instant anything. No internet, no SMS voting, no Spotify. Just vinyl and tapes. And the radio.

Twenty years of the JJJ Hottest 100. The music of the past twenty years – songs released between 1 January, 1993 and 31 December, 2012. The Hottest 100 poll, which started on JJJ in 1989, has changed a bit. The first time I was able to listen to the countdown was the first year I was in Sydney as an adult, 1991. The next year’s broadcast on Australia Day 1992, I was ready. And I made these.

Hottest 100 precious artifacts from 1992

Hottest 100 precious artifacts from 1992

I have carried them around for twenty one years. Through at least eight moves. That is now more than half my life. The top 15 songs contain 8 of my favourite songs of all time. I don’t have anything to play these tapes on any more. All the tape decks, all the walkmans, none of them are here any more. Lost over the years and broken and abandoned as CDs and then digital everything took over.

Now I wouldn’t need to laboriously record the music and then transcribe the playlists in minute writing, in four different colours. I’d just log on. I know there are golden moments on those tapes. The back announcing of songs, the sleepy (ok, drug addled) voices of artists doing interviews down the phone from the other side of the world. Those fleeting, ephemeral moments are trapped forever on magnetic tapes. Probably now unplayable.

The nostalgia created by the Hottest 100 this weekend lead me to reflect on all the lucky escapes I have had.

The missed opportunities, the chances not taken, the decisions which closed off a certain path. In 1992 I did not transfer into Arts/Law. Nor did I do well enough in first year uni to swap into Mass Comm – then as now, hard to get into and desirable. (I blame History 101 for that – a bastard C grade for that course wrecked that chance.) I didn’t stay in Potts Point. I didn’t do a lot of things. I did decided that I would study philosophy. I did only the minimum of other subjects that year. That set a path which turned into a doctorate, moving to Canberra the first time and a missed opportunity to marry someone with three passports and thanks to his baggage handler father, 10% fares on Qantas forever.

The ten years of songs, 1992 to 2002, reflect thousands of these moments. Heartache, young romance, parties, tragedies, mistakes. This year’s Hottest 100 countdown, is the soundtrack to every decision good and bad I have made for half my life. It is the musical accompaniment to all my joys and fears. All the sorrow and excitements.

The ten years after that from Are You Going Be My Girl to Spectrum (Say My Name) were among the most tumultuous of my whole life. They produced a PhD, another move, new jobs, a man and a baby. Massive changes.

When in the early days it was so difficult to record, archive, save and catalogue, now it is so simple. It’s fast but some of the fun has gone. It took me two minutes to mine the archive for the lists from the past 20 years and beyond to 1991. In 1992 it took me days to finish those tapes and I had to wait until Drum Media published the full list of the tracks as I didn’t know all the song titles and artists. Some of them I had heard for the first time, that Australia Day 1992. These track lists are now filed on Triple J’s website under archive – history. I have a special home in mind for those tapes. They really ought to be displayed as the cultural artifacts they are. They deserve a special place.

Only one question remains? What’s my favourite song from the 1991 list?

That was too hard. So I made a list. It’s here on Spotify – with the cool kids.

And here is the list with one of the most disappointing No 1 tracks ever

Thanks for the memories Triple J and here’s to paths not taken.

Talk so I can know where we are going

I can do it by myself

I can do it by myself

One of the best parts of being a parent is watching your child acquire knowledge and know how. Eating with a knife and fork, putting his own undies on, drinking from a cup one handed. He has been so determined he will insist on doing something himself, refusing all assistance, no matter how difficult it is, even to the point of sheer frustration, he rarely gives up.

Together with personal competence, we have reached a stage now where patterns of activity are well understood by our boy. What follows dinner is teeth brushing and story. If it’s Saturday, then its markets and not kindy. The carpark at the shops means cheesy-mite scroll, trolley ride, car parking ticket and change retrieval. He knows. He can anticipate what will happen next. He knows where the money goes in to release the trolley. He knows that change comes out in the slot after the parking is paid. He knows that the faster he can put his hand into the slot, the more chance he has to get the coins into his pocket and keep them. Cheeky minx.

The best part, is of course messing with those expectations and patterns. Sometimes this is his decision. Like refusal to ride in the trolley, or rather insistence on pushing the trolley at the supermarket. He insists he is a big boy and only babies go in the trolley. He is right of course, but it is daunting watching him practice not crashing while remaining calm, apologising to anyone and everyone who he runs into and continuing to shop. Life skills, I tell myself.

Competence. It’s important.

Sometimes it is my decision. Add new things. Add new challenges. Open your own door kiddo. You can get your own shoes on. You can be tricked and surprised. This is my new favourite element of parenting. Carefully withholding information to ensure surprise. At our place, we call these adventures. We have had a few lately. Some big adventures; driving to Melbourne, driving to the coast for Christmas, swimming lessons. Some small adventures; visiting friends, trips to the shops just for ice-cream or coffees. Holidays are great like that. Spontaneity is much simpler.

Didn’t take long, but he’s on to me. You were tricking mama he says, when I pretend not to be tickling, but sneak one. Or when he sneaks one over me and I am forced to relent and admit I was being tricky. He listens all the time. All the time. To everyone and to everything. The other day, I planned a swim and early tea at a friends while he was asleep and then we he woke up, announced an adventure! Where are we going? It’s a surprise, I said. As we set off, Robert and I talked of other things, careful not to let slip our destination.

Then from the back seat a voice, Talk! Talk so I can know where we are going.


Death and other friends

In 2007 while Helen was dying, I was torn. Torn between wanting her to die, and not wanting her to die. Sounds simple now, easy almost. A or not A. When she died, we would stop suffering, but we would stop having her too. We would sleep, rather than fret, but how selfish I felt.

Death however, has other plans for us all. We become the worst version of ourselves when we are dying. The selfish, bitter, mean and egotistical selves that we spend a lifetime from early childhood trying to repress, trying to pretend we were not, we are. Death makes fools of us all. Read More

Blogvember post the last … what no one tells you ~ part one

What you must not do, is reach behind you into your past and try to drag parts of it with you.

You are not that person anymore.

Let me tell you a story.

This is a story about ‘everywoman’. She’s you, she’s me, she’s your wife, your sister, you lover, your friend. Let’s call her Stella, although that isn’t her real name. Stella lives in a world where the truly important and transformational aspects about her life are hidden, not discussed, not for public consumption. She lives with a haze of unspoken thoughts and fears hovering just out of her grasp.

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

What no one tells Stella is how much of herself she will lose. Or about how much she will lose control of perfectly simple things, like getting in the car and driving away. Or about her bodily functions and how they will betray her while she is trying to get on with life. Or the boredom, or the self loathing, or the sheer frustration of trying all day to something easy and minor and trivial that cannot be achieved while holding a baby that won’t sleep.

No one tells her that everyone, every woman feels like this. In Stella’s mind they are all coping and it is only she who is paralysed standing next to your car for an eternity trying to decide if you should just carry the baby into the bread shop or whether you should get the pram out of the boot. As she stands there a stranger approaches her gently to ask if she is ok because she is concerned that Stella has been standing there for such a long time.

In Stella’s mind everyone else loves making craft and cuddling tiny babies while not reading their book. In her sleep deprivation addled brain, it is only she who is monumentally incompetent and you are the only one you who can’t do all the housework and cook the dinner and look after the babies all day.

What no one tells you is that this is the last bastion of the secret club that you can only enter by having a baby. A secret door that once you pass through it you can never go back. The changes are profound and you can’t know this from the outset. The mechanical details of having a child can be taught and explained but no one will tell you what it feels like. Not often does anyone try to speak honestly about the grind and the isolation, and if they do soft words in rosy colours are applied over the hard messages to soften, to conceal and to temper the blows.

If Stella is lucky she will be well supported. But no amount of support and encouragement is going to silence the noisy voices in her head telling her that she should love this, that it is natural and easy and that if it isn’t, that it is her fault. If she is unlucky she will not be supported. She will be bullied by doctors and nurses and her pain from the birth with never leave her. If her expectations, no matter how unrealistic about her birthing experience are not met, she will feel like she has failed in some way, and no one will want to talk about it. Not her friends, not her partner, not anyone; because after a while someone else cannot hear her tell the story over and over again without wishing it would stop.

Sometimes Stella will feel like she is surfing the wave to the shore and that soon, she will get up on her feet on the wet sand and walk, free from the clinging water. Other times the tide and the gritty irritating sand will trap her, pulling her back under. She will occasionally try to feel herself again. She’ll try to read the New Yorker or the Paris Review but the page will swim beneath her eyes and she will struggle to hold a coherent thought and then the baby will need a feed or comfort or the toddler will pull all the books off the shelf and Stella will leave the page there only to have to try to tidy it up later.

No one will tell her that it will take years before she will successfully drag some part of her past into the light and reconnect with it. If she is lucky she will know women with children older that her own, to give her glimmers of hope that one day she might be able to do these things again. The things that make her feel whole again. But today is not the day this is going happen. Today Stella will start at 5-30 and keep going till she collapses in the evening, only to have to get up during the night over and over.

Sometimes other women will tell Stella about the joy. The sheer bliss of newborn smell or rosy sleeping cheek or smiles. The telling won’t be enough to convey the heartrending and the unraveling of which will go with these. Or forever living with your heart outside of your body.


Welcome. Here is your life changing gift.

End of an era … good buy red stripey thing

End of an era

My red and cream Remo stripey thing has been my constant companion for the past 16 years. I was wearing it when my first nephew was born. I wore it soon after my own baby was born, it was the first piece of clothing I wore at home after Benedict was born. I’ve worn it for all occasions, almost, for all of those years. I own a Remo stripey thing bought during the “Good Buy Sale” of 1996. I’d wanted one since 1988, but before 1996 I was too student poor to own one, as modestly priced as they were, if you price them per wear.

Now both elbows have worn through, just in the past week. First one, and then the other.

The tragic part is that during the past three years I bought two new blue and white versions, one regular size and then one larger size to accommodate my expanding pregnant self, but I don’t love them nearly as much. I’ve tried but they are just not the same. The wearing of the red and cream one was rationed, judicious during the first year of Benedict’s life, as I saw it ageing, it wearing thin. I did break out from my own strictures occasionally.

Stripey and stripey show

I tried to routinely wear the blue and white versions, to wear them to the same stretch, to the same amount of ‘lived in’ as the red and cream, but the blue two were never the same, no matter how much I wore them. They were never exactly the same size, length or weight as the original. They were great, but not the same, the weight and the length were not quite the same as the original ‘one size fits all’ version. The red felt like a second skin.

Now it is so worn, its seams are coming apart. Its elbows worn out by leaning, by resting on tables, while reading the paper, drinking coffee, cooking the dinner and much more besides. It was always my weekend garment of choice. It was my after work first choice. And now it is worn out. Soon, it will just fall the pieces out of the wash. I will pull it out of the machine and it will just rent, from the sheer exhaustion of being loved to collapse.  I can’t get a new one. Remo General Store is now no more.

That’s it for my favourite piece of clothing of all time. It’s now to be retired in case it tears any more. I will keep it, carefully, stashed away, because sentimentally, I can’t part with it.



There be monsters – in praise of wild things and the darkness of childhood

‘Childhood is cannibals and psychotics vomiting in your mouth!’

Maurice Sendak died this week. As a child, his books were like sacred objects, which to me, is against the spirit of his work completely. Not only did I have to wash my hands before I touched them, I was not allowed to pore over these books without supervision. This is because almost all the copies we had were hardbacks, neatly covered in opaque library plastic, carefully hoarded by my teacher-librarian mother and protected by her from the sticky, dirty, page bending hands of children. They are even now, more than 30 years later, still in pristine condition; withstanding three children and five grandchildren.

As an adult, with my own sticky, dirty, page bending, book chewing child, this makes me incredibly sad. So I let him have them, all of them. And they are all paperbacks, and if we have to have two copies of each to see us through his childhood, then so be it.

Of course, being forbidden, only increased their cachet. More than once, I read them on the quiet, hoping I wouldn’t get sprung. Aside from being well looked after, they were also beautiful and subversive books, featuring imagery and themes, seldom dealt with in children’s literature.

I still remember the mild scandal that erupted about In the Night Kitchen, which features Mickey’s naked bottom, not to mention the rest of him. This was the cause of some consternation among librarians, although it was fair to say not my mother, who had bought it for the school library. In The Night Kitchen deals with falling into the dark, and indeed the bakers all have strangely even, square and short moustaches. The oven imagery is thinly veiled, in my opinion, and Sendak confirmed in interviews, that the references are indeed a comment on the Holocaust. Much more concerning you would think, than a naked bum or the full frontal Mickey.

A baby is snatched away by goblins in Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There. The beloved author and illustrator — who took a darker approach to children's storytelling — died Tuesday at the age of 83.

A baby is snatched away by goblins in Outside Over There. Image: Harper Collins.

Outside Over There, less well-known than Where the Wild Things Are, features incredibly distracted parental figures, who so preoccupied with themselves and their love, leave their eldest daughter in charge of her younger sibling. Young Ida is initially no match for the goblins who kidnap her baby sister while she plays her wonder horn. An allegory for children everywhere, that sometimes you just have to fix it yourself and be courageous and brave. Rescuing your little sister, what higher achievement could you wish? The dark themes of this book have so far washed over my toddler, although he recognises that the baby is in trouble and needs saving. In the middle where the illustrations are of all the crying babies the goblins have kidnapped, he shouts loudly about how sad they are.

I let him have Higglety Pigglety Pop! too. Subtitled There must be more to life, it tells the story of a dog called Jennie who has everything, but is desperately unhappy. It is the story of how having everything handed to you can make you unhappy, and that to be fulfilled, you need to pursue your own dreams – even if that means saving baby from being eaten by the lion and joining ‘The World Mother Goose Theatre’. This book too, features distracted, ill-attentive adults. In Higglety Pigglety Pop, the parents of the baby move house, and forget to take her with them. It is a book for older children, and yet despite the density of the text, the story carries Benedict along, just not in a single sitting, yet.

Sendak understood how frightening childhood could be, how images and ideas, without comprehension of context, could loom large; being considered wild, being naked and having grand plans, could all get you into trouble with adults. Could lead to being sent to bed, which for some children was a blessing, as it meant getting out of eating your dinner, a torture all of its own. The sadness a child feels when she realises that these adults have no idea what they are doing, is a sadness that never leaves a person. What Sendak’s books give you is a sense that it doesn’t matter if the world is a confusing mess, you can work it all out for yourself and that sometimes the monsters are just that little bit closer than you imagine.

Amanda Katz writes in an essay for NPR books, that it is the adults who are scared of Sendak’s books, not the children. She writes:

‘Meanwhile, he [Sendak] reminds adults — even those of us who were once those young and fascinated readers, but who are grown now — to trust our children, who may in the end be less fearful of climbing outside than we are to watch them do it.’

Fortunately, while my mother was over-protective of the precious books, she let us climb out of the windows and be wild things. Sendak reminds us, and we need reminding, that children need to be wild, they need to allowed to express themselves, and tell their stories, even when these stories are too difficult for adults to hear.

‘I knew terrible things, but I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew … it would scare them.’

Friday – this week I am grateful … I am not seventeen … right on time

Last night was date-night! We went to see an average film, but afterward went for a drink at a close by restaurant that has a bar. It might be a bar with a restaurant. Maybe it doesn’t know what it is. We ordered a glass of fizz and some food and were sitting talking about how to manage my return to work and our lives. The more things change, the more they change at present.

Then while we were making ourselves heard over the very loud music (yes I am not sure why we chose this place either but moving on) a song came on. Well not a song actually; a remixed sample of an old song – Ride on Time – remember? Black Box.

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Duplo toilet and how it won me a fantastic friend

I just returned from a trip to Sydney. Was fantastic – but more about that later. One of the highlights was meeting the wonderful @mamabook. I have known her for a while now, but we have only just met. This story is brought to you by the magic of Twitter.

Duplo toilet and basin

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Bloggy blog blog blog

I have advanced linguistic skills. I can converse with the best of them. I’ve made conversation with the Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia (true), as well as many other people. At the moment though, on any given day, if you listened to me speak, you would think I had some sort of disorder or at least a vocal tic. This is because I spend the best part of 12 hours a day with a small child. So we don’t have lunch we have ‘lunch lunch lunch’, we don’t wear a nappy we wear a ‘nap nap nappy’ and we don’t sleep we have a ‘snoozy snooze snooze snooze’.
I don’t subscribe to the ‘baby talk’ concept. And yet I can be found in the supermarket asking the baby if he thinks ‘daddy would like muesli’. As if the baby cares what his father eats for breakfast!

I have tried, once I caught myself at it, to just talk in a normal way to Benedict. I am however, like the DVD that has a ‘pause’ when changing layers. By 7pm I am not always ‘speaking normally’ and continuing with the story. Sometimes, for a long time after 7pm, I am babbling incomprehensibly because I have been doing that all afternoon.

Do you see they cars? The black ones? The grey ones? Do you see them?

Of course he bloody sees them. He knows what a car is, and a cat and a dog and a bird. Tell me something I don’t know mama, the baby thinks as I go on about them! The experts tell you to tell the child what you are doing – describe your actions they say. This leads me to deliriously tell Robert how I am now putting the pasta into the pot; ‘see how it is boiling’ ‘see the steam’, and now I am going to stir the sauce ‘let’s get a spoon!’  And look! mama is now going to get really demented! She’s about to go outside and water the plant plant plants with a glass of wine, before she really loses her mind completely!

Three years and counting – open letter to my child about his father

Three years and counting

Dear Benedict,

Soon it will be the three year anniversary of the day I met your father. I started my new job on 5th November 2007. Remember remember the fifth of November, I thought, well if I don’t like the ACT Government, I can always blow it up.

I met your daddy for the first time on my second day of work. It was a Wednesday. The Tuesday was a public holiday – no one told me that. I started on Monday in an almost entirely empty office with most people, including your daddy, taking the Monday off. So after an exhausting and emotionally draining first day in my new job, I had a day off to recover. Then on Wednesday when everyone actually came to work, I spend the morning being introduced to people; whose names I immediately forgot. I was quite freaked out. I then rounded out the morning with an absolutely appalling sandwich for lunch because I didn’t know where to go.

In the afternoon I was sitting quietly at my new desk, reading a cheery card from your lovely Mamie who was a bit worried and had sent me a card and some lip balm (it’s windy in Canberra in the spring, she thought). Suddenly, there was a crashing sound close by. The sound of sheet metal being hit with something. I jumped out of my chair with surprise to see your daddy standing next to my empty filing cabinet. His foot had collided with the cabinet in his enthusiasm to cross the space between me and the rest of the office.

Hello, he said, I’m Robert. After a few pleasantries he wandered off again to his little windowless glass box about 5 metres away. As they say that was the beginning of the end.

Shortly after this day, he asked me out for coffee to interrogate me about what I knew about industrial relations. I think I passed – I seemed to be able to answer his questions ok. I didn’t know at the time, but he had done his research (smart man your daddy). He knew who I was – while I was still quite in the dark about him! He seemed to like me. So I started giving him a hard time.

I cracked some jokes at his expense. He asked me out for drink after work. Soon I was seeing him everyday. I didn’t want there to be another single day when I didn’t see him.

My darling boy, your daddy is a wonderful, kind, witty and generous man. He knows a lot of things – like where everything is in the whole world, the names of all the Australian Prime Ministers in order to Federation. He knows lots about books and has read a huge number of them. He knows all about how government works. He can cook – really delicious food, and his lemon tart is enough to make you grow out of your egg allergy quick smart.

Most importantly Benedict, your daddy knows what really matters in life. Love, laughter, fun and joy. He is loving. He has loved you since you were just an idea and not yet a boy. He is the best daddy a boy could have. I weep with happiness at having met your daddy.

Your mama x