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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ninth Letter: Chinese Five Spice and Charcoal

Hi *******

Wednesday 25th of January (significant date)

My home for the next 3 years
Today is a significant day for two reasons. Firstly, the module web site on my OU English Literature degree opened it’s doors, and with the opening my many decades of excuses about my lack of an education must leave. I’ve blamed everything from my genes and dodgy fourth finger, to the English teacher who made each twitching 13 year pupil in my class stand and spell, driving me to spend the entire year hiding behind my dad’s outside cotton hanky. (she never did ask me to spell anything) The second reason it’s a significant date is that it’s twelve years since Andy and I first met…. Oops, no that next month, ah well, if Andy reads this it will give him plenty of time to think of a treat.

It’s a strange week, I’m not sure where to start – probably with the things that weigh heaviest on my mind

This photo may not seem relevant, however it is a perfect
colour match for my Chinese Five Spice Spare Ribs

I wasn’t the best of cook in when we lived in the UK, but I could follow a recipe if given enough time and produce reasonably edible food. However since arriving in the Nederlands my cooking has got gradually worse. Obviously I lay some of the blame solidly at Andy’s door, there is so much he doesn’t want to eat: salads are out, unless full of raw chilli’s, chicken is looked upon with distrust and irritation unless cooked whole and roasted, the fish here isn’t as good as the Isle of Wight (fantastic fishmongers there, if not much else).  Lemons, ginger, leeks, French beans, broad beans have all been sent to Coventry as has Dutch beef. To make matters worse, much worse actually, two weeks ago we embarked on another special diet: high protein, high fat, no carbs or sugar. So my already reduced pantry has been condensed even further, we eat no root vegetables, fruit, peas, tomatoes, rice, pasta or bread. Producing tasty food has become a distant memory now we can no longer smother our meals in Heinz tomato ketchup. This week’s planned menu finally came to a halt when Andy bravely put his folk down on tonight’s assault. Piles of savoy cabbage, mashed cauliflower (which, in case you’re wondering, does not taste like mashed potatoes, even with added butter) and pork ribs in garlic and Chinese five spice, slow cooked then flash burnt. I was hoping for crispy spare rib with tasty trimmings  - I got charcoal and bland veg mountain.

‘All right?’ I asked Andy at the dining table, avoiding his eye.
            ‘It’s not your fault babe,' Andy replied, ' but I can’t take anymore this week, we’re eating out tomorrow.’ I peeked a look at his face, was that a tear?

                The other thing that’s weighing heavy on my mind is my new Dutch language course, it was my third lesson today. I’m not sure which part of my stupidly competitive brain thought it would be a good idea to study for a degree (having barely gone to school when it was compulsory), finish my 80’000 word novel (42,540 and counting) and learn Dutch, a particularly difficult language, especially the letter g which sounds like a h that your trying to gob across a dining room table.
Dutch home work completed in the Hejgend Hert cafe 
Now Dutch if you’re not aware has lots of weird, confusing rules. Grammar seems important (we didn’t have it at my progressive school in the 70’s), verbs keep changing with the addition of extra T’s, EN’s and occasionally the odd FT. Some word are preceded by DE and some by HET with no apparently need for logical or continuity. If you put JE at the back of a word it becomes all girly and baby like. You must speak differently to the elderly and people you think are more important than you. I’m not talking about putting on a posh voice, you actually have to change the words.  If this isn’t confusing enough the other two students are miles ahead of me, which doesn’t sit well and the teacher speaks 95% of the time in Dutch. Half way through the two hour lesson, I start watching the clock, nodding furiously whenever the teacher speaks to me, hoping she assumed I understand, which I don’t - and wishing for my dad’s old hanky to hide behind.

Andy didn't like the way Sean was eyeing
his meat in the Turkish restaurant 
Btw.. I’m very much looking forward to this weekend, I have my brother and his partner coming on Friday night on a whistle stop visit and buying trip in the Nederlands.  Then Saturday Steve comes to stay with us and give a keynote speech at a special games jam at NHTV.  The speech part doesn’t sound like fun I know, but Steve never passes a chance to wind Andy up or provide him with proof, that he’s not in fact always 100% perfect, leaving me to sit back and enjoy a bit of free entertainment.

Okay better go, Andy’s yelling for me to come and sit down.
Lots of love
Trace xxx

Ps… still not drank and have no desire too, beginning to wonder if I should see a doctor!

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