Sunday, 28 February 2016

Yoohoo, It's Time For Stew!

Oh Dear God. I must be really tired to have honestly written that title but oh well. It's all fun and games really and you know you love my way with words.

So, as you can probably, hopefully, unless you don't know what the word means, tell, I made a stew. Now, I tried to do this last week and sadly made the mistake of leaving it on the heat for far too long so that by the time I got back to it, it was burnt to a frazzle...and I mean it, the pot had to be thrown away...there was no way we could have saved it...I'm a safety hazard, honestly. DON'T DO THAT AT HOME, KIDS!


As we are taught incessantly from the time we can walk: 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again'. So I did...and this happened. Enjoy!

Not Burnt, Just The Right Cookedness, Beef Stew...Thing

450g Lean Diced Beef
Soy Sauce
Garlic Granules
Chorizo (I bought one large chorizo which I cut up into smaller pieces but you can get mini ones in your average supermarket)
1 Large Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
2 Large Carrots, 4 medium carrots, many little carrots (carrots...)
1 Large Leek (see above about carrots)
A Handful (or more) of Mushrooms
A Handful of Sage
2 Tins of Chopped Tomatoes
2 Oxo Beef Stock Cubes
Olive Oil + Salt and Pepper (Seasoning in general)

If your oven takes a while to warm up, I suggest turning it on before you start. Put it on around 130, preparing the dish while it heats up.
1. So first of all, you want to marinade your beef for as long as you can (although with mine, I was in a bit of a rush so I didn't leave it at all, but if you can, do!). Pour a dash...or two of soy sauce into a bowl, add some salt and pepper and any other seasoning (I used garlic granules and some Thyme) and chuck in the diced beef. Get your hands...or a spoon if you really want, in there and give it a mix. While that's marinading...or...stewing...ha! Prepare the veg, and chorizo, basically cutting them into reasonably small slices or chunks depending on your preference.
2. Once you're happy with the time you've left your beef to marinade, pour some olive oil into a deep pot and allow to heat up. Once it's hot (you can tell by looking, don't touch...duh), tip in the beef . Depending on how much you want, you may want to do this in batches. I didn't, but it probably would have sped up the process. You just want to get the meat so it has coloured but not too much as you will be slow cooking it later.
3. Once the meat is done, remove the pieces and place them in a separate bowl or on some paper towel while you do the rest. Using the same pan, now with additional meat juices (but you may want to add more olive oil) throw in the onion, allowing to soften, then the garlic, then the carrots and leeks and, eventually - once the slower veg have had a head start - add the mushrooms. If you want to add the bonus of my delicious chorizo, now is the point to add that too. 
4. Give the veg a stir, making sure nothing gets stuck to the bottom of the pan or begins to burn, adding more olive oil if needs be. Give it a taste (none of it will kill you, think of yourself as releasing your inner rabbit) and once all cooked to a reasonable degree (as with the meat, it is being cooked more later so don't worry too much) turn down the heat.
5. Now you can add the meat back to the pan. Mix all your ingredients up and allow those juices to flow. Once everything's combined, you can pour in the chopped tomatoes - you can also add some fresh ones if you like as long as they're peeled and cut up small but this isn't vital. 
6. Give it all a stir and throw in the sage leaves to just boost that flavour content a bit. Take your 2 oxo cubes and either crumble them straight into the pan dry and mix the stock in, or boil the kettle and make the stock itself in a separate jug before you add it.
7. Now, you can have another taste, altering the seasoning to your preference before putting the lid on and bringing it to the simmer - basically, wait for it to start to bubble gently, if it's pouring out of the lid and onto the floor creating a health and safety hazard, you've gone too far. 
8. Once it's reached this optimum simmering point and the oven has reached the right temperature, keep the lid on and place it roughly half way up/down on a rack. 
9. Now, you can simply sit back and wait for 1.5-2 hours, tasting on occasion, until you feel the meat has cooked enough and isn't could do the washing up while you wait or, if you're like me, you could leave that and just watch some youtube videos and read some blogs...take your pick. The finish point is when the meat is tender and yummy...the official, technical term. 
10. Take out, and serve with either pasta (tossed in some olive oil if you want to be all fancy pants like I did) or maybe some potatoes. I, luckily, had enough for leftovers twice so got to try both combinations and both were delicious. 

Have fun you! Enjoy that Stew!

Oh dear...I really do need to stop.

Happy eating.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

One-Pot For The Lot (and a plate)

So, you may have noticed by now that I have a great fondness for just seeing what happens when I throw a whole load of tasty ingredients onto the heat. You have? Well good,because here's another example. I just looked at what I had. I knew I wanted to make something warming because it was super nippy outside yesterday - I'm not a socks type girl and I'm pretty confident I couldn't feel my toes a lot of the time - and I wanted to use some of the chicken I had in the fridge. As the title suggests, I even managed to made this dish largely using just one pan (excluding the bowl I used to marinade the chicken and the plate I used mid-way through...oh and the bowl I used at the end.....anyway). This, dear readers and cookers, was the result:

Soupy Chickeny Spinachy Goodness
2 Chicken Breasts
For the Marinade:
Olive Oil
Soy Sauce
Garlic Granules
Mixed Herbs
Salt + Pepper
For the Rest:
Half an Onion
1 Garlic Clove
1 Carrot
A handful of mushrooms (or two or...y'know, however many you want)
Chicken Stock
White Wine

1. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a bowl, add a dash of soy sauce and however much garlic and mixed herbs you'd like for flavouring, grind in a some salt and pepper and give it all a mix. This dear chefs of mine, is your marinade.
2. Take the two chicken breasts and place them both in the bowl, using your hands to mix them around and making sure both sides have benefited from all those lovely flavours. Cover the bowl (tea towel, t-shirt, mum's favourite serviettes) and leave for an hour or so while you go off and do something else or while you prepare the other ingredients (always a good time-saver and makes you seem all professional too).
3. Chop up the vegetables (onion, garlic, carrot and mushrooms) into reasonably small pieces to add to the dish later. 
4. Heat up a deep frying pan or wok. and once hot, being all skillful and whatnot, tip some of the marinade into the pan as your frying agent. Once that is hot and sizzling, chuck in the two chicken breasts. Once one side has coloured (not too brown), flip the chicken to cook the other side. I sometimes find with quite thick chicken breasts, the best way to get them to cook through quickly is to cut a slit down the middle, either along or across so the heat gets inside more easily. Don't panic too much though.
5. Once the 2 pieces of chicken are reasonably well cooked, take them off the heat and onto a plate. Using a sharp knife (and a fork but not your hands because it's hot silly!) cut up the chicken breasts into strips or chunks, or basically whatever shape and size you want. Once they're in smaller pieces, throw them back on the heat, tossing them around until you can see they're cooked through (but still nice and juicy, no one likes dry chicken now, do they)
6. Now your chicken is cooked, you can put the pieces aside on a plate or on some paper towel. whatever floats your boat really. Keeping the pan on the heat, and still with the juices leftover from the chicken, tip in your onion and stir on a medium heat until soft (not burnt) and then add the garlic. Once these have had a bit of time to heat up, throw in the carrots, allowing approximately 10 minutes more than the mushrooms to get a head start on cooking, and finally add the mushrooms.
7. Now that all the veg are in the pan, spend a bit of time stirring them and moving things around just to prevent anything starting to burn but allowing them to all cook through and soften (have a taste! Yumm). 
8. Once they're all cooking nicely, you can add the chicken back. Give it all a thorough stir and mix it all together. Leave that to do it's thanggg and boil the kettle (no, not for a cuppa, we don't have time for trivialities, we're professional cooks). Once boiled, pour into a cup or a jug and add a chicken stock cube (of course, if you are prepared enough to already have some chicken stock you made earlier, then use that by all means!). Give it a stir, break up the cube and allow time to dissolve.
9. While that's going on, tip in some white wine to your pan (a capful or..three) and allow to evaporate.
9. Once the chicken stock is ready and the pan mixture is all...mixed, tip in the stock so that you're fry-up has become a yummy, chickeny soup.
20. Finally, throw in a generous handful of spinach leaves and allow to shrink and cook in the soup. Keep them moving and submerge them in the liquid to stop them burning and to prevent any raw leafy bits remaining. Check the soup for seasoning. pour into a bowl, and serve.


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Dear Billy

Dear Billy,

I am writing to you with some sad news. I have no idea where or how to start, how you will react or what it is I should say. I know that honesty is the best policy and that you're grown up enough to take things in your stride. Life has it's up's and it's downs and the best way to deal with the downs is to face them straight on. To take a step towards them, head held high and know that you're in control. Everything will be ok. I know it may not feel that way at first and that this will be a very difficult letter for you to read but I know that it needs to be done. Someone needs to tell you and I've decided that it should be me.

Almost a year ago now, you filed a missing persons report. You called us up and you told the man on the end of the phone, me - Detective Inspector Rupert Winnie - that you wanted to report a disappearance. You declared that your friend had been missing for over 48 hours now and that you last saw him in the park on Tuesday at approximately 6pm. You told me you'd retraced your footsteps, you'd circled the park three or four times calling his name before returning to the cafe where you'd both sat only hours before. You spoke to the man behind the bar who recognized you as a regular. You'd been going to 'Toby's Treats' for afternoon tea for years. You used to go there with your mum. She'd buy you a chocolate milkshake with cream and sprinkles but 'No sauce please'. Sometimes she'd even buy you a cupcake. Then you got older and you were allowed to walk there by yourself. You'd skip out through the garden gate and down the road, round the corner and across the street (using the zebra crossing, of course) and take your normal seat at your usual table and order your drink. 

So that's exactly what you'd done, that Tuesday afternoon in the early weeks of January, a new year and a new you. Except, over recent visits, you'd started taking a friend. You'd pick him up on your way out and head off together down the road, around the corner and across the street. You'd keep him close because you knew he was prone to getting lost. You'd sit together and you'd order a milkshake for you and a glass for your friend. He'd sit on the chair beside you, staring absent-mindedly out of the window, watching the world go by and the rain falling onto the pavement. 

Drip. Drip. Drip.

That day, your friend had been with you earlier than normal. He'd been with you at breakfast as you ate your cornflakes and sat on the sofa downstairs as you got dressed and brushed your teeth. He even came with you to help with the food shop. Your mum was with you then too because she struggles with the bags alone. Lunchtime passed and in drifted the afternoon. 3 o'clock hit and you were off, side by side with your companion. Some time between that moment, as the gate swung shut behind you, and the moment you reached the park entrance three hours later, your friend disappeared. You knew he'd been next to you in the cafe as always and you knew he'd been there when you paid. As you dropped the £5 note on the bar and waited for your 50p change, you could see him out of the corner of your eye. Yet sometime between that moment and your decision to head home, via the park, something happened.

Two days passed and you made the phone call. You told me what you'd been doing, what he looked like and where you last saw him. You explained that he was vulnerable. He was older than you and prone to accidents. Only the other day, you'd been walking down the road and noticed his absence. You couldn't feel him near you and your heart started to thud. You turned around and walked back the way you'd come and there he was. Covered in leaves and a little damp, scratches covering him from head to toe, one great tear across his top. He was stuck in a hedge and it took you 4 and a half minutes before you could finally pull him free. Before you could carry on with your journey and head for your destination. 

I took the relevant notes and I promised I would start a thorough investigation. After over two months of retracing footsteps and making inquiries with the locals, those who may have known him or seen him around the place, nothing had worked. I was getting nowhere and I didn't know how I could do more. Since then, I've kept trying. Between other investigations; stolen cars, a robbery or two, I've made phone calls and I've asked more questions.

A few weeks ago, I struck gold...although it was more like hitting coal. As I walked my daily journey from my house by the park towards the police station, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Colours in amongst the leaves. As I walked towards it I could feel my heart begin to sink. I knew all the information, I knew what you'd described. He was wearing his favourite jumper, the day that he vanished, green with a heart slap-bang in the middle, the word 'hugs' stitched inside. The bottom half was simply described as brown, a beigey colour, no more than that. As I got closer, the colours became clearer; they were faded, of course and the clothes weren't as clean, but it was them. No doubt. I pulled them away gently, careful not to tear them anymore than they already were; I needed the evidence, clues for my investigation. Pulling them free, I held the materials in my hand. A jumper but no owner. A few steps down and more material, torn, abandoned. Alone, once again. 

I carried these two, now scraps, in a sealed plastic bag. I didn't want anything to contaminate my findings as fingerprints would be necessary. On returning to my desk, I began the process. I won't go into details here but it's long and it's tiring. The clothes were sent off to forensics and data was collected. In total, the investigation took over a week and each day, I would walk past the spot where I had found his clothes and I would hope to see a glimmer more. To spot that vital sign that would let me know what had happened and where your friend had gone. Nothing. Nada. Rien. Niente. 

Then one week ago, a week to the day, I found him. I was taking my normal route home from work, passing the park and the bushes where I'd discovered his clothes, and there I spied him. Through a hole in the foliage, a passageway through to a bright green playing pitch beyond, I saw a crumpled figure. The scene wasn't pretty and I won't be showing you the pictures that I took. His limbs were bent at unbelievable angles and if he was battered and bruised before, this was far, far worse. At closer inspection, I noticed that one of his eyes was missing. I searched for hours around the field but as darkness descended, I had to give up and give in. I guess it wouldn't have helped anyway, your friend was long gone. 

It was clear he'd be abused. He'd been knocked around and thrown to the ground. My guess is he'd got stuck...again. As you walked along on your way to the cafe, his t-shirt had got caught and there he'd stayed. With more and more people traipsing past and children running around the pitch and over the road, cars passing and splash-back from the puddles, he was pushed further and further into the bush. Eventually, he must have fallen through the other side, past the leaves, snagged on some thorns and out into the mud. He must have been spotted. I refuse to believe he could have just sat there that long with nobody noticing. Nobody caring.

Yet, he did, because that's where I found him. Now, I know you'll say that it can't be true. That you know he was there with you as you sat and sipped your shake but sometimes our minds can be the greatest deceptors of all. When our heart is hurt and our body is shaking, our mind takes over. It takes control and it tries to help. It tries to reassure us that we know what we want to know. That what we need to believe happened, is what really did. The reality of the event is twisted with a new film created and changed over time to fit with what your heart wants to believe. You wanted to believe, more than anything, that you had been there, that you had looked after him and he had been by your side every minute of that day. You refused to believe that you could possibly have left him behind and not noticed, you insisted that his absence would have been noticed. But these things happen. One lapse in concentration and an accident occurs and maybe, just maybe, deep down inside, you were telling yourself that it was time. He'd been your best friend for years, stuck with you through thick and thin. But now...

Now you're nearly ten. Double digits. That bear has been through it all with you and yes, he's been your friend, but it's time to move on. It's time to put your teddy bear behind you and to face the world. 

One milkshake at a time. 

Best wishes and my greatest sympathies,

Detective Inspector Rupert Winnie

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Dear Doctors,

Dear Doctors,

When I say that, I refer to anyone who works in the NHS or with health in any way. As those living above rocks (as opposed to beneath) will have seen recently, there has been a lot of discussion and work going on by Junior Doctors and many others to try and help save the NHS. They've sung and they've marched. Scrubbed up, youthful, talented individuals in your field have taken to the streets to try and protect us, the public. To make sure that when we're ill, injured, scared, alone, we have someone there who we know is doing their best to help. Someone who isn't over-tired from inhumanely long hours with little time or space to breathe but who has come to work ready and buzzing. Something that, when it comes to our health and well-being, is very important. We need a smiling face and an able body, not a brain that's frazzled and eyes that are heavy.

I wanted to write to you because I need you. It sounds silly because so many people do but this is just one story. One story from one 20 year old who has relied on you for so long. Add me to your pile of patients who all love and respect the work you do, and maybe eventually someone will listen.

I've been in and out of hospital quite a bit over the last 20 years. When I was around 8 months old, I was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus and a shunt was inserted into my head to try and drain the water that was currently giving me a seemingly alien appearance. My head sat pretty large on my neck and I was at risk. Sadly the operation resulted in an infection that made me a very poorly baby. My parents sat day in, day out watching their little girl suffer. Another operation...more scars and eventually I was sent home. I spent many years after that traipsing up and down to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to be tested for any development problems, made to draw pictures and write, walk in a straight line across the room...something I'm surprised didn't result in some concern...since I can't even do that now...not without wobbling anyway.

I spent my childhood rushing into hospital at any sign of something that could be related to my Shunt. A migraine, a pain in my tummy and I'd be visiting the GP or on my way to A&E. From around the age of 12 these became more frequent with my tummy pains getting more and more severe and the gaps between episodes becoming narrower. Eventually, after years of uncertainty and many Appendicitis scares, it was agreed that my issue was scar tissue. Now, despite the hospital visits, I would fail to explain what this meant even now but this is how it was described to me: when you stand on a hose pipe or tie something around it, it creates a blockage, pressure behind the obstacle in front. Occasionally, my intestine acts as such. A band of scar tissue (whatever that may be) wraps itself around my intestine and causes a block. Nothing can get through and the more I try to carry on eating as normal, I make the blockage worse. The pain intensifies. The result is tears, complaints, a visit to A&E, a large dose of painkillers and a couple of nights in the company of kind and caring professionals. Eventually I go home. Eat, Sleep, Repeat...about 6 months later.

Each time, they would threaten that if this continued or became more frequent, if it began to interfere with my education or my general life, they would operate. They'd go in and explore. See what they could find and what they could retrieve. A treasure hunt but where the gold is some internal band of something-or-another which I highly doubt they would want to keep. Each time a doctor would mention this last resort, the butterflies would arrive. I'd well up and the conversation would be forgotten. Having been operated on as a baby and being so ill, I was terrified of the same.

Fast forward to last summer - summer 2015 - when those conversations met reality. I had gone into hospital as necessary, with sharp pains reverberating through my tummy and into my back. I'd sat in A&E, I'd been put on a drip. I'd been pumped full of painkillers, paracetamol, morphine, the lot and 2 days had passed. Nothing had happened and nothing had worked. So what did they do? They decided to operate. I wrote a whole letter about this afterwards, to the Royal Berks Hospital who looked after me and the nurses and doctors it's comforting arms hold. If you want to read it and hear my thoughts you can here. For now I'll get to the point.

My point, dear Doctors, is that you have made all this bearable. You have turned what could have been a 20 year long nightmare into a not-so-scary-but-still-kinda-scary-and-definitely-painful dream. Despite the long hours and the torturous shifts. Despite your exhaustion, your numerous patient visits you must make and all the other things you have to suffer in your job, you helped me. When I was lying in my hospital bed panicking because someone in a white coat had just told me they needed to operate, I had the caring concerns and kind faces of both doctors and nurses taking the time to reassure me and to tell me I'd be ok. That I was in good hands and I would feel better soon.

Five months later and I'm definitely better than I was. I'm yet to have a relapse and haven't been to the hospital since. You and those you work with are wonderful people. You spend years of your life training to look after others. To spend hours every day, more hours than any other profession I can think of, reassuring and saving those who need you. In my opinion, you should have whatever you want. You want the world? You want the whole world? Pink macaroons and a billion balloons and performing baboons and...(I really hope you recognise that or else I'm just going to sound completely barmy)...but you get my point. You have helped me and so many others in more ways than any of us can explain and you can only keep doing that if you get enough rest. If you're not overworked and underpaid and if people can appreciate the effort you put in.

If I wasn't freaked out by veins and a little squeamish around needles, and if gore didn't lead to me hiding behind a cushion...then I would have loved to become a doctor or a nurse. At the moment, I don't think I could. The pressure you are under to save people at their most weak and to protect those they love and who love them, from pain. I don't think I could cope. Yet I want to be in that environment. That's why I spent Wednesday morning completing my final training as a volunteer at Great Ormond Street. So I can help families and children when they're scared and everything seems to be falling apart. Because that's what you do and I want to say thank you.

Thank you and Good luck. I hope you get the world.

Lots of love,

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Sausagey, Spinachey, Pasta...y?

So, a couple of years ago, I went to my aunt's house where there was a family gathering being held. With her family alone consisting of 7 offspring and that's before you then add partners of offspring...and my family...well...lets just say, a lot of food was needed. The main dish was to be a fish pie however, as is appreciated by many, this isn't always a first choice option and especially, if, like me, you're not a great fishy fan. I may be singing it in choir but I personally disagree that 

'Darling it's better, down where it's wetter, take it from me'...sorry Sebastian. 

So, as an alternative, my cousin Eloise had produced a delicious pasta dish with the help from our good friend Jamie Oliver. Many things happened over that lunch time (including a little incident involving the fish pie on the floor and terracotta chips in peoples pies...don't worry Felix, we won't go further with that tale of woe) but one of the most important was me going away with that delicious pasta recipe that can be found here!

Since that lunchtime, I have found myself frequently recreating that dish, never as perfectly as Eloise but still very enjoyably. End results have varied and I will say there have been many incidences where I've come away, once again, persuading myself that I must work on my chilli quantities...but that's of no consequence. The point is, it's a tasty dish but today, yes, this very day, only moments ago, I finished a bowl of a slightly varied version of this delectable dish and here, I shall inform you of what I did. 

Proper Blokes' Sausage Fusilli...or is it?

Sausages (I used 3 herby pork sausages from good ol' Sainsbury's)
Fusilli Pasta (Although, when I looked in my cupboard, I only had a small amount left as well as the last remains of some pasta I just mixed them up...I know, wild!)
1 Garlic Clove
Mixed Herbs
White Wine

1. Chuck the pasta into a pan of boiling water, turn down the heat slightly and allow to boil slowly
2. Take the sausages and using some scissors, or if feeling risky, a knife and poke a whole in one end of each. Squeeze out the sausage meat from the casings and into a bowl...or wherever you want to while you do the next's your kitchen after all.
3. Drizzle some olive oil into a deep heavy-bottomed (frying) pan giving it time to heat up. Then tip the sausage meat in using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to break up the meat so it's not all in great, big know what I mean?
4. Allow the meat to brown slowly before adding the crushed (or chopped) garlic into the mix. Give it a quick stir and then throw in some chopped mushrooms. Allow these to cook through.
5. Give the mix a quick taste once it's all cooked through enough. If you think it needs more seasoning, now's the time to sprinkle in some more mixed herbs and, if brave, and better at judging quantity, possibly some chilli but be careful.
6. Pour in a dash of white wine and allow the pan to sizzle (and possibly spit so I suggest standing back) and the liquid to reduce. 
7. Finally, throw in some spinach leaves, stirring them around the pan allowing them to shrink and cook but not to burn (nobody likes a burn spinach leaf now do they?). Drain your pasta leaving a little of the cooking water over and pour the pasta and liquid into the frying pan. Give it a stir and a mix and a little bit of Monica in my life, a little bit of  Erica by my side......actually ignore that last bit. Maybe a little bit of Parmesan though, if you're feeling like it.
8. Into the bowl anddd

You're finished! Yum yumm!

(You can thank me later)

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Dear London

Dear London,

I've known you since I was very young. Ever since I can remember, my parents have brought me to see you, to stay with you and to get to know you and I have. I've gone from being a geographically challenged child constantly having to call her mummy to say she's lost to blossom into a geographically challenged 20 year old who has finally managed to refine her navigation skills around the big city...with a little help from a handy app or two (thank you CityMapper and London Transport - I'd probably be somewhere in Pimlico right now if it wasn't for you).

However, you do have your problems London. Those little niggly things that just wind me up. It's not just me though. Oh no. You see, when I decided I wanted to write to you with a few of my complains, I realised, who's going to listen to just one silly old blogger windging about city life? Having a little rant. So what did I do? I got back-up. Oh yes! Not only have my parents contributed to my list but, last night at choir, you were the conversation point both around the table at the pub and during the warm-up at the start of rehearsal. So you'd better listen.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love you very much and I'm very happy where I am but, you know what they say, there's nothing wrong with a little constructive criticism. So here goes.

Transport related Troubles
  1. People who try and cut corners and cheat the system in those one-way passages in the underground - You know, when they have those No Entry signs or just simply a barrier up to separate those coming and going to and from platforms...then someone decides to try and skip ahead and next thing you know...BAM! Two people are on the floor...or something. Keep to your sides people!
  2. Rucksacks and Wheely suitcases on tubes and buses - It's particularly the rucksacks for me. I mean, you make one split-second decision to face the other way and you've knocked two people out and squashed another up into a corner
  3. Queue-jumping for a busy bus or train - You know, when it's a bright and early sunny (with a chance of showers) morning and a bunch of suited and booted important looking people are standing at the bus stop or on the platform, neatly lined up in an orderly queue. Yet when the bus pulls in, that random newbie who has appeared from nowhere decides they have the right to push onto the bus, excuse me? 
  4. A separate but related point - When you get off the train at a stop before your own in order to let others behind you off and then everyone on the platform starts pushing past you to pile on...the doors close and damn! You've missed your train.
  5. You have to wait a whole 2 minutes for the next train! How on earth shall you survive - Sarcasm. If you read it incorrectly, I suggest you go back and try again putting on the appropriate tone. I am aware it's not the case for every line but, for many, the trains are practically every minute, every 2 at worst. There really is no need to rush. So take your time, sip you coffee, grab a sandwich. It's cool.
  6. Sniffers - Pretty self-explanatory but, just in case, they're those people who sniff. Repeatedly. Over and over. Non-Stop. For your entire journey. Just blow your nose!
  7. Loud music - So, you see those plastic, things you've got over/in your ears? Those were designed so you could listen to your own weird and wacky choice of tunes without us having to attend your private concert. Now that you've turned the volume up to full and you're imagining your future without your hearing intact, you might as well unplug the headphones and let us all have a proper listen. Although, if you're going to have it loud enough for us to slightly hear, I'd rather hear the words themselves than just that throbbing bass sound dimly from across the carriage.
  8. People who don't allow others with prams and buggies to get through when on a bus, or just simply going down the street - I mean, I can see you have quite a large rucksack but this lady who just got on the bus has a full blown Pram 360 with a rotating something or other (it will happen, just you wait) and she needs that space a lot more than you do! 
  9. People who smoke e-cigarettes on public transport... - It's in the name. They still count.
  10. Man Spreaders - You know who I mean. Those people who think they have the right to take up double the space on the underground just because they can. Seriously! Just close your legs!
  11. Slow people (with oyster cards) - Often newbies to the city...or 'tourists' but, honestly, haven't you read up on this stuff before hand! Have your oyster card ready when you get to the ticket barrier! It's not hard! (Although, just so you know 'excuse me, please stop telling my friends and family to hurry up, they're new to London, they have an excuse')
  12. People who eat food on public transport - We get it, you overslept your alarm and missed breakfast but that doesn't mean we all need to share in your mouthwatering experience of eating a Maccy D's breakfast benanza...or whatever they're called...on our commute!
  13. Drunk people falling asleep on you on public transport - You may not have experienced it yourself but you've probably seen it happen to someone else. Just take a deep breath and inch slowly, bum shuffle by bum shuffle, away. 
  14. Cyclists who think the traffic lights don't apply to them - They do, my friend. I'm afraid, they do. just skipped a red light and knocked over an old lady. Well done.
  15. Realising there's a cute dog in your carriage just as you reach your stop - No explanation needed. Just cry.
  16. Buses - Now, there's two main issues here: when someone presses a red button to get off the bus, the driver takes note and the screen on board informs people it is stopping. There is therefore no need to press the button again. Once it has stopped, it has stopped for everyone. You can, and may, get off. No need to keep Dinging. On the flip side, when someone has waved at the bus so that they can get on, and it has started to indicate, there is now no need for another person to step to the edge of the pavement, stick their hand out and wave like a maniac. See that orange flashing light? That's called an indicator. The bus is stopping. CALM DOWN!
  17. People not returning smiles on the tube - I mean, I know stiff-upper-lip and all that jazz but I'm actually in a good mood this morning and your child is singing adorably so I'm going to smile, at least have the courtesy to return the favour...Ooh, is that a turned up corner of the mouth I can see...oh no, you were just about to sneeze, whoops.
  18. People who wait for the barriers to close before tapping their Oyster Card on the card reader - It will work. You don't need to wait. If everyone did that, no one would ever get anywhere.
  19. And while we're on the topic - Those barriers, they won't work if you stand that close. Step Back!
  20. Commutes are looong - It may be just one city but some of those commutes really take an age. 2 buses, 3 tube changes and one Boris Bike ride later and finally, you're sitting at your desk. Damn, it's 17:00 already. Oh well, try again tomorrow. 
  21. Finally, a message to the mad drivers who choose cars over buses in this crazy city - Stop being sneaky and slipping into the correct lane at the last minute, I'm not letting you in. 
People related Problems:
  1. Left and right rules - It's very straight-forward. You stand on the right and you walk on the left. Simples. 
  2. Heathrow is still London - I know it's an international zone with people coming in and out from who knows where but you're still in London, still in England so please stick to the rules stated above. You want to chill on the escalator and just go with the flow, stand on the right. Feel like mixing it up a bit and having a skip down the moving stairs, fine but do it on the left. Got it?
  3. Small flats - I mean...this was specific to an individual who has a...small flat but it's still a complaint.
  4. It's expensive - It? what is 'It' exactly I hear you ask? Everything. Everything is expensive. Transport, food, shelter, life. 
  5. Creates a suspicious attitude towards kindness elsewhere - I liked this one. I'd never thought about it before but it's true. You become so used to people not talking to you on public transport...or anywhere that when you go somewhere else (up North for example) and they do - someone spoke to me for a whole train journey once and the bus driver called me 'Love' in Yorkshire - you are instantly on your guard. Who are you? Were did you come from? What do you want? Just take my money!
  6. Slow people at cash machines - It really isn't that hard. Here, I'll explain. Put your card in the little slotty thing that flashes. Type in pin (hint: remember pin before you reach machine) Select what you want to do with said card e.g. remove cash. Select amount of cash. Remove card. Wait for cash. Remove cash. Ta da! 20 seconds max. Sort yourself out!
  7. People who stop in front of you - This is especially true when someone pushes past you in the street then a few steps later just stops. Meanwhile you're in the zone, striding along and next thing you know, you're having to go through the whole 'english' pa lava of apologising profusely for something that wasn't your fault. It's not your fault their caramel frappuccino, no cream please, is now all down their new suit. 
  8. People not looking when they cross the road - Remember the hedgehog ad? With the little song? No? Have a little reminder.
  9. People who refuse to cross the road just because the little man is still red - He's not your dictator, we're not in America, there aren't rules on Jaywalking. If you can't see a car or you can see the lights are red, just walk!
  10. People who try to look like they're busy and important by power-walking...really slowly - You know, with the arms pumping and the knitted eyebrows but really they're still just sauntering along. 
  11. Chewing gum - Need I say more? It's everywhere!
  12. "Cheer up love, it may never happen" or similar - True, but you know what else may never happen? You may never reach your destination with the same perfect teeth as you started out with. Or maybe I'll just lightly step in this puddle right by you and dirty your bright white shirt. 
  13. When you're so small for your age that you're mistaken for part of a school group and told to find a partner... - I mean, this is very specific but she said it happened and apparently she did find a least for a bit, until she could escape. 
  14. Dirt in collars and cuffs - You get home, you're pulling off your tie and Bam! dirt and dust everywhere...actually, I really don't know...This was given to me by a man I do choir with and, having very little experience of collars and cuffs and the subsequent dirt build up, makes it hard for me to describe but for those who are put through this, I am very sorry.
  15. Finally, other people - By the end of our discussion in choir, I think we'd all concluded that life in London would just be a lot easier and less stressful if there weren't all those people. Oh well, I suppose it can't be helped.
So that's my little list for you London. Just a few issues. An area or two in need of improvement. But apart from that you're fab and I wouldn't have you any other way.

You'll have to thank the fabulous Forte, my parents and Bobby for contributions made to this. Anymore that I hear and I'll let you know. See, it's not a personal problem I have with you. Nobody's perfect. Just give it time. 

Much Love to you Lovely London (I do mean it, I promise),

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Dear Big C...Again

Dear Big C...Again,

I’ve written to you before but I want to write to you again. You seem not to have heard me the first time so now I’m getting angry. I told you to back down. I told you to give up and give in. We have an army and ours is growing. Doctors, Nurses, Scientists, People in Fancy Dress, People in Pink Bras running down the streets…we have support. What do you have? Nothing. Nothing except numbers. Numbers far bigger than you should have and numbers that are growing every day. Within the last 5 or 6 weeks, I lost my Grandpa and the world lost at least two incredibly well-loved and talented men, with many more swallowed whole by your jaws of selfishness and destruction .

Do you not understand how much these people are loved? Do you not realise how many you hurt every time you decide to act. I read somewhere once that funerals for the elderly are normally the quietist, the emptiest and the ones with the fewest to grieve. Not because they’re not loved but because they’ve lived so much and so long that people become lost along the way. That wasn’t the case with my Grandpa’s. That day that I got to say goodbye to him for one last time was in a church filled with people. Besides his ginormous family, 17 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren and with plenty more room to grow, he had friends from his village, he had friends from his past and from his present. Even greater though, he had the friends of his children. The friends, now hitting their 50’s and 60’s who once dropped in during their University breaks with my mum and her siblings or came by for the weekend. So many memories that they had with a man who, despite his age, was still taken far too soon. Why? Because you could. You still can.  

In the space of four days in the first month of a brand new, shiny clean year, you went on to take more. My Grandpa wasn’t enough. You had to keep going. So you started to take the artists. The musicians and actors that I have been privileged enough to have witnessed during my own liftetime. When I woke up to hear that David Bowie had gone, I was sad. I knew how much his music was worshipped across the world and how much his character meant to those who loved him. But when I heard how he had died and who had taken his life from ours, I was devastated. When Alan Rickman left us, it was the same. It’s one thing to die naturally. For an aged old body that has lived a fulfilled and happy life, to say it’s time to go and to slowly drift away. A sad time for those remaining but for a reason that they can, hopefully, at least partly, understand. You on the other hand. Knowing that people are being ripped from this life because of you. Now that’s not ok.

In the last year, I’ve seen more and more people’s lives being torn apart by your devilish hands and it’s made me really think. So many people are being hurt by, not only you, but those who exist in your world. Other diseases and illnesses that live so selfishly and only ever take, take, take. The other day, as I entered Notting Hill Gate tube station, two ladies were holding buckets. They were asking for money to be donated to Cancer Research, anything they could get. I took my purse and I emptied it of all the change I had. Even if it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, you add my coins to those of all those other many people who are angry and hurt because of you and it will make a difference. It will help someone, somewhere. It will start to spread a message.

As a thank you and a further way of reminding people, I received a bracelet.  A bracelet made of two ropes you knot together yourself to show that we are united against you. To show you that no matter what you throw our way, we’re ready to throw it back and more. I have worn it every day since and I’ll keep going. I want people to see this band around my wrist and the wrists of many others and to watch those adverts on television asking you to donate or to put on something pink and run like the wind…or walk…if you’re me. We’ll keep going until eventually cancer won’t be able to. Someone said the other day, and it’s starting to feel like it’s true, that you’re becoming the final straw that takes us all. You’re the grim reaper in your black cloak moving faster and faster round the world and taking over all of us. It’s a game of catch me if you can. One day you’re going to hit a wall though and when you do, we’ll be there in our thousands to take. you. down.

I hope that this letter gets to you and that you take in what I say. This isn’t one of those letters to be thrown on the junk pile or to be used for your shopping list of symptoms and struggles you need to add to your collection of pain. It’s a letter I want you to read and to absorb so that one day you give up, give in and go home.

Goodbye and Good Riddance,

P.S. to remind yourself of my previous letter sent to you a while back, click here

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Dear Emotions

Dear Emotions,

I just wanted to write to you to congratulate you. To say well done for managing to control yourselves so much more over the last month or two. Sitting in my room in Mile End feeling shut out from the real world and locked into my own head, tears running down my cheeks day in and day out, I really thought you'd lost control. One minute you were sadness, the next you were anger, you were opening a cage and releasing butterflies that I didn't need.

You were frustration. Frustration that I didn't know what to do. Awareness that sadness was dropping in regularly, a daily visit accompanied by tears and his good friends anxiety and panic. Yet knowing I wasn't moving. I wasn't doing anything to deal with these unwanted acquaintances. I was glued to my bed or to my desk looking out of the window and wanting to run. Wanting to pack a bag, throw it on my back, walk out of the door and never look back. I was messaging friends far away asking if they had space for me. Wishing they would tell me to just hop on a plane and come find them, that I'd be safe there. Knowing that even if they did, I wouldn't move. I was scared and I didn't know what to do.

I spoke to friends and I spoke to family. They saw what you were doing to me and how sadness was taking over. Everyone told me to do what I thought would be best. What felt right. It's hard to know what feels right though when everything feels so wrong. I knew what I wanted but I didn't know if it would help. I didn't know if I would suffer more by taking that leap. I come from a family where brains are rather large. In my aunt's family, of her and seven offspring, four went to Oxford and one to Imperial. In my family of 4, both my parents were at Oxford and my brother is about to graduate from Imperial too...and then embark on a PhD. My sister has one and so do a number of her friends. As I say, brains are big.

I'm not saying I'm not clever. I know that I've done well and that I probably could but I also know that from the age of 14, I kept the golden light at the end of the tunnel as the day I could leave compulsory education and not do anymore. I know that those thoughts stayed with me right until that day in September 2015 when I realised:

Damn...I haven't found an alternative plan.

So I went and things happened exactly as my fourteen year old self probably thought they would and so I left. My point is, emotions, that that was the best decision I made. I know it hasn't been long but, since I'm writing to you, you can probably guess what my focus is. I'm feeling so much better. Even before I had moved all my things out of my room in East London, I had an appointment booked with a GP. A time sorted to talk about my problems and see what could be done. As I expected, I failed to complete our calm and collected chat without bursting into tears. I left with anti-depressents. A box of little pills to try and stop the tears and the over-whelming effect that you were having on my body.

By the week before Christmas, I had my first appointment booked with another man. A man trained in Psychology who could send me to someone else who could help. I told him everything. I started with my childhood and worked my way up. We talked about friends and family and even relationships until he felt he knew me well. He gave me new pills. Pills to quell the butterflies and quieten the thoughts in my head. Another week and I had an appointment booked with Louise. My new best friend. The lovely lady who is helping me get through things and allowing me to smile. I follow her instruction and carry out her tasks. Everyday I make a plan, writing out what I want to do and get done. When I have a worry I pick it apart to make you realise that you're not needed. No need for frustration or anger, sadness or worry. I can fix this problem and everything will be ok.

Earlier this week, I saw my psychologist man again. A man who, 2 months ago, asked me to fill out some questionnaires that measured feelings of depression and anxiety. 2 months ago my scores were 33 and 23. On Wednesday they were 10 and 8. I laughed when I saw the difference. When I remembered how unhappy I'd been and how much I had cried. How many scores of 4 - feeling so bad it's almost unbearable - I'd given to so many things. Now the highest score I'd given was 2 and only for a couple of things.

My point, dear emotions, is that I'm working to sort you out. I'm taking control and it was only this week that I really realized how much I had allowed you to have control before. Now, I'm letting you stay, I can't chuck you out all together but you're living by what I say.

My body, my life, my rules.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Dear Butterflies

Dear Butterflies,

You seem to have flown away for now, or at least, that's how I feel. I hope that you enjoy where ever it is you've gone and that you stay there a while; enjoy the weather, learn to swim, have an adventure, take your time.

A month or two again, it seemed like I was stuck with you for good but now I'm feeling better. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect, not suddenly confident about the future or even next week, but I'm getting there. So I thought I'd just write to you and let you know what I've been up to, what I'm doing now you've moved away.

Last time you were with me properly, was probably before Christmas, since then, I've been doing quite a lot. The holiday was wonderful, a really perfect family celebration; parties, family, friends and food, music, many gifts and lots of laughter. For a few weeks, you were gone from my life, you'd spread your wings and flown away but every day I felt January approach and I knew you'd return. You'd stick me right back where you wanted me, waking early, feeling guilty for things I shouldn't. very lost and confused. You did come back for a bit but I think you've flown off now...fingers crossed.

I planned to move into the flat in London. I love my house and being in the country but there's only so many winding roads and getting stuck behind a tractor or a horse or two that I can take. London is so busy, a bustling vibrant city filled with things to do everywhere you turn. So that's where I am. Now that the fairy lights are up in my room, I'm home. So far, so good.

I applied for a course for September; a 2 year course that trains me in the philosophy and ways of the Montessori Method. I had an interview In December and by January, I had the official letter offering me a place. That letter has been put aside. It's sitting at the bottom of a pile of papers on the table in the kitchen, I'm giving myself some time. Time to think and time to get better.

So that's the other thing: getting better. Sometime in November, I wrote a letter addressed to my enemy. Your friend and conspirer, anxiety. I wrote how overwhelmed I felt. I was stuck and I was sad. So now I'm getting help. I take tablets, one a day, designed especially to scare you away, to reduce your effect on my body and my mind. By the looks of things, they're working. I'm also seeing a lady, a lovely lady called Louise. A CBT specialist to add to my collection; She talks to me every week and we work together, picking apart my every thought and working out where it has gone wrong.

For the third time in less than 10 years, I'm having to ask someone else to help me to tell you to buzz off. It's not new and, certainly, none of it's news. I studied psychology at A-level and I did pretty damn well. I spent two years going home and exhausting my family with explanations for why and how they were wound up or feeling the way they were. I am perfectly aware that you are simply a result of chemicals and faulty thinking. You're biological and cognitive and you can be fixed. That is my focus, getting rid of you...or at least finding control over what you do to me. Until I've done that, I'm not going to let myself feel in any way bad about what I am doing or why the last few months happened as they did. The focus is forwards. Onwards and upwards, new day and all that jazz.

That's why, instead of panicking about a potential repeat of last September, I've decided to spend the months ahead not stressing but allowing myself time to explore my interests. To do things I love and to see whether my future really lies in childcare, something I've always believed was true. So. how am I doing that you ask? In several ways: So I'm volunteering at Great Ormond Street. That's right, you heard me! That big ol' children's hospital in London and the most wonderful charity. I applied in November during the peak of my university meltdown and only a week or two later received a letter saying I'd been accepted to start training. At my first training day on Saturday I found out they receive hundreds of applicants a month. Out of those hundreds, they noticed little old me. Beat that butterflies!

The day was so fantastic. I met some wonderful people of all ages, occupations, histories. We sat in a room from 9am until 5pm and talked and acted, thought and listened and laughed. We were all warned that it's a tricky job, a hard place to work and very emotionally draining but I think I'm ready and I'm determined to try. I've spent so many years in and out of hospitals so, although it's not quite the same, I like to think I know what it's like. I've been a child surrounded by doctors and needles and beeping machines. I've sat in the waiting rooms filled with pretty colours and talked to the nurses with the smiling faces and I want to be one of the ones that helps, that makes the experience easier and to make a child or two smile at a time when it may feel like they can't. Today I heard that I've been cleared to continue training and in a few weeks time i'm going to have my first explore of the hospital itself. The start of a new adventure.

My Hospital-Wrist-Band-Paper-Chain
Another new adventure? I've joined a choir. It's so much fun and run by two of the loveliest ladies I've had the pleasure to meet. Every Tuesday evening, I head to Pimlico and I spend two hours (with a break for cake) singing and swaying and chatting and laughing. At the moment we're preparing for a showcase. singing a medley of Disney songs and a pop number or two. If there's anything at the moment that is causing me anxiety it's having to learn the spelling of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (luckily only forwards...phew!).

Oh, and how could I forget! I've also sort of, kind of, I guess, got a job. I mean, I'm being paid to do something and it's something which I love. My sister hired me as her after school care once a employment counts! Picking my lovely nieces and nephew up from school, walking home, putting on some toast, making some tea, doing some reading practice with the littlies, listening to some piano, dishing out some supper. It's not only my sister though, I also help one of her friend with her two children once a week. I'd say that's something. It's in the area I'm interested in, it's with people I love and care about. As a bonus, it pays to fill the fridge (and more).

If you're going to be fussy though and say friends and family is cheating a tad, then I can also tell you I've advertised as a babysitter. I got crafty, made a poster and put it in the entrance downstairs. Days later, i received a text from a lovely lady on the floor below our flat asking if I could come and meet her two lovely children. I contemplated mentioning the time it would take and the cost of travel...then I decided that down approximately 10 stairs and to the left a bit would be unlikely to effect my oyster card too much. I was greeted with huge excitement from a tiny, adorable two year old girl who dragged me inside and immediately showed me all her toys while her one year old brother calmly sat on his mothers lap, the shy observer. By the end of my visit, I had both kids playing with my coat and a game of peek-a-boo going on with the baby. A short stay but a very enjoyable one. What am I doing tonight? Going over to theirs after supper and babysitting for a few hours. I'd say that's pretty good work.

Finally, if that really still doesn't sound good enough, I've applied for some part-time work at Hamleys in their Build-a-Bear shop and got an interview on Sunday. Yeah! That's right! Build-a-Bear!

'What's that?' I hear someone say from under a rock near by.

It's a shop that originated from a little girl wishing she could design her own teddy bear so it would be just how she wanted it. It's a shop filled with bear designs and bright colours. Your pick your bear, head for the giant stuffing machine, pick a heart, say a rhyme and sew it up. You can record your voice or place a message inside, you print a certificate with a name for your new furry friend and can then spend hours choosing tops, trousers, skirts, dresses, shoes and more to take away. Heaven for any small child (or even a bigger child - shhh, don't tell) who likes a teddy bear or two. What's more, this bear heaven is situated inside the greatest toy store of all time. I mean, what more could a child in a 20 year old's body ask for? Wish me luck!

So that's that. I'd say that really I'm pretty busy. Even when I'm not doing that stuff, I'm working on my blog design or reading. I've got a thing going where my relaxing books are saved for the times when i'm curled up in bed of a morning or evening. During the day, I'm reading other things. I just finished a really good book of lectures by Maria Montessori about the method and her ideas. People who know me well know that I would never normally put 'good' and 'lectures' in the same sentence but I honestly enjoyed it. That and the book I'm reading now are really starting to make me realise that psychology is truly where my interests lie. Learning about people and how they think and learn and work.

The book I'm into now is all about OCD, something I've suffered from since I was very little, although I was unaware as a child. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can range from obsessing over cleanliness and needing to wash your hands all the time to my sort of compulsions of checking things, counting things and straightening things up before I can settle. The book 'Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A Self-help guide using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy' by David Veale and Rob Wilson had me wish that my tube journeys were longer yesterday. There's so many aspects to it that I had never thought about and there are people out there who really suffer, much more than I do.

The book complains about how under appreciated the condition is and how important it is that people talk about it more with doctors, psychologists, family. It's not a sign of a madness. It's a Cognitive issue that effects Behavior, an issue with the wiring not the person and if not treated early, it can really damage lives...are you seeing that this is something I feel passionate about? People are kind of a big deal. We're important and we all need caring for even if we are making people late because we've checked the door is locked 5 times with alternate hands...

So that's what I'm reading and that's what I'm doing. I'm working out what I like and what I don't. I'm seeing where I'm drawn to and what opportunities arise, and I'm (sort of) not worrying.

Yours (a little) less anxiously,

Some Pasta Banta

So last night, I felt like making something random. Throwing some pots, pans and pasta onto the heat, chucking in some veg and some other tasty nibbles, a dash of seasoning and tossing it all I did. My ingredients were just based on things that I had in the fridge and that I couldn't imagine using for any other dish. I didn't particularly think through the flavour combinations but I've gotta say, whatever I did, it worked. It tasted pretty damn yummy. Feel free to have a go and let me know what you think!


Pasta (shape and size of your choosing, I used Farfalle...aka, the bows)
1 Garlic Clove
Mushrooms (Mine were some of those nice pots of mushrooms you can buy around and about in salad bars or near the olive section of a market. Cooked and dressed in olive oil with some chili)
Artichoke Hearts (I have a little bit of an obsession, much to the distress of my tummy, so feel free to ignore this)
Sage Leaves (lurvv sage)
Parma Ham (2 slices torn up)
Cubed Chorizo 
Vegetable Stock
A dash of flour

1. Place the pasta in a pan of boiling water, turn down the heat and allow to cook while you prepare the sauce (or whatever this particular concoction could be called)
2. Chop up the garlic clove to any size you prefer and chuck into a  reasonably deep pan with some olive oil
3. Once the garlic has browned a little (do not burn!), throw in the mushrooms, once again chopped to a preferred size. If, like me, you managed to find some nice ready dressed mushrooms, feel free to drizzle some of the additional dressings or bits and bobs into the pan
4. If you have chosen to go for the artichoke heart direction, now is the time to chop these up, or pull off the leaves and throw them into the mix. Give things a stir.
5. Take 2 or 3 sage leaves and rip these up, off the stems and into the pan allowing to soften and for the delicious flavour to seep into the other ingredients
6. You can now add the meaty bits if you like. I chose Parma Ham and some chopped up chorizo that I had left over in the fridge
7. Once these have been given a chance to heat up, it's time to add the stock. If you're lucky and have some delicious and flavoursome home-made vegetable stock available, feel free to use this but if, like me, you haven't got round to that little creation yet, just throw in one them good ol' stock cubes and add a dash of warm water. Allow time for the stock to dissolve and give the pan a stir. 
8. Finally, depending on your desired thickness of sauce, you can add a sprinkle of flour to give a little fancy seeming to the whole affair. One more stir, drain the pasta, throw it in the pan, give it a mix and a taste and perhaps anther season (as you probably know by now, I like my garlic, so always up for a dash more), some salt and pepper, possibly even some Parmesan if ya like and...

Ta daaa!