Some children are born with oodles of naturally inbuilt tact and diplomacy but for others it has to be an acquired skill.
I was one of those children that needed to acquire those attributes and they were a long time coming.
Just after my fifth birthday my father informed my mother that one of his distant and almost never-seen cousins was coming to stay. And my mother wasn’t at all happy about it. My parents were in their late 20’s and were living in a three bedroom house with three children and a newborn baby and definitely no spare rooms. But Ashley, the cousin from Blenheim who seemed very much like an adult to me but was probably no older than 18, was traveling around New Zealand on the cheap and looking for free accommodation everywhere and on this occasion, Wellington.
When Ashley invited himself my father unwisely told him he would be most welcome. Ashley was told he would have to sleep in the baby’s nursery and the baby would be moved into my parents bedroom for a week – not a problem! And sleeping in a baby’s nursery and putting everyone out didn’t seem to bother Ashley one little bit.
He arrived empty handed and that didn’t please mun because she always taught us, ‘When you arrive at someone’s home you’ll knock with your elbows because your hands will be full’, and then the problem was that dad would disappear off to the office for long hours and mum would be stuck with Ashley. And Ashley didn’t say anything. He could only say one word at a time and that word would be about cars. Mum took him for a drive around Wellington and instead of looking at the sites he just said, ‘Jaguar’, or ‘Mercedes’, or ‘Holden’ as they passed cars on the motorway. He was mad on cars and they were his only topic of interest.
He was also a bit creepy because every time mum turned around he was right there in her space like a silent stalker. He even followed her out to the clothes line and watched her hang out the clothes, all the time staring but saying nothing.
I didn’t understand the issues mum was having with Ashley but I did know he wasn’t welcome. I went up to him (in front of my mother) and said in my loudest and clearest voice, ‘My mother was very angry when she heard you were coming to stay.’ And I couldn’t understand why my mother was mortified and why Ashley stopped stalking her and disappeared into the baby’s nursery closing the door behind him.
But after that week mum never had to worry about the distant cousin who could only utter one word at a time and was like a silent stalker because he never invited himself to stay ever again.
Back then, we used to eat a lot of cream puffs and I particularly liked mine iced in chocolate.
Makes: About 16 puffs
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: Very inexpensive. This recipe uses ingredients found in every fridge and pantry.
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbspn butter
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 300ml cream
- 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
- 2 tbspns icing mixture
Pre-heat oven to 200C.
Place water in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Add butter and continue to boil until butter has melted. Add flour and salt all at once. Stir constantly until mixture turns into a ball. Beat in eggs one at a time. The dough should still be in a ball when the eggs have been incorporated.
Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 mins.
In a large bowl whip cream, vanilla and icing sugar until stiff peaks form.
Remove puffs from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut in half and fill with cream. For further decadence, melt chocolate with a little butter and blend well. Ice the top of each puff with melted and cooled chocolate.
And just so you know, Kenneth-the-Kiwi has flicked the connection switch and I am back with you all. In my 14 day absence I greatly missed my cyber-buddies. If ever you are in a similar situation, may Kenneth-the-Kiwi be there in your hour of need.
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