A few posts ago I was telling you how Archie wasn’t accepted into the school we had chosen for him because they said he had severe learning difficulties and so we found another school for that would take him, but only as a boarder.
Archie was quite keen to board and we thought it would really suit him. His first day was a Sunday and he had to be there at 3pm. We drove him out to the school that was about an hour away from our home and it was a very hot day and I was heavily pregnant with Alfie. We stood around the outside of the boarding house that was nicknamed ‘Hogwarts’ and the staff allowed all the new boarders to choose a can of soft drink (Archie went for a coke of course). There were also ice blocks for the boys and while they enthusiastically downed their treats, I don’t think they realised this sort of an afternoon wasn’t typical and that they would experience this only on the very rarest of occasions. Still, it was a happy start for the boys while the teary parents were offered beer, wine and pretty cakes.
Some older boys who were monitors in the boarding house showed Archie to his dorm which had beds in it for about 20 boys and Archie had to put the sheets on and make up his bed. Well somehow he didn’t know how to do this and so I had to do it for him while trying to teach him at the same time. It was as hot as Hades in that dorm and we noticed other boys unpacking fans and wondered how they knew to bring one. We unpacked all his new things that my mother had labelled with her Bernina sewing machine, into a locker and more things into his little bedside table. I hoped he’d know how to find his things, and look after them, and not lose them. Then it was time for the boys to put on their PE uniforms and head to the dining hall for dinner. That was the signal it was time for us to say goodbye.
Archie had just celebrated his 12th birthday. Well, we tried to look brave as we hugged him goodbye and Archie was full of optimism and excited to be off on a new adventure. I watched him walk off with all the other boys who were strangers to him and hoped he would quickly make friends, settle in and really enjoy the boarding experience.
We wouldn’t see Archie for another three weeks; the idea being that it’s best for the boys not to come home for the first few weekends so they can more easily settle in and make friends and become used to boarding school life. The new boarders weren’t allowed to have mobile phones either (but Archie would ask older boys if he could borrow their phones so he could ring me. I loved it when he phoned me.) No, the boys had to write letters. Time was assigned in the evenings for them to write to their parents and let them know what was happening. Somehow, in that three week period, I received just one letter. One! I’m glad I kept it; I didn’t know it would be part of a very rare collection.
Here’s what Archie wrote in his one letter…
‘Hi mum and dad, Arabella, Ruby and Rosie,
How are you all? I got a fax from one of the aunties. It was the first one (sigh). She’s so caring, so caring (sigh).
I’m gonna tell you what the principal doesn’t want us to do when we get older (he said this in assembly). ‘Now when you get older I don’t want you to be driven mindlessly by the winds of fate.’ LOL (sigh). This place is really cool. I’ve finished all my prep and am doing this in my spare time (which we have so LITTLE of). So I hope you appreciate what I’m doing. In prep time if you say one word, just one word you get yelled at by this guy with a London accent, ‘Oi, Guys, quiet NOW!’ and ‘Guys, make sure all those scraps get picked up, yeah?’ I’ve made a lot of friends and am pretty organised for now. Arabella, let me know if your teacher is more respectful of us kids. Has she given out any detentions yet? Tell me all. Well, prep time is over so I gotta pack up.
Lots of love, Archie.
PS: Assemblies go on for an hour and they have an ORGAN!’
I feared the letter would form part of a very limited collection and so that’s why I kept it.
Archie seemed fine and very upbeat but these were very early days and things quickly unraveled. By Term II we were brought in for an emergency meeting and I’ll share all that developed in my next post.
In the meantime, here’s a curry Archie would often request when he was allowed to come home on the weekends. The reason he wanted it is because boarding school food is quite bland and Archie was used to food that packed a bit more punch.
Massaman Thai Curry
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Medium range. The beef you use is a cheap cut with a slow cooking time but chicken could be substituted and this could also be a vegetarian meal.
- 4 tbspns vegetable oil
- 4 tbspns chopped onion (about 3 brown onions)
- 1 tspn shrimp paste
- 2 dessertspoons crushed garlic
- 1 dessertspoon grated ginger
- 3 cups coconut milk
- 1 cup water
- 2 tspns sea salt
- 2 bruised stalks of lemongrass (white part only)
- Contents of the No Worries Curries spice pack
- 1.5kg cubed blade or chuck steak
- 6 peeled and quartered potatoes (I used sweet potato)
- 2 dessertspoons fish sauce
- 2 dessertspoons tamarind puree
- 1 dessertspoon grated palm sugar
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
- Thai basil leaves
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and cook for a few minutes until softened but not browned. Add shrimp paste, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (about a minute). Add coconut milk, water, sea salt, lemongrass, spices and beef and simmer for 60 minutes with the lid on.
Add potatoes, fish sauce, tamarind puree and palm sugar and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and add peanuts. Garnish with fresh basil and serve with steamed rice.