Penang Chicken Curry and …Moving on in Boarding School

Right…so….after the one and only letter and the end of the compulsory three-week stint in boarding school, Archie was allowed to come home on weekends.  With my new baby, I would drive out on a Friday afternoon and meet him at ‘Hogwarts’ with enough time to help him pack then cut my way back through the traffic to arrive home and feed him a latish dinner.

The weekend would be great with Archie spending time on the beach and catching up with friends from his primary school days but then would come Sunday night.  I’d have cooked the typical family roast with pavlova for dessert and perhaps baked some biscuits or a slice to pack in his bag.  I would also have been to the supermarket and bought some lollies and chips and chocolate bars and a couple of cans of soft drink to add to his suitcase and make the week ahead look like it had a few highlights.


After the dinner that Archie struggled through as the clock ticked ever closer to the deadline of having to head back to school, there was trouble.  Archie would refuse to get into the car.  Then he’d run away and in the dark we wouldn’t know in which direction he went.  So Carl would be out with a flashlight trying to find him.  Now he would be late back to school meaning he’d miss chapel meaning he’d be ‘on parade’, a punishment inflicted by the boarding house.  Still refusing to get into the car, he’d then say, ‘Well I want mum to take me’.

‘I can’t take you, Archie, I’d love to but I have to feed Alfie’, and then there would be tears but finally he would be in the car.

Over the next few weeks, his reluctance to go back to school only increased.  On Sunday nights we would have to phone the school explaining why he would be late back.  And they were very understanding and often offered to drive out and take him back for us.  But somehow we always managed to get Archie into the car and didn’t have to accept the kind offer.

A mild chicken curry

A mild chicken curry

Then we noticed Archie was losing weight.  I thought it might have been because he was having to do so much more exercise than he’d had to do in primary school.  But he didn’t seem to want to eat and all the treats I was cooking or buying were met with little or no interest.  I knew he was eating when he was home but what was going on at the school?  I decided that on Tuesdays I would drive out there and surprise Archie with a Penang chicken curry from his favourite Thai restaurant.

So every Tuesday I’d remind Arabella she had to catch the bus home from school, then I’d strap Alfie into his car seat, pick up the Thai curry then drive through the hideous traffic for an hour or so to get to the school.   Archie would be so pleased to see me.  We’d sit on a bench inside the freezing cold Hogwarts and Archie would have a few minutes reprieve from the challenges he was facing as he ate every bit of the warming curry.  Then we’d have a chat and I’d ask him how things were going.  He said he had no friends and it wasn’t just that he had no friends, it was that the other boys were ridiculing him and taunting him and laughing at him.  He said he wasn’t going to the dining hall to eat because you had to sit at long benches and Archie would go to sit down but the boys would wriggle up the bench and yell, ‘There’s no room for you here’, so he’d have to find a bench where he would be allowed to sit and that was a bench all by himself.  So he just stopped going to dining hall and went to the library instead.

‘Just take me home, mum, I don’t want to go to boarding school any more’.

‘I can’t take you home right now, Archie’.

‘What about on the weekend?  Can I just not come back after the weekend?’

‘Let me talk to your father about it’.  And I’d try to change the subject to other things like how Arabella was going at school and how she was being a big help to me at home, bathing Alfie and changing his nappy and carrying him around while I made dinner.  But then I’d have to leave.  It was getting later and later and more and more dark and Arabella was at home waiting for her dinner so I would have to go.  And the only thing making me feel any better in this situation was that I knew Archie had eaten.

‘Don’t go yet, mum; just stay for a little bit longer’.

‘I can’t Archie.  I’d love to stay, but you know I have to go’.

‘Just five more minutes, mum’.

‘Archie, it’s time.  I’ve been here an extra half hour as it is.  You’ll have to be in prep soon anyway’.

‘Okay, but let me come out to the car with you’.  So Archie would follow me to the car that was parked in an enormous turning circle before heading down a long driveway to the school’s gates.  He would stand by my side as I strapped his baby brother into the car seat.  Then I’d give him a kiss and a very long hug and say, ‘It’s going to get better.  Do you understand?  It will get better.  You’re such a lovely boy and you have so many great qualities.  Do you agree with me?   And the look on his face would tell me he had no belief but maybe just a glimmer of hope.

‘You don’t have to go yet, do you mum?’

‘I’d love to stay with you, you know I would, but I really have to go now.  I’ll see you on Friday.  I’ll meet you here at three.  It’s just in a few days.  It’ll be Friday before you know it.  We’ll do something special over the weekend, okay?’

‘Okay mum’.

‘Love you’.

‘Love you too’.

Archie's favourite curry

Archie’s favourite curry

And Archie would stand beside my car door as I got in and I’d wind down the window so I could wave to him and off I’d drive, slowly down the long driveway as Archie ran after the car.  And I’d look in my rear vision mirror with tears streaming down my face and see him running behind the car with his arms above his head, waving and smiling at me as I disappeared through the gates and onto the main road, thinking, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ and then wondering what was going to happen to him when he walked back into Hogwarts.

And I did tell you how there was an emergency meeting in Term II and I’m getting there – next post to be sure.

In the meantime, I’m reblogging a Penang Chicken Curry recipe I blogged over a year ago.  Just because it’s the dish that I took out to Archie in those early boarding school days.

Essential ingredients for Thai curries

Essential ingredients for Thai curries

Penang Chicken Curry

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Not too expensive if you use vegetables in season and buy your chicken on special like I did.

  • 2 cups coconut cream
  • 3 tbspns red curry paste
  • 2 tbspns fish sauce
  • 2 tbspns palm sugar (or brown sugar if you can’t find palm)
  • 1kg chicken thigh fillets trimmed and sliced
  • 2 large red chillies, halved and de-seeded
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 200g sliced green beans
  • 1 small tin of bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup roasted, crushed peanuts
  • 1 bunch of Thai basil, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved

Skim off half a cup of coconut cream and boil in wok until starting to separate.

Add the red curry paste and fry for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add fish sauce and palm sugar and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add remaining coconut cream and chicken thighs and simmer until chicken is cooked, about 15 minutes

Add chillies, lime leaves, green beans and bamboo shoots and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Stir through basil and grapes.

Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.

This recipe has been adapted from Travels with Thai Food


  1. Oh poor Archie! I can’t imagine anyone not adoring him! Those terrible kids. Please tell me that there’s a story coming up where it gets better for him? 🙂

  2. I’m with Lorraine, how could anyone not like such a friendly kid? I can see why this was his favourite curry Charlie, I’d love it too! The pop of the fresh grapes so sweet and syrupy with the heat! Love it! I also adore the flavour that kaffir lime leaves impart; I know I will make this one!

  3. Kids can be so mean. My brother went to boarding school back in the day and he too would refuse to get in the car and the whole teary episodes would ensue. It’s so hard being a mum and then having no choice but to let him go back to a school where he is being bullied. Must’ve been a difficult time for you. Glad to see though Archie isn’t too scarred from this ordeal.
    Lovely curry! I like the Mae Ploy curry pastes, I use the yellow one all the time. It’s nice to see your children enjoy a varied palate. The kids at my children’s school know pizza and burgers 🙁


  4. Poor Archie. We know he survived the experience and became an independent friendly young man but reading about his experiences is so sad. Even the curry only helped for a little while.

  5. This story breaks my heart, just breaks my heart.

  6. Poor Archie! Kids can be so cruel to each other. It’s amazing any of us survive growing up.

  7. I’m so glad I know that everything has worked out or else I would be really sad!

    And I love penang curry.

  8. That is just awful my friend, good on him though moving past something like that…

    Lovely curry!


  9. This story just gets more heart breaking with every post.

  10. It was quite a saga, wasn’t it, Charlie? And yet he enjoyed it so much by the end! Can’t wait to read the next instalment.. x

  11. Grapes seem so interesting, I haven’t tasted in mean, should be nice, I am thinking now… Thank you dear Charlie, love, nia

  12. How totally ghastly for you and Archie! It must have broken both your hearts. There is a very good reason I mostly homeschooled my son and I am so glad I did.

  13. Tears in my eye now Charlie. God that must have been so hard. You know he is in a place where he will be helped to reach his full potential, but he doesn’t want to be there. Can I say I had a similar intro to high school although I didn’t board. I think I would have slit my wrists if I did. But ultimately I got over it and my education was a wonderful gift my parents gave me. It has stood me in good stead for life. All the hard knocks taught me how to handle life and have increased my self esteem. It also makes me a kinder person because I have been on the receiving end of such nasty behavior myself. All character building, but it is so tough at the time though.

  14. It’s a hard and often thankless task being a mum isn’t it Charlie? I love that you would deliver care packages of such yummy food and love to Archie mid week too keep him going.
    This is a great sounding curry, and the grapes are certainly something new to me- I bet they have that lovely sweet juiciness like lychees, yummo!

  15. Bless his heart, as we say in the American South. I want to see how this turns out. I am worried for him. Kids can be so mean. Panang and Green Curries are my absolute favorite Thai curries.

  16. Aww Charlie that must have been so hard leaving him there. Lucky he had such a wonderful mum to come and bring him a decent dinner. Looking forward to the next instalment.

  17. How awful, Charlie! Even though we all know that Archie not only survived but thrived doesn’t make hearing of this any easier. I don’t know how you did it.

  18. i teared up reading this post! im waiting for the next post, hope it did get better for him! and that curry looks amazing!

  19. OMG would you mind not making me sob on a Monday morning when I’m supposed to be hard at work. What a sad story, how awful for you as a mum and with a tiny babe in arms too. Poor Archie, I want to cuddle him.

    I went to boarding school but at 16 and the vast majority of the kids were really kind to me, especially the two girls I shared a room with. Perhaps kinder than I might have been under the circumstances, quite a lesson.

    I must stop telling the twins that they’re off to boarding school as soon as they turn 12.

  20. Now I know Archie has turned out to be a fine six foot plus young adult…but even so your story broke my heart a little, it got better right??

  21. You had me at ‘just take me home mum’ then I started to weep – it’s hard work raising three kids, I’m witnessing my cousin raising just one and it can be a thankless role to have as a parent. I don’t have any children so I can’t imagine what it’s truly like – I cannot wait for your next post ~

  22. aw no, poor guy. Hope to read some good news in the next post. IN the meantime, I’ll drool over this amazing curry you’ve prepared.

  23. I really don’t know how you did it, Charlie. I had a terrible time when my son went away to grad school…he was 22! LOL! I cried for days. But that’s not something I should probably admit. You are a resilient soul, but I already knew that, and Archie is a lot like you in that way, I think. I can’t wait to read the next installment of the story. I am so glad to know what a healthy adult he is, or this story would be tearing my heart out. I think he was missing your wonderful cooking. 🙂 This is a great curry recipe, for sure.

  24. Awww thats so sad for Archie to be picked on at boarding school and because of that he wasn’t eating 🙁 Poor boy and you did everything you could especially having just given birth to Alfie! Archie is still lucky to have such an amazing mother like yourself who would bring him his favourite penang curry ~ xox

  25. Oh, how horrible! What a difficult first term (hopefully not much longer than the first term…?). I bet he appreciated those Tuesday visits, and not just for the food.

  26. Ugh, teenagers can be so cruel! It’s bad enough if you’re a day student but I can imagine that it would be much worse if you were a boarder! Hopefully the story gets better… looking forward to the next installment.

  27. Aww poor Archie. You’re the best mum to make the drive to bring his favourite curry. It’s no wonder why he didn’t want you to go..

  28. I’m sorry Charlie. The whole time I was reading this, I was imagining Alfie in the place of Archie and it just broke my heart to read it.
    On a positive note: from all of your posts, it is obvious that Archie’s tortured time at boarding school didn’t affect his ability to make friends, nurture his creative bent and have fun – thank goodness!

  29. Not a good situation … but that is in the past!

  30. That’s heartbreaking! I can’t wait for the next part of this story because I’m sure it gets better. Your visits and the curry you brought him must have been so welcome. And, the curry shown here looks great!

  31. Oh my gosh, this was heartbreaking. I literally had tears in my eyes reading it. I’m glad that I know that it obviously had a happy ending since Archie’s life is flourishing now…but how hard that must have been for you 🙁

    Your penang sounds so good. All your curries have me craving that kind of meal right now!

  32. I felt your pain! It is so hard to see our kids struggle. I, too, am grateful to know that everything turned out in the end. It just goes to show how even when things feel dismal they can turn around.

  33. Ugh, rotten kids. I can’t tell you how disgusted I am to read something like this. My daughter was being bullied at school last year and became suicidal over it and then ended up in the hospital this year with the same issues. Kids can be so mean to each other with no thought of the consequences…breaks my heart. I hope your boy has recovered from all the ridicule he faced and is now tough and strong in spite of it!! {{hugs}} My daughter is slowly getting stronger and stronger. It’s a slow go, but she’s getting better and I’m so thankful that through a lot of prayer and hard work, she is pulling through!

  34. Oh, how heartbreaking for you both – I don’t think I could have borne it.

  35. As a Mum, that must have been a very difficult period for you. What I can’t understand is how come the school wasn’t aware of this? Is there no supervision in the dining hall?

  36. Aw, this breaks my heart! Poor Archie and poor you! You were so sweet to try to cheer him up with some yummy food. Fingers crossed that things got better quickly!

  37. Kids can be so mean but your curry looks lovely. I prefer them quite spicy but I’d eat this one any way.

  38. I almost cried reading where you had to drive off while Archie was running behind the car… so sad! 🙁 Kids are so mean but you never know how life is turned around. I’m so happy to see Archie is popular among friends and happy now. Having kids I start worrying about different things in life! I love your penang chicken curry. Looks so good!

  39. Kids can be cruel sometimes. So sweet of you to try to cheer him up with some delicious food. The curry looks mouthwatering. Penang curry is one of my favorite.

    First time on your blog and plan to come back again.

  40. Poor Archie. Can’t say I would have been happy going to boarding school myself.

  41. Oh you made me cry. Your heart must have broken every time you left him. Those wicked boys. And as usual your food looks heart warmingly good.

  42. I am seriously sitting here bawling …. xxx

  43. What a great mom you are for making the weekly special trips for a special dinner. Aw….

  44. Oooh poor little man! How can the other one’s not like him? He is cute & funny & super cool, your youngest one! Hang in there!

    This curry will become a favourite of mine too! xxx

  45. Charlie, I never thought I would cry at a blog post. But I did. This is the most touching thing I have read, and my heart is breaking for the little boy who missed home, his sister, his new baby brother, and most of all, his Mom. I wish he didn’t have to go to any boarding school.

    I love panang curry, and this is lovely.

  46. Wow, poor Archie ! 🙁 must have been very hard for him…

  47. This whole Archie situation makes me so sad, i’m doubt i would’ve been happy either being taken to boarding school. It really must’ve been hard, some kids just don’t get along easily with others but turn out brilliantly!

  48. Poor Archie – I went to a boarding school, but it was split. Day students and boarders, and I never once had to spend a night there thankfully. Just as well really since I didn’t have any “boarder friends”… it would have been a horrible experience. Lonely and sad :(.

  49. I’m so sorry to hear that those kids were so rotten to Archie… I’m going straight to the next post hoping this story gets a bit better for him!!!

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