I think it’s not too dramatic to say that 20 years ago today I was feeling shell-shocked. I gave birth to Tom and George at 1.23 and 1.49 early on a warm Hampstead day. The night before I was induced on 28th July, I shared a room with a lady who was having a Caesarean the next day and who knew that there was ‘something wrong’ with her baby, but didn’t know what. She knew that pretty much as soon as the baby was born, she (the baby) would be taken to Great Ormond Street to be assessed and operated on. We talked all night, sharing our hopes and fears about our children. She of course just wanted to know that her baby’s condition was easily treatable – I just wondered how I was going to cope with four boys. We talked about everything and nothing – neither of us slept and we approached 29th July tired to the bones. We hugged as she was taken to the operating theatre. A couple of days later she came to visit me and to tell me that her daughter was going to be fine, that the stomach problem had been easily resolved, and I showed her my beautiful boys. We shared another hug and wished each other well. Twenty years on, I can’t even remember her name, but I hope that her daughter gave and gives her as much pleasure as those twin boys have given me.
Before I started this, I had thought of writing a blog for each of you, but as your lives are starting to go their separate ways I want to celebrate the lives you shared. Tom, it always seemed to me that you had been on this earth before – you appeared to have a wisdom, a Yoda-ish view of life, as you sucked your thumb and watched George plough into ill-conceived ideas. George’s ability to take on the world without thought for the consequences drew my admiration and my fears simultaneously – in my head, you resembled the Andrex puppy, looking at the havoc you wreaked. While these impressions remain, they have evolved. Tom, you still think things through very carefully, and, George, you still have a confidence to tackle difficult situations. You were tremendous friends – you have always loved and hated each other with a passion that none of the rest of us can comprehend. Your arguments were the most vicious, your cuddles the most constricting.
I was fascinated to watch you grow, but as you started to move I faced new fears. I used to ask myself what I would do if you moved in opposite directions, out of my reach and both did something life-threatening at the same time, who would I save? I realised that dressing you the same wasn’t a good idea – how did I know if I was seeing the same twin twice? You started school and for the first time weren’t in each other’s company all the time. You made your own friends. Most thought that it was wonderful to have two friends – some, rather stupidly, tried to play you off against each other. Those friends didn’t last very long.
We tried to treat you as separate beings – we didn’t call you The Twins, and until today you had never shared a birthday cake, but then in days gone by you would have eaten a lot more cake that you do now! George made an early bid for freedom by moving out of the shared bedroom, declaring that he needed his own space. Funny that you almost always ended up in the same bed anyway! You chose to go to boarding school and I missed you so much, just as I miss you both now that we’re in New York. I wasn’t quite ready to give up being a mummy when we moved, and I miss the inane chatter, the endless discussions about football or rugby, the recommendations for new bands, and the wickedly funny observations about life, the universe and everything. I sometimes even think that I miss the arguments.
Of all the brothers you have been the most affected on a day-to-day basis by Dad and my move, and I am really proud of the way you have coped. I have realised that you are both very strong men, and no longer my babies. I love you both so much and I still hate getting on a plane to come back. I try so hard not to wish my life away, but I am really looking forward to our week after Christmas. Thank you for keeping me involved in your lives as much as you do – I think I need that involvement more than you do.
I chose today’s recipe with some help from Hallie and Daisy because it seems that my brain is totally fuddled from time zone changes and late nights at family parties. It’s something that I used to make a lot and that I know you both enjoy it. It’s very easy, you just have to remember to bone the fish properly, and mix the ingredients thoroughly. It reheats and is also good cold. It is traditionally a breakfast dish, but we always ate it for dinner. It is of course Kedgeree, an Anglo-Indian dish which seems even more appropriate now that I have discovered our Indian heritage. Grandma made it a lot and I learned from watching her. I used The Dairy Book of Home Cookery for the real quantities of rice and fish – I never knew (which is probably why we always had left-overs).
Kedgeree – Ingredients (serves 4)
- 350 g / 12 oz smoked haddock
- 50 g / 2 oz butter, plus extra
- 1 tsp curry powder – the type you use is up to you, I tend to use Madras
- 3 spring onions, chopped
- 350 g / 12 oz cooked basmati rice (about 175 g / 6 oz uncooked)
- 2 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put the fish into a large frying pan and add enough milk to come halfway up the fish. Dot with the extra butter. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently until the fish is cooked (about ten minutes). Be careful it doesn’t stick to the pan. Allow to cool, remove fish and flake the fish, removing all skins and bones.
Put the 50 g butter into a large pan, and melt. Add the chopped spring onions and gently soften. Add the curry powder and cook for two minutes.
Add the rice and fish and mix through. If the mixture seems dry, add some of the milk that you poached the fish in. Don’t add to much or the rice will go mushy. Add the eggs and mix gently. Grind black pepper and serve immediately.
Many recipes say to put the mixture into a buttered dish and bake in the oven. I have never done this. You can also garnish with chopped parsley – I sometimes did this and the green certainly looks pretty.