‘Unseemly Expensive Football Adventure’ (UEFA)

The impending UEFA final is like the equivalent of a long car journey filled with a continual dialogue of, “Are we there yet?”

No. Not quite. But nearly…

Although to be fair, I am re-living the Amsterdam trip on a daily basis via his numerous iPhone footage and every bit of tv coverage from the match. (My Sky planner is full of it.)

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I swear he has re-watched this more than our wedding highlights.

“Doll, we were down and out. It was one of the greatest comebacks in European football.”

It’s like a broken record. And I know every song. (How do they all learn them? Who sits down and writes these ditties?)

It’s completely my own fault though. I knew what I was in for when marrying him (see earlier blog for more info).

Spurs is his addiction and who am I to stand in his way. (Trust me, he would throw me overboard faced with a decision of making it to Madrid or saving his wife.)

He comes from a family of Spurs season ticket holders. As does my dad, who regaled me with wonderful stories of going to matches. In 1946, my grandpa Davis bought up a row of season tickets for the men in the family, at the hefty price of five guineas each. Block L, High Road entrance. On match days, Grandpa, his brother, my dad and his three cousins would jump on the 102 bus from Muswell Hill to Angel Edmonton and then walk a couple of miles down High Road to the ground.

The first UEFA cup was in 1971 so there was very little European travel for dad, but a big memory for him would be the FA Cup semi final in 1948 – Spurs vs Blackpool. On a train packed full of loyal supporters, headed up to Villa Park to watch Spurs lose 3-1. If that wasn’t bad enough, he remembers his Thermos of tea leaking all over his cheese sandwiches.

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Top notch branded goods

Spurs have suffered some pretty dismal losses over the years, so hopefully they are on to a winning streak. When they made it to the recent UEFA semi finals, my husband had pretty much mentally booked the flight to Amsterdam before the first crestfallen Man City supporter had left the ground.

As a woman, I would have approached this process very differently: first, check for accommodation. Then look into flights.

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But no. Husband booked the flight first and where to sleep (if at all) came a very delayed second action point. He genuinely didn’t seem to care if he slept at the airport. There are grown men without accommodation, buying up blow up beds to take with them to Madrid. Lunatics.

And the tickets? You haven’t even got a ticket yet ffs!

“Doll. Relax. I’ll get one.”

To be fair, he had been in a similar situation before…

World Cup 2002. Japan.

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“Sayōnara doll”

He’s just as passionate about his country’s team and managed to round up two like-minded souls, announcing,

“Doll, I’m going to Japan for a couple of days.”

Oh, how I laughed. No-one does that. It’s lunacy.

But off he went. Filled with hope and ‘possibly’ some medication that his travel buddy had given him, to ease the pain of travelling in economy for eleven and a half hours. (He’s 6 foot 4 – the legroom situation is agonising for him.)

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They landed in Narita, exited the airport, stuck their bank card in some dubious World Cup ticket machine and crossed their fingers. It was a big risk – they had booked a package deal via their hotel which included flights, accommodation and apparently, tickets to the game.

As if by some FIFA miracle, their match tickets popped out! There was much celebration, but it was short lived. Michael Owen did his best, but England were knocked out after that first match.

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It’s not quite coming home

But back to the pending Madrid trip.

Fellow fans who didn’t make it to the ‘Dam are fully on board for this, the final leg. Once again, flights were secured before even worrying about tickets. Let alone what it was clashing with..

This weekend I know of birthday parties, sweet 16’s, weddings, bar mitzvahs… this is majorly testing many friendships. As a guest it’s hard enough, but imagine if it’s your own do!

I clearly remember a friend’s wedding.

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Jackie O’s chupah, by Birch Event Designs. Both fun Instagram follows

All that planning. The attention to detail. As the groom walked down the aisle towards the chupah, he looked so nervous and full of hope. As he reached his bride to be, leaned in to his best man and whispered, “What’s the score?”

FA Cup Quarter final Chelsea vs Spurs. 10th March 2002. Spurs got beat 4-0. It was still a great wedding.

So, as this weekend approaches, the lucky ones among them are flying direct to Madrid, but not everyone has such a simple route. There are different levels of superfan heading to Spain…

Planes: Flights to Malaga followed by a short drive.

Trains: Eurostar to Paris followed by a drive.

Automobiles: Driving from London. Without a ticket.

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I mean, good luck. Good f’ing luck to them. It’s an experience. And I quote: “the biggest club competition you can be in. Liverpool have won it five times. Spurs have been nowhere near.” End quote. (Husband dearest.)

‘Audere est Facere’ as the shirt declares. “To Dare Is to Do”.

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And while he dares, I will do. Making sure there is a celebratory/consolatory bit of grub upon return. I made this recipe when he arrived home from Amsterdam. And it went down well. I now call it my ‘lucky drip beef recipe’….

Fingers crossed it works second time round.Unknown-7.jpeg

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Taking Up Residence

Well, I saw her off. And it set me off.

Youngest. Gone off on ‘residential’ for the week* with her classmates.

*okay, three days.

Okay, two nights. It feels like a week, okay?

She’s my baby and was a bit anxious about sleeping out. It was no different when my eldest did her final trip away for a week in Year 6 and I can still remember my own residential trip in 1986 to Boreatton Park.

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F*ck me, it’s still going!

Aside from abseiling, archery and other outdoorsy antics, I remember: stonewash denim, cartoon characters on my jeans, reversible jumpers and my snazzy ‘Le Clic’ camera.

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This exact one!

Whether you’ve done none, one or many of these trips, they can be a bit of a minefield.

Will this blog help?

Probably not – but it’s worth reading for the hell of it, especially for the recipe at the end. (Feel free to just skip to recipe.)

The School Meeting

A couple of months before the trip, there’s will be a meeting, featuring a powerpoint presentation of what the kids will be doing during their time away, culminating in a checklist of what’s required for the trip.

I like the parent questions part the best:

“So, can we definitely not pack them some snacks?” (That parent is definitely going to be packing contraband.)

“Can we send a letter in advance?” (Along with the many notes already stuffed inside the wash bag, underwear and fleeces.)

“Can squirrels get into the cabins at night? What about spiders?” (Their own childhood fears coming out right there.)

The Checklist

I’ve got two girls, so fortunately there is much hand-me-down activity in the way of wellies, waterproofs and those massive checked PVC bags for the duvet/sleeping bag situ.

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Check 1, 2, 3

I go by the list. I’m fastidious. I like ticking things off, bit by bit, like Mrs Hinch.

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“All the best, mate”

I also love the tech ban that most school trips have. It’s healthy. Far too much time screen time. (Maybe I should go on a school trip…? Unknown-8.jpeg)

Can’t beat the innocence of a disposable camera. Don’t worry, my expectations are low. Mainly just flash reflecting in windows and mirrors, much red eye and lots of blurred action shots.

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This was my bunk bed

The Packing

I think it’s important for the kid to be involved in the packing process. My daughter and I discussed and vetoed, removed and added until we reached the final selection. (That was just which leggings matched what jumper.)

I’m a huge fan of packing cubes for family trips, as they’re brilliant at keeping everything neat, tidy and organised. ‘Tick-tick-tick’ on all three thing in my book.

 

.. But! On this occasion, and call it spoon feeding, but I needed to make it super simple for my nine year old, so those massive resealable bags come in exceptionally handy.  You can pack an outfit per day in each bag and simply mark the outside of the bag with what day/activity. Foolproof. (Until she decides to swap things from the ‘spares’ bag’. I’ve already seen pictures from the trip and she’s definitely not wearing Wednesday’s clothes.)

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Friend’s bag situ. She would make a very tidy murderer. Leg. Arm. Head. 

 

Sentimental and shameful stuff

I’m just going to throw it out there…

…Yes – I pack little notes for her.

…There may be a muzzie stashed in the bag,  ‘liberally’ sprayed with Mummy’s perfume.

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..There may also be Tisserand lavender essential oil in her wash bag. My kids have had a few drops on their pillow since they were babies, a tradition carried on from my Grandma. It calms them and sends them off to sleep peacefully.

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This one. Purest lavender smell, imo

…There may be a some fabric conditioner sheets inserted into each resealable bag of clothes. (All about the smells, me.)

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These I like, from Costco

…’Rab’ was the most essential part of the packing. A very worn but utterly adored Jellycat bunny, which was washed and mended in prep. Mainly because I’m so ashamed of the state (and farschtink) of it.

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For my next trick I shall be performing a tracheostomy

 

So, how will I be filling my spare time with one less child to tend to? Prepping for her return on Friday of course! She put in her dinner menu request, which culminated in Mummy’s cheesecake for dessert.

With Shavuot in just over a month, I view this as a practise run.

Baked Cheesecake recipe

9″ inch springform tin, lined

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Crush 175g Digestives and mix with 50g melted unsalted butter.

Flatten mixture onto bottom of tin.

Then…

1lb fresh curd cheese.

250g Quark cheese.

3 large eggs, added one at a time.

6 oz caster sugar, added a bit at a time.

A capful of vanilla extract a few drops – I love the Nielsen Massey one.

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This.

Mix all of those things together by electric whisk til they’re smooth and silky.

Pour this mixture over the crushed biscuits.

At this point, it’s your choice if you go for a bain marie – I do. Barry explains it best

Place foiled-wrapped tin in a bigger oven pan and carefully pour boiling water about halfway up the side of the springform. Like a bath.

Middle shelf. 25-30 minutes but keep an eye for browning as all ovens differ.  A bit of browning doesn’t matter. Nor cracking. You’ll see why in a minute…

Heat off. Leave oven door ajar with tin in there for another 5 minutes – helps it set.

Remove tin from bain marie and let cake cool completely out of the oven. (For the idiots, do not remove springform.  I didn’t;t say that, did I?

Hand whisk 300ml soured cream, teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons caster sugar and pour this on top of cooled cheesecake, thus hiding any imperfections.

Cover with foil. Fridge overnight. Release from tin and serve.

Ta-da!

(2 more sleeps. Pass me some lavender oil…)

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