Stop me if you’ve heard this one already, but I only learned how to drive quite recently. I was 28 I think. Or 29. It was an absolutely ghastly experience. After a certain age, one doesn’t really have to learn new things and it’s such a relief because learning new things is awful - it’s mostly why having a baby is so horrible. I would sweat and shake before, during and after every lesson I had and used to weep and wail about how much I hated it to Giles at least twice a week.
“Just fucking do it,” he would say. “Don’t fucking quit like you quit everything else. Grow a backbone.”
I know that sounds mean but I am actually terribly tough, while simultaneously being a basket-case (if you can get your head round that), and that’s the kind of management I respond to best, alas. Just as, occasionally, if my husband is being a bit of a weed, I will say “Come on. For God’s sake pull yourself together – you’re an Englishman.” There really is no answer to that.
Where was I. Oh yes, driving. God MAN ALIVE I LOVE IT. Brum BRUUUUMMMMM!!! Out of my way, suck-ahs! It helps that my husband purchased, on the birth of Kitty, a shiny black BMW family estate that goes incredibly fast. It is designed specifically to go for long distances at Def Con II, very cheaply (it is a diesel) and I have, in my time, overtaken a convoy of boy racers in neon cars at 140mph while wearing a gilet and boot-cut jeans, without breaking a sweat. Don’t tell the filth!!!
I have racked up many miles in my beloved car in the last 16 months, but I’ve never done a really long drive. So when my very dear friend from school, Izzy, announced that she was getting married in Norfolk I said to Giles “You stay here with Kitty – I’m going to take the beemer to stretch her legs up to Great Snoring.”
(A Twitter follower tells me that a Mr Gotobed once lived in Great Snoring and I choose to believe her.)
The wedding was marvellous. Izzy looked like a goddess and laughs like Sid James. In the days leading up the event I was terribly worried that there would be a lot of frightening people from school there who would all look at me and say “Oh hii Esther [scoff, chortle, snort] what are YOU doing here...????” but in fact it was just all my old mates, and we sat about and were mean to each other and bitched about people who weren’t there and smoked fags in a twilight field.
I raced back to London the next day in my rocket car, worried about Giles and Kitty alone together – even though I had been sent a series of picture texts, which showed what a rozzlingly brilliant time they were having together without me.
But of course they were: now Kitty is really walking she’s a piece of piss and just bumbles about the house without needing any entertainment, (for now). Just incidentally, the most surreal experience you can have happens when your child has just started walking and ambles into a room you are in. And you see them out of the corner of your eye and you’re like FUCK JESUS CHRIST THERE IS AN ESCAPED CHIMP IN MY HOUSE oh no, no it’s my daughter, phew calm down everyone.
That evening, still recovering from the 3-hour-each-way drive and feeling rather smug at having left Kitty with Giles, successfully, for 24 hours, I got pissed and decided to bake a cake. The other week I made the most amazing pudding by layering leftover banana bread with Haagen-Daaz Dulce du Leche ice cream, (buy it nowit is amazing), strawberries and Pedro Ximenez sherry and have henceforth decided that one must have a cake on the go at all times for emergency puddings.
So I thought I’d give my old coffee and walnut cake another go. But I didn’t have enough butter. Or any walnuts. So I boinged drunkenly around the kitchen like a pinball, richocheting off walls and singing “Tell Out, My Soul” trying to find substitutes to the ingredients I didn’t have.
Incidentally, the bride Izzy would have been proud of my crapulence; I can tell you for a fact that she spent no fewer than three hours in the pub after school every day, (including Saturdays as Westminster is technically a boarding school), and got A+ and “Excellent” in red pen on everything she did. Needless to say I slaved away like a terrified spod and was still totally average at everything.
Anyway I learned this from my drunken cake excursion:
it is not ideal to substitute vegetable oil for the ground nut oil you don’t have, to sub for the butter you don’t have either. Not ideal. But possible. There is the merest hint of chip fat about things if you use straight veg, rather than ground-nut oil, but it’s possibly less noticeable if you don’t know that that’s what you’re tasting.
So, what you do with this cake is weigh out the eggs (2 or 3 – or even 4, depending on how big you want the cake) and then mix with the same weight of flour and sugar and butter (and coffee and other stuff – see “Coffee and Walnut cake” for details). But I only had 60g of butter, so I made up the rest in vegetable oil. Like I said – not perfect, but totally fine in a dire/drunk cake emergency.