Monday, 23 September 2013

And I thought he had a tapeworm...

My mate Maya sent me the link to this brilliantly written article by Polly Williams which appeared in the Saturday edition of The Guardian. It's not often you'll find content on this blog that isn't completely original and self-generated, but below is a direct copy-and-paste version of said article which I just found terribly funny (probably because it is so accurate), and too good not to share. Enjoy!

It happens so quickly. One minute your baby boy is reluctantly sucking pureed peas off a plastic spoon, the next he's flinging back the fridge door, demolishing its contents, then gnawing his way through the kitchen cupboards. It's like a picky lapdog growing into a ravenous Great Dane.

No wonder boys are expensive. recent survey by Halifax looking at the cost of bringing up children shows that it costs over £12,000 (almost R200k) more to raise a boy to the age of 11 than a girl: £105,963 for boys; £93,016 for girls. The bank puts this down to extra sports kits, even wear and tear of furniture caused by household rampaging. They don't mention the obvious: as boys get older, bigger, hungrier, the food bill becomes ever more bloated and monstrous, a drip feed of calories, carbs and cash.
There are increasing numbers of impoverished children in this country who don't get enough food, whose one good meal a day is a free school meal. It has to be said that my boys – Oscar, 10, and Jago, six – are not those children. They eat constantly. Twice as much as their sister, Alice, who nonetheless has a healthy appetite. More than me, ditto. There is not a finger of fat on either boy. They are ravenous when they wake up, ravenous before they go to bed. Jago needs two bowls of porridge before school. Food is central to their lives, hotly anticipated, wolfed down, fought over. Cake has to be carefully divided lest marginally differing portion sizes are identified, and war is declared. Their stomachs are intrinsically linked to their mood: when hungry, my daughter can usually be distracted by a biscuit, my boys are more likely to crash like malfunctioning computers, unfit for homework or civilised conversation, and whack each other over the head. While they do put out a lot of energy playing sport, I'm not sure how much difference this makes given that they're hungry while watching telly too. Food is never far from their minds, usually mentioned two minutes into a car journey, 20 minutes after the last meal and every time we pass a corner shop. Sometimes they eat so much that I worry there's something wrong. Then, a few weeks later, I discover they've grown two inches.
Generally, boys do need more calories than girls, especially as they get older. But not as much as their appetites might suggest. The NHS guidelines are that boys at 13 need about 200 calories more, which is only three slices of toast. But at 18, it's more like 700. Other sources suggest that teenage boys need to eat much more than that, especially active, sporty ones with enormous feet. Presumably that's why so many teenage boys feel like they're constantly at the end of a fast day on the 5:2 diet. They've got food on the brain.
A magic porridge pot would be the perfect solution. Like all my friends with boys, I have a hard time trying to keep up with demand. As my boys are also both allergic to nuts, buying pre-packaged food is problematic – few things are guaranteed nut free – so I make a lot from scratch. Even if you enjoy cooking, and luckily I do, it can still be dispiriting: meal after meal, snack after snack, the smells, the steam, the dirty pans, the thought of repeating it all every day, in ever increasing volumes, until … oh God, when?
The approach has to be military. Time-tested techniques must be gleaned from the savvy of the sisterhood, in my case my mother (three boys), mother-in-law (four boys) and sister-in-law (four boys). My pans have got bigger. I cook ahead. I boil up bones. I bulk out meat dishes with beans. I add oats to muesli. I make soups and stews in great steaming, satisfying vats. I throw them toast.
Naturally undomesticated, I'm nonetheless now forced to plan the weekly meals. Rather than one supermarket order a week, I do two, book-ending the working week. (The days of buying expensive organic delicacies at the farmer's market, one precious goat's cheese round at a time, are laughably over.) I've also started making and freezing things such as lasagne and flapjack in foil trays – dedicating precious Saturday mornings to doing this – imagining the horror of my 25-year-old self, but desperate for ways to ease things up mid-week when I'm trying to work and the boys start circling.
I'm haunted and baffled by the fact that we can easily get through 20 pints of milk a week. I don't understand how anyone can eat four bananas in a row. I cannot imagine what it's going to be like when my boys become teenagers.
"Oh, it's a nightmare," my sister-in-law reassures. "The food required is absolutely endless." Boys need four solid meals a day, a working mother of three boys tells me. "Three doesn't cut it. They eat after school and then they eat again with us in the evening."
Another explains that her 14-year-old boy is already 6ft 1in – like many of his friends, all of whom pile back to her kitchen after school – and has an appetite to match his height. "Two omelettes for breakfast, Weetabix, toast. Any loaf of bread goes in minutes. And a cooked school lunch is essential."
A friend's two young teenage boys have ingeniously and rather sweetly started to pool their pocket money so they can hit the three-for-two deals at the supermarket's biscuit aisle to stave off hunger pangs. Everyone says boys have hollow legs. You can't throw Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook and a few sprouting seeds at them and be done with it. Feeding boys is about quantity, calories, protein and carbs.
So what do the parents of boys on Twitter suggest? "A giant fruit bowl, an electrified fence around the crisp cupboard", tons of bread, potatoes, cereal, milkshakes, eggy bread, paella, roast vegetables, spag bol, sausages, curries, huge amounts of cheese, pints and pints of milk, and it's a good idea to teach them to bake. The more they can make for themselves, the less you have to do. What would we tell the mother of a new baby boy? Boys are wonderful. Boys eat a lot. You're going to need a bigger fridge.

Below are a collection of Instagram pics of my own little Great Dane, taken over the past five months (since I got my iPhone in April and finally got an Instagram account, which you can follow here, if you're interested). It really is a rather alarming phenomenon - this insatiable appetite of boys, with seemingly no end in sight...

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

At the end of the harder they come...

On Sunday morning, en route to a Spring braai at my in-laws' place with my mom (her last few hours in Jozi before flying home to Durbs), I asked Lee to drive me to three nearby locations - in Northcliff, then Melville, and Brixton. I wanted to get cracking on my first batch of entries for the Wiki Loves Monuments competition, which kicked off globally that very day. (For a running record of my own 'national monument series', check out my board on Pinterest here).

Anyway, when I stumbled across this intriguing building on the corner of Wimbledon and Barnes roads in Brixton, I just had to stop and take a couple of shots. It's not often that something resonates so deeply with my personal design aesthetic, but this is definitely one of them. An hour or so later, at the braai, I did a Wiki address search for the building (no, the irony didn't escape me!), and wasn't exactly surprised to see it was a work-from-home architectural practice. The interior images are by Nic Huisman (pinched from the company's website), the exterior images are my own. Enjoy!


The Studio-Home, a collection of buildings and flexible in-between spaces, presents a strategy to economise and derive value from a living / working environment. The project marks the latest conversion of a set of buildings, which have undergone a continuous process of physical change and re-purposing over the past 100 years – from corner shop to cooking school to student commune and now to architects’ residence and office. Sited in a centrally located, demographically and functionally diverse suburb, the spaces are cross-programmed with work, living and rental functions, generating income and eliminating the inefficiency of commuting in a megalopolis. In order to conserve a very tight budget, the existing structures were harvested by re-using and re-configuring existing materials and elements. In this way the altered complex enters into dialogue with its own history but also its immediate surroundings through the geometry of the new pitched roof and corrugated southern wall monumentalising the material of Johannesburg’s early mining days. A ‘floating’ balcony provides scale and threshold similar to the Victorian veranda once ubiquitous in the area. By capturing the intense Highveld light and framing views of distant horizons and landmarks, the arrangement affords a distinctly Johannesburg living experience.