Like many other housewives, my day is defined by cups of coffee, school runs and cooking the odd meal. Yesterday was a frustrating but typical one.
First, the new hot water system in our kitchen failed for the second time in a week. Gladys is once again carrying buckets of water from the upstairs bathroom so that it is possible to wash up in warm water. I called up the contractor who fitted our new electric heater under the kitchen sink and he had the gall to say, ‘You know those small electric units are actually rubbish, they never last long, I did tell your husband at the time. Once they start going wrong they’re finished.’ ‘But you only fixed it last week and first installed it only a two months ago,’ I said in disbelief. (My husband denies being told by the contractor that the electric heater would be rubbish). ‘Ah yes Madam, but remember our first plan was to link the hot water from the roof down to the kitchen. For some reason you stopped us doing this.’ ‘YES, because you were going to knock a two foot hole in the house so that you could fit a human head in underneath the bath and look around for where to connect the pipe! Then you were going to knock another hole in the wall outside the kitchen.’ The conversation went on a bit like this the upshot being that we have wasted time and money and we have no hot water for washing up.
I have two daughters at a kindergarten twenty minutes drive away; they both finish at different times, one at lunch and one at three pm. Our third daughter is at another ‘big’ school that is twenty minutes from our house in the opposite direction. She finishes at 3.30pm - the distance between the kindergarten and big school takes at least forty minutes. At the moment there are road works in both directions which in Nairobi means that men come along and draw around the potholes with yellow paint, then later a team of men with pick axes come along to make the potholes into large craters. Eventually the road in patched with stones and tarmac. Directing traffic is always a haphazard affair and is often done by way of waving branches of red bougainvillea willy-nilly at either end of the road being repaired. This leads to incidents of road rage and sends drivers blood pressure soaring. Add to this the fact that my car radio is stuck on one channel that plays the same songs on a loop and with traffic jams and disruptions you have a nervous breakdown in the offing.
In an attempt to reduce my three return journeys to the kindergarten I asked my middle daughter if she would mind going home with a friend yesterday. Initially she seemed keen but at around two O’clock I received a call from her teacher saying she was in floods of tears and wanted me to pick her up in the afternoon. Grrr.
Between school runs I finally got around to trying out the chalet girl’s high altitude yoghurt cake recipe that my Mum had found for me (Nairobi is 1700m) because I am sick of American cake mix kits full of preservatives that are the only ones that ‘work’ since I switched from an electric oven to gas. (Electricity prices have gone up more than 100% since Xmas). I wanted to make it with Florence who works in our house and is learning to cook so that next time I could ask her to make one without my involvement. It was a bit fiddly as our pots of yoghurt are either bigger or smaller than those sold in the alps. We would have ended up with a tiny cake or a huge one so compromised by recalculating with ‘cups’. The cake looked like it was going to be a roaring success but would take a lot longer to cook than the recipe stated in my slow gas oven. My parting words to Florence when setting out on my third school run of the day was, ‘Ooo, I reckon that needs at least another ten minutes,’ Sadly she took the cake out exactly ten minutes later while I was out and it was not at all cooked in the middle. The cake fell flat. Now I don’t want to be one of those expat women who whinge ‘Beatrice burnt the biscuits’ or ‘this is supposed to be fish pie but Matthew got it a bit wrong’ but I must say, I was gutted. So was Florence. We will have to try again when in a more positive frame of mind.