I am inherently lazy. It’s part of what has driven my career: I’m always looking for shortcuts, ways of removing wasted effort, systems to do things automatically which people spend time doing manually. Because I know I am lazy, I am able to cater for it; I organise myself in such a way as to circumvent the drawbacks while making the most of the benefits. Note (especially anyone reading this who works with me) this does not mean I don’t pull my weight – far from it. I’d tell you how many hours a week I work but I can’t be bothered counting them, because there’s no point. What it means is that I don’t waste any of those hours doing stuff that doesn’t need doing.
You may wish to skip the next paragraph if you’re the sort who glazes over as soon as you discover the person you just introduced yourself to at a party is any sort of techie – there’s a romantic bit up ahead which may interest you more. Anyway, as a former application developer (yawn) I ought to point out that working this way makes me very efficient. The “Just In Time” approach is well-known to programmers; it means you don’t overload your system with unused data and structures. Overall, effort (processor time) is reduced on average, and you need less space (memory) to run your system. The trade-off is that when you do need to call on resources, there is usually a slight performance lag compared to having had everything in place up front.
Now eleven years ago, I happened across a woman who in many respects was almost my polar opposite. (I can almost hear my so-called friends at this point crowing “intelligent, funny, classy and attractive”. Gosh, aren’t they witty.) Her main attributes which, depending on our respective moods, balance or conflict with mine, are that she is diligent and well-prepared, and she plans thoroughly. She doesn’t do just enough; she doesn’t do it just in time; she doesn’t make it up as she goes along, not until long experience has ingrained something into habit. She does everything she has to, as soon as she can, and she cannot relax until it is done. She also cannot put a job down halfway through; she has to at least reach a logical stopping point.
Pretending for convenience that this obvious incompatibility was in fact complementary, and not knowing or caring for arguments too far in the future to worry about, I somehow managed to convince this intelligent, funny, classy, attractive, slightly older woman (I will get a slap for that) to marry me, and next June we will celebrate our tenth anniversary. Together, I should add.
Now, most couples have their student days far behind them when they tie the knot, but we like to convince ourselves we are non-conformist from time to time and we did things somewhat differently. Having elected to abstain from university upon leaving school (for reasons financial rather than scholastic), I began my bachelor’s degree part-time the year before we married. Because it was in the same arena as my job at the time, I had a bit of a head start and managed to rack up a stack of good grades through the first few years. Lucky I did, because after four years my eldest made a noisy appearance, and the final two years of my course took a back seat to my new role as Proud Father. This I was happy to do because I knew I’d done enough by that point to allow my final two years and end of course assessment to slip away into second and third level passes, whilst still qualifying me for a first-class degree overall. As my erstwhile Geography teacher Mr Yearsley* would have snidely said, it wasn’t a “good” First, but it was still a First.
Contrast this with my wife, or SuperHan as I am considering dubbing her. As I mentioned recently, she has just embarked upon a career change and has become a trainee primary teacher. Alongside working in a school four days a week, she is also doing a PGCE (Professional rather than Post). This is a phenomenal amount of work for someone without two small children and my laid-back approach, but add in the kids and the perfectionism and you’ve got a maelstrom. A month in she has already had days when she’s come close to quitting; this is not because she’s a quitter, it’s because she is anxious she will not do as well as she could, and to her scraping through is an anathema. The simple fact is that, with so much on her plate, she cannot do every assignment in the first few days as she would have when she was a proper student with hangovers, lie-ins and the opportunity to decide to spend all day in the library at the drop of a hat – and she hates that. Being a grown-up student (I hesitate to say mature – nowadays that seems to mean “old”) is no fun, which seems slightly unfair; but at least I’ve never had to figure out how to make something nutritious out of a bottle of wine, some paracetamol and a jar of garam masala.
Happily, she is absolutely loving being a teacher, and I know as well as everyone else who knows her that she will be great at it. End of.
You’ll be pleased to discover that my recipe suggestion today does not involve paracetamol, but it does contain garam masala, and it sounds odd enough to have been created by a poorly-stocked student cupboard. The wine you’ll just have to have on the side…
Omelette curry (as always for 2):
For the curry paste:
• ½ teaspoon turmeric
• 1 teaspoon chilli powder (or more to taste)
• 2 teaspoons ground coriander
• 1 teaspoon garam masala
• ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
• ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
• 5 teaspoons desiccated coconut
• pinch of salt
• 4ish teaspoons water
Blend all ingredients to a fine paste, adding more water if too dry.
For the curry:
• your preferred cooking oil
• curry paste from above
• one large onion: chop about two thirds normally, chop the rest very finely for the omelette
• 300g cherry tomatoes, chopped small
• couple of green chillies, sliced
• teaspoon cider vinegar
• four cups/two mugs of water
• handful of chopped coriander
Soften onion in oil, add paste, cook for 3 minutes, add chillies, cook for another couple of minutes, add tomatoes, sauté for 5 minutes, add vinegar and water, bubble for ten minutes, add coriander and omelette from below, bubble for a couple of minutes, serve in bowls with naan bread. You’ll be left with a delicious curry soup in the bottom of the bowl which must be slurped!
For the omelette (make this while your curry is bubbling):
• 5 eggs, beaten
• a green chilli, finely chopped
• finely chopped onion from above
• salt and pepper to taste
• pinch of the coriander leaves from the curry
Mix and fry like a normal omelette. Chop into strips/squares for adding to the curry.