Remember those regular teenage eye-rolls. When your mum would regularly say things that you immediately dismissed. At that time in your life/hormonal journey you thought anyone over the age of 30 was past it, and just didn’t get you. These uncool irrelevant humans didn’t have anything to say that was applicable to your life (and angst). One of the regular conversations that would lead to me mentally doing a Kevin and Perry type ‘shut up’ was when Mum would preach the important of sitting together as a family at the table for dinner. In my mind it was far more important to my growth to ensure I was in sat in front of the TV to watch Top of The Pops, Heartbreak High, Neighbours etc.
During your teenage years you tend to sit rather glumly at any table let alone the one with your mum and Dad. You grunt rather than converse, and you really don’t have any time for what at that age you deem as boring, mundane and pointless chat about your day. Plus at that age you are so self involved you don’t really care how anyone elses day was.
But like most of the things my parents said during that era – that I used to think were the words of people who ‘don’t understand (read it in a whiny teenage voice) – they turned out to be right, and now as a person past the ‘past it’ age of yore, I realise just how important it is to treasure these little windows of time together. They’re the pockets of life that ground and unite us during these days of intense juggling and hustling to ‘have it all’.
This year has been filled with change. Having pursued his passion project for a year to great success, Si felt ready to get that proper stable adult job, having existed with the uncertainty of band life for a decade and the unpredictably of running a vegan food stall for the last year. He secured a job at a local recruitment company, and we also bought our first home. Si started his scary adult new job while I was still dealing with the hell of leases and solicitors, and desperately trying to do all that was needed to make sure we actually got the house. It was evident early on that it was going to be a pretty full on role for Si, and despite the contracted 17.30 finish he would still be at the office at 8pm most nights.
At the beginning of our relationship the band Si was in (Young Guns) was at the pinnacle of their success. They were in demand and as a result I was way down the pecking order ( I don’t mean that in a woe as me way, it’s just the band wag way), and my wants and needs rarely factored into the schedule. He would be touring the US or recording in exotic Thai studios, sometimes meaning we didn’t see each other for 3 months at a time. During this time our relationship was tech based, with calls/facetimes/skypes occurring at very inconvenient and ungodly hours of the day due to time difference. In an effort to keep our relationship going we tried to make these as regular as possible wedging these sometimes very fleeting chats into our conflicting schedules.
As an innately independent person I have to be honest that this situation definitely didn’t completely suck. At times I definitely enjoyed the freedom it allowed, and my work life undoubtedly flourished. And in many ways I was still enjoying the perks and joys of being single…apart from the touching other peoples body parts. But let’s be honest I’m not sure that comes under the header of ‘joy’ a lot of time anyway!
Then when the band went on a hiatus, when Si and I were still living with my parents, and he was suddenly around ALL the time. Initially it felt like a treat to have my best buddy constantly nearby, but after the initial high it was apparent that I would refer to this period as a time of ‘adjustment’. Suddenly all the decisions that were easy (because they were just about me) were suddenly complex or involved another opinion (one that I would have to take into account). How my time was spent was a discussion again, as was what we were going to watch on TV, what we were going to have for dinner… and so on. It’s funny that when you’re apart you dwell on all those things your miss. But when they person is back its not long before your reminded of all the things that drive you mad!
So for this period of time – both of us living with my parents – dinner time became a fairly fraught part of the day as we had to try to fit round my parents cooking their dinner. Si likes to get fully involved in cooking – he pretty much becomes Surrey’s version of Gordon Ramsey – in skill and temprement. The fiery personality clearly leads to results though as Si would deliver meals I’m sure Gordon wouldn’t send back to the kitchen with a cross word.
We’d then take them upstairs on trays, on any old plate, and eat the meal on my bed, usually leaving stains on my bedsheets which we would then fall asleep in. After all the efforts put in to creating the dinners, my messy bed/office didn’t seem an appropriate setting.
Anyway, fast forward to present day and 6 months in to living in our first place together (alone). Despite a definite lack of confidence in my capabilities prior to the move (my time at home with my parents didn’t instill much hope in regards to me being able to keep a place clean) I’ve fitted rather well in to the role of home-keeper. I keep the flat clean and tidy, do the bins, keep the garden neat, hoover regularly,….but also more often than not now cook the dinners. I’m sure Si feels that the caliber of cooking has deteriorated from the days that he was the head chef in our twosome, but I think he appreciates that I try and have a cooked piping hot dinner served as soon as he comes in from work. I’m not sure I’ll ever enjoy cooking like he does, but I do like looking after the people that I love -helping them to wind down after a trying day.
Our first flat is charmingly compact , so there isn’t room for a dining table as such. Although in time, once we’ve sorted the access to the loft, we might invest in a fold up one we can get out for special occasions – for dinner parties if we ever can find the time to host them.
Therefore our dinners are TV dinners on our lap trays, which actually works quite well for us. We have such little time together to get through our box sets these days, and that’s one of our fave couple past times. I know it sounds like we aren’t making sure that dinner is about quality time together because we are in front of a rather distracting big ol TV screen, but honestly we still catch up about our day and really enjoy debating what ever show it is we are watching (which is usually a crime one so we can argue about whether we think they’re guilty or not or just how corrupt the system is).
I try and make the scene as cosy and civilised as possible. I like to get some candles burning – filling the space with comforting aromas – we don’t like anything too sickly. I make sure the cushions are positioned for maximum comfort and minimum obstruction. If it’s chilly I make sure there’s a soft blanket to cover our legs. I try and use the ‘nice’ plates and our favourite glasses. I know it seems silly…I mean it’s just us! It’s not like we have guests over we want to impress. But like I keep saying, these one hour slots between Si coming in from work and him wanting to get ready for bed so he’s not too tired for work the next day, are so very precious. I want to make them as homely and lovely as possible for us.
Our current go-to ‘nice’ plates are these from wilko, named the Black Fusion Dinner Set (12 piece set) . I love the speckled texture on them. I always feel this patternation gives things an artisanal feel, which I think makes them infinitely more cool than smooth versions of the same colour.
I also always think a black set creates a nice bit of drama too, and vivid foods really pop against the dark surface. As someone that eats more curry than is probably recommended for someone with as volatile a belly as mine, I can confirm a Masala looks freakin’ wonderful on them as does guac for your dipping tortilla chips.
They look great teamed with other bold styling pieces, but look just as amazing teamed with neutrals and natural tones.
These shots featured are the kinda of vibe I’d create for a girly night,. The nights where we are all on the floor, perhaps playing games ( we tend to play very risqué games that cause the sort of laughter that challenges your pelvic floor) and eating a pleasing array of beige coloured snacks. We might play some records, but often the sound of us discussing our partners in depth (and the things they’re doing which are driving us mad) might be enough to create enough of a soundtrack or din. Our single friends will be sharing their latest Tinder/Hinge related stories and we will listen intently, because we like to remember for a moment what it’s like to have an exciting life.
In the shots you’ll also see wilko 16 piece Black colour Cutlery Set, which is a staggering (in a good way) £5. Great for students, but great for me as someone who has difficulty with their hands (arthritis and EDS related issues). The fact that they are ergonomically designed is a massive plus point.
Although there’s a fairly similar cotton tablecloth like this on the site, the waterproof nature of the wilko black and white fusion PVC Tablecloth is probably well advised for families, and again, people like me who can’t complete a meal without some sort of spillage or making sure some dollops of food do some serious plate dodging.
Once we finally sort our garden out, which might well be next summer now, this tablecloth will be great for the al fresco BBQ dinners. By then I hope we will be in a bit more of a groove so that we will be able to schedule in having some friends over. Maybe we will finally become the hosts we always dreamed about being when we were living with my parents.
I imagine we are not the only couple who find it hard to find quality time together and many of you will share my sentiments about the importance of eating together. Many of you might have rules like we do to try and connect properly during ( we try not to our phone during).
Weekends are monopolised by weddings, christenings, DIY/life admin duties, and for so many weekdays are governed by work obligations . Those with kids…it’s the same issues, with a lot more piled on top. I imagine dinners for you feel very important in terms of checking in with your kids and feeling reassured you know what’s going on in their world. Keeping an eye on whether they’re eating enough veg. Perhaps trying to install certain manners and morals while you graze together. Maybe it’s about trying/clinging on to the idea of cultivating a close family unit.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. How do you make the most of this precious dinner time? What things do you do to make it as nice as possible? What are your rules (no phones allowed for instance).
I must go..I’ve got veg sausage and mash to start cooking and a Netflix show to get queued up ready to go.
Dinner set, cutlery and tablecloth all gifted from wilko.