There is a lot to reflect on as we say goodbye to 2012, we push the trolley round Nakumat (our local supermarket) as Madeleine loads the trolley with food for a new year celebration and I’m helping Lucas as he does the same with his imaginary shopping list.
It has been a challenging year in many respects; it is our first full calendar year as parents and within this year Madeleine went back to work after maternity leave when Lucas was 8 months old, I went part-time for 5 months to look after Lucas, at the same time this shift in roles happened (10 days after we returned from a preparatory trip to Kenya), Peter, my best friend from the age of 5, very sadly died. This was undoubtedly the hardest time of the year for us both. Life is short and precious and this made us all the more convinced we had to do something valuable however uncomfortable this might be.
Now we are here in Kenya ticking off the shopping list with the sense of frustration becoming a normal background emotion, still unable to start the project as we head in to 2013 but having made close bonds to the team and new friends. Lucas loads his mini trolley with bars of soap (I’ll put them back when he’s not looking), my phone buzzes in my pocket, it reads “Patrick Customs”, more paper work to be done no doubt. Lucas knocks some fluorescent plastic baskets on the floor, in my left ear I hear Patrick saying the consignment has been cleared through customs and is being delivered to Nakuru now. It will be with us in 3 hours! In disbelief I hug Lucas and swoop him up to share the news with Madeleine.
The driver arrives on time and we carry the 87kg box up 3 flights of steps before unveiling it. A beautifully Swiss made slit lamp, brand new, nothing missing and perfect for the project. I’m overcome with a mixed sense of relief, gratitude, anticipation and realisation that now, at last, the project will begin!
This Friday we will set up camp in a church hall out of town, we will run all the equipment from the newly purchased petrol generator and have invited family and friends of the study team to be our patients. This gives the team chance to demonstrate all they have learnt to their family whilst giving them the most comprehensive eye examination they will have ever had. The hope is this will encourage quality, pride in the work they are doing and will serve as a reminder in the 100 locations that lay ahead that each of these people we examine is somebody’s relative or friend and should be treated as our own.
The year has begun with much promise and hope.
(Madeleine) It’s New years eve and we have opted to have a chilled one at home and celebrate on New years day by having Kate and Johnny’s family over for lunch and games. I’m trying to navigate my way around the supermarket with a few more unusual items on the list. I’m making 12 crackers, one for each chime of Big Ben, each with a country in and how they celebrate the New year. We then have to recreate it, like in Spain where they pop confetti everywhere -and Ecuador where men dress as women. I’m trying to be quick as Andrew is on damage limitation as Lucas impulse shops with his mini trolley. Andrew and Lucas pop up by the milk counter as I try and juggle too many items. “It is here!” What? “the slit lamp is arriving to Nakuru in 3 hours!” I feel utter disbelief, excitement and strangely nervous, I don’t think we could handle another disappointment.
Whilst we wait the 3 hours for the slit lamp to be delivered from Nairobi we spend the late afternoon with some lovely new friends and their 4 yr old son Jona. Lucas and Jona have loads of fun drawing with chalk on the concrete, chasing a football and getting all of Jona’s toys out. Before we knew it we are driving down to meet the vehicle with the slit lamp to direct them to our home. We find an Peugeot pick-up truck with a wooden box covered in tarpaulin on the back. With the help of 4 men we get it upstairs and Andrew prises the lid off….it really is a slit lamp, all shiny and new, bit by bit we took the pieces out, they were all there!! With five hours left of 2012 this was a highlight right at the end!
We had a late dinner that evening and saw in the New year with a drink on the roof with our neighbours followed by a very fun, slightly chaotic day with the Brooks family! Kate said she always likes food with a surprise and we certainly felt like celebrating so this was the time to attempt the Mary Berry teacake from great British bake-off, ok so a little rough around the edges… I did seal the choc bit with a wriggly Lucas on my hip! They went down a treat, so much so we had to have a paper airplane competition to decide who would have the last one! I totally recommend savouring it with a cuppa tea!
The past few days have been a lovely break enjoying time and chilling with my two boys, we are ready to really push to get lots done in January. We hope you all have a lovely new year and we wish you many blessings in 2013.
Chocolate tea cakes
Equipment and preparation: You will need a silicone mould that has 6 x 7.5cm/3in wide, half sphere moulds.
- 400g/14oz dark chocolate with around 40% cocoa solids (such as Bournville)
- 50g/1¾oz wholemeal flour
- 50g/1¾oz plain flour
- pinch salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 25g/1oz caster sugar
- 25g/1oz butter
- 1 tbsp milk
For the marshmallow
- 3 free-range eggs, whites only
- 150g/5½oz caster sugar
- 6 tsp golden syrup
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ vanilla pod, seeds only, or vanilla essence
- Melt 300g/10½oz of the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a simmering pan of water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Melting the chocolate over a soft heat stops the chocolate from discolouring later on. Leave aside to cool slightly – you can’t line the moulds if the chocolate is too runny.
- Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
- To make the biscuits, put the flours, salt, baking powder and caster sugar into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips. Add the milk and stir everything together to form a smooth ball.
- On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 5mm/¼in thick. Cut out six rounds with a 7.5cm/3in straight sided round cutter.
- Place the rounds on a flat plate or board and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Make sure the biscuits are perfectly round and well chilled, otherwise they might spread or shrink when baked.
- Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes. They do need to be hard, not soft as they form the base of the teacake.
- Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Coat the inside of the moulds with the melted chocolate. The thickness of the chocolate should be enough to make them sturdy but not too thick. This is best done with a spoon, using the back to run the chocolate around the moulds. If the chocolate is too runny it will mean that the top of the dome is too thick and the side too thin.
- Set aside to set. Do not put the domes in the fridge as the chocolate will lose its shine.
- Meanwhile dip the cooled biscuits in the remaining melted chocolate, covering them completely (you may need to melt more chocolate). You can either dip the biscuits in the chocolate or spread the chocolate onto the biscuits with a palette knife. Place the coated biscuits onto parchment paper.
- For the marshmallow, place all of the ingredients in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water), and whisk with an electric hand whisk for 6-8 minutes, making sure it is smooth, silky and doubled in volume. Make sure it is very stiff, the consistency of whipped cream, so it will hold when piped – you don’t want it runny.
- Spoon the marshmallow mixture into a piping bag.
- Melt the remaining chocolate, and place into a disposable piping bag with a sealed end. Set aside to cool and stiffen up a bit, but not harden.
- Peel the biscuits off the parchment and place them onto clean parchment, flat side down.
- Pipe the marshmallow into each chocolate-lined mould just up to the top.
- Snip a 2cm/¾in end off the piping bag with the chocolate in it.
- Carefully pipe some chocolate on the marshmallow and a rim of chocolate around the biscuit base and swiftly place the biscuit on top of the marshmallow filled dome. Smooth the join with a knife.
- Leave the teacakes to set until completely cool and sealed together.
- Very carefully remove the completed teacakes from the mould – be careful of fingerprints on the glossy dome.
- Place on a plate and keep cool – but do not refrigerate, to make sure the chocolate keeps its glossy shine.