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Kerri McLean

I was happy to be sitting an exam in my dining room... but I hadn’t reckoned on kids and my dog’s wind problem

Kerry McLean


British food writer Nigella Lawson (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

British food writer Nigella Lawson (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Getty Images

British food writer Nigella Lawson (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

This week has not been an easy one. In the midst of trying to home school my children, I’ve also been attempting to clear an educational hurdle of my own. I’m almost at the end of my first year of a part-time degree but before I can temporarily throw my books aside for the summer, I have to complete my exams and prove that what I’ve been studying has gone in one ear and hopefully not just dribbled out the other.

Since I first applied to go back to university, this has been the moment I’ve been dreading. Some people are good at sitting exams and some are not. I definitely fall into the latter group.

I had an exam just after Christmas and, while I passed, the experience didn’t fill me with any confidence. Information that I was sure was safely packed into my brain seemed to go walkabout as I sat in the examination hall and stared, hopelessly, at a blank page. So over the last few days I’ve been doubling down on cramming seemingly endless facts, figures, names and dates into my head.

Initially, when we were told that we’d be completing the exams online and from our homes I was almost relieved. It seemed much nicer and less pressured, filling my answers in from the comfort of my dining room, laptop on the table and comfy slippers on my feet.

I had momentarily forgotten that I wouldn’t be alone.

In the midst of trying to complete questions, I’ve been interrupted by my older kids asking me to judge who has the right to the final chocolate biscuit in the cupboard and by my youngest demanding that we go outside to finish our chalk drawings on the fence.

I also had the initially welcome presence of my gorgeous dog, Tarka, who came in and draped herself across my feet, a lovely comforting furry blanket until she emitted gas so pungent that even she left the room, but not before shooting me a dirty look as though I was somehow responsible.

Which in a way, I guess I am. She’s a dog with peculiar tastes, pasta in a tomato sauce being one of her favourite treats. I have no power to withstand her big brown eyes when I’m dishing up for the two-legged members of the family so it’s not unusual when I’ve cooked that particular recipe for me to put a little into her dinner bowl.

I’m not sure if it’s the pasta or the tomato sauce but it always leaves her expelling more methane than your average dairy herd.

Normally, I would have hot-footed it out of the dining room too but being up against the clock, I had to carry on where I was, breathing through my mouth.

As has always been the case during time of stress and study, I have been hoovering up chocolate like it’s been going out of fashion. I would love to be like those women who lose their appetite in times of upset but that has never happened to me.

Last week Nigella Lawson declared that when Covid-19 first appeared, she “forgot” to eat for days.

What’s that about? I could forget to wash, to change my clothes, even forget my own name before I would forget to stuff my face when stressful events are ongoing. This week she tweeted that while she wasn’t cooking meals, she was eating a family sized bar of chocolate every night.

Now, while I welcome her chocolate confession, I also seriously doubt its validity. I could have believed it of Nigella of old but over the last few decades, those curves she was famous for have disappeared and been replaced by a fit and toned body.

I’m not knocking her for that, well done to her for being healthy and she still looks amazing. But don’t try to throw the rest of us a curve ball by claiming you can maintain that shape by munching down on 250g of chocolate a day.

I, on the other hand, am evidence of exactly what an excess of chocolate can do to your figure. By the time my exams are over, you might have to roll me back out of the dining room door...

Belfast Telegraph