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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

My dad-in-law has a nasty case of the flu. I blame a combination of jet lag and plane germs.

He's not a very pleasant patient to nurse; he tends to be grumpy and uncooperative when feeling poorly, so he's giving my poor mom-in-law a heck of a runaround. I took him in to see our family doctor this morning and got some antibiotics, which should do the trick and get him back on his feet. We're hoping that he'll be better by the end of the week, because we're all supposed to be going to spend this weekend in St Augustine. I hope we don't have to cancel, but I think it would be a bad idea if we went while my dad-in-law was still feeling under the weather. He's not a young man anymore; we need to look after him. My MIL is not one to let illness (her own or a family member's) slow her down, so she's insisting that my FIL will be fine by then. I'm not so sure I trust her judgement on this one, though. After all, this is the woman who, when her eleven year old son broke his arm en route to a family hiking trip in the berg, simply stopped at Umtata, had the arm set, and carried on as planned. There are pictures of Bobby up the mountain, broken arm and all, to prove it. Of course, in my MIL's defense, Bobby wouldn't have had it any other way, and has very fond memories of that trip. But still.

After we got back from the doctor's, my mom-in-law baked a Christmas cake with the kids. They had a wonderful time. I am glad they'll have these memories. Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent baking with my gran .... there's no-one can make you feel more special and loved than your grandparents, I think.

The buying of the ingredients was a real mission for me though, mainly because my MIL was determined to make the cake precisely the same way as she's done it in Maritzburg for the past fifty years. Only, thing is, you can't buy exactly the same kind of candied fruit here as you can there. You can't find currants at all (at least in our local grocery store). And (gasp) Robert's Mixed Spice is not available. That's the danger of having One Certain Way of doing things : when you're in familiar situations it's adaptive, because it makes for efficiency with the task. But as soon as conditions change, you're lost if you can't improvise.

Anyway, so we must have made a fine sight in the grocery store, with my MIL scrutinising each and every spice bottle, apparently hoping that one of them would metamorphose into what she wanted. She wasn't at all happy with my suggestion of subsituting nutmeg and cloves and maybe a smidge of ginger, but eventually reluctantly agreed. I hope the cake tastes okay to her ... personally I think that so long as we pour enough brandy on it it'll be fine.

The next thing is the icing. She has very firm ideas about what she wants to get from the store tomorrow. I don't do any icing other than glace icing, so I have no idea whether it'll be easy or impossible to pick them up.

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