One Hundred and Twenty Hours
Anyone with a teenager on L-Plates will know exactly what I’m talking about. Barely had Archie made the transition from Ls to Ps when lining up behind him was Arabella, shiny new L-plates in hand. As she walked in the door so proud that she had passed her test and could now learn to drive, she wanted an enthusiastic response, not the groan coming from the pit of my stomach. The thought of another one hundred and twenty hours consumed me.
There are only a few ways to short-circuit the system.
Firstly we sent Arabella to HART for an all day defensive driving course. The idea being she would graduate a safer driver but a big part of my motivation was that the six hours of driving she would do, counts as 18 hours for her logbook! Plus, she drove there and drove home so in one day we reduced 120 to 100.
Then I did a crosscheck with a friend of mine who has a business called the Awesome Driving School. He told me Arabella can have up to 10 lessons with a qualified instructor and for every hour spent in a lesson the RTA will classify that as three hours. So that’s another way of reducing that 120-hour hurdle by another 30 hours.
But that still leaves 70 hours. 70 Hours. Seventy hours in the front passenger seat with an overly confident, nothing-can-go-wrong, I-know-what-I’m-doing, you’ve-told-me-that-before, this-people-mover’s-a-rice-burner, teenager. And I’ve got a friend with triplets.
The first few hours with a new L-Plater behind the wheel are always the worst, even if they have graduated from HART. It’s hard not to be so tense you’re grinding your teeth especially when their most keen interest once in the driver’s seat is to look for the auxiliary cord so they can plug in their I-pod and crank up the music (their selection only).
Then while you’re still grinding your teeth you find yourself leaning to the right as they drive with the left side of the car either in the gutter or on the kerb and you’re terrified you’re going to lose your left shoulder in the collision you’re visualizing with the next lamp post.
There’s a rule you need to slow down when approaching a roundabout but both Archie and Arabella shoot straight through and this is when you feel an oncoming migraine. ‘What was that?’ I yell.
‘Don’t scream at me, mum, you’ll make me nervous’, she replies like my response cannot be justified.
‘You just went straight through, you didn’t even look’.
‘I did, there was nothing coming’.
‘You didn’t even turn your head’, I say, straining now to moderate my tone.
And then there’s cornering. It’s obvious to me that the road has a 90-degree turn to the left fast approaching. This apparently means nothing to Arabella. ‘Slow down’, I try feeling knotted up muscles developing at the back of my neck. No change in speed. ‘Slow down’, I urge. No change. ‘Slow down’, I scream but too late. We take the corner at full speed without a foot going near the break pedal and the rice-burner cornering on two wheels.
‘What was that?’ I yell with a pounding chest, ‘pull over’.
The car keeps moving. ‘What is your problem, mum? You’re very angry today; I should have gone driving with dad. How can I learn when all you do is scream at me?’
You get home. You have a pounding headache, your shoulder’s stiff from wrenching to the right so it wasn’t slammed up against a lamp-post, you’re neck muscles are now spasming and you’re system’s so pumped with adrenalin you’re tongue’s adhered to the roof of your mouth. Now you have to fill out the logbook. Date, time, registration, odometer readings, weather conditions, traffic levels, driver’s licence number and most importantly, length of time on the road – 25 minutes. Subtract 25 minutes from 70 hours. Just 69 hours, 35 minutes to go. And they say the toddler years are tough.
I’ve been in the front passenger seat with Arabella behind the wheel for four hours this week. I’m not going out tonight – no energy left. I’m spending the night in front of a great DVD and I’m going to sit on the couch and enjoy this Indonesian curry. I found the recipe in the June 2011 issue of Gourmet Traveler – a perfect recipe for a cold winter’s night.
Cost: Beef oyster blade is inexpensive making this a tasty but economical meal.
Degree of difficulty: 3/5
2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely chopped
6cm piece of ginger, grated
4cm piece of galangal, grated
13 long red chillies, coarsely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
35g desiccated coconut
1/3 cup vegetable oil
850g beef oyster blade, cut into 5cm cubes
500ml coconut milk
1 tsp caster sugar
Steamed rice to serve
(For extra heat you can add 3-4 birds eye chillies to the curry paste).
Process lemongrass, ginger and galangal in a food processor to form a fine paste. Add chilli, onion and garlic and process to a coarse paste.
Dry-fry coconut in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden (3-5mins), set aside.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add paste and stir-fry until aromatic (4-6 minutes). Increase heat to high, add meat and stir-fry until meat browns (3-5 minutes). Add reserved coconut and fry for 1 minute. Add coconut milk, sugar and 500ml water and bring to the boil, stirring frequently to prevent the coconut milk splitting. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender and coconut liquid begins to turn to oil (2-2 1/2 hours), then remove beef with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Cook sauce, stirring continuously (be careful as hot oil will spit) until almost dry (5-10 minutes). Return beef to pan, stir gently, season to taste and serve with steamed rice.