The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Jess of the dairy fields

By Jessica Miller; the illustration is by Becky Blake

JessOfTheDairyFieldsLogoSmall copy

For a long time, I have daydreamed about running a cookery school for children. Our friend, Clare, is a phenomenal baker. Her home-made, exquisitely presented ‘Picnic for two’ has been the long-standing winner in the hotly contested class at the Dorset County Show. She recently held a baking session for under-10s in the beautiful kitchen of her manor house, to raise money for charity. The photos on Facebook depicted a group of angelic children standing in front of the gleaming Aga, beaming with delight as they posed with the mouth-watering fruits of their labours, while Clare stood alongside, smiling proudly at her young protégés.
Emboldened by her success, I put a notice in the village shop advertising a ‘FREE session’ as a practice run and was delighted when the four places were filled by the end of that day. I turned a deaf ear to Jasper’s grim prediction that ‘This will not end well.’ Instead, I smiled to myself as I pictured the four children gathered around the kitchen table in their mini Cath Kidston aprons, their angelic faces alight with joy as I cracked eggs and beat cake mix, humming merrily like a latter-day Mary Poppins.
I had worked up quite a sweat by the time I had scrubbed and mopped every inch of the kitchen, so I had a quick shower before I measured out four sets of cake ingredients and an assortment of brightly coloured sprinkles, neatly laid out the mixing bowls, scales and spatulas and put on my apron.
At 10 am sharp, there was a hammering on the door before four children swarmed over the threshold, knocking me off balance as they stormed into the kitchen, shouting and whooping.
A short, fat woman stood outside. Her mousy brown hair was scraped into a high pony tail which highlighted her lowering brow and pugnacious features. Huge breasts strained beneath an orange tee shirt spattered with grease stains. Black leggings stretched tightly across dimpled thighs. I could see her knickers through the cheap transparent fabric.
‘Hi! I’m Jess and you must be Paula?’
She ignored my proffered hand. The children had seized the cooking utensils and had started a deafening banging on the kitchen table.

"...they stormed into the kitchen, shouting and whooping."

“…they stormed into the kitchen, shouting and whooping.”

‘So you’re down from Birmingham for the Easter Holidays?’ I shouted over the din.
Paula grunted, tossed her smouldering cigarette butt into the bird bath and leaned in through the kitchen door. ‘Callum, Chelsy, Caleb and Levi,’ she barked, pointing to them in turn.
Callum had his sister in a half-nelson as he attempted to force a handful of self-raising flour into her mouth. She was struggling violently and growling like a rabid dog. ‘Get off me!’ she hissed, and sank her teeth into him.
‘Little cow!’ he shrieked.
I briskly clapped my hands together in a gesture of authority. As if on cue, Levi darted forward and punched Callum with alarming brutality in the solar plexus.
‘Stop it at once!’ I said in a firm voice.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Paula shaking her head pityingly at me. ‘Pack it in, you little sods!’ she roared, whacking Callum around the back of the head with a meaty hand. The elastic of her g-string was visible above the leggings and the lardy white slabs of her buttocks chafed as she waddled down the drive.
‘Fat cow,’ muttered Callum.
‘I’m not wearing this,’ said Caleb, throwing his apron on the floor.
‘First of all, we crack the eggs into a bowl and mix them together to get the air into them.’
‘You’ve got big knockers, Miss,’ said Levi.
‘It’s very important to try to keep the mixture light and airy.’ I said through gritted teeth, beating the cake mix so violently that a fine film of perspiration broke out on my forehead.
‘Nice wrist action, Miss,’ tittered Caleb.
Maintaining a dignified silence, I spooned the mixture into the cake tins and put them into the Aga before popping to the loo.
Two minutes later, I stood in the kitchen doorway and surveyed the carnage. The catering size bag of caster sugar had been upended onto the floor and white footprints led out of the kitchen and up the stairs. The kitchen ceiling shook as the children rampaged along the upstairs landings, tearing up and down the passageway with reverberating thumps. A deafening crash was followed by a piercing shriek of agony and Levi stumbled down the stairs, clutching her wrist and sobbing.
The back door swung open and Paula stood in the doorway, her colossal frame silhouetted in the spring sunshine. ‘What the hell is going on?’ she bellowed.
‘I only went to the loo,’ I said faintly
‘Right kids, all of you out. Now!’
‘Are you going to take me to hospital, Mum?’
‘No. I’ve got to get ready for Bingo.’
‘What about the cakes?’ I stammered.
‘You can stick your cakes where the sun don’t shine,’ she growled, dragging Caleb and Levi out of the kitchen by the scruffs of their necks.
Jasper came in, took in my stricken expression, the charred remnants of the cake in the kitchen sink and the fine layer of flour that covered every surface.
‘Don’t say a word.’ I said wearily.
He was trying not to laugh as he put a sympathetic arm around my shoulders: ‘I can’t wait to see the showstopper…’

Dorset Directory