Remind me in twenty minutes that I have a cake in the oven.
It’s a parsnip and maple cake, described by BBC Good Food as ‘easy.’ I’ve made it for my friend’s birthday dinner.
It wasn’t ‘easy.’
It was stressful and time consuming. And there are still no guarantees.
I’m not very good at baking. I have broken sweat over this confection. I’ve grated my fingernails as well as the parsnips and was lucky to retain all ten digits when I ‘roughly chopped’ the pecans.
I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t really love the girl I’m making it for.
But I do. We have been friends since our children were tiny.
We met at the children’s school and discovered that we shared lots in common. We were invariably late for pick up. We both had a crush on Mr Leighton. We both enjoy a good swear and some hard drinking from time to time.
Very occasionally we’ll have a crafty cig even though she is a nurse and I listen to Inside Health and we both know it is bad and can turn beautiful lungs into tar chambers.
We have relaxed, liberal attitudes and a dark sense of humour.
Other mothers were suspicious of us.
In time we scoured the playground and found some other mothers who weren’t suspicious of us and who could lay their hands on some good artisan gin.
We formed a grown up girl gang and called ourselves the Pony Club. I will never be able to tell you why, because it is a lengthy story full of inappropriateness.
Every few weeks the Pony Club meets for dinner at one of our houses. Or we’ll go out for drinks and eats. Very occasionally we invite our jockeys.
But mostly we don’t. We get together to bad mouth the jockeys, share our sexual fantasies (other jockeys may be involved) and drink more than Dr Mark Porter on Inside Health would deem good for us.
It is so much fun.
We like being an exclusive gang with our own secrets, shared memories and in-jokes.
At one or other time we’ve all cried at the table into our Malaysian curry.
These women witnessed the final moments of my front tooth before it literally bit the dust and split from head to toe on an overcooked appetiser.
There they were, hovering around me with glasses of wine for the shock.
You need people in your life who knew you when you still had all your teeth, right?
The friendship of women has been one of the most unexpected and fulfilling joys of my life.
I have a number of close women friends I trust implicitly and on whom I know I can count when things get tricky.
Not all of them are in the Pony Club, but the club is a sort of explicit commitment to friendship and I rather like that.
Growing up, I was never in a gang. I changed schools a few times and I befriended lots of people but I quite liked being on the periphery.
So the exclusivity of a gang in adulthood was something novel for me.
I found myself in another exclusive group when I went to Indonesia kayaking with an intrepid band of women, not all of whom were known to me.
We called ourselves the Dragon Divas! I think the only diva among us was me.
I couldn’t help it. I could never get over the horror of a loo without a flush and a connection to a modern sewage system.
The Dragons, just like the Ponies, turned out to be a top group of adventurous women who mixed an especially good gin even in the most trying of circumstances (choppy seas).
We chatted our way around the Pacific, ogled Indonesian men and crept around real, Komodo dragons.
At night, when we camped on the beaches, I read my tent-mates excerpts from a Jilly Cooper novel.
It was just like being in the fifth form again, only when I was in the fifth form I could turn immediately to the sex bits in those books rather than plough through descriptions of stud pedigrees first.
(I guess in the fifth form my senses weren’t blunted by gin.)
I love a girl gang. And not just because of the gin. You’re always guaranteed cake as well. Which reminds me.
Ok, so it may be ever so slightly over baked, but the Ponies will say nice things anyway. Hurrah for girls!