Loaf - Crusty rustic " you choose any mix of flours"
400g Wessex Mill strong white flour
100g Wessex Milll Cobbler
white sourdough starter.
Begun Friday 26th March 2021
Baked Sunday 28th March 2021
Now armed with a Danish whisk there were no spoon breaking catastrophes in this bake. I have to confess that we met a day later than planned as on Friday - when I should've been mixing and baking - I fell asleep having been teaching in the morning. I thought I was going to have a disco nap to shift a headache that had blossomed. The nap turned out to be three hours long.
This is the last week of full of lockdown (for now. It feels impossible to allow oneself to hope that another one won't come looming, especially as other European countries are extending or returning to lockdowns).
It's been a hectic week of final assessments for my gorgeous level 3 year two students. Tough saying goodbye to them - we've had a hard year, made harder by Covid - physical theatre doesn't really translate to zoom so well). In between times I have been trying to dig the plot and get it ready for the imminent planting season - knowing that I'm about to go into a three week directing job. It's exhausting returning to normal life.
I mixed the dough on Saturday morning and was then interviewed on Radio Oxford about this project! I then had a few hours whilst the dough proved so wellies on I went for a dig at the plot. While I dug I was listening to the Adam Buxton podcasts. It's taken me a long time to get into these, though they have been recommended time and time again. But I'm now hooked. Yesterday I was, by chance listening to an interview with Elizabeth Day - who wrote the book ' How to Fail' and has a whole Failosophy she was talking about reprogramming your thoughts - something Jane and I have often talked about - we'll come to that later.
Jane and I have a beautifully tangled past. In theory we should have known each other for almost 27 years. Our social paths crossed that often. Jane lived in a house that a beautiful friend of mine Sara, lived in before she moved to Nottingham. Sara and I ran a dance company together for a short while. Jane moved into Sara's room when she moved out and I moved into the same house at the end of a tricky relationship, just as Jane was moving out. We have many mutual friends. But actually, we've only gotten to know each other in any depth fairly recently through our community activities. Jane is a play therapist facilitator. During lockdown Jane has been the Florence Park Chalker leaving amazing chalked provocations our local park. she is a general force for community good (that's a massive undersell).
So I was really pleased when Jane signed up for this project. We never really hang out together - always in groups. This made me both apprehensive and delighted. A winning combination for a Sunday afternoon.
Jane is a beautiful Glaswegian with a naughty sense of humour. As we wandered away from her front door her first tale was about drawing rude pictures in the bunker of a golf course. What I love about this is the edge of anarchy. At this point all I knew was that she hated Golf courses. We decided to go and walk around the golf course nearby. "It's the last day we can do it, the golf course reopens tomorrow, it's really beautiful" promised Jane.
I've never been all the way round the course, I've crossed it and may have moved a pole or two in the dead of night in my youth. That's the thing with growing old in your hometown - you can never do it as disgracefully as the reminders tell you your youth was.
Jane says she has her chalks in her bag just in case. This feels like a promise. If you ever come across Jane chalking in the park you will notice that there are both adults and young people gathered around enjoying watching her create. It's a thing to behold.
As we cross in to Marsh park we encounter the lovely Deb and her partner Nick who is recovering from Covid. It's such a relief to see them both, and looking so blustery and cheerful. While we are talking to them Deb says that she has heard what Jane gets up to in the bunkers. Jane then elaborated that she was angry at the golf course because her "Jewish Aunt and Uncle had not been allowed to join ( back in the day) because they were Jewish - and anyway - the women were only allowed to play on Tuesdays or whatever". It's hard , when you stand in the shoes of the privileged to imagine these discrimination. It's frightening and frustrating to think that they still exist in many realms.
Marsh Park was busy, cricket nets in use, football games, people on the green gym.It's hard to imagine the pandemic when you see people in multiples.
I tell Jane about the podcast I listened to while working on her bread / weeding the allotment, and how it brought Elizabeth Day to my attention. Jane has heard of her, she thinks through her husband Dips. I tell her Elizabeth mentioned that you are NOT your worst thought and asked Jane how she managed to stay so positive. "Lots of people say that and I just want to say 'Jesus, do you know how hard I'm paddling underneath?' But I have retrained my thoughts so that when I go to bed I no longer lie there reprimanding myself for all the stupid things I've done or said in the day" I note that although I know I could reprogram my brain I'm too lazy to go through the process, and so I fall asleep listening to the radio instead. i know that I'm capable of it because I had to rewire my insecurities when my partner worked away from home much of the time. Jane says that she read some great books and still has them on a shelf in the toilet (the best of all library rooms). "I need to remind myself sometimes. Just reading a couple of sentences every now and then really"
" I remember a time, I'd grown up with my friend Stephanie, we would sit up late and unpick insecurities and doubts, recount the times we had each gone to bed and listened to the voices in our head telling us we had been awful. We would stay up all night playing scrabble and reassure each other, or just chat. And I remember this time when I could say to her that I felt ok, and that I had cracked it. It's so good to have a friend that could say 'oh my god thats brilliant!'"
We scramble up through the shrubby, scruffy woodland that shields the park and the golf course from each other and we are suddenly in a tele-tubby aqua world of manicured miniature hills and valleys. All we need is a giggling sun to come out to greet us. It's both surreal and gorgeous.
"Part of the problem is that we feel that we need to be better all the time" says Jane as we take a left turn. "We are told it all the time at school, try harder, get it right, reach this goal". Jane tells me about the Tinkering school where often they'll get something like an old washing machine and take it apart and explore it. There's no goal, they don't have to put it back together but they learn just by tinkering with things" This sounds right up my street and much better than having to pass exams. Talking to Jane makes me reassess my own teaching. I teach theatre, there is no definitive right or wrong, still I have to grade young people but I talk to them a lot about group responsibility. We touch briefly on our beginnings in the church and how we are born with / from sin. We both get a bit wound up by patriarchal systems that we see as historically (and in some cases still) devalue women. Our rising bitterness is diluted as we turn the corner and discover the clubhouse and a beautiful duck pond. I think of all the golfers that have cursed this pond. It's very beautiful, a deep emerald colour - probably not naturally. The fountain in it has a gorgeous spiral movement in it. It's lovely here and we sit to enjoy it. Jane puts her hand in a pile of goose crap. We return to the subject of self inflicted judgement. "Now we feel it as parents. I've learnt to aim for being 'good enough'. I might have moments when I'm brilliant but being good enough means that you can be free-er and have a lack of guilt". As Jane is saying this I can hear my quippy self inside start on a "god, it would be great to just be good enough" ramble but I stop myself. It might be a slippery slope.
"Parenting is so hard" Jane continues as we resume walking. "I can't imagine being a single parent. It's why we need communities - you know, like the coffee and cake club". Jane set up a coffee and cake club for new mums and their babies where a host of volunteers will hold baby while you get ten minutes to have a HOT drink - don't underestimate the power of this, I remember crying over another cup of cold tea once. "We need to check in and see that we are not alone in our struggles and that someone else has ideas of how to cope". Jane has talked very openly, and wrote an article for the NCT about not feeling great after she became a mum.
Is your partner like your dad? Dips definitely is. My dad was calm, funny and kind. Steady.
I remember meeting Jane's mum a few times and remarked that I always felt very comfortable with her - she's easy company and very welcoming. "Yeah, mum and dad had a very sociable house, they often had family and people over - in fact my cousin Nick, who is a writer, thanked my mum and dad for being so kind and warm when he was young. Even though he didn't spend so much time with us something had remained with him into adulthood".
You know when you have a family member or someone that just gets you? It's rarely our parents, it was Stephanie's mum, Una, for me. She lived between Canada and Scotland and told me about a thing that happens in Canada. A collection of grandparents that live away from their grandchildren formed a club to be grandparents to families near them who were also far away from their own families. What a brilliant idea. I always love hearing about things that bring generations together, I think it's something that is dying out in modern times and hope that we can find a way back to that gorgeous interaction between young old and all in-between.
"Stephanies' mum would fend for me. She once brought a phone call up to me, it was morning but I was still asleep. when I answered I was being offered a job at Anderson Primary. 'They're offering me a job' I whispered to her 'I don't know if I want it'. "Tell them you'll call them back" Una advised. "she was the first person I remember telling me that I could say No!. I was convinced that my mum and Dad wold go crazy if I turned down a teaching job having just finished my training, but this was Anderson Primary - all I knew was that I had seen two tramps having sex by it once. "
As we come back to the park we talk about our respective partners. "Dips is definitely grounding for me, I can throw all sorts of metaphorical balls at him and he lets them fall before responding" Jane explains. "he's definitely the Yang to my Yin - I wake up everyday knowing that I'm lucky". That's quite a statement. Lockdown has been a great opportunity to spend time with our eldest daughter who is off to uni in September, in fact to see both the kids more. We've got a family Whatsapp group so that you can approach tricky things without it being accusatory - like 'If you use all the loo roll can you put a new one out". Good thing about whatsapp is then you can add an emoji, come on - no one can get cross at a Poo emoji" On that Jane pulls her alter-ego 'The Florence Park Chalker' from her bag and creates a beautiful cartoon loaf of bread with 52 Loaves 52 Lives written around it. she is meticulous - checking the website to make sure that the grammar was the way it is on everything else.
I think it's her care and attention that means she can be confident in her world outlook. Not wanting to get it wrong and pretty much all of the time seeming to get it right.
Jane would eat her bread with Dips. "Bread means home" and would listen to Toast by Streetband "which my lovely Dad loved. He used to dance about when it came on the radio......"
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