Updated: Apr 9
The Loaf- " rustic crusty 'cos that's what I am cobbler because that's all I speak"
Wessex Millwhite bread flour
Wessex Millcobbler flour
white sourdough starter
Started Friday 2nd April 2021 (Good Friday) Finished Sunday 4th April 2021 (easter Sunday)
This was quite a wet dough. A stick to the hands and get everywhere kind of dough. I was a bit nervous making this bread - and for the interview. I'd had a big week. My first week back in a professional theatre room, directing a two hander that would, normally tour secondary schools. I directed it last year and the two week tour was cut in half by lockdown #1. It was, a year ago and was the last professional job I did. This makes me anxious. Demons have been playing havoc - planting seeds of doubt in my fertile mind. This year we are making it into a film and I've had the pleasure of sitting alongside the videographer - with him telling me why my movement heavy transitions - born from script analysis, word structure, emotional journey of characters , were irrelevant. It has been brilliantly testing, learning from scratch again. I've been intimidated and loved it all at the same time. But that's exhausting in itself, let alone doing a 9-5 again.
I'm also nervous because this loaf is for a dear friend. And as I try and stretch and fold the gloop I reflect on blog #1 - where I said I didn't really have solid friendships - it was inaccurate. Loaf #3 is going to one of my solid friends. When I think about it, I don't have friends that I GO and DO things with - then I wonder if I actually ever do things with other people or by myself ( see where this downward spiral is taking me?). In term times I teach after school clubs at a local primary school, one of which is cookery. I try and get a little bit of everything in, so we make something with pastry ("treat it like your friend") and pizza with a bread base ("treat it like your enemy"). As I manipulate this loaf I see that I'm treating it and myself like my enemy. Give yourself a break!
I used a new lame to cut the marks on the loaf, a big 's' like slash down the middle and smaller bits on the side, I often fail with fancy. I'm nervous about razor blades and sharp edges - something to do with pulling my had out of a washing up bowl with a cheese slicer embedded back when I worked in sandwich bars. But it's satisfying to slice through the dough that can hardly contain its own shape.
My kitchen is over run with starter. In an attempt to use some of it up I'm also making sourdough pizza bases, sourdough sandwich loaves and hot cross buns. It's going to be a carb-tastic weekend. It's quite a joyous punctuation of time.
#3 and I first met when our children (now in their early 20's) were at primary school together. The school playground was an uncomfortable place for me, as a child and no less as an adult the second (and third) time around. #3 was a staunch ally in those times and we had a very 'help each other out' relationship.
Todays bread was exchanged. not on a walk, but at the allotment site where we each have a plot. It was a gloriously sunny day, despite a weather forecast for the opposite and we sat beneath the greengage tree, each with our flask of tea, some of the aforementioned hot cross buns, easter decorations and each other.
During the lockdowns we shared many moments like this. the allotments were a godsend. My partner was working from home and we have a small house, so him being at the kitchen table meant that it was tricky for me to potter around much. so I would escape to the plot - listen to audiobooks. even when the rest of the world was subjected to 'one hour' of outdoor time, Michael Gove said it was ok to go to your allotment. It's probably the only time I have believed something he said. Hmmm, I was going to try and keep this project non political so ignore that last line if you would. Aside from government dictates, it was clearly ok to head to the plot. Outside, vitamin D in abundance, exercise, space and good mental health. It made sense. Whats more you would get to see a handful of people, all distancing whilst they dug. #3's greengage tree has sheltered us through the seasons and given us jam to boot. For #3 the lockdown and time after has given time off commuting to London and the plot provided some human contact as well as exercise.
"I'm quite nervous about this' says #3. "Why?" I ask - not disclosing that I am too. "I've read your other interviews and people seem so creative". I'm not fast enough of brain to add that people are creative in different ways - some publicly and some privately but that most people are creative in one way or another. For my lockdown birthday last year #3 brought a home cooked lemon and tahini cake and a beautiful middle eastern dinner to my doorstep. They are very creative and thoughtful. I often lack imagination when it comes to gifts. Their house is beautifully curated in a way that I can only hope to ever achieve. We nervously continue to sit in the rare, surprise sunshine and chew the fat. I occasionally take a note in my little book but I begin to panic. "In my other interviews" I tell #3, "I thought I wouldn't remember things, but as I retraced the steps of our walks in my head I could remember what we had been chatting about - it's the actors skill - remembering what was said where" But we are just sat - maybe I won't remember what we have talked about at all....
We began with our cats. We heard the birds singing and I cringed remembering that my cat had brought in 2 birds the previous 2 nights. Both dead. #3 has been my cat knowledge go to over the past 6 months. I adopted Mamakat after she had kittens under the shed next door and then stayed around for a while, seemingly stray. #3 told a tale of her cat bringing home a bird, still alive which she locked in one room to keep it safe from the cat while it recovered and it went through a gap in the skirting board and flew out of the bathroom window. Both of Mama's 'gifts' have been brought in dead while I've been on an online zoom rehearsal or meeting so I've had to try and be cool and calm as I carefully lifted my feet out of the way of the feathery deposit.
Shortly into our chat #3 chucks the phrase "bowled a googly" into the conversation. "That's an odd phrase" I comment. I know what it means because my son and partner are both
cricket mad, so I learnt about it and now love going to watch it. "Did your dad use to say it? was he sporty? "
"No not really, he would run a bit when he was younger, and he would cycle. I went with him once to buy a cycle from a family. He went off with the husband to talk bicycles and i was talking to the wife. She was telling me that as a child in a rural area she would get a shilling for every 10 leverets she could find. She would take the leverets home and her mother would skin them and pan-fry them. . It was a reminder of how varied rural life was - not all very comfortable. "The 1970's were most equal time in terms of socioeconomics" says #3. "Because we had a lot of unionised industries - most of it has gone now but it created a much more level playing field. The agricultural unions are still going strong. I once had to go to Butlins in Minehead to present the prizes at the unions darts league. You can see old photos from the competitions and their dinner dances, the bottles of beer have had their labels whited out so that it wouldn't upset the Temperance society. Employers began holding all of these activities for their employees and then the unions also did, so that workers could engage without having to pay lip service to their employers. When I went over to the Guiness works - it was like 'Guinessland', sports clubs, non sporting cubs, annual fairs. Now its hard to imagine a pub where farm workers could go in their overalls, covered in dust and get served badger meat sandwiches! It's true, badgers were free and plentiful". I remembered that time I remembered that my dad would sometimes bring home a rabbit or a pheasant and mum and I would have to deal with it. My mum hated it but we were quite hard up. I used to go hunting with my dad when I was little, he often called me his little shadow. Food was a big issue in our house, as it is indeed in any house with not much money. We talk about this, I describe getting to go on Uncle Kens sausage machine. We had lots of family friends and neighbours called aunty and uncle for no blood relation reason. It was just the way. " Was there any funny business? asks #3 and I realise how 'sausage machine' might be misconstrued "No, he was a butcher" I replied," I felt like I was on the generation game - which was an ambition of mine as a child"
An allotment neighbour walks by with a pram, their baby was born in November last year. They have a muslin cloth thrown over the hood of the pram to shade the baby from the sun
"God, remember that" we remark. #3 re-enacts the 'Effing' umbrella, with its clip that wouldn't stay done up, or it would break, and you would have to reposition the umbrella every time you turned a corner" We are laughing slightly too hysterically because early motherhood is not easy for anyone, but we can't tell the neighbour that , she'll find it all out. The presence of the baby gives us licence to remember our babies and how anxious we were, always calling the Dr. #3 was on their own, a single parent with not much support around. "I remember just catching baby in the nick of time when they rolled over for the first time, about to go head first off the bed" I remember tucking my son into the fold of the sofa and discovering that he could roll over - but this time it was when he hit the floor. Our children were good friends, both beautiful scallywags. We still can't talk about the time mine wrote F*!@ Off in one of #3's child Beano Annuals without guffawing - it was in invisible ink but still, it was there and he told people that it was - because what is the point of breaking rules if you are the only one that knows that you have?
We eat some of the hot cross buns.
"It seemed like it would go on forever" comments #3 "And now they are both adults"
"Do you want some rhubarb?"the neighbours call over.
We saunter down the plot towards the new mum, she can't stop rocking the pram because the baby hates to be in anything that restricts her movement, so if she wakes up whilst they are at the plot she would have to be carried home and she is too heavy for that.
We somehow talk about strictly come dancing and the joy that was Bill Bailey. I tell our neighbour that #3 is a mine of information when it comes to strictly - you can ask about a rhumba 4 years ago and they will now the celebrity, the professional, the music and the score. such an immense head. It's our winter ritual, in normal years #3 will come over to ours, watch strictly and have supper on a Saturday. It's not really 'doing' much but it's a comfortable way of being and belonging .
Yesterday I made the first rhubarb crumble of the year.
#3 would eat bread with PRINCE if she could. " He probably wouldn't talk much but I'd like to hear what he had to say". I don't know why this took me by surprise - I love it and would dearly love to be a fly on the wall at this bread sharing meeting between prince and the friend latterly known as #3.
And 3 would listen to the orchestra that their child used to play French horn in - one of the pieces with a lot of French horn.
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