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Apron Strings

June 5, 2018

Apron =  /ˈeɪpr(ə)n/ (does anyone know what these symbols actually mean?)noun – a protective garment worn over the front of one’s clothes and tied at the back.

Traditionally children who wouldn’t leave home were talked of as ‘tied to their mother’s apron strings’.  I suspect that is why some aprons have removable strings.

When I put on an apron it is a sign that I am about to focus on cooking, or perhaps some other sort of work that involves getting grubby or splashed, but mostly it’s for cooking.  I’ve been wearing aprons for years, more since owning my own catering business where putting on my apron is a reflex action and signals to my brain to get ready for a day’s cooking, shift focus, put on that hat.

When I was a waitress, back in the olden days, I wore a black waist apron and red lipstick.  Both of these together were my ‘uniform’, and with them my day to day persona was masked and my front of house, flirty, cheeky character flourished.  Youth helped of course but my point is that the putting on of any kind of uniform (and make up can be a part of that) can help you transform into the person you need to be at any one time.

Waitresses have always worn aprons, possibly the most famous style being that of the Nippy from the Lyons Corner Houses that were country wide at one point, even having a brand of cigarettes named after them.  The aprons were not very practical, being little pleated organza things attached their alpaca (!) dresses, but were part of a uniform designed to be easy to identify and they presented a brilliant image for the company.

Nippies with adapted dresses for cycling (note no aprons here but i just love this image!)

Aprons are cover-alls, just like overalls that mechanics wear, or dungarees (overalls as they call them in the US, dungarees are just jeans over there) that old timey men wear while chewing straws and strumming banjos on their front porches, while Grandma rocks in the chair wearing her own cover-all of a traditional apron of the faded floral pinafore variety, shelling black eye peas and smoking her corncob pipe.  I digress.

Over time they have been used for all sorts of things including ceremonial purposes, bejewelled for Egyptian pharaohs or Masonic initiates.  In early Crete they were worn by fertility goddesses.  I struggle slightly to see how that could be related to to today’s version, especially as with bosoms akimbo they certainly wouldn’t protect the wearer from spitting fat from the frying pan but things were different in them days.

Aprons have mostly been worn by women over the last century or so, for work and for domestic use, although chefs, fishmongers, butchers and other burly tradespeople of the male kind also still wear them.  They have varied from the full you-will-not-get-past-me pinafore, or pinny, to the frilly little waist thing that the good housewife would change into from her workaday one in order to greet her hard working husband at the door, gimlet in hand and puckered lips at the ready.

I had some of those which I bought in a job lot of old linen, and while these fantasies can be fun to consider for a nanno second, the reality is they were ridiculous items and a badge of subservience which women sensibly no longer subscribe to (also barely made it round my waist but that’s not why I gave them away, obviously).  They have a variety of names from the butcher’s or bib apron, to hostess, pinny, cobbler, smock or even, bizarrely, bungalow (what we would more easily recognise as a ‘house coat’ of the kind that was worn by depressed housewives as they polished their ornaments, usually made of bri-nylon sparking all the way, or as worn with such style by the fabulous Mrs. Overall).

Of course aprons have a very practical point, and that is to protect the clothing underneath from whatever you are doing, in my case more often than not wiping floury hands, or sticky knives on them.  The add a layer of security and bust rustling efficiency to any domestic scene, even if worn by a man.

When I put on my apron I feel encased, supported and ready for anything.  It’s a bit like wearing big pants for security on a bad day.  I think everyone should have at least four.  Aprons that is.  I think one should have as many pairs of big pants as your drawers (haha – pun fun) can contain.

 

 

 

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Desk lunch

April 26, 2018

As an optimist I would say I’m half way through cleaning up and organising my desk and study, so I decided it was time to stop for a little lunch of the fridge forage variety.   Having roasted a lovely chicken on Monday for supper, had chorizo & chicken casserole last night I am now down to the left over meat and the yummy stock from that one generous bird.

Would it be chicken salad or chicken and miso broth?  The broth would require me removing the bones from the stock and frankly I couldn’t be bothered, even though that is about one of my favourite soups with a few rice noodles and some seaweed (yes, I know…); so chicken salad it is.

Chicken & couscous salad – tarnished silver spoon was a charity shop find just in case anyone is about to explode at the middle class heirloom statement cutlery audacity. #getthelook https://www.stpetershospice.org.uk

Use as much or as little as you like of any ingredient, it really doesn’t matter much.

Spring onion, chopped

A few cherry tomatoes, chopped

Some cucumber chopped

Some left over chicken bits, chopped

Handful of frozen peas, defrosted (I put peas in everything)

A tablespoon or two of wild garlic pesto, of you have it (I have tons of the stuff, getting a bit bored of it now), if not some pungent herb like basil or fresh oregano would be nice.

Mix together in a big with a dollop of plain yoghurt and a squeeze or two of a lemon

To stretch and add carbs mix with some couscous – if you decide to do this, like I did, I suggest omitting the yoghurt, like I didn’t, because it makes it a bit claggy.

Add a load of freshly ground black pepper and salt if wanted and maybe a bit more lemon to lift it a bit.  Pretty yummy if a bit claggy and loads left over for the hunter and gatherer’s lunch tomorrow.  PLUS big bonus of a bit more chicken meat still left and that fabulous stock which will last for ages and make a good soup or risotto soon.  So, five meals out of one chicken.  Yes, organic chickens cost considerably more than the tragic, miserably pumped up excuses for fowl that are the at the budget end but used wisely they go a long way.   Middle class, first world, over privileged?  Tick, tick, tick.  Also, with organic chickens from some shops you still get the giblets which you can add to the stock or gravy, plus fry the little liver in butter and eat from the pan as an hors d’oeuvre, innit?

Anyway – there it is, or was.  All gone now, half into my newly fitted brace on my upper teeth.  So after a thorough excavation of teeth and metal I shall return to the sorting and tidying, and by the end of the day I will have a space for thought and creativity, where I will start thinking and creating, hopefully.

 

 

Cake.

February 8, 2018
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This is orange season, and particularly gorgeous are these juicy little blood oranges you can pick up in most green grocers or supermarkets.  Marmalade is next on my list but in the meantime it being one of my brother’s birthdays last week, and he coming over for a little weekday supper last night to celebrate in a Wednesday-ish sort of way, I thought I’d make a Persian orange cake.   Cake is the perfect way to celebrate pretty much anything, and also the answer to most of life’s problems I think, except perhaps if you are on a diet. Luckily none of us last night were on a diet.  This is such a lovely, fragrant cake (also gluten and fat free – yes, it is), and such an easy recipe I then thought I’d put it our there for you, gentle reader.

This based on a Claudia Roden recipe I have used for years.  She is a remarkable women and worth a diversion away from here should you be curious to know more.

Persian Orange Cake

2 large, or 3 small/medium oranges.  (Blood oranges are lovely for this but to be honest don’t make a lot of difference to the colour unless they are very dark red.  Any nice ripe oranges will do.)

6 eggs

250g ground almonds

200g sugar

1 tsp baking powder

Method.

In Advance

Put the oranges in pan of boiling water – enough so they bounce around a bit, not touching the bottom.  These need to simmer away for an hour or so, until really soft, so the water will need to be topped up every now and then.

When soft drain the water and let the oranges cool.

When cooled down cut them cross ways and scoop out any pips.  Then put the oranges, peel and all, into a food processor to whizz into a pulp.  If you don’t have one they will need thorough mashing with a potato masher, or chopped finely on a board (this could get messy).  You need to end up wth a lovely sloppy pulp.  Then put this to one side.

Ready to bake.

Pre heat the oven to about 200 degrees or gas 6.

Line a baking tin with baking parchment. I use a round one because that’s what I have and I think round looks nice, but use what you like, just make sure you line it.  My tin is approx 10″ diameter which works well for these quantities.

Whisk the eggs throughly in a large bowl.  Add the almond, sugar & baking powder and combine well.  Add the pulp and stir vigorously.  If you like you can add a few drops of orange water here to give it a more perfumed aroma.

Scrape entire mix into the tin and put into the oven, middle shelf, for approximately one and half hours.  It needs to spring back very gently to the touch when it is ready, and not wobble.  Use a toothpick or skewer to double check if you’re not sure.  It won’t come out squeaky clean because of the way the cake is formed, but it should come out without raw sticky bits on it.

Options:

Sprinkle with icing sugar or drizzle with a marmalade syrup to serve.  Marmalade syrup is easy  – add a few tablespoons of water and one of sugar to one large one of marmalade and boil for 5 mins or so, until the sugar is dissolved.  The thicker you want it the longer you boil it.  You can leave the bits in or remove them, up to you, but it adds a lovely sharp extra marmaladey taste to the cake.

Serve warm or room temp with crème frâiche.  Stored in a sealed container this will last a week.  It won’t, because it tastes so good, but theoretically…

 

It’s a living?

January 4, 2018

I read an article recently about the mental state of chefs in restaurant kitchens.  It highlighted some really important issues and problems with the way restaurants are run in this country, particularly the high end, Michelin star chasing variety.

The writer of this article is Jay Rayner, he of the large opinions and and enormous appetite, and it is quite good, sympathetic and no doubt has been fact checked etc.  However, it struck me forcibly that this article would not pass the Bechdel test, if that test was tweaked and applied to this kind of writing.  Jeremy King is “softening up the atmosphere by introducing older cooks and by employing more women”, as though old people and women are new types of aromatherapy oils.  I wasn’t aware until now that this was apparently the point of women in the catering industry.

So I began to think about all the women I had worked with and for over the years, and how many of them are still running successful kitchens and catering businesses without recourse to employing men to beef up the soft atmosphere, but perhaps employing them along side women as equals – now there’s a thought.

When I first started in the catering industry in 1980 I was a whipper snapper waitressing for vodka and lime money while at college, working for a woman called Tessa.  On leaving college, having ‘studied’ photography, I realised that since I was no Ansel Adams photography wasn’t for me and so I wandered into full time catering, as so many do.  Smiths Restaurant in Covent Garden was one of my first London jobs, as a cashier then waitress, alongside another job at the Covent Garden General Store, basket department (did you note that I had two jobs? good.).

Smith’s was owned by the redoubtable Christina Smith who owned half of Covent Garden at that time, with the Flower Smith, Smith’s Gallery, The Tea House & Neal Street East as her commercial outlets.  Ok, she wasn’t a chef, but she saved Covent Garden from demolition, had an incredible eye for art and beauty, great taste in food and awoke a love in me for seriously stylish restaurants, so a worthy female role model.

My last shift at Smith’s restaurant – hence irreverent pose on the piano and glass of bubbly (behind me are some of the art works that are being sold for charity by Christina).

Some of my colleagues at lunch, post shift at Smith’s – we were a serious and thoughtful lot.

Smith’s Restaurant was in the basement of the gallery, painted white throughout with large booths in between the enormous pillars and stunning art on the walls (it is now a Belgos, dark and dungeon like and smelling of stale mussels).  I didn’t have much to do with the kitchen in those days, apart from flirting occasionally over the pass in order to get an order out quicker, discovering the joys of celeriac match sticks in salads and learning how to fillet a dover sole.  While there I worked with David Eyre and Mike Belben who went on to start the Eagle, the world’s first* gastro pub, and also worked and lived with Graham Walker (now Norton) who was just as funny then as he is now, just with much cheaper clothes.  Anyway, I digress as usual.

*probably

Moving on – I worked at the Groucho Club where the full force of macho kitchen bollocks was on display quite a lot of the time, and it wasn’t just staff hoovering up the cocaine.  Despite the male dominated line up in the kitchen, my manager was Mary-Lou Sturridge, a force to be reckoned with and good laugh to boot.  Next was 192, a sister restaurant to the Groucho, mostly managed by women and where the head chef was Maddalena Bonino, who seems to have fallen of the face of google – a brilliant cook, sharp, with flaming red hair and scarlet lipstick.

Then on to the place where I really learned about food; presentation, aesthetics and ethics, the feel of working in good a team – the glamour of the clientele aside it was a very down to earth place.  It was, of course, run by women.  It still is.  Rose sadly died in 2010, and while she is clearly missed Ruth keeps the stoves lit and the line up of staff a good mix of the sexes.  Rose & Ruth were an education in themselves.  Rose tall, very English, slightly sardonic and pithy (and occasionally pissy) with a love of art and Patsy Kline that allowed me to finally admit my own secret love of country music.  Ruth was breathy, generous and flamboyant.  When you worked for her you were hers, lock stock.

Rose & Ruth

Most people who know about the River Cafe always comment on the staggeringly expensive menu.  And it is, and was, no question.  But I would like to suggest that perhaps this is what it is actually worth.  I don’t know what staff there are paid these days but I know that I was paid well and fairly back in 1991, more indeed, literally, than I earn now.  We were also fed extremely well, after service, all together.

The catering business is totally unbalanced.  As we all eat out more, as  matter of course now, and choose our eateries based on price, quality of the food, atmosphere and ethics (in that order – I did a survey) we push more and more places to compromise their standards or close.   We are not willing to pay what the food actually costs if you take into account decent wages, overheads, tax (don’t even get me started on the deep unfairness of the vat system in the industry), rising ingredient costs etc.  If we did, we probably wouldn’t be able to eat out so often.

It is telling that the most successful restaurants are those that are either chains or small, owner operated.  Anything in between is up against enormous odds, especially somewhere like Bristol where saturation point for coffee shops, cafes, restaurants and bars was hit a long time ago, and yet still they come (and go).

It is exciting to go and find the newest place, cast your vote and then move on to the next.  But sometimes I wish that the little neighbourhood bistro could exist in peace and just carry on doing what it does well, without having to instagram every meal or watch their neighbourhood get all up and coming, get eclipsed by the hipster cereal cafe next door and whither away, only for that to be eclipsed by a coffee emporium where you can make your own coffee at your table (I can do that in my kitchen surely?) or yet another incarnation of the burger joint selling, ooh let me think, burgers.

What to do about it all?  I have ideas.  I do feel that the world has reached a tipping point regarding it’s attitude to women, and the power that we hold but don’t exercise, yet – our time approaches I am sure of it.  It’s how we handle it that will count.  And the catering industry?  Perhaps as more women feel able to step up and take control we won’t be used simply as fragrant soft furnishings by men.  I think it may have started…   What do you think?

Three Sisters

November 3, 2017
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Three sisters, and vermouth – the same but different.

I have two sisters.  A lot of people don’t have any sisters, or siblings at all.  Families come in all shapes and configurations and sisters don’t necessarily have to be a part of that, or siblings of any kind come to that.  But, already, I digress.  I have two sisters.  And a sister from another family who is a very different sort of sister.  And friends who are like sisters, except that presumably not all sisters are the same so who knows if they are like that kind of sister or is they are just that kind of friend.

Anyway.   Due to the way my family is shaped, and because of its migration to Scotland from Yorkshire in 1974 which led to me going away to school, and of course our age differences,  I never really had the growing up with a sister thing, the shared clothes, the vileness/adoration back and forth, the shared boyfriends and makeup.  Although I do remember being mean to to Emma when she was about eight because she borrowed my yellow, imitation patent leather sling back platform shoes and trampled them through the mud and dust of the Scottish earth around our caravan.  Yes, I really spent money on those.

Things I do remember of living with my sisters are of my elder sister, Sue, simply being there, serious, helpful and kind, slightly distant, and then going away to boarding school.  Oh the glamour of it, the grown-upness of it.  Her room was left immaculate, with her giant rag dolls on the bed, with their eyelashes made of lace – the only immaculate room in the house.  She had a Venetian glass necklace, of tiny birds and flowers on her dressing table, that I would look at, hold and want with every fibre of my being.  And then the next thing I knew she was engaged, wearing a silver lurex mini dress to her party at the same time as our mother went into labour with my little sister, Emma.

We were still in Yorkshire then and Emma was brought home in a snowy white shawl, soft as a lamb.  Us older ones were ushered in to greet her on return from school, Nurse Thompson, the district nurse, standing over us to make sure we didn’t break her.  She was tiny, pink and sweet.  She stayed that way for many years, until finally her little dimpled knuckles filled out and her hands became capable and strong.

Sue and Emma book end the family.  They seem to have had different lives to the rest of us, again due to circumstance and age gaps more than anything intentional.  One day I will gather their memories and line them up along side mine – I expect they won’t match at all.  I was very much part of the rough and tumble of the boy’s lives, wearing their hand me downs as well as my girl cousin’s hand made smocks from Harrods.  I felt more of sister to them growing up.  Phil, Luke and me – we were the little ones.  We had supper together made by Eileen, our ‘Mother’s help’.  She wasn’t a very good cook.  The older ones had supper with our parents, proper, grown up food.  I don’t actually know what they ate but I know it wasn’t mince in gravy browning with lumpy mash.  We were a team of three who would fight constantly and messily.  But still, a team.  I was the only girl in that team.

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Emma, Sue, me – taken at a particularly poignant time.

But now the value I place on my relationship with my sisters cannot be measured.  We meet up, the three of us, at least once a year.  We usually plan something like a spa day with champagne and caviar vol-au-vents, but as the day approaches we hone it to a more manageable event.  It doesn’t really matter what we do because it’s just about being together.  The talk never stops, the constant flow of mutual support, more often than not one of us will cry, coo over each other’s achievements, children, new carpet, whatever.  We commiserate with the failures, the sadnesses, the shock of a disease or tricky life turn, and the gradual creep of age which, outrageously, is even beginning to show, just a tiny bit, on Emma.

I am a very lucky person.  I have some fabulous friends, a family I adore, a son who is a source of wonder and love, a husband who puts up with me and has my undying love.

I am aware that these posts of mine weave crazily through self loathing, self congratulating, counting blessings, fury at the world, soppy ones, heart felt and meandering ones, no real rhyme or reason to them, and there’s no special reason why I thought about my sisters today today, apart from someone posted this song on face book as a tribute to his sisters.  (Please listen).  But if you read these, and you know me at all, then you know this is kind of how my mind works.  I would apologise except I don’t want to – you can always stop reading.  My sisters are little bits of magic of my life, sparkly and special – I love them.

Onward?

September 13, 2017

Bombarded from all sides by bleakness, despair, anger and bafflement.  And that’s just my facebook feed.  I try to stay away, but it’s hard when my work involves a lot of social media action.  Also, does staying away from it, and from the news in general actually mean I’m opting out of taking action?  Letting the apathy reign?  I suspect so.   I know people who say they don’t watch/listen to/read the news as though this is some sort of higher achievement.  Perhaps it is, but from where I sit to ignore the news is to condone what is happening in the world.  And there is a lot happening in the world.  It makes me so mad that my auto correct gets overheated and I end up typing completely unreadable sentences.  Then I correct each word individually and you get the sentence above.  Nice and righty tighty.

Where to begin?  America & Trump?  Hurricanes (not the cocktail version)?  Floods?  Fires – forest or tower blocks? Brexit? Nazis? Refugees?  Human traffickers?  Ethnic cleansing?  Shall I go on?  Do I need to?  All these questions, I do apologise – be reassured they are rhetorical, for the purposes of this blog anyway.

Nitty gritty then.  Let’s begin with facebook.  That thing that brings old friends and new together in cyber space.  (What is cyber space?  Is it a cloud?  If so is it in Alaska? I heard THE cloud is in Alaska)  I wouldn’t be married if it wasn’t for facebook, at least, not to the person I am married to .  I have hooked up with old school pals, some not seen our leaver’s weekend 38 years ago – sometimes that proves to be very odd, sometimes it’s magic.  I see pictures of kittens, I posted pictures of kittens, I see things that make me laugh and make me cry, sometimes both.

But. But.  All this, the good and bad, feeds this hunger in us for connection without actually providing it.  It shows us pictures of other people, mostly friends or friends of friends or complete strangers that some how pop up on your feed, having a fabulous time, often with blue sky and the odd yacht in the back ground.  It can make me feel bad things; anger, envy,  f.o.m.o (fear-of-missing-out, if you didn’t know), inadequacy and sadness, because look at those lovely, jolly lives – why isn’t mine like that?  Forgetting of course that mine is, actually, like that, sometimes, and theirs isn’t, all the time.

Photos, those clever little reflections of non-reality create the illusion of of these perfect worlds where it’s always sunny, and Prosecco runs like amber streams through the lollipop country side.  Or something.  It used to be just magazines that you had to actively choose to buy, spend hard earned cash on and read that would make you feel so inadequate.  Now you can’t move for images designed to bring you to your miserable, baggy, unattractive and elderly (how very dare you?!) knees at the foot of the god of shiny stuff  mumbling ‘I am not worthy oh shiny one, please forgive me and take all my money’.

Facebook also streams political opinion from within one’s own political bubble – feeding the fury but offering no way to actually DO anything except sign another bloody petition and create feelings of impotence and despair.  (Are all the petitions stored in Alaska too?)

I am also presented with un-asked for visions of animals being skinned alive, brutalised by numb, inhuman humans.  Am I better off knowing about this?  I can’t un-know it, or un-see it.  Who is this person skinning a dog?  When, where and why was this done and why was this picture taken (and no, I am not going to put it on here)?  What do I do with that? Do I fact check it?  Do I write to the purported government?  If so, who within that government?  How do I follow that up?  And do I do this with every awful thing I see on this site? If so who will pay my bills while I do this, and who will look after me as I disintegrate into a frothing heap of wide eyed bafflement at the awfulness of the world?

Here’s some good stuff that is going on, you know, for a little balance.

One of my neighbours, and good friend, helped another much less fortunate neighbour to get his life if not actually back on track, then at the very least standing up and facing the track, fuelled by cheese on toast and tomatoes and some very practical help.  Cheese and tomatoes provided by me so I feel a tiny percentage of ownership .  Tiny.  Very proud of her.

Myself and another neighbour, and good friend (it’s a great street this, you should live here) are doing a sewing project together.  It’s an experiment which could lead to all sorts of exciting stuff, and at the very least will hopefully provide some much needed Christmas pennies and some laughs as we rediscover the ancient art of tacking, tailors chalking and how to remove blood from precious fabric while simultaneously holding up pricked finger to avoid spilling more.

My son offered to finance my next business project – best laugh I’ve had in weeks!  It was offered in jest but just the thought… and then again – you never know what the future holds.

Me and my man are heading across the pond to Trump land very soon for a holiday and family visit.  We and an unexpected and very welcome offer a bed for three nights in New York with a friend I don’t know awfully well but look forward to getting to know better.  Knowing she is there, and the other truly lovely and generous souls that we will see and celebrate the good stuff with balances out the dread in my heart of seeing this wonderful country in the grip of such a maniac.

My Mum and her partner Nancy had their 90th & 80th respectively birthday celebration. It was a fine family do, with all the great traditions of our family do’s and none of the drama.  And Yorkshire is just glorious.

I am walking my talk and making changes to my business structure that will allow me space to work on new plans and ideas.  Well done me.  Onward indeed.

 

 

Where did the joy go?

July 13, 2017
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Not so very long ago I felt filled with joy, in life, love, even work.  Now it all feels a bit, meh.  All a bit of a struggle.  All a bit boring.  So, where did it go?  Well, you know, joy comes and goes in life, troughs and peaks, ins and outs, positive and negative, blah and blah.  My last big peak of joy came around my 50th birthday, with the advent of a new love, and lasted a pretty long time all things considered.  My new love is now my old, married, comfortable love.  It has its share of issues but this is not the platform on which to share those.  This is about me.  Me and my work.  The new love thing distracted me from the same-old-same-old of my work life, and fooled me into thinking it was all just as it ought to be.

So, here I am.  I have love in my life, I have good friends, a nice house to live in, I eat extremely well and enjoy the fruits of the vine.  Who could want more?  Well, me.  I do.  I want more.

The joy started slipping away about three years ago I think, and my need to boost it resulted in taking on a new business, creating a new brand, and getting excited about making something out of nothing.  And I did it, and it was, briefly, quite exciting.  And now it isn’t.  It’s just a worry and fret, a VAT, payroll and how to fire someone nicely kind of irritation.  I wouldn’t mind but it pays very badly.  Also, it’s the same as my other business, which seemed to make sense at the time, but I clearly forgot one very important question – ‘do you want to keep doing the same thing Betty?’, to which the  answer is (altogether now) no.  First world problems I know, but I am done flagellating myself because I can’t fix the bloody third, second fourth or fifth worlds and frankly this country is looking less and less first world what with brexit, burning tower blocks and the death throes of the NHS.  I do what I can while attempting to remain healthy, happy and hopefully quite nice.

So, anyway.  I have now started looking for other things to bring back the buzz into my life.  I am beginning to recognise myself and my strengths, at the ripe old age of, you know, fifty something.  I like to create things.  I like collaboration.  Therein lies the crux – collaboration.  For the last twelve years my work has been just mine, all my control, ideas, plans, fuck ups, successes, gains and losses.  I have staff, suppliers, customers, all of with whom I interact on a fairly regular basis while my inner push-me-pull-you says this is good/I want go home and write*.  It is deeply unsatisfying.  And yet I am proud of what I have achieved.  My business is as ethical as I can make it, my staff are lovely people, loyal, kind and generous and creative and understand the concept of real hospitality.  The company makes very good food.  I use the ‘company’ intentionally because despite my lack of an equal partner in the business, the actual process of producing food to sell and then selling it is a very collaborative one, and a very positive one.  The VAT man gets most of the financial benefit of course, the tax man likewise (yes, they are men, I am quite sure, in brown shiny suits, with comb overs and damp, flaccid handshakes), the staff get some, not enough, and I get the warm fuzzy feeling of attempting and not quite managing to be satisfied by what we all produce and yet still living on the same amount of money I earned in 1988 as assistant manager at the River Cafe in London.  Bitter?  Yes, a little.

You don’t like it?  So fix it.  Yeah, yeah.

I have some small irons in some even smaller fires right now.  Creative fizzing is taking place in my brain.  I am making plans to free myself from the hum drum, while realising of course, because I’m a grown up, that some hum drum is a necessary part of life so what I really need to do is find balance, so don’t start with the lecture…  It’s a bit messy in there right now but you will be the first/last to know when it all happens and my joy returns.

brain

* Griselda hung on with her flexed claws digging into the cloth of an innocent coat, rigid, scared and indignant,  She was an elderly cat, grey with tabby streaks, grumpy by nature ever since she lost her playmate, a small Tibetan spaniel named Tensing, when she was still just a kitten. Tensing was run over the road that fronted Griselda’s old house.  The same road that had seen the untimely deaths of her two kittens Dustpan and Brush.  Griselda didn’t yet know that her old was house was her old house.  All she knew was that she had been bundled into the car with the family.  A car journey meant one thing to Griselda. Being a cat she hadn’t worked out that either the vet had moved very far away or that, after all, this journey was for another reason all together.