We Don’t Need No Education

Yesterday we were due to meet up with friends for the day. Rachel and Kate are two of my oldest friends. We live miles and miles away from each other. We each have three children. Our lives are insanely busy, but we try at least once or twice a year to meet up in a great, noisy, rowdy heap. Yesterday was the day.

It nearly wasn’t.

I got the children up reasonably early (for the holidays), and we were sitting around the breakfast table when the door bell rang. It was about ten past eight in the morning. I wasn’t expecting visitors and it was early for the postman, so I was slightly wrong footed by the whole doorbell thing. I opened the door not really knowing what to expect.

What I got, and I definitely didn’t expect, was Tallulah’s friend Eleanor, all ready for school, asking if Tallulah was a) in, and b) ready for school? The answer was a) yes and b) OHDEARGODINHEAVEN NO!

I must have looked like a total slack jawed idiot. I literally did not know how to respond to her. Eventually I croaked out feebly: ‘Eleanor…is it really school today?’

She was now looking rather confused. It matched my expression perfectly.  She swore that her parents had checked the website and it definitely said today. I started to flap in a completely useless way. If Eleanor was right I had less than ten minutes to get Tallulah out of her pyjamas, into her school uniform, lunch box packed, PE kit packed, school bag ready and into school. She would be late. LATE. For her first day back at school.

Mostly I was thinking: ‘SHITSHITSHITSHITSHIT.’ in a kind of running refrain across everything else I was thinking and everything else everyone else was saying. It paralysed me rather.

I was just about to ask Eleanor in while I went to check the website, and sent Tallulah up to get ready just in case, when Lucy’s parents (Lucy is another friend in the same year as Tallulah and Eleanor), who live a few doors down, leapt onto their drive and shouted: ‘It’s alright! They don’t go back until Tuesday!’

It was at this point that I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and poor Eleanor looked like she was going to cry.

I calmed her down and suggested she go home and start the day again.

I needed coffee to calm my nerves when I ventured back into the kitchen. I slurped feverishly at it while I looked at the website. First I found the return date for the summer holidays next year. They go back in late August. I wondered if this is what Eleanor’s parents had mis-read. I spooled back to this year. It did say school re-started today. FUUUUUUCK.

Panic stations part two began.

I sent Tallulah upstairs to begin rooting out school clothes, and rang the school.

It rang for bloody ages, and then there was a brief answerphone message saying that the school term re-started next Tuesday.

I called Tallulah off.

We were all absolutely exhausted after that debacle, which might explain why I missed the turning for the M5 coming off the M6 and ended up having to take a twenty mile detour to Kate’s house on top of everything else.

Bloody school. I knew education was bad for you.

Great British Bake Off 2015 – Episode 4 – Dessert Week

We have had an absolute baking bonanza in the Boo household this week, so by the time we were poised for The Great British Bake Off I had so many baked goods to choose from to accompany my viewing delight I was almost as stressed about that as I was about the prospect of what desserts might be in store for me visually.

In the end you will all be hugely relieved to know that I plumped for a slice of the apricot and sultana loaf I made in a fit of excitement yesterday, mostly due to the excitement of thinking that if I didn’t do something with the apricots in the fruit bowl stat, they might actually rise up and kill me in the night.

It provided a very pleasant accompaniment to my viewing activities, although I did have to hoik a few stray crumbs out of my cleavage during the technical. This was due to the fact that I was gesticulating rather wildly in a panic about meringue and things went a bit off piste.

This week it was all about the desserts. First up was the signature round, where the bakers had to create creme brûlées of varying flavours.  The flavours were not so much the problem here as the quantities. There were buckets and buckets of creme brûlées to be made. Last year I bandied about the idea that Mary and Paul might be doing a side line in outside catering. Some sort of tuck shop, possibly in a hedge, or cream teas in their tiny tent of judging joy. I don’t know, but it looked like they were catering for coach trips this week.  You could have bathed a rugby team in the amount of creme brûlée washing around that tent. With the amount of alcohol also sloshing around this week I suspect Mary would have been totally game for that, had the chance come up.

I can just see her sharing the soap with a prop forward.

If you want the perfect brûlée you must cook them using a bain marie, which is French for a bucket of water. Obviously, you put the water in the oven first, rather than just dumping a lot of custard in a fire bucket full of tap water and praying a lot. We’re not talking about invoking St. Therese of Lisieux here.

NO MIRACLES OCCURED DURING THE BAKING OF THIS BRULEE.

Once the ramekins of custardy delight are floating about in their bain, full of Marie, you have to keep a beady eye on them. They need to wobble. The wobble must be just so. Like that, but not like that.  Sandy, who I love with undying passion, spent a great deal of time trying to perfect her wobble, both in her bain and out in the tent, with Sue. Sadly it was a lost wobble, given that her custard was more soupstard and her choice of Pontefract cakes as a flavouring was too evil even for me. I have never forgiven Pontefract cakes for the facts that a) they are made of liquorice and b) they’re not ruddy cakes. What a swiz.

The other thing you need for a perfect brûlée is a nice crusty caramel topping you can crack with the spoon in the manner of a dippy egg, only more exciting. To make things more tricky, Mary had banned the use of chef’s blow torches for this. She fears change. All the contestants had to crisp up their caramel under the grill. This was not a popular move, and the word granulated was used a lot by the judges. Not in a good way. Tamal did brilliantly with his. Ian’s custard rated a mention, but Paul was not impressed by his frivolous use of pomegranates as a surprise ingredient.  Paul who was not Hollywood also had a surprise, being the only person who had overcooked his brûlée so much that it had actually turned into alcoholic scrambled egg flavoured with almond.

Yes. I am absolutely sure that this is as disgusting as it sounded.  Even Bernard Black, who eats scrambled egg out of a shoe with a comb, would be hard pushed to love that.

The technical was to make something called a Spanische Windtorte. Apparently, a Spanish Wind Cake actually comes from Austria. This sentence tells you everything you need to know about Spanische Windtorte. They are tricky, deceptive and foreign.

To be fair, one made by someone who isn’t baking for their life under fourteen metric tonnes of soggy canvas sounds delightful. It is basically French meringue with Swiss meringue made into a giant hatbox style cake, filled with whipped cream and strawberries. I mean, what’s not to like?

Having said that, I would rather stick red hot needles in my eyes than have to actually make one.  You create the component parts, the LEGO bricks of the confection, with French meringue. You glue these together with Swiss meringue, fill the whole thing with cream, and then pipe it all over with more Swiss meringue. It is a giant accident waiting to happen. One sneeze and the whole lot could be blown over into next door’s garden soon as look at you.

Also, where is the Spanish bit? Is it made by Spanish chefs, in Austria, from Swiss and French meringue? It’s an EU plot. Someone should report it to Nigel Farage. I’m sure he will say that it is a cunning ploy to get more immigrants into the country in hollowed out meringue kisses or something.

Anyway. It was a very tense round as you will already know from the fact that I got crumbs down my bosom in the third paragraph. Sandy had another disaster, with a lid for her cake that looked rather like an avant garde hat. Also she was very lucky that her cake stand didn’t explode when she put it back in the oven. It was a bold move, and had it not been meringue, and cooking on a  very low setting, we would probably still be picking shards of ceramic out of Paul’s beard.

The show stopper round this week was another mammoth task, in which the contestants had to create a triple decker monolith of baked cheesecakes. NOT SAVOURY.

I never dreamed you could have a savoury cheesecake.  My first question if asked if I wanted some savoury cheesecake would be: What’s the point of that then? My second question would be: Have you forgotten the word for quiche? I quite often do things like that. I could not remember the term rear view mirror for an entire day last week.

Tamal and Ian went head to head with semi savoury quiches. They were both using rosemary, which as we know, tastes like hand soap, in their cheese cakes. This disturbed me rather. Then Ian went further to create a tarragon and apple cheesecake. I was highly suspicious of this. His third one was pink. I can’t remember what it was flavoured with. I suspect it was tea tree oil.

Matt redeemed himself in this bake with three cheesecakes based on chocolate bars, which is entirely right and proper.  Nadiya made a rather spectacular one in homage to fizzy pop, and Sandy absolutely buggered it right up with leaky cheesecakes that wouldn’t stack and weren’t baked in the middle.

This meant that Sandy had to go home. I was gutted. Absolutely gutted. Sandy was my favourite and my best.

WAAAAH.

Ian got star baker for the third week running, despite the fact that I thought that Tamal edged it this week. Tamal took this in good grace. If it had been me, I would have been tying together an Ian voodoo doll using sprigs of rosemary and a spatula behind one of the tent folds stat.

Another reason I’m not on Bake Off, and am lucky not to be in prison, frankly.

Next week sounds intriguing. It is the Free From Bake week. It will certainly be free from Sandy.

WAAAAAH.

You can watch this week’s episode here.

My Love Letter to Amanda Palmer

I wanted to write this as a letter. I realised that if I did this, it might never reach the person I’m writing to/for. I’m sending it out into the ether, hoping it finds its way. I think it will. I trust it will. The person I think it’s for, by the way, might not be the person it is actually for. I’m just trusting that if I shove this out there, the absolutely right person to read it will read it. So that’s good.

I nearly didn’t click publish. I just re-read this and thought: ‘Oh. It’s too gushy. Oh. It’s too open. Oh. It’s too fangirly.’ Then I thought: ‘Fuck it! Boo lady. Woman up.’ and I hit publish.

But, just in case. I’d like to state for the record that I am not a stalker. I am far too lazy for that. Remember, my spirit animal is a sloth.

I am still reading Amanda Palmer’s ‘The Art of Asking’. It is waking up all kinds of stuff in me that I’m not really sure what to do with yet. I have honestly never read a book in my life that has affected me as profoundly as this one has, and I am only half way through it.

This morning I watched the TED talk which inspired the book. You can watch it here. It made me cry. I watched it with tears rolling down my face. It was amazing. I am not the first person to say this. I doubt I will be the last.

When I was young I liked fairly predictable chart music. I had a massive crush on the bass player from Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I was moved to tears by the beauty of Morten Harket from A-Ha, his voice and his face (he has aged well, I note). It was all very mainstream though, and by the time I was about 16 I had decided that music was fine, but that was about it.

Then a boyfriend came back from a drunken party and threw a battered C90 cassette tape at me. He said: ‘I’ve found you a present. In a hedge. I think you’ll like it.’

I had never been found a present from a hedge before. I was pretty amazed, slightly bemused, but willing to go with it. Side A had a bootleg copy of The Wonder Stuff’s ‘Eight Legged Groove Machine’ album on it. Side B had a bootleg copy of The Stone Roses’ eponymous album on it.  I listened to it. It blew my tiny mind. It changed the way I felt about music forever. No word of a lie. I felt like the whole world had ripped down the middle and everything I thought about how life should be was different. It was pretty visceral.

Reading Amanda’s book is having the same effect on me. It sounds ridiculous, but I’ve spent most of my life with people thinking I’m ridiculous. I’ve pretty much perfected the art, so saying this is hardly sticking my neck out.

I discovered Amanda through her husband Neil Gaiman. It was about the time Theatre is Evil was launched. I bought the album. I loved it. I started to follow her on Twitter, read articles about her, follow her blog. When she moved to Patreon, I thought about it for a while, and then became a Patron. I am literally investing in Amanda Palmer. More than money. I’m investing hope.

I have realised that what I love best about Amanda Palmer, and I use the word love advisedly, is pretty much everything. It’s not that I wholeheartedly agree with everything she says or does. I don’t like all her songs just because she wrote or performed them. I am not uncritically adoring. What I love is the fact that she is the living epitome of that bloody annoying phrase; ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’ What I love is that she is strong because she allows herself to be vulnerable.  What I love about her is that she allows herself to trust that what she is doing is o.k. and that people are o.k. I love that she is making choices that make her world a good one, despite all the crap the world throws at her. By crap I mean the everyday stuff of living, loving, dying, not the rock star crap. I have no idea about the rock star crap. Not my forte.  I love the fact that she is not neat or perfect or manageable. I love the fact that she can be messy, crabby, unpredictable, wrong. I love the fact that she owns this as much as she owns the bits of her life where she soars.

I love the fact that to me, her existence is one long exercise in saying: It is absolutely alright to be human. The best thing about me/you/us is that we are human. Stop trying not to be human. Let go. It will be alright.

I need to hear that. I need to believe that. We all do. The way she says it/does it/lives it speaks directly to me in a way that makes me feel utterly connected to life. That’s pretty powerful. I feel like she sees me, and she has never met me and probably never will.

I have a gigantic girl crush on Amanda Palmer, is the basic summary of this blog post.  I am a 43 year old housewife and she is a free living rock goddess lady person, which is an unusual pairing, but I think it could work.  I’d like to think I could invite her round for tea and she’d come, and it would be extremely excellent, especially if Tilly made the biscuits.

I’d like her to come and talk to Tallulah, my beautiful, talented daughter who sings like an angel and wants to be Taylor Swift and spends hours every day trying to make herself look more beautiful. I want her to tell her what we tell her; that she is already a star, that she is already beautiful, that she doesn’t need to be Taylor Swift or Zoella (good people though they surely are), because being herself is always good enough, and if she wants to be a rock goddess then she can do it on her own terms. It always comes better if you hear this stuff from people who aren’t your parents.  Then they can play the ukulele together (Tallulah is mastering Back in Black by ACDC), and it will be cool.

Then I’d like to give Amanda an enormous hug, and say thank you and tell her that everything is going to be all right, because she’s had a shitty year so far and everyone needs to hear that everything is going to be all right, especially if they’re hearing it from people who aren’t their parents.

And that’s not going to happen in real life, but it can happen on here because that’s the awesome power of the Internet.

Thank you Amanda. I quite absolutely love you.

Bookishly

After yesterday’s pity party, let’s have some good/interesting news for a change.

I am writing a thing.

I am writing a book.

I have been writing it for a few weeks now. I was not sure how I felt about the fact that I was writing a book.

I’m still not sure about it to be honest.

All my life I have wanted to be a writer. I have attempted to write quite a few books/stories/poems. The books never got past the first few pages. The stories and poems were pretty dreadful. It’s all very well wanting to be a writer, but the difference between wanting to be one and being one is doing it, and I never thought I was any good at doing it.

I’m still not sure about it to be honest.

The one thing I am sure about is that I can write my blog.  My blog has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. It has, over the last eight years, taught me how to write in my own voice. It has taught me that I have a platform where I can be heard, and it is me; not me who is a mummy or me who is a wife, or me who is the crazy lady at school. It’s me in all those guises, and none. It’s me when I’m feeling my power and me when I’m feeling vulnerable, and it’s taught me that it’s OK to be those things, and OK to say those things, and I’m still me, and nobody really wants to kill and eat me for it. I am so grateful for this.  How I write here is pretty much how I think, but with more punctuation. My blog has saved my sanity, made me some excellent friends and given me some top restaurant recommendations, so – you know. It’s been all win for me.

Writing a blog and writing a book are different creatures though. A book needs structure. The blog, like my mind, pretty much flits wherever it wants to go. It’s why this blog never had a theme, except the theme of what it is like to live in my head. I never felt I had a story I wanted to tell badly enough to fill a book. The bones weren’t there.

They are now. Now I’m wrestling them into a recognisable skeleton. I’m not sure if it’s going to come out as a beautiful skeleton or a mutated botch with knuckles that scrape the floor, but it will be a skeleton. Then I will put flesh on it, and hopefully it won’t all fall off.

All the time I’m writing, I’m learning, which is hard work, and also interesting. Here is what I am learning:

I am learning to trust my gut. It does not matter how other people write, what other people write about, what other people like or don’t like. If I think about/listen to that stuff I write nothing. It paralyses me. So, I trust my gut and I write what I write, and it is my own thing entirely. I am not writing someone else’s book. I am not writing for someone else. I am writing for me.

Just because I am writing for me doesn’t mean I like/am happy with what I am writing. Mostly I feel it is not very good. I feel this as I write it. I feel this when I read things back to myself. I feel this as I plan forward. Just because I am not happy with it, I have learned, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t write it. This seems weird, but I am O.K. with weird. I have allowed myself to believe that it might be better than I think. I am a pretty fierce critic of myself.  I have allowed myself to believe that even if it’s not very good there may be things I have written in this first book that might turn into a much better second book.

I am learning that I must pace myself. I am averaging about 2000 words a day and this seems like slow progress to me, but it absolutely takes it out of me like nothing else I’ve ever written. I am battered by those two thousand words. Some days I hit a purple patch and get to four thousand. This is epic, but also uber exhausting. I am allowing myself to go at my own pace. If it takes me the rest of my life to write it, so be it.

I am learning that it is hard to leave my own voice behind.  This book is not about me. It is not the voice of a 43 year old woman. It could be, as someone said to me when we were talking about it earlier. He is right. It could be, but the fact is that it isn’t. This isn’t that book. The voice of the book seems alien to me. I am unsure about whether this is because it is not very good (my self critic tells me this), or because it is different. It may be both. It doesn’t really matter. It is what it is, and I keep writing anyway. I feel like I am writing in my posh phone voice. I am writing anyway.

I am learning that I am really grateful for all the life I have lived so far and all the books I have read so far, because they all add to the book in ways that make it richer. I am allowing myself to be inspired by bits of art work, old memories, poems, books totally unrelated to what I am writing about, songs, anything I find inspiring and can add to the patchwork in some way, or that acts as a springboard. I am keeping notebooks full of inane jottings to keep track of things. They will never be auctioned off as my juvenilia at Sotheby’s, but I haven’t quite resorted to filling them with my world famous doodle of a cat’s bottom yet. I’m sure the time will come.

I am learning not to go back and edit what I have already written. I started doing this, and realised I was spending a lot of time changing the word ‘and’ for the word ‘also’ and then back again, and thinking this was writing. This is not writing. This is procrastinating.  Now I plough on, editing only when I get really, really stuck and don’t want to walk away from the writing process yet. I just write, reams and reams of stuff that will probably end up ruthlessly slashed on the first edit.  Who knows? I think I am writing a book. I may be writing a haiku. I just keep writing.

I am learning that I need breaks from writing. I cannot write for hours and hours. I need life to sustain me. I need to let my subconscious percolate through knotty problems I run up against. I need to arse about on Pinterest. I thought I could sit in an office for four hours at a time and bang out words. I was wrong about that. I do a lot of noodling about, but I keep writing, and the word count keeps rising.

Most importantly I am learning to call myself a writer. It’s really hard. I feel like a total fraud when I call myself a writer, even though, even before the book, it is the one consistent thing I do nearly every day of my life and apart from reading and eating biscuits, the one thing I have never given up on entirely.

I have been reading Amanda Palmer’s ‘The Art of Asking’. It’s good. It has a lot to  say to me at the moment. I know this because it is making me feel very uncomfortable in places. It is about, as the title suggests, being able to ask for things we need, and being OK about being given them. This is not as easy as it sounds. The word shame, crops up a lot. I identify with that. Interestingly it intersects nicely with Jon Ronson’s book which I just finished: ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.’

Basically, I feel ashamed of saying I am a writer, because I am ashamed that someone will find me out and make me feel vulnerable about it. I feel ashamed of saying I am a writer because I am not a published writer. I feel ashamed about calling myself a writer because it isn’t a ‘proper job.’

I feel ashamed about saying I am a writer when I think about my friend Gavin, who writes real books and gets paid for them, and my friend Toby who is the most kick arse performance poet I know. These people are real writers. They write amazing things, and they’re brave enough to let other people look at them. I don’t feel like I can compare myself to them. I am literally not worthy.

I still feel all those things by the way.  But here’s what I know.

I am absolutely going to write this book. I am writing the mother flipping hell out of this book already. I will finish it.

I am a writer. There is nothing to find out. I write every day. It sustains me. It makes me less nuts. It is who I am. I wish I had always been this sure about it. I don’t care if I never get published (this genuinely surprised me), I just want to write a book. When I have written a book I will dance on the table with joy, even though it might be the worst book in the world. It will be my worst book in the world. I don’t care if it isn’t a proper job. I haven’t had a proper job for nearly 17 years and I’m doing quite well considering. I hate proper jobs and I am very, very bad at them. This is probably because I am a writer. I wish I had known this back then when I was beating myself up for being the world’s worst employee.

As for the asking bit.

I am asking myself to carry on writing regardless. I am asking myself to answer; ‘I am a writer’ when people ask me what I do. I am asking myself to stop apologising to myself for saying; ‘I am a writer.’ I am asking myself to let go of some of that shame.

I am asking you to bear with me while I do this. Blogging may be even more sporadic than usual. I am asking you to not get too excited if getting excited about such things is your bag. It is going to be months in the making, and may never see the light of day.

I am asking you to cheer me on, quite quietly, you know. Just in case.

Medical Issues – Move along if you’re of a squeamish disposition

It is the last week of the holidays. I cannot quite get my head around this. Everything has gone by so quickly and I feel that I need more time. I need to gather myself. I realise that if I had more time, I would not use it to gather myself. I would use it to arse around with my friends, eating biscuits and laughing at things on Twitter. Nevertheless this stone cold fact does not stop me pining for more time in the manner of a sick invalid wailing for ‘sooooup’ in a dramatic manner.

Talking of sick invalids, I have had to reinstate the Chaise Longue of Doom (TM) and despite my absolute horror of it, trotted back feebly to the Doctor today.  It is at this point that I am giving you fair warning that too much information, as my friend Jess says, will almost certainly be shared, so you know, do feel free to bugger off and come back a different day if medical based forlorn whinging is not your thing.

Regular readers will know that my periods are the evil super villain of my life. Not only that, but because they are infinitely more cunning than 99% of all super villains, they do not sit serenely in their underground lair waiting for me to zap them with my highly efficient Flash Gordon laser cannon of wonder. No. They change their shape, pattern, rules, venues, evil twirling moustaches roughly every couple of months. They are evil, super villain gits is what they are.

Regular readers will also know that it is my strong belief that my migraines are also related to my periods. They are like the evil super villain henchmen in thrall to their twisted hormonal master. It will come as no surprise to everyone that when I noticed that my migraines were getting worse a few months back, that they corresponded to my menstrual cycle, no matter how early or late that cycle was. I could pretty much guarantee that I would start my period with a migraine, finish one with a migraine, and sometimes, because I am so biologically excellent, just have one gigantic migraine to go along with all the other shit periods throw at me.

If I were alive under a different regime I would be a subject of experimental medicine by now, or most likely burned as a witch. I have a lot to be grateful for, even though my gratitude seems to mostly take the form of me wanting to claw my own face/womb off with a toffee hammer.

My last two periods have been utterly, utterly evil.  I had been to see the Dr. before the start of the holiday and explained the whole evil period thing without recourse to any far fetched metaphors so he didn’t offer me valium as well as everything else.  I begged him for some particular triptans, which I had been prescribed a few years earlier when I had gone through another gruelling bout of migraine clusters.  He said he could not give them to me as they were too expensive.  He would instead give me something else. I said that the something else had also been given to me prior to the expensive drugs and it had made me very ill. AS IF  WASN’T ILL ENOUGH ALREADY.

I played my tiny violin for him. It was to no avail.

He said no matter. Try them again. They might be fine.  I did not believe this for one cotton picking minute.  I tried to reason with him. Computer said no. It was at this point he took my blood pressure and pointed out it was quite high.  I wanted to say: ‘NO SHIT SHERLOCK.’  I did not say this. I scowled and did a bit of mumbling, and took my medication and pissed off home.

I have tried this medication over the summer. As I predicted it has made me very unwell, so on top of erratic arse grindingly painful periods of a colourful hue, I have also had migraine and then the excruciatingly painful side effects of the meds, which make me hurl even after anti emetics and give me chest pains and palpitations.

Today I went back and stated my case more firmly. He had been rather unwilling to concede that the migraines were related to my period last time. This time I mentioned that I had a migraine on and off for an entire week. The entire week of my last period. Even though I was four days early,  the migraine turned up, wagging its evil henchman tail on the very day of my period, and finished on the very day it finished.  I also pointed out that in the middle of that week, his meds had made me so ill I had collapsed on the bathroom floor and my daughter had had to look after me for three hours because Jason wasn’t there to help.

That clinched it I think. It was a shame that I had to be so dramatic, even though it is my natural milieu. It’s still embarrassing, in a very British way.

I have been experiencing PMT since last Friday. I have been nauseous on and off constantly since then. I am not sleeping well. I have lower back pain, hip pain and cramping, and I am not due on until Saturday.  I had to go to bed at half five today because I was too nauseous and ill to do anything else. Luckily the Dr. has now given me the expensive medication and enough anti emetics to form my own small pharmaceutical company, so despite the pain and mood swings and what promises to be an absolute beast of a period it looks like I might be able to keep my migraines under control.

I’m trying to count my blessings. Right now I’m just a bit mardy about them.

RESULT!

It was GCSE results day yesterday.  My lack of posting was due to extreme stress in the morning, and extreme jubilation in the afternoon. The evening was a write off, due to the fact that we had all gone through the emotional wringer all day and were like zombies by bed time.

Firstly, when I am world dictator I would like it to be made mandatory that all exam results be available from 7.00 a.m. onwards. You should never, ever have to wait until the school gets its arse into gear at 11.00 a.m. to find out your results. Never.

Tilly was reasonably calm. She went to bed at a decent time on Wednesday night and didn’t get up until 9.00 a.m. on Thursday.  I on the other hand was a frigging wreck. I was up until 2.00 a.m. Thursday  and awake again at 7.00 a.m. having spent most of the night sleeping in the same neck locked position and dreaming frantic, intense dreams that meant I woke up like the anatomical equivalent of GRRRRR.

Till sashayed out the house at 10.45, mainly because I shooed her out with a broom. She arrived home again two minutes later, having forgotten something she really needed to give to her friend.  I shooed her out again, locked the door and shouted at her through the letter box to hurry up.  Up to this point she had, it seemed, been entirely unaware of how unbearably stressed we all were.

I am delighted that she was unaware if the truth be told. It is wonderful to have a daughter who is so relaxed about things. It is something I realise is an utterly undeserved blessing, and she certainly doesn’t take after me in that respect. Knowledge of this bounty does not help much when you are grinding your back molars and pacing the floors mind you.

I had sent her with her phone (unlike most teenagers she is supremely disinterested in her phone and regularly fails to take it out with her. Even when she does take it out with her she almost never turns it on, or answers it even if it is on) so that she could call me and put me out of my misery.  This did not happen.

She finally wandered in at 10.45 a.m., gave me her results letter, sat on a chair and burst into tears.  I didn’t really know what to do first. In the end I plumped for half heartedly shouting at her for keeping me waiting, sort of patting her knee and trying to read the results letter all at the same time. It went about as well as you would expect.

She did excellently. She did better than excellently. She was an absolute bloody star. The only mark she was a little disappointed with was for art, and she still got a C, which is what she needed to get into her college courses.

I was/am insanely proud of her. She monstered it. Jason hurtled through the door about fifteen minutes after she got back, and he was also insanely proud of her. Then we rang everyone in the world to tell them how proud we were, and they told us how proud they were, and Tilly how much they loved her, and there was lots of crying, and in the end we just gave Tilly a loo roll to wander around with, because it was easier and we hadn’t got any Kleenex.

After that we went out for dinner, and ate everything.

So you can see how busy we’ve been. What with all the proudness and the crying and the grinding of molars and the shouting because we’re tense and the shouting because we’re happy, and all the eating of things. It’s been exhausting. Today we’ve mostly been drifting around in a stupor eating cheese sandwiches. It’s all we’re fit for.

What I will finish with, is what I said on my Facebook status last night, because it’s very true, and it bears repeating. Listen up:

Well done to everyone who got their results today whatever they may have been.

Exams teach you how to pass exams. If you passed them, great news. If you didn’t, there are other ways to skin a cat (please don’t put the video on Facebook), and nobody thinks any the less of you. It is a true fact that Hans Solo passed absolutely no GCSE’s and he’s about as awesome as you can get. You’re all bloody excellent. Well done. Have a biscuit on me.

Great British Bake Off 2015 – Week 3 – Bread

Oh, I love bread. When the subject of bread comes up I feel like that bloke on The Fast Show: ‘Int bread brilliant? Y’know, it’s all bready and that, and you can toast it, or have it with jam, or with cheese, and you can get them loaves that look like little fat women with buns on their ‘eads, or long ones what look like weapons, light sabres and stuff, and they all taste brilliant!’

It was bread week on The Great British Bake Off this week, and I have to say that it really hit stride for me this week. There was not a single thing I did not love about this week’s episode.  Paul was back to his normal, gimlet eyed self after a couple of weeks of soft pedalling on the whole ‘I am a man who pounds dough with his bare hands, hear me roar,’ routine.  Mary threw in a few corkers herself. She specialised this week in that sideways steely gaze that boded no well for people who hadn’t been industrious enough for her liking. This is why I am not in the tent.

The other reason would be that I thrown out for abandoning my own bakes in favour of eating everyone else’s. Goodness there were some amazing flavours. As soon as the episode finished I went and raided the bread bin and wolfed down half a loaf with salted butter to satisfy the ravening hunger pangs I had sustained in the course of the previous hour. NOM.

This week the signature bake was to make quick breads.  Quick breads it turns out, is a fancy name for what is essentially soda bread. That conundrum solved, I was able to sit back and salivate my way through the round. It was difficult to know whose I’d have started with to be honest, but I think I agree with Paul that Alvin’s manchego and prosciutto mix was my favourite, although the spicy Moroccan mixtures that Nadiya and Matt put together were also winners, and Ian’s wild garlic bread looked amazing.

I felt so sorry for Alvin. He seems like such an emotional baker. His hands were shaking like crazy when he was trying to put his loaf in the oven, and what with him welling up last week when things went a bit wrong I feel like Mel and Sue should invest in a box of supersize Kleenex for the coming weeks. It can only get more tense and emotional, after all, they’re only at round three.  I suspect he’s worried about his chipmunks.  Or he’s eaten them and doesn’t want anyone to find out.

The technical this week was to make four baguettes of equal size and beauty.  This is the problem really isn’t it? Well, apart from the problem of having to know how to cook a baguette in the first place, but the real problem is that you might just pull off cooking one thing reasonably well if the gods are with you and the wind is blowing in the right direction, but duplicating that? Not so easy.  This was proved by an interesting selection of lumpy baguettes which for the most part were not ideally matched.  Ian blasted into first place with baguettes that looked great, and which when Paul snapped them had a crunch that made me weep with hunger.  Paul not Hollywood on the other hand, came last, with four, flaccid pools of baguette that were distinctly anaemic and not at all the thing.  He was not best pleased, despite having bested Paul who is Hollywood in the signature round by proving him wrong about the wetness of his dough and the baking time. It was like watching two silver back gorillas clashing over a female, made of dough.

The show stopper this week was a monster truck behemoth of a show stopper, with the contestants having to create a bread sculpture which contained three different types of bread dough. Paul not Hollywood did magnificently, creating the Lion King out of bread. It was truly splendid, but I cannot say I was surprised by his choice. It will be interesting to see what other alpha male bakes he comes up with as the weeks go by, particularly next week during the dessert round. Creme brûlées in the shape of skulls perhaps?

Tamal made a breadcycle, which was excellent in many ways, not least of which was its name.  The fact that its wheels were made of Chelsea buns only added to the excitement. It is the first time I’ve been enthused about bicycles since 1978 and the thought that I might get to own a Raleigh Chopper (I didn’t – boo), so fair play to Tamal.

Alvin made ALL the bread. Literally all the bread. He had made a cornucopia and was determined not to be found wanting. It was amazing, and so massive it took three people to carry it to the judging table. He wasn’t messing around, our Alvin.  No chipmunks were harmed during the making of these loaves.

Other bakes of note included Ian’s gorgeous looking flowerpot creation, which sealed the deal on his second week of being crowned star baker, and Flora’s Alexander McQueen style bread dress. Other bakes of note for the wrong reasons were Sandy’s mangled poppies, which began to look a bit triffidesque and Matt’s Brighton pavilion made out of Indian inspired breads, which was underdone to my great disappointment, as the idea was brilliant.

Dorrett went home this week after having failed to practice her show stopper, and then confessing this to Paul and Mary. I’d never tell, even under torture. She had made an homage to Tracey Emin’s bed sculpture, which was, if I’m honest a bit grim, given what was in the original sculpture, and not entirely helped by the fact that the homage was quite raw in places.

Other items of note this week:

Sandy continues to delight me. I just love her, and despite her disastrous poppies I want to go round to her house for tea.

The filler film this week was about Ukranian marriage bread loaf thingies. Firstly I want one. Secondly I want to go to someone else’s wedding and eat one (bearing in mind I’m not a huge fan of weddings, but will obviously be bribed for bread). Thirdly, they make sculptures of the guests in the shape of birds and stick them to the loaves. I want someone to make a bird bread sculpture of me. I think I’d probably be a sparrow, although depending on what day it is, Jason might say an old buzzard.

You can watch this week’s episode here. (N.B. I will have to add this link later. It’s not up on iPlayer yet)

Next week, desserts.