Thursday 5 February 2009


Recently, I have stopped working. It may surprise you that I was still working, but I was in the kind of job where you could go on as long as your marbles permitted. Now, I am the last person to leave you with the impression that my marbles are no longer working: far too arrogant. Clearly, there will be other reasons why one may want to stop even if fully marbled. But first, it may make more sense if I confess what it is I have been doing. I was/am a therapist. Perhaps I should'nt have simply been dropping hints as to what I did. But there it is; you get used to a level of confidentiality, or even secrecy,and, on auto-pilot, I just did'nt spell it out. In a way, that was part of the reason for stopping. There is only so long you can go on living within a very tight framework, keeping to a rigid timetable where there is not much flexibilty to go to weddings, funerals, christenings and so on that don't take place at the weekend, because part of the therapeutic effect will lie in consistency and reliability. In the years that I worked from home I would, sometimes, have loved to answer the phone when I was aware it was ringing during a session. I never wore red to work: too intrusive. Now my red jumpers are on my back most of the time and I am enjoying a different kind of freedom. But, don't get me wrong, I also miss the work, and, particularly the people I was working with, very much. It is quite limiting to interfere with the lives only of ones friends. Stop. That was unnecessarily ironic and capable of misunderstanding. Therapy is not an interference. It is a contract freely entered into by both, with the explicit - or should be - understanding that the more you can discover about yourself the more effectual will be your way of being in the world. Anyway, the point of telling you this is that I have re-discovered domesticity.

Honestly, I have been baking. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. First, you have to find what you need, the mixing bowl, the baking tin, the whisk and so on and so on. Having found them, packed away for 19 years, you then have to do some serious scrubbing to bring them up to standard. Then , the challenging part: find a suitable recipe for a birthday cake for the Guru and translate the measures for the ingredients in to metric from imperial. Those of you who are more or less my age and brought up in the UK, do you know how many grams make 8 ounces? 8 ounces of currants, 8 ounces or raisins, 3 of mixed peel. (That's enough measures if you, yourselves, are not currently in the act of baking). The 'Home Baking' shelves were packed - not so much packed, as interspersed - with grams of the things I needed; it seems most cakes are bought these days. But I did collect all the gram/ounces I needed in the end and set off in to the past with much enthusiasm. (That should read "naive enthusiasm" I think) The last time I creamed butter and sugar with a wooden spoon and a whisk I was in my fifties with fifty year old wrists. It soon came clear that there would be no cream in time for the birthday nor, even, mine, which is in September. It transpires that there are now electric gadgets to do the creaming for you, so off out to buy such a thing. Three quarters of an hour after getting home, there it was, assembled and I set to work. Once mixed and the debate about brandy or whisky, not called for in the recipe, settled - no: there will be alcohol in plenty at any gathering at which this cake may be eaten - put in to a square tin, the only one I had found, and bake for an hour or so.

Dear Reader, it emerged TOO THIN. What to do? I went to bed to get over the shock and got up next morning determined to start again. Off to the shops to buy a round tin and some more grams of this and that and off to go. Confession: I hadn't been able to dislodge the whiskers (cats'?) in washing up the night before, so now I had to scrape off the dried mixture and wash the instruments without wetting the apparatus. But, practice makes perfect and I was soon back in business. The shorter version of ths tale is that I ended up with two delectable cakes, one thin and square and one round and fat enough. The latter I decorated, but only on top because I had to wedge it back in to the tin in which it was baked to send it off in such a way that it wouldn't rattle, and that left no room for decorated sides. Since the Guru, when last here, saw packets for the making of choclate cake, (destined for fail-safe in case I lost my domestic nerve), I have grave doubts that he will believe the Dundee cake wedged in to its sticky round tin, arriving in a parcel marked FRAGILE in fourteen places, was actually made at home and by me. Such is life.

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