Let all the children……….

Did Sir David get it right? 

“There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
He told me”:

Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie”

The chorus is gloriously vague except for one thing:

“Let the children”. And the word boogie? We can set off on a whole roller-coaster of inferences and associations by this word alone.

Who is the Starman?

A superior being or entity with wisdom and hindsight?

Between 1991 and 1995, I spent four fantastic years “boogieing” (I checked it on the spell-checker) with children in Michael Faraday School in Walworth. There was learning going on and there was discipline going on but we were surrounded by so much fun, it didn’t seem like work.

I like to think I took a bit of this with me into Southborough. It was more subtle but still an essential part of my philosophy. In between all of this sparkling galaxy of creative learning was a growing respect for all of the small humans that I met. I met some exceptional ones.

Most of us give ourselves a licence to don our rose-tinted spectacles and dwell on the wonders of our childhood. We look back longingly at our carefree fun-filled days when everything seemed magical. We knew there were baddies around but they were given fairy-tale villain status.

Not every child I’ve taught can claim this, however. For some, the circumstances were tipped against them. I can sort of put this into a number of categories. Like Bowie’s lyrics, they are ambiguous and questionable but to use a dreadful teaching phrase, they are formed on a “best fit” basis:

Physical impairment and disability.

Neglect.

Mental issues.

Learning difficulties.

I want to give my tribute to these remarkable people because of their courage and determination. Every child wants to play, every child wants to learn and every child wants to learn through play and experience.

Physical impairment:

Child A was a young boy of 10 with spina bifida. From the waist down there was nothing; no strength or feeling. In school, his legs were supported by braces and special shoes so he could walk with crutches. A was bloody good at it too. He played sports and went out every break time. His limitations were never an excuse. In fact, they were hardly limitations. The determination was there, his spirit was admirable. One day we were at the local police station on a mini-trip. To get in the back way we had to climb five steps:

“There’s nothing for it A, I’ll have to carry you in.” My word, he was not from delicate stock. But I did it. I have taught others with varying degrees of disability. Some have had other issues as well. They may have driven me mad but I still admired them. Growing up is a hard full-time occupation. I’m still doing it. 

Neglect:

There are reasons for neglect.

Those who consider ourselves as normal find such reasons unforgivable. In my experience, neglect has stemmed from an addiction of some sort, be it alcohol or drugs. Their circumstances have been fundamentally affected by this. The child who comes into school starving with dirty and tired sad eyes may often be mocked by their peers. Their concentration is poor while they see a widening gap between themselves and the rest of the class.

Child B was the son of a drug addict. His mother was honest about her predicament but like so many, she thought herself a victim. B was seriously disturbed. His behaviour was inappropriate in an intimate and social way. No real school work and learning ever took place.

Naturally, I tried everything but he wouldn’t even do anything on his own terms. It was hard to like him. B was never going to get the special, specific education he needed. He was destined to become one of society’s outcasts. I worried for his safety and sanity. He was shunned by the rest of the class who were quite nasty about it when they thought I was out of earshot. For these reasons, B was exceptional. He could still manage to pass himself off as a reasonable, thinking young person. But inside, I knew he was tortured. B showed uncommon bravery for someone so young. He knew he was going to be different and he was afraid of himself. I hope beyond hope that now, at the age of 33 he is ok. Experience detects a difficult life and I wonder about his mum.I’m not sure if he’ll ever boogie.

There have been other children who have been neglected. Most of them have appreciated my support-you can’t refuse, can you? I’d have organised a whole breakfast club for these poor little souls but I’d have met with too much negative sneering. “We’re not made of money you know. if we do this for some, we have to offer it to everyone.”

My reply:

“And?”

Mental issues:

It’s not just children with issues. Many parents have intimated their own problems and their concerns about how it’s affected their children. There’s no specific child here, I want to highlight some of the ways mental issues manifest themselves in the classroom. Firstly, the refusers. Why wouldn’t children want to come to school? It goes back to the parents. Some just didn’t care, some were too soft and some were more paranoid about school than their children. The fact that I actually saw the children is a tribute to their character.

One little girl made it quite clear that she wanted to be elsewhere. Her mother was equally emphatic. She questioned the point of holding 30 children at their desks and forcing them into doing things they resented. She was wrong. The little girl had good attendance however. But the mother insisted that we were not offering the right environment. I’m sorry but I was offering the right environment and I wonder what your problem is? An inkling of an answer came five years later after a night in the acute stroke ward in some hospital or other.

The mother appeared in the morning on the day shift. She could not refuse my request to tie my shoelaces. It shouldn’t have been personal but she made it obvious that she resented doing that simple task. I still admire the young girl for responding to my encouragement and humour but indignant about the mother. She claimed teachers were only in it for the money. That was her parting shot as the nice young man appeared to wheel me out. Many years before, another school refuser had most of a term absent from the class. It was a nice class. They were nice to each other. There may have been a couple of potential first class bitches in there but I had the parents on my side. The problem was the girl’s mother. “She’s always layin’ in bed,” she would say while the poor girl had to get herself ready. I had no ideas about the mother’s own problems; depression perhaps? What brought her back was another mum. “I told her that if she comes back, she can come with us to the Bristol carnival.” What a kind gesture from a single mum already struggling with her own circumstances. She was soon back looking very nervous. As she saw me approach, she flinched, expecting the wrath of Khan. I smiled and welcomed her, saying how nice it was to have her own brand of sunshine back in the classroom.

Learning difficulties:

Firstly there are the children who generally struggle. They will often see themselves as belonging to some form of underclass. No matter what we say to them, they know they are battling whilst others are flying. I have to admit, that I have sometimes been left floundering with such children. The demands of a whole class have sometimes taken too much of my focus. But the need for a good working environment has always been my first priority. I may well have expected too much of my teaching assistants. I don’t know. All I know is that I could be consumed by the general needs of a whole class. It certainly improved. By the end, I was on top of it, only to discover the villain called apathy. There would be a look of bemusement at the efforts being made:

“Why are you bothering? I’m not going to. I’m going to sit here, away with the fairies.” If only a sense of helping oneself had been encouraged from an early age; even before school. On the other hand, some children made huge efforts and huge strides. They relished in the attentions charging their way from everyone involved. I had a boy called Z. Z was a festering lump, showing no interest in anything apart from a favourite football team. The head admitted that the school had let him down. His mum was making accusations everywhere she found a target. He was with me for two years. At the end of his year 5 the mother threw the report back in my face whilst spitting blood. It was an honest report, highlighting his attitude and how it affected his achievement. I used a football phrase:

“It’s only half-time. If a team have had a poor first half, they get a bollocking from their manager.”

She walked off in search of the head, a common recipient of this mother’s venom. And football is how I did it. The rest of the class liked it too as the maths became linked to many sports and we looked at report writing. Then he began to read; yes, they were football reports from a dreadful scumbag tabloid, but he began to read and form opinions. We came to a complex word (I wish I could remember it). He read it correctly before I showed the same word to one of my high fliers. He struggled with it.

Job done.

Many teachers can point to other areas where children have become heroes. I can also say that all of the pupils I have taught have given me an enhanced raison d’etre. Teaching has always been full on.

If you’re committed, you’ll do the work and take the flak.

I had to admit defeat in the end as my body had failed with my spirit. It was total exhaustion. I’m still fighting the consequences. The marvel of social media allows me further contact with a lot of the exceptional people I taught.

By the way, the oldest pupil I taught would now be 47 while my first piano pipul would be  48.

We boogied.

Thank you for reading.    

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The bucket list

How very modern. Even with a disabling chronic illness, it is perfectly feasible to have one. It might not be as adventurous as the daring adventures of the modern generation but it’s there; something to aim for.

Here’s mine:

Highly likely.

To go to the National Art Gallery, view some Titian and eat some quiche. That’s at the nash, seeing some teesh and having quiche.

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Spend some more time in my favourite cities; London, Barcelona, Liverpool.

Go on the Eurostar.

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Do the London eye.

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Go to Berlin and attend a concert by the Berlin Philharmonic.

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Visit Goodison Park one last time. 

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Cruise the Fjords.

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Tour the Baltic States.

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Go whale watching.

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Have one of my books published.

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Less likely:

Visit New York as an independent traveller.

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Sail down the Panama Canal.

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Sail to Fingal’s Cave-Staffa.

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Fire a rifle. (At a target, not an animal.)

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Play an acting role.

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Impossible:

Climb up Snowdon. The train is still a possibility.

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Swim with dolphins. Or even sink with dolphins.

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Do a parachute jump. Imagine me trying to land.

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Lose more weight. Oh, how I’ve tried.

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Other things may occur to me as I trundle through life but I am trying to be reasonable about it.

I would like to be quicker with my rapier-like ripostes to the ignorant, the short-sighted and the nay-sayers.

Thank-you for reading.

Sauce

I remember HP sauce. It was well used at 65 Harrismith Road. There was always a bottle on the table. The table was in the kitchen. That’s the kitchen which was the living room as opposed to the back kitchen where the sink and the cooker stood. It was too tangy and hot for me but my dad loved it so I too was determined to like it.

It started with fried bread. Just a little bit though. I became hooked. In my teenage years, I would turn down my mum’s Sunday roast gravy in favour of HP.

Ahhhh Bisto = artificial beef flavour. I still don’t use ready made stocks from gravy granules disguised as bouillon. As if a French word makes it better.

Then, sometime in the early nineties, I noticed a change. My beloved HP had gone all mild and sweet. I was devasted. That lovely upright bottle displaying the Houses of Parliament was no longer. How very dare they? HP had been dumbed down to suit the more continental taste.

Along with Colman’s English mustard, it had represented the English tendency for fire-breathing sinus-clearing raw piquancy.

Image result for colemans mustard powderNow it had gone.

For a brief period, I shifted my allegiance to Daddies. I used to go to Tesco’s in Pembury for it. It’s a decent sauce but I wanted more.

Answer? Make my own. Oh, thank-you internet. I googled brown sauce recipe and picked up the basics. A sweet pulp, a dark dried fruit and a mixture of vinegar and sugar all boiled down to a delicious mushy piece of sauce heaven.

The recipe I first followed used apple and prunes with my own favourite mix of vinegar and spices. Then, as usual with the one-handed cook, I decided to get creative. It needn’t stop with apples. in every supermarket, you can buy these 1-kilo bags of root vegetables, namely carrots and sweet potatoes. If you’re like me, the price is attractive but there are too many of them to use before they go all squidgy.

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Don’t use apples.

Ingredients:

450g carrots and sweet potatoes

1 medium onion

120g sultanas

90 ml tamarind tea

90-120g sugar (how sweet are you?)

120ml vinegar (any)

1 tsp allspice

1tsp ground ginger

1tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp salt

squirt of tomato puree

2 tbs pomegranate molasses (optional, I love it)

300ml water  Peel the carrots and sweet potato. I wouldn’t normally do this but I wanted to avoid any scum forming. I have a neat preparation board to help one-handers.

My left hand just watches and admires. I also think it’s worth investing in a really good peeler.

Roughly chop the veg and onion.

Cover with water in a large saucepan, add the sultanas and simmer until soft. (35-45 minutes. Don’t rush it.) 

When this is done, add the rest of the ingredients and continue to simmer.

If you’re bored, remove it from the heat and blend. Put it back and simmer until thickened. It will become slightly thicker as it cools.

Dispense it into sterilised jars and seal well.

Keep them in the fridge.

Whilst the colour is more autumnal than the traditional brown, this is a strong sweet savoury sauce worthy of anything you have in front of you. Any of the ingredients can be varied. Because of the natural sweetness of the vegetables, I kept the sugar content low.

Even though the cooking time is quite long, you can just leave it to simmer away while you do some crochet or weeding or even continue with other chores in the kitchen.

I like to wear a frilly apron and call myself Betty in a west country accent.

Thank-you for reading. 

Crossroads

Which way do you go? Most crossroads are sign-posted. They let you know which goes where. At the top of my town, it’s called the cross. There’s even a pub called The Cross.

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It’s obviously the site of an old coach house. I can imagine the sweat from the horses as they’re taken by the ostler to their overnight stables. There would have been views across the newly formed farms. To turn left would take you to the south coast; Brighton and Eastbourne. Turning right will lead to the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells while straight on goes into the small villages on the rim of Kent and Sussex.

If we put the crossroads into our life, the sign-posts would be less clear.

Passmores-Business-College-JB4A crossroads in life represents new directions. We are given a choice. Do we change direction? Do we go straight on or do we turn round and scuttle back into the dull comfort of familiarity?

Thirty years ago, I reached the biggest crossroads ever. The year 1988 started with joy. I was in Australia with my good friend George (RIP). It was a great holiday. I returned home to an English winter all tanned and bursting with life.

400417_108266732629373_515001721_n And life was good.

I had loads of piano and cello pupils. These were lovely people and I was quite happy spending seven days a week teaching in Frodsham and Wirral. I’d even changed my car. My beloved Cortina, The Old Queen, had given way to a 1968 Wolseley 1660. It was an elegant but cumbersome bitch which stood out in a world of samey cars morphing into the streamlined characterless tins we see today.

For my day job, my doctor friend Ian; he was a psychiatric registrar, had given me the use of his garage so I was free to play with the old cars I loved.

Ideal?

No.

I missed lazy Sunday mornings, I missed week-day early doors and I missed the security of a salary. The car work was frustrating, I was permanently filthy and my own lovely car needed too much TLC. I had so many piano pupils it was impossible to think straight. I liked the teacher-pupil interaction but I saw them for half an hour once a week. Not enough.

In September 1986, I was once more rejected by a college for a PGCE course.

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At the same time, two piano teachers left the Frodsham area. I took advantage and cleaned up. I said that when the numbers dipped, I would make another attempt for a PGCE place. Privately, I was hoping it was sooner rather than later. For this reason, I was prepared to teach until I screamed and spend day times skimming my knuckles on the cold irons of ageing stubborn engines.

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My favourite job was sills. For £10, I would hammer in your old rusty sill and weld a new one (£3.25, Partco) over it in half an hour.

While the whole year was awash with parties and celebrations, there were dark clouds billowing slowly in the back of my head. During a fantastic holiday in Corfu, I had time to reflect with my mate Chris. He was also a former pupil of Eva and a deep thinker like myself. One day was spent sitting at the table of our taverna talking of our times past and what we had learned. Chris hinted that I should start to read novels.

He was currently reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf.

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I had a few sneaky reads and found it drawing me into its world so I was open to suggestions. Then one afternoon, he took the book and threw it onto the beach. He thought it overly burlesque to be feasible. He was actually fed up of Woolf’s supercilious rhetoric and fancied being a bit of a drama queen. Oh, how he loved to play the intellectual eccentric.drama-queen

We were both hankering for new times ahead. Privately, we were steeling ourselves for change. The crossroads were emerging. After my Corfu holiday, I was taking an evening stroll along the prom. I bumped into Peter MacLeod with his daughter Kristy. He told me to just go for it. It’s funny how so many people bombard you with “good” advice. They look to the heavens and take a deep breath before spouting their sagacious intelligence. It’s always wrong. It takes a person who’s in tune with you. We’ve had ups and downs and supported each other. Those few words in that fleeting moment fired me into action. 

I’m always grateful for having choices. I had choices because I’d worked for them. Days spent practising and studying had given me qualifications. They were the key to choices.

That autumn, I saw my very first west-end musical. My lovely friend Sara and I saw Chess.

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The musical was a bit bleugh but we had a good night out and went to the Southbank the next day for an afternoon concert by the Philharmonia. Sara had made the decision to move south. It set a seed in my own mind.

At this time, I was on a fitness mission. It was forty lengths every morning followed by a muesli breakfast, fruit for lunch and a frugal tea. No drink in the week! I became as fit as a butcher’s dog.

But the clouds were there.1_8X-M_6aWgg5jH94nLS3w6w

My old car packed up and I was feeling let down by people. My health was becoming……..I don’t know, just weird and unfathomable.

When I saw that Liverpool University was offering a six month part-time EFL course, I went for it and was accepted. After the PGCE interview disappointments, I realised that all I had to do was be myself. It was time to apply again. At least, if I was unsuccessful, I could fall back on the EFL course. But where was I to go?

Leeds!

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I’d worked out that despite me wanting to teach in a primary school, I’d have a better chance with music in secondary. My mate Martin lived near Leeds. I’d found him accommodation for his PGCE in Chester so he was only too glad to return the favour. On the final day of posting in December, I put in my application. Then I partied like there was no tomorrow.

The clouds were still there but I ignored them. One friend noticed. She saw the truth through my jolly super fit vivacious front. She could see the clouds too.

“Steve, remember a lot of people love you.” These were the words of Julie Waring. She is a purveyor of truths, both beautiful and ugly. A true friend. Through her own turmoil, she still cared for me.

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I was interviewed by David Dawson at Leeds. He had no airs or graces. Straight away I knew I was being taken seriously. I am grateful for his faith in me. I wasn’t your conventional graduate. My past was chequered and hardly screamed reliable. But he gave me a chance.

I received the acceptance letter in early February. I opened it in private before entering the living room to make the great announcement. I didn’t get the chance.

“So, you’ve got in then,” said Dad. I looked. “It sounded like thunder,” he continued. Well, I had been jumping up and down with unbridled joy in my bedroom.

The crossroads was there and I was making the most definite emphatic turn. I’d worked it all out. At the weekend I’d return to teach and help my pittance of a grant. I could pick the pupils I wanted to. They were my Frodsham favourites. When I first started there in 1982, a group of motherly friends sent their daughters to be taught by me. I was still teaching them. The lessons were laid back and gentle. They were all fourteen years old and absolutely hilarious.

Happy days. Busy days. Nothing new.

The clouds were still there but I told them to fuck off. They are still here but they will never win.

Thank-you for reading.

Oh yes!

Tonight was a chicken curry and chapatti night. It was wonderful. I’ve spent years trying to perfect my chapattis. I came close tonight.

First of all the curry:

Serves 2

1 1/2 tsps of ground cumin

                                      corriander

                                      garam masala

                                      turmeric

2 garlic cloves chopped

thumb-sized ginger chopped

1 bird’s eye chilli or 1/2 tsp powder or any damn chilli you can find.

1 medium onion chopped (Medium? Whatever.)

2 boned chicken thighs chopped into bite-size pieces

3 black cardamoms

3 or 4 new potatoes sliced into chunks

200ml ish water

salt for seasoning

As you can see, this is basic and tomato free. I try not to overwhelm it with too many flavours. If you want tangy, add some mango powder, kokum berries or tamarind. If you want rich, throw in the yoghurt or cream. Then if you like tomato, use a tin with some puree. If I go tomato, I always add some sugar. Fenugreek powder and asophetida will always add some depth to the flavour but only 1/4 of a tsp.

Method

The day before,gently fry the onions and cardamoms, adding little drops of water to prevent burning. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli to get them going.

After 2-3 minutes add the spices and stir well. Stir in some water to get a runny sauce then add the potatoes. Keep it rumbling on a low heat before the potatoes begin to soften. Remove from the heat, cool and keep in a sealed container overnight in the fridge.

(This is not a curry in a fwiggin’ hurry. I hate that phrase.)

The next day bring it back up to speed and add the chicken until it cooks through.

Check by removing a piece and slicing it in half. No pink, remember.

Add more water and allow to reduce so the potatoes really cook.

Chapattis:

120g white bread flour

pinch of salt.

1 tbs oil

water to form a dough mix the flour and salt.

Pour in the oil.

Gradually add enough water to form a dough.

Knead for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

Leave to rest for 10 minutes or more.

When ready, divide the dough into 4 balls.

On a well floured board, roll each ball into something resembling a circle. It helps to start it off by hand pressing it into a rounded shape. Be generous with the four so that it doesn’t stick. Try and get it papery thin.   

Get a flat heavy bottomed dry pan up to a high temperature. Be patient. Gently put the bread onto the heated pan. It should puff up. When it has little brown spots underneath, flip it with a fish slice and do the same to the other side. Keep on a plate under a damp towel whilst you do the rest. You can actually buy chapatti flour which is ground from some type of lentil. You can also use a mixture of brown and white. Adding poppy or nigella seeds gives an extra little flavour.

I’m not a big rice fan so the chapattis are the perfect accompaniment for me. It goes back to my student days, finding formica topped tables in the restaurants of Bradford. Knives and forks just didn’t exist.

This recipe would benefit from a number of the traditional side dishes or starters. Home made poppadoms? Nah! Life’s too short.

Thank-you for reading. 

The house rises

On 20th July, parliament will close for the summer. They will return for nine days in September before the four weeks of conference season. Where do they go? What do they do?  They go on holiday of course. So who goes where? This is clearly a job for the great Kuenssberg as she interviews her darling conservatives in their end of term summaries.

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Ah bless, she’s doing a Trump

“Mrs May, where are you off to?”

“Well firstly, I’ll be looking for fields of wheat or corn or whatever to run through with my little Philly. Oh, he loves a good chase.”

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“Does he catch you?” asks LK almost breaking into a mischievous little smile. TM frowns:

“No, Laura, I chase him and when I tackle him to the ground he will have to perform at least an hour of deferential servitude.” She ends with a Miss Piggy style swish of the head and a little oink and snort of a giggle. She straightens her face and continues. “I will also spend some time with my good friend Matthew Strong; he keeps horses in Ireland you know.”

“Well that’s the nearest you’ll get to strong and stable,” jokes LK. TM’s eyebrows lower:

“You are joking of course little Laura,” spits the reddening TM.

“But of course, your majesty,” comes a quaking reply as the great mast of self-confidence begins to totter.

“Then I’m going to Brussels for a murder mystery weekend.”

tom-janssen-brexit-talks-theresa-may-cartoon“Boris?”

“Oh, I’ve got a tournament planned,” mumbles the fuzzy-headed foreign secretary.

“Golf, croquet, bridge?”

“No don’t be silly, it’s going to be a week of dressing in armour and jousting with my good old bonhomie chappies.”

“On horses?” Boris sighs.

“You know what I’m like on a horse. It’ll be on those bike thingies I’ve planted all over London so people think they’re saving the environment. I learned how to get them off without paying.

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And I’ve robbed a pair of Govey’s stabilisers.” The stomach ripples and the shoulders jog Heath-style as he sniggers.

“Are you going to Europe?” Boris laughs again.

“Yes. I’m going dressed as a nun and I’m going to look for that Merkel woman.” Boris’ voice turns low and deliberate. I’m going to blag my way into her hotel and put a bat up her nightdress.”

“Where will you get a bat from Boris?”

“The bloody sports shop of course. How much is the BBC paying you?”

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Boris fuzzes up his hair in exasperation. “Then I’m going to find that Jean-Claude Junkie bloke and let off a stink bomb in his office.” 

GettyImages-928533196“Will that be expensive? All that travelling?” Boris looks back out of the corner of his eye.

“This is what the public purse is for.”

“Is that it?”

“My final destination will be Scotland with a full set of tackle and waders.”

“Fishing for salmon?”

“No, Sturgeon.”  LK gulps as she brings the interview to a close.

“Michael Gove, what will you be doing this summer?” “Sir Michael if you please, I’m going to be……..”

“Michael, you haven’t been knighted.” 

“But I have! In my time as being the most forward-looking innovative minister for education, I visited hundreds of schools and all the children called me sir.” 

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“To be knighted you have to kneel before the queen.”

“Well, I do that every night. I have a life-size picture in the bedroom. It sits next to Maggie.” LK realises resistance is useless. “Anyway, I’ll be taking my family to the Travelodge at Scratchwood services at the end of the M1. That way we can look at all the places where I work via the tube. You have to know the tube.”  LK looks confused. “It’s the best form of education. They can memorise all the stops from Edgeware to South Morden. City branch of course!”

LK starts painting her nails to the background of MG wittering on about dates and kings. She doesn’t remember the end of the interview.

“Now, Damian Green?”

“I’m using the time to set up my own dark internet so those bastards in the police can’t seize the porn on my office computer.”

Amber Rudd:

“A hunting we will go.” 

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Jeremy Hunt:  

“I’m going to dress as a nurse” Long pause. “A staff nurse.”

David Davis:

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“I’m going to the Dorchester to eat as many French tarts, Danish pastries and bowls of Irish stew before I ban them all.” 

Jacob Rees Mogg:

“Oh I’ll just follow Theresa around whispering about a return to the feudal system”

Finally, LK makes the long walk to Islington to speak to Jeremy Corbyn. She’s had a full sterilisation programme and a course of anti-socialist injections. Unsurprised by her sudden appearance at his doorstep, he hands her a pair of wellingtons and gardening gloves.

“I say dear, it’s very good of you to offer to look after my allotment while I’m away in Cuba with my lovely Dianne.”

Thank-you for reading.  

Croissants

It’s a no-brainer. Buy them from a supermarket; a bit like puff pastry. Well, I made puff pastry from scratch a while ago. There is no comparison. Homemade is far far far far superior. Yes, it was a bit labour intensive but worth every minute. A croissant is puff pastry with yeast. The nature of the method takes care of the proving but it is a twenty-four hour experience. It’s not difficult. Set your timer. The first phase comes with the pastry dough:

250g strong bread flour

7g instant quick bake yeast

1 tsp salt

25g sugar

150g butter

150 ml water.

1 beaten egg for coating.

Mix and knead with whatever method you prefer. It can go into a bread machine on the pizza dough setting, it can be subject to six minutes under the kneading blade in a food mixer or you can don an apron and hand knead it. Do it by a window so the neighbours can witness your enterprising spirit. Cover it with clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 2 hours. Not you, the dough. It keeps the mix cold because there will be butter involved.

Before the 2 hours are up, shape the butter into an oblong of 21 cm by 7 cm. (Use a ruler). It helps if you wrap it in baking parchment and belt it with a rolling-pin. Put that back in the fridge for 20 minutes or so.

Now for the trickier part. Under a floury surface, roll the dough into a 21 x 21 cm square. Put the butter in the middle from top to bottom. Fold each side over the butter so you have 3 layers. Fold the bottom to the top, turn it 90º and roll it to create another 7 x 21 cm block.

CROISSANT_54_WEBCover and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Repeat this process another 2 times before leaving the dough covered in the fridge overnight.

During the rolling stage, don’t get too carried away. If you press too hard it may melt the butter or mingle it too much with the dough. Soft hands, as the cricket commentators say.

The next day, rescue your growing blob and roll it into its final oblong. Don’t forget to dust your surface.

With a sharp knife, slice it into an even number of oblongs and then cut each one in half on the diagonal. Pull the right -angle corner out (be gentle) to form more of an isosceles triangle. You could also create the triangles with a zig-zag but without a draughtsman’s kit, this is harder to get even. It’s up to you. 

Image result for cutting croissant doughImage result for cutting croissant dough

Roll from the bass to the apex and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Make sure the loose end is on the bottom so it doesn’t unfold. If you want to be French fold the ends in. I don’t because I’m not French.

Leave all your creative shapes covered by a tea-towel to rise again. 45 to 70 minutes. Heat the oven to 200º C or 180º fan. Give each little beauty an egg wash and bake for 12-15 minutes until they are golden and the smell is sending everyone rabid. There are many ways to fold the dough. A quick internet trawl will show you. I choose the easiest.

If your butter blends too much with the dough, you’ll still get a delicious bread. Persistence will soon see you an expert. This is no casual job as it requires a bit of dedication your own croissant out of your oven is incomparable.

Thank you for reading.