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When I get up on Saturday morning, I should usually have some bread dough waiting for me in the fridge.  Sourdough is so slow I can do its first prove overnight if I chill it.  But how cold it is kneading it straight from the fridge!  See that big bubble just under the surface, waiting to be popped.Image

By the end of the morning, with the first load of school uniform humming away in the washing machine, a few less weeds in the garden, and the crossword done, it has nearly finished its second prove (in my warm cupboard).  It usually comes out of the oven sometime after lunch:Image

and the difficult thing is to let it cool right down and not to eat it straight away while it’s hot!  On a good week it lasts through till Monday, but some weeks (if there is some good jam to go with it) it doesn’t make it past teatime.

 

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I am in Mummy Bear protective mode today. I am protecting my bear cubs against The System. A System, I have to say, which they often seem to invite into our den. Yesterday, it was another trip to A&E, and the usual unwelcome scrutiny of psychiatrists and social workers. Your daughter has taken an overdose? Again?

Yes, again; that’s what she does; nothing to see here; move along please. It took us twelve hours to extricate her from the clutches of the hospital. The poor thing came home after midnight, exhausted, distraught, had missed her usual medication, in need of a great deal of soothing. She is seventeen years old, but sometimes she needs handled like a small child. My husband, having stayed by her side for hours, is the shape of the chair he had been sleeping on, grey with care.

I spent the day doing very practical mothering: making sure she eats, sleeps, keeps busy, takes her medication. You have to be her eyes and ears and arms and legs, walking her through the day, fending off the inevitable waves of self-recrimination. Why did I do it? Why did I mess up again? Meanwhile I have my own urgent questions for her caseworker: how can we keep sailing through these difficult patches if The System keeps kicking in and detaining her for hours like this? It won’t be the last time we have to go in. I want The System to serve us, not try to take control again.

These lovely tulips arrived on Mother’s Day, which we held a couple of week’s ago in the UK – while there was still snow on the ground. To cheer myself up, I spent some time photographing them after I had finished work. And then I started off some more sourdough for tomorrow’s bread. Beautiful things to look at, and the smell of sourdough – what greater pleasure can there be?

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I lost my temper the other day. Isn’t that a strange phrase? What is this temper that you lose? Is it temper like temperance: do you lose your balance, your equilibrium? It certainly feels like that after the event, when the red mist clears, and you survey the damage.

I lost my temper at my fourteen year old son, and I don’t think any parent really wins when they lose their temper with their children. Apart from the practical fact that no teenager on this earth looks contrite and answers, “Yes, sorry Mum, I was wrong.” And even if they did, it would feel quite wrong – as if you had broken their spirit. Naturally enough, my son is my son – he gave me back as good as he got – which now I smile about, but which I could not see the humour in at the time. I did not lose the battle, but I did lose my dignity, and, temporarily, my peace of mind.

The fact is that my son is vulnerable, but of course he can be annoying too. He has Asperger’s, and I know, more than anyone else, how much crap he has to deal with at school because of that (why do his teachers care so much about handwriting anyway?). But he is also a teenager, smart, cocky, always right, keen to sort the world out. It can be funny, it can be distressing, and it can, of course, be explosive.

The bread in the picture was pain viennois, from a recipe by Richard Bertinet. As he suggested, I split one of the baguettes while still warm, popped in some thin bars of chocolate, and gave it to the children for a snack. Teenagers are not too old for such treats. Much contentment all round.

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At the weekend and holidays I often begin a day by baking bread.  I am not sure why I do this: baking bread is a huge commitment in terms of time.  In fact now that I am experimenting with sourdough the whole process can spread out over two days from start to finish.  Not that any of the steps take much more than 15 minutes, but they are relentless, and sometimes it means that you can’t leave the house for more than an hour or two at a time.  Probably my fault for following Dan Lepard’s recipes, as recommended by Bakery Bits

i have gone for months, even years, without baking bread, but am always drawn back to it.  There is something magical about the simplicity of the ingredients – flour, yeast and water – transforming into this wondeful stuff that is dough.  When it goes well, and I have a good loaf – especially with a new recipe – I feel quietly warm with happiness.  When it goes badly I could cry (and have).  Whenever I catch sight of my sourdough pot quietly sitting there bubbling at the back of my fridge, I feel reassured that the world is fundamentally good and orderly.  Since this is a week that seemed chaotic – trips to doctor’s appointments with my daughter that had to come out of working hours, and then to crown it all, the drama of another trip to accident and emergency at the end of the week – I baked bread to restore order to the world.

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