Wednesday, 28 November 2012

"Rowett does not flinch" + fruit loaf recipe

Are we what we are, or are we what other people make us make ourselves? A complicated-sounding question in need of unpacking, and unpacking is what I will soon be doing, as I have to go to London soon to retrieve my exhibits from Southwark cathedral refectory. It's been a great experience for me to have to work steadily for a year (and I did it without too many ridiculously late nights!) in order to mount the exhibition, including working out solutions to problems like how best to display the work, given it has to be portable, and how much explanation to provide so that the work doesn't just drop down a 'Can't see what she is getting at; oooh this chocolate cake is lovely!' hole (which it might have done anyway, since a 'refectory' setting could never be the most meditative space, unless it were a silent one in a monastery or whatever; see below).
Slightly disappointing colour reproduction though

 Putting work 'out there' for public viewing and getting reactions to it takes a certain amount of steeliness too. Its genre was initially produced with the full intention of the work staying in my hands, or perhaps held on opposite sides by me and someone interested in the text to which it refers, with the pieces being a way of helping some thoughts to bubble up from the depths of our minds on the text's possibilities. (I quickly scrubbed the word 'meaning' there, because 'possibilities' was much more what I wanted to say.)

So who was making me make myself into something other than what I am? It was the review in the Church Times wot did it. It's become a bit of a mantra with me, whatever the to-do list tells me to do, I now take the phrase from the review, 'Rowett does not flinch!' and am also happy that 'domesticated' and 'homely' are the adjectives combined with this phrase. (Yessss! At last it's OK for me to be these things, now we've arrived in this post-post-modern age! 1980s, you have nothing to lose but your shoulder-pads!) I see myself in my apron, with mouth set in a grim line as I sally forth to clean out the garage or whatever other task I have to do in the absence of a man to till the ground (though he's great at bringing me beer in the bath, which tendency I regard as a fair swap).

So this description of my ways is pleasing to me, and actually helps me get through the day! I might have been lily-livered before but now I see myself as another sees me, and the not-flinching aspect, which might have been hidden or even non-existing, is brought into play a bit more than it might have been; 'cos now I have the little saying, 'Rowett does not flinch' to reach for. So is it maybe making me flinch a lot less than I might have done, and thus is not merely a description of me, but also has an effect in shaping me? If the latter is true, then there is a great lesson there if you live with someone of whom you think 'It would be good if he were just a bit more......'

I know; t'owd man is going to be very suspicious if he reads this. 'Darling, you are SUCH a whizzo at polishing my shoes'. (OK, OK he does the beer bit, and sometimes there are mussels in their shells in white wine sauce, or some other bath-friendly snack with it too, yes, you're right, that ought to be enough).

And what of the 'domesticated and homely' aspect? Well I did make some cakes the other day, and here is the recipe, given to me by a good friend, and it is one handed down in her family, so is an old Lincolnshire one. The cake is sooooo good, t'owd man says it ought to be locked up.

Win's Nana's Fruit Loaf. 

1 1/2 lb SR flour
3/4 lb butter (add a pinch of salt if your butter is unsalted)
3/4 lb sugar
1 1/2 lb mixed dried fruit, inc. cherries if liked
1 1/2 tbsp golden syrup
1/4 pt milk
6 eggs

Warm the milk and dissolve the golden syrup in it.
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, like when making pastry.
Add sugar and dried fruit, then stir in the eggs, milk + golden syrup. Mix well.
Spread between 3 2lb loaf tins, greased or lined with paper cases.

Bake on gas 3/ 160C for half an hour on the centre shelf, then turn down to 150C for 1 hour.
(Keep testing with a skewer or cake thermometer - a great invention by the way; I found I didn't need to bake them for quite as long as this; it depends on individual ovens).

It's more crumbly than the Victoria sponge kind of cake, since it has a lot more flour, and the butter is rubbed in, not whisked with the sugar first. I also added a dash of almond essence, the genuine stuff, to the milk in mine, 'cos I like almond flavour. Win says it would be OK to replace some of the flour with ground almond too.

Serve buttered. Yummmmm!


And here is some of the text of that Church Times review, the bit that applied to my work, with my comments boldly in square brackets:

"Last year, Southwark Cathedral, where Bishop Lancelot Andrewes was buried in 1926, hosted an art competition to mark his work as one of the translators of the King James Bible in 1611, writes Nicholas Cranfield.  The competition was won by a photographer, a printmaker, and a "textile exegete" [I know, I know - quotation marks are necessary for this title I have invented for myself] (Features, 23 September 2011).  The same three artists [I'm flattered! I'm an artist now, after a lifetime of 'What do you do?' 'Er.... I'm not sure really... I stay at home and....'] have been invited back again this year and offered the unsatisfactory space [I'm glad he said this, as I thought I might just sound to be whinging when I said people couldn't get up close to them] of the refectory walls to display their latest work. The little exhibition, however, is a delight [I must hang onto this phrase, to encourage me when I need it], even though it was wholly ignored [I had noticed this too] when I visited...... Vivienne Rowett last year made a dress for Sarah [and Hagar as well]. Here she has picked "Lucy Locket lost her pocket" to inform her making of patchwork pockets [it's actually applique looking like patchwork] that deliberately copy earlier (18th-century) peg bags [Pegs! When did I mention pegs?!] or burses [surely a misprint for 'purses'; OK then so I'm wrong: burse]. Each contains the text of a psalm. "A pocket, like a psalm, can be made of well-loved old materials... both carrying memories and being a repository for new things, new meanings," we are told. Each is intended to tell us something about the psalm, and Rowett ["Rowett"! Love it! I've made it!] does not flinch [You know I love this too!] from trying [I tried very hard] to explore the hard sayings of Psalm 137 in a domesticated, homely way. Tony Kenyon is an illustrator. His work, which I found the most satisfying...... [Oh well then 2nd or 3rd prize for me here then]"


So has all of this made me a changed person? I'd better ask t'owd man. I plan to be more unflinching, more homely and domesticated, and to make to-do lists and ignore them and go off on my bike whenever I want to, especially to catch the sunset. Here's an idea for today: Leonardo in Hull , and for fuel for this project I think I'm going to make a porridge milk-shake for lunch, a delicacy I discovered in the Lake District. Just whizz up some left-over porridge with some milk and a dash of nutmeg, maple syrup.... whatever. Don't knock it till you've tried it.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Outside is good

What's a girl to do the day after such an adrenalin rush as the start of an exhibition of one's year's work? Go to the woods of course, and start a new campaign. It was in defiance of the rules on adults not being allowed on the equipment that I went on this ride (and it was a day when children are at school); it seems to me that a) children are bigger these days b) we ought not to allow such ageism, and I hereby campaign for the setting up of adult adventure playgrounds; much better than gyms. Outside is good.  The Barton-upon-Humber youth centre has closed down, and with it, the indoor skateboarding park. I repeat, outside is good. When will we learn?

My manifesto for a better Britain would therefore include the building of adult adventure playgrounds, all free of course; slow food; bigger gardens; and the setting aside of a day when activities will  be scaled down, a quiet sort of day when we do sport rather than spectating it.

It's not a manifesto for turning the clock back, but for acting on the information that tells us that such moves would be good for us all. What's stopping us? Why aren't we doing the things we know would be good for us? I know, economics, economics, economics; but very short-sighted economics. It would be possible to do things differently. If we replaced the word 'the economy' with 'the church' every time the word was used to explain why something good could not happen, some beneficial change made, then we would very rightly be a despised institution.

And no, I didn't fall over off screen.