Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Simple Pleasures

Baking a loaf of bread has to be one of life's great simple pleasures.

I rarely find the time sadly but I had some family coming over for dinner and wanted to go the extra mile. I realise I am way behind on no knead bread as it seems to achieved cult status online but my goodness it is fabulous!! The original recipe that people refer to is Jim Lahey's in the New York Times . I wanted a little something extra for mine so I used this adaptation from The Gardener's Eden which adds in fresh rosemary.

The basic principle is that you use a small amount of yeast and the bread is left to rise for a lot longer than usual but without any kneading. It is then cooked in a casserole so that it steams while it cooks producing a lovely soft inside. You then take the lid off for the last bit of cooking to get a golden crust.

I was extremely smug about the final result as it very closely resembled my idea of the perfect loaf of bread (although I have to say this is entirely down to the recipe as opposed to any particular skill in the bread making dept!). Look how pretty....

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Ten years on

Roses at Ground Zero (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Ten years ago today I was still an actress. I was taking part in a workshop at the Battersea Arts Centre designed to bring young playwrights from London and New York together by staging a series of readings of extracts from their work. I spent the day rehearsing a scene where I played a 50 year old New York woman. I wasn't entirely convinced that I was doing the play justice as a very English 25 year old but I was having a wonderful time trying and getting to know all the writers who had come over from New York specially for the event.

After rehearsal, I travelled home to my flat in North West London still on a high from the day's work. On the way a friend of mine who worked as a journalist for Metro sent a text to say a plane had flown into the world trade centre. At the time it was too soon for it to have meaning. It was an abstract concept that didn't properly penetrate. I got home, turned on the news and everything changed. Some time later (I still had not moved from my position in front of the TV) my flatmate and oldest friend returned home. He is an actor and was also taking part in the Battersea workshop. News hadn't reached him and he came in with a spring in his step. I tried my best to explain what was happening. I can't remember whether the second plane had hit at that time - before then it was still potentially a horrendous accident - but I think it was clear by the point he stood in the doorway to our sitting room that what was happening was no accident. I remember saying "Look at your T-Shirt". He was wearing a vintage red 70s shirt that simply said "I love New York".

I kept thinking about the young writers so far away from home. Thinking they too would have left the rehearsal feeling bright and energised and gone to their respective lodgings to find out what was happening in their city. Were their friends OK? Were their families OK? And what of the friends I had in New York. Were they safe? Were they frightened? Sometimes it is hard to get your head round so enormous an event in its entirety. In those times it is the individuals that you know that come into focus most clearly at first. But as the days moved on it was as if the camera panned out and the enormity began to sink in although there are many things about that day that I still can't quite comprehend and never will.

I remember exactly where I where I was this day ten years ago. I think we all do. But today I am thinking of the people whose memories are about personal losses and loved ones who they will never hold again, about lives changed forever on a day that had started like any other but during the course of which, the world changed.