Friday, 31 January 2014

All change - again!

A year on. And what a year.

I now live in London, and work at The Poetry Society.

I still haven't had a collection published, and still struggle to fit writing in. But now that London feels more like home than it did in the first flush of moving back in September, it is weedling its way back into my routine.

London is a place. I mean, it knows it's a place. I'm enjoying its identity and busyness, cycling to work in the rain and its complete lack of anything really really cold (so far) this winter. I even swam in an outdoor pool the other day! In Covent Garden! Who knew.

Anyway, it's nice to see you again. It's good to be back. It feels like a little bit of home I can take with me wherever I go... so here's to reinstating this blog as part of my routine, too. Yes. Here's to that.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

All change.

Self portrait with short hair.
I've had my hair cut!

It's amazing how long it had been since I've had what I call the 'Sophie Classic' look. I was looking through some photographs from a year or so ago, thinking I would come across myself with shorter hair. Turns out I had long hair then, too... so I booked an appointment. My hairdresser knows me well*, and didn't baulk at the idea. In fact, as soon as we'd had a talk about what I wanted, she just whipped out some kitchen scissors (so as not to blunt her hairdressing ones) and hacked most of it off there and then.

Hats suit me better now. And my neck doesn't get so hot at night.

*She's called Fliss, and is fabulous.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Brain tricks and procrastination.

It's been too long. Again.

One of the problems I have in my life (relatively small compared to many problems around the world, I know) is that, quite often, I think something needs doing, and think about doing it in great detail - on my way home, say, or while I'm swimming - and then my brain is satisfied that this problem has been solved. Without me getting around to actually doing something. And even though actually doing something makes me feel really efficient and productive and good. It's like a strange trick my head plays on itself that gets worse the more time I have to complete something.

And so, yes, it's been too long. But in my head, I've updated with every single Herman that's been made (and some of them have gone down very well) and written loads and loads of poems. I have actually written, optimistically in terms of completeness, two or three; and you can see that I have updated my blog not at all.

Today I  have put my dungarees on and will try and do something about both.

So, Herman-wise, I've made: Honey, Ginger & Parson Hermuffins, Chocolate Fudge Herman, Cherry Bakewell Herman (for a birthday gift (delivered strapped onto the back of my bike), so duplicates were okay), Apple, Maple & Pecan Herman, Pineapple Upside Down Herman, Red Velvet Herman and I'm sure a few others that I can't remember. Basically, recipe-wise, there is no great mystery. Find a nice cake recipe on the internet, reduce the amount of wet ingredients slightly, add a Herman portion and cook for perhaps 5-10 mins longer to make sure it's done properly. Et voila.

Herman line-up

I am thinking of going down the route of Herman Sourdough bread of some sort, actually using it as a leavening agent rather than just a taste sensation, but we'll see if I get time.

Poetry wise, I have actually been doing some stuff. I read at Durham Book Festival in October at the launch of our new magazine Butcher's Dog (Submit some work for issue 2! Buy a copy! etc.) and at the launch of Magma 54, which I am in as an Eric Gregory winner. I've also had a poem out in Poetry London, and am applying for a few things (of which more word later) and sending work out. It's just that writing them is a bit slow at the moment, but I will get around to fixing that. Once I've stopped knitting things for Christmas... Oh, Christmas! What a glorious procrastination time-sink you are. I love you.

Monday, 13 August 2012


Chocolate Hazelnut Herman
And so, after my enthusiasm for sharing Herman recipes, I made a chocolate hazelnut cake which ended in disaster. The first Herman to not be devoured in its entirety, it was dry and crumbly and nowhere near as good as it looked. How disappointing.

Luckily, I have redeemed myself with a Blueberry Herman which is based on a sour cream blueberry cake recipe which looked quite tasty, and yes, it is quite splendid.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Hello Herman.

I've been nursing a Herman the German (friendship cake) for quite a while now, and am still enjoying the task I've set myself of keep one/cook one without repeating recipes, and split and share occasionally with willing cake enthusiasts. I have my own favourites among the many I've cooked, but though I've found loads of people talking about them on the internet, I haven't seen very many British recipes with grams, or very many recipes that use a whole portion of Herman rather than a half or a cup or something. So. Here I am, with a blog that has had nothing to do with food historically, starting a tradition of Herman blogging, in the hope that the recipes may find other struggling Herman devourers looking for some inspiration.

And so, to begin, a brief introduction to those who may never have met Herman. Herman is a sourdough batter that you keep in your kitchen at room temperature, uncovered except for a teatowel, made up of milk, sugar and flour in equal volumes, that bubbles with fermentation and requires regular stirring, feeding and splitting. The usual cycle is over ten days, and looks something like the document to the left (complete with splatters, which came on my copy courtesy of Herman's previous owners, Dave and Adrienne).

The tone is a bit.. patronising... but the theory is sound. So I don't end up with four Hermans at the end of each cycle, and so two to get rid of, I've just been adding half measures on both feeding days and only splitting into two come day 9.

The first cake I made was a ginger cake, and since then I have also made: chocolate cherry cake, carrot and coconut cake, coffee cake, double chocolate cake, banana cake, lemon drizzle cake and, I think, a few others that have slipped from memory. The possibilities are endless. And delicious.

So, the other day I made a Cherry Bakewell Herman, adapted fairly straightforwardly from a recipe at BBC Good Food. It was ace. Here it is:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Whit agitation.

I learnt the word whit when I was writing a poem and researching other words to describe dust particles hitting our atmosphere to make shooting stars. You've probably guessed by now that this is another Shake the Dust post. You'd be right. But it feels like dust shaking is all I ever talk about so I thought I'd mix it up a bit... and I've failed.

Last weekend was the epic Thursday-Sunday national finals and Shake the Dust weekend at the Southbank Centre, and boy was it a busy one! With workshops, evening events, travelling, meetings, eatings, rehearsals, letting-off-steams and all sorts of other bits and pieces to do with nine groups of eight 13-16 year-olds it was a hectic few days - made only more hectic by the fact that I did a reading at Ledbury Festival on Friday with five of the other Eric Gregory winners, travelling there and back in one day.

Needless to say, I'm knackered. But a good sort of knackered, full of enthusiasm for poetry and the 'new' generation (though who's to say when one generation begins and another ends) and current generation of performers and writers. One of the highlights was seeing Kate Tempest and Saul Williams on Thursday evening, performing their hearts out (albeit for a little too long, perhaps, though that's not their fault but a misjudgement in programming); another was the look on the faces of our Slamming Saints at their arrival in London and first sight of the big city. The main highlight though, of course, was seeing our two teams doing the best performance of their poems they've ever done, on the main stage at Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank. Wow. My heart bursts with pride for all of them - they really did themselves and the North East proud!

So now, I have sleep to catch up on (still) and ponderings to ponder about the performance of poetry vs. performance poetry. Perhaps I'll get back to you with some conclusions about that one later on. In the meantime, sleep tight! Don't let the bed bugs bite!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The dust is well and truly SHAKEN

After a long and action-packed day of rehearsals, workshops, rehearsals and more workshops at ARC in Stockton, our fabulous Shake the Dust team, the Slamming Saints, won the award for highest scoring team at their regional final on the 16th June.... and so will be travelling to London for the national finals in July! I'm so SO proud of them and their achievement and so had to post this picture of their glistening trophy.

Every team that performed at the final were good enough to win. It really was an honour to be a part of such an inspiring event. It may sound cheesy as hell, but you really do hear it all the time from the mouths of the young performers and poets themselves - they had no idea poetry could be like this, so fun, so engaging, so relevant to them and their world. I've lost count of the ways in which this project has positively impacted the poets we've been working with, and so it proves itself crucial time and again and with every smiling face. So yes, anyway, a massive congratulations to every individual young poet that was involved in this project. They were all absolutely bleedin' brilliant!

You should come along and see The Slamming Saints, and all the other regional high-scorers, in action in London at the Southbank on the 7th July. It's going to be a cracking event - in fact, that whole weekend is jam-packed with some great spoken word, so you should just hang out there the whole time. And come and say hello!