Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The smooth, smooth silicone baking sheets of home

Wednesday rarely brings much productivity, and today is no exception, so I wrote this while I should have been doing other things. Ready for further adventures in freelance inactivity? If not, save yourselves while you still can, and study the mating habits of the leopard slug (courtesy of Simon).


1. The dog waited until I left the house and ate my Caramel today. I only went to the post box and came back to find him licking the wrapper with the most perfunctory, token display of shame. I can only imagine he was quite literally sitting and waiting for me to leave, having already worked out where I had hidden my afternoon treat. He's a bit like having the worst flatmate ever. "Oh, I thought it was mine, sorry". "Oh, you weren't saving that were you? I'll get you another. When my giro comes through. Oh, just leave the washing up, I'll do it later. I'll have a tea if you're making one, thanks. We're out of milk though".

I was less furious, however, than I would have been, say, on a day when I hadn't eaten ten salted caramels with that demented "if I eat them all, there will be none left to tempt me" logic.


2. I tidied my baking supplies last night (yup, wild times). This is a classic soothing activity of mine. I love nothing better that a neat pile of paper cake cases, graded by size and theme. The chaos of the world, the state of the Eurozone, the plight of the ginger seal; all recede momentarily. Anyway, it transpires that far from evoking a calm, frugal orderly world of fresh scones, my baking cupboard is evidence of a dangerous compulsion of Elton John proportions. I discovered: 13 types of edible glitter. 57 novelty biscuit cutters. 4 loaf tins. 14 types of food colouring. A whole box of Christmas baking supplies, including: special paper cases, the rancid plastic pine trees and Fimo snowman of my childhood Christmas cakes, a silver robin, three sizes of reindeer cookie cutter, plus the normal bell/angel/star/bauble/holly leaf cutter selection. I kept expecting to open a box and find Jane Asher in there, where I had imprisoned her some months earlier. Except for the fact that she is all over the papers at the moment, so either she has her Blackberry in the cupboard with her, or the newspapers are full of LIES, and that surely can't be, can it?


I wonder about this baking equipment thing. I bake about once a month on average, I reckon, habitually using the same four recipes (Nigella brownies, Trish's sponge, random cookie recipe from the interweb, Hummingbird Bakery stupidly delicious and easy cupcakes even though admitting to liking cupcakes is as bad as, I don't know, liking James Blunt or something). I watch the Great British Bake Off much as I might watch someone trying to ascend Everest solo - fascinating, but not remotely relevant. 'Cor, a croquembouche cone. Hard core'.

On some level, then, this hoarding of supplies is plainly Not About Cake. Rather, I have imbued baking with some kind of ritual importance, so that in my head it is a proxy for all manner of nurturing, and organisational skills. A bit like my friend the barrister telling me that if you had house plants they wouldn't take your kids into care. If I have baking supplies, I must be a Proper Mother. Things I have an unearthly respect for that also fall into this category:

- sufficient numbers of pairs of scissors

- not just sellotape, but parcel tape AND masking tape

- a sewing kit which is more than just one of those stolen cardboard pieces of crap from a hotel

- a selection of wrapping paper and cards

- many Christmas decorations of great antiquity and most importantly, one of those Scandinavian fabric advent calendars with pockets, where you put sweets in each pocket. I gave mine away in a competition on here a couple of years ago and have been trying desperately to replace it.

The only one of these I actually have is the scissors, but in my head, this is what a "proper" home should have. It doesn't come from my own childhood, where the only scissors were Prog Rock's left handed ones, and no one baked except on birthdays. Ok, Prog Rock did own, and use, a darning mushroom, so perhaps he has left quite a deep imprint of what a real home looks like. I don't know, the inside of my head is an oddly reactionary, 1950s sort of place sometimes.


3. Whilst making terrible, halting progress on my edits of doom (which basically amount to: DO IT ALL AGAIN, BUT LESS SHIT THIS TIME, KTHXBAI), I did at least work out what my absolute ideal career would be. I have been having a considerable amount of professional angst, recently, but I now know what I should be doing, so I can call off the pitiful self-flagellation. What I need to work towards is becoming a writer in residence in a zoo. I have found little evidence that such a position exists anywhere in the world, but I don't really see why that should stop me. Having recently discovered real positions both as an intern for "EUROPATAT, representing the interests of the fresh potato industry" and as a reporter for Poultry World, reality seems considerably stranger than fiction. Moreover, I would happily do it for free, in return, perhaps, for the occasional cup of tea and slice of coffee and walnut from the cafe and a pile of straw in the tapir house to sleep on. Go on ZSL, you know you want me.

Let's throw this open to the floor. Either:


- What arbitrary thing makes a house/flat a Proper Home for you?

or

- What is your dream job that does not actually exist?

30 comments:

Patience_Crabstick said...

My dream job that doesn't exist is recommending books to people. Not a librarian, just someone who gets paid to suggest books. Nancy Pearl kind of did it when she wrote Book Lust.

Nellig said...

To be a Proper Home, a dwelling must feature a receptacle, kept on or near the kitchen windowsill, containing elastic bands, safety pins, the key for the gas-meter box, two pounds in change and a bulldog clip.

Waffle said...

Patience - I bet it does exist. "Patience Crabstick, Literary Concierge".

Flora Fauna Dinner said...

I want to run a family teashop/B&B (pets obligatory) with petting zoo and publish photo/anecdote-heavy recipe books. This has been my career plan for some years.

A home is not a home - and a person not fully matured - without a drawer of allan keys, leftover bits from Ikea flat packs, mysterious small parts that came with washing machines, fifteen tubes of unopened Clarks polish in black and one of those bungee cords.

Sarah said...

Patience - Nancy is one of my old authors from my Seattle publishing days! She's still at it - Book Lust was followed by Book Crush, More Book Lust & the book that didn't end up being called Wanderlust but is travel-reading suggestions. If she can make a career out of it (and she has, and is), you definitely can; she's paved the way...

M. said...

I am going to be a reader at the broken elephant sanctuary in Cambodia. This will involve reading books. Out loud. To elephants. Broken ones.

KTHXBAI!!!

BadBride said...

Patience_Crabstick - It does exist. By friend Sharmaine recomends books for a living... http://www.dialoguebooks.org/book-doctor/

A proper home must have a present draw. This should contain, along with sellotape, recycled scraps of wrapping paper and cards, small trinkets bought on impulse with the intention of giving them someone one day (maybe) and all the rubbish gifts that relatives have given you over the past five years to be perilously re-gifted at christmas.

frau antje said...

Is that title a nod to Tom Jones? If it is, and was on my iPod, I would fast forward at least ten songs before the second note. Perhaps because there actually was an old oak tree, that I used to play on (it's still there, so no need to be so maudlin, I suppose). Maybe that's what makes a perfect home. Certainly hope it's not coffee beans growing alongside the driveway, as all there are here are Red Bull cans rolling around the street. Can't be scissors, there are tons, and I still don't feel proper. I'm assuming you also have sensitive (gevoelig) masking tape, it's nice to have sensitive things, even if it's just masking tape.

It seems reporter for Poultry World could take off any minute, in ways you might never suspect.

Monica said...

Hmmmm. Good knives. Lots of batteries in all sizes. A pencil sharpener. Good tea. A ridiculously huge variety of spices. Heavy flatware. I think that covers it!

I'd like to be my town's photographer in residence. I don't think they've got the budget for that though.

Frances said...

A proper home must have...

out-of-date cans in the lada, containing substances you will never use or be able to bring yourself to throw out. Mine is currently a tin of celery hearts, my mother's is currently multiple tins of balck cherries.

J. said...

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about what makes a proper home as we get ready to bring home our first child, and I still don't have an answer. However, I do have a job rec for you, BW:

http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikipedian_in_Residence

I would think a zoo/wildlife sanctuary would be a perfect candidate for this sort of thing. Put together a prospectus and shop it around, starting with the biggest institutions first (they are more likely to have the money to make it a paying gig).

pure sumo said...

Patience Crabstick - your dream job also exists at www.theschooloflife.com, where a Bibliotherapist goes about her business, supplying book prescriptions. I am living the dream by volunteering the information (often unsought) to family and friends.

Anonymous said...

Dream job: President of a thoroughly bilingual Belgium. Or democratically elected Queen of Sweden.

Tilia

Waffle said...

Frau Antje - Yes, it was. Now I really want some gevoeling tape. What does it DO?

Dara said...

Wow...I have know idea what constitutes a proper home as I am still giddy having watched the leopard slugs do their thang. How come in my twenty year old bar trolling days, I only met the Homosapian type slimy slugs (eeww-me no likey no matter how tipsy) and not some of the leopard variety? Why universe? Why?

Waffle said...

Dara - I love the bit where the male sex organs on their heads LIGHT UP. Human sex seems incredibly pedestrian now.

jonathan said...

I met someone the other day who was artist in residence at an allotment site- she said the best thing about it was she got her own shed to potter about artfully in. I thought at the time if you replaced 'artist' with 'writer' in that job title then you'd pretty much have my perfect position.

I vaguely remember Will Self being writer in residence in a Liverpool Tower Block (local news TV clips of him typing away on an ancient typewriter while passing scousers stared at the back of his head from a corridor), and certainly Alain de Botton produced a whole book (a very good one) out of being writer in residence at Heathrow Airport. So your dream job might not be as fanciful as you think.

Margaret said...

Ice cube trays and a bin to put the cubes in even if your fridge has a through-the-door ice dispenser. A butter dish. Hand towels in the bathroom. And that container Nellig described, but with the storage room key instead of the gas-meter-box key and several paper clips instead of safety pins. Refrigerator magnets from businesses you currently patronize, like the good appliance repair guy and the cat sitter.

Dream job. Hmm. Health and beauty aid tester. But not like lab rat testing, more consumer level.

frau antje said...

Il est pour des surfaces délicates (de meest kwetsbaar among us...like me, not even much of a crier, but I will now go and weep shamelessly, as you seem to be getting your roof renovated without either organizing or doing it, and I surely hope and assume not paying for it. Forget your unicorns, THIS is magical. I am so, so happy for you).

Anonymous said...

A proper home has a piano. For practising scales, finding out how that tricky fugue in the choir music goes, and planned or impromptu singalongs when relatives who can really play come to visit!
Sadly ours hasn't had much use lately, but I'm happy that it's there, waiting for that musical potential to be unleashed.

Johnners said...

A proper home has a kitchen drawer full of stuff that no-one uses, a box full of batteries, labelled "batteries", gaffer tape, a cupboard full of wrapping paper, emergency birthday cards, presents and some ribbon, the latest 12 diktats/demands for stuff from school and some cook books. And lots of books and papers in various stages of being read. This is why everyone I know describes my house as "homely".

I really have no idea what my ideal job would be - sad.

WrathofDawn said...

I do not want to know how they know that the horny leopard slug's slime tastes different when it is jonesin' for some lovin'.

Why did I watch that video?

What has been seen cannot be unseen.

WrathofDawn said...

Proper Home must have a cat in residence.

Ideal Job would be Professional Blog Reader. I wouldn't comment on them or recommend them to anyone or really do anything at all except actually read them.

Or maybe Whatever Strikes My Fancy Photographer. None of this poncy event photography where I often have one chance and one chance only to get the shot. People would need to pay top dollar for whatever triped came out of my camera. Now THERE'S a proper job!

laura said...

I think we have one of those fabric advent calendars. We used it once when it was given to us with the chocolate in but since then we've not bothered because that'd mean making an effort and buying chocolate to put in it. If we still have it you would be more than welcome to it

Z said...

Books in every room. Nothing else is necessary.

A job that is infinitely variable, really interesting, where everyone defers to my view and does any job I ask them. I am cheating though, because I have it. Sadly, it's unpaid.

Sarah said...

My nonexistent dream job is to be paid to listen in on conversations conducted in public places, and then offer my advice or opinion on what I'm hearing. I suppose there would be some kind of odious reporting requirement on the back end, to satisfy my employer, but I like to think it would suffice for me to meet my employer once a week over wine and give a greatest-hits type of summary.

Anonymous said...

Sarah - there is a hugely successful website in Swedish called Eavesdropping (Tjuvlyssnat) where people send in funny conversations they've heard on the street. You could start one of those in English.

Tilia

Anonymous said...

A Proper Home needs a medicine cabinet, stocked with stuff you really need and not the bafflingly useless contents of any bought First Aid Kit. Painkillers, plasters, disinfecting wipes, savlon, E45, antihistamine syrup & cream, mouth ulcer gel, thermometer, calpol, children's cough syrup for dry night time coughs, and um ah rescue remedy (bit sheepish about this last one, since my intellect tells me it must be quackery).

I arrange them in boxes according to broad ailment/medicine groups. Thus, I sometimes get the opportunity to announce: "in my kitchen I have a box marked 'Pain'." I derive inexplicable satisfaction from this.

Ideal job? Personal shopper specialising in a) stationery supplies (Oh! Paperchase! but even Rymans would do) and b) baking equipment. I was in Lakeland yesterday and browsing the aisles I glimpsed this parallel universe where a Platonic version of me actually uses the stuff.

WT Softie

Kirsten said...

A proper home only needs people you love who only vaguely and sporadically annoy you...

My dream job would be 2 hours a day, 3 days a week, and allow me to pay my mortgage....that's as far as I've gotten.

Nimble said...

My dream job: word association. I'd be hard at work all day constructing word clouds. I would work with assonance, definitions and literary references.