I have fallen in love with scones.
Quite suddenly, all at once, head over heels. All scones. Cheese scones (sometimes with marmite, sometimes with walnuts and mustard), saffron, honey and sultana scones, cherry scones, stilton and cranberry scones. I can’t get enough of them. But this is my current favourite: a grown up, not-too-sweet scone — the only added sugar is the crunchy Demerara on the top — that is sufficiently handsome to present to friends, but simple enough to knock up for yourself at 10:30 to go with an 11 o’clock coffee.
Reader, I will be frank with you: in many ways, this bread is the antithesis of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books that littered libraries when I was a child. But please don’t let that stop you.
For the uninitiated, these were books – inevitably ghost stories or quest books (the format never really suited Noel Streatfield or Dick King-Smith) – that would force you at the end of the page or chapter to nail your colours to the mast and follow a particular path, offering you two plot choices, and two associated page numbers. It made you implicit in the plot, in the conclusion. Inexplicably, these books were achingly cool. I had very bad instinct with these books; within three plot choices I was dead, the treasure was lost, the story ended prematurely. My choices failed me.
A confession, to begin with – appropriate, given the season. This is not a story of how I stopped worrying. It wouldn’t take a psychiatrist to determine that, in the last two years, I have used baking as a crutch, or a crude therapy. I have written previously about how pastries and breads and curds have helped me in times of mourning and misery and panic. I have been grounded by baking. But for a long time, I was scared of bread.
I have been quiet of late. Which may be seen as inadvisable bearing in mind I’ve just started a blog that I hope will ascend me to heights of adulation and adoration. Starting this blog had a strange, not totally unexpected consequence: people found out my mother had died.
For me, the purpose of learning to bake and cook was to give me something to do in the wake of my mother’s literal wake. Someone told me that in the first 12 months of a bereavement, anything goes: literally any response is legitimate. My response was then, I suppose, underwhelming to those around me. I just sort of, continued. I went back to work pretty much straight away (in fact I traveled back down form Newcastle to London for a prior work commitment in between the death and the funeral), I didn’t turn to drink, I didn’t have a breakdown, I didn’t beat my fists on my chest in despair. I know my father worried about me, and I imagine so did my close friends. I was asked (with the absolute best of intentions) whether I was ‘taking it too well’. I wasn’t.
My Mother died in February last year. She was a lioness, and my best friend. She drove me up the wall, and I adored her.
Once I’d delivered the eulogy, and dealt with the myriad of legal and financial admin that goes hand-in-hand with life and death, I was twiddling my thumbs. I became fractious and didn’t like having time alone with my thoughts: it is hardly surprising in retrospect that it is easier to dispose of a loved one’s personal affects than it is the shock that they are no longer on the end of the phone. It can be very, very difficult to stop yourself dwelling on the future that now demonstrably willneverbe. Which is unhealthy and stupid and categorically Not What Mummy Would Have Wanted. But the thoughts persisted.