175g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour, sifted
Heat the oven to 180°C. I had planned to butter a 20cm sandwich tin, and do two batches, but I ended up lining a big baking tray with greaseproof paper instead.
Using the big blender, I beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture looked pale and fluffy. Then I gradually added in the beaten eggs in to the still moving blender, making sure it was well beaten, then added in the flour. I poured the mixture in to the baking tin and spread it somewhat, then baked for 20 minutes. It wasn't done, and it took another ten minutes.
The cake cooled in the tins for two minutes, then I removed and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
It looked rubbish.
To fix it, I cut it in half to make a sandwich, which I filled with jam and basic butter icing, and dusted with icing sugar.
Dusting with icing sugar made a huge difference, surprisingly.
The last cake I made was a gluten-free Christmas cake. Hopefully this one will not last as long.
Today I had my first run-in with trying to get an appointment with my local GP.
Up until now, I've always been with doctors who had an open surgery. Kind of like the specialist deli at Waitrose. You turn up, you take your number, you sit and wait while angels contemplate your fate, you read Hello magazine from eight months ago, you smell other people's disease and then, eventually, you shuffle in to see the overworked chap in the big white coat.
I preferred that to the alternative. Calling up, making an appointment for some undisclosed point in the future, spending time waiting while you remain ill. Because I usually need to be feeling pretty damn ill to go to a doctor (although not on this occasion, as I am fine), this would have meant feeling absolutely rotten and frustrated at not being able to do anything about it. Possibly for days, and days. Frankly, I would rather camp out in a triage area and sit and wait among the walking dead for an hour rather than wait two days for a specified slot.
But today it's not urgent, far from it. I'm not ill or nothing. So I called at 10, and my appointment is at 4 this afternoon.
Sometimes, the NHS is brilliant.
Sixty is a good age to retire.
I say that because there's probably a change of attitude that goes on round about the point when you hit sixty. There's certainly one at twenty, and one at forty, so that makes sense. Well, it makes sense to me.
Mind you, I had one at thirty, so what do I know.
But I digress.
Forty seems a good point to reconsider what you've done with your adulthood. You're old enough to have some sort of clue about how the world that we have made operates, and young enough to do something about it, if you so choose. It's interesting to watch my friends and family as we hit forty, and to consider my own views. Because let's face it, life is essentially unfair.
I know it is unfair because I have financial worries, I am not a published author, and I don't look like Daniel Craig. Admittedly, most of these things are things I could get closer to if I applied myself, but the fact that I haven't chosen to tells me something about myself. And that is that although I'd like to be able to walk along a beach in speedos if I chose to, I also like to eat cheeseburgers. And there's a fine point of balance in there.
If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.- Maya Angelou
At this time of my life, as I see it, I have two alternative paths. One is to accept that there are things in my life that I cannot change, and things that I can. The things that are worth bothering about are the things I can change. If I cannot change something, then I'll work around it, or accept it, or avoid it.
The other side of the coin is to rant. To write to newspapers and on webforums bemoaning the stupidity of my fellow man, complaining to anyone who will listen about the madness of the contraflow system on the A921, as if it makes any difference at all other than making me feel a little better.
There's probably a middle way in there too.
But... if I spend a day ranting, although I may feel better about myself as a result, at the end of the day the contraflow system on the A921 is still there. It will still be there tomorrow, and probably the day after that. How do I keep coping? Do I keep ranting? Or do I get some perspective, channel my personal frustration into something creative and have a salad instead of a cheeseburger?
Calm is cool.
Bullying is a tough one. Oh yes it is. It's absurdly tough to define, for a kick off. Clearly there's an element of intimidation in there, there's possibly a repetition, possibly an element of premeditation and cruelty.
My problem with most definitions of bullying is that they're not objective - they are almost entirely defined by the victim of the bullying. I feel bullied, therefore you are a bully - regardless of what you intended to do.
I think of a situation in a previous job, where one of my colleagues was convinced that she was being victimised by a senior manager, and so looked for signs of him bullying her and used each of them as a reason to build her case - regardless of whether his actions were intentional or accidental, or in some cases innocent. An external observer, on the other hand, might have seen her building a whispering campaign, attempting to undermine him, and almost an obsession with finding ways to destroy his career. In the end, I would be hard pressed to say which of them was bullying the other.
My own experiences of bullying are rather different. I was bullied at school, and a couple of times at work. At school, there was a strange symbiosis. I was clearly the victim of bullying, but it was relatively minor and my bullies almost sought my complicity in the bullying. I could talk to them, in some cases befriending them as the bullying continued and dissolved. I've found myself wondering if the bullying wasn't, perhaps, looking for attention or even affection.
At work, I was only ever bullied by women, which is interesting in itself. There were various reasons for it, but usually it started because I failed to jump at their request on one or more occasion - and this led to a few lengthy campaigns against me, one of which caused me stress-related illness in my 20s. In all cases, there was very little I could have done to avoid the bullying, but I think that the interesting thing is that it was triggered. It was almost like I didn't jump once, and then they decided to systematically destroy me. And the most annoying thing is that I took it. I couldn't confront it because then I would be as bad as them, so I took it, worked around it and eventually walked away from it. I think I reasoned that workplace bullying is incredibly hard to prove, and that I would have a tougher time handling it.
Bullying is insidious, guerrilla conflict. It is the smile and the stick. The bully needs the victim, and sometimes the victim needs the bully.
One measure each of:
Shake over ice. Strain and drink. Repeat until done.
I need something to kick-start learning to drive.
I'm almost there, you see. 90% of the way... in the sense that I can, pretty much, drive. I can do that stuff where you start and stop, turn the wheel in the middle, not hit stuff. I can do the three point turnings, the emergency stops and a mean parallel park. I also manage, pretty consistently, to fail my test on my reversing round a corner.
I hate reversing round corners. I do. But I don't hate them because I can't do them, or because they're hard. I hate them because I've failed to do them properly three times in three tests. And that annoys me.
Everything else I do when I'm driving comes pretty much naturally now. I try not to lose that mindset in a test, and yet... the sweats start. I get them about 80% correct in tests - but that last 20% is just the world opening up and swallowing me and my brain exploding as my heart rat-tats a firework salute.
So I'm taking a break. Then easing myself back in to it. I'll do a lot of driving, hopefully, before I take another test. Hopefully by then I'll be as comfortable with the reversing round a corner as I am with the not hitting things. Deep breath, step back, try again.