Time and Tide..

It may have escaped your notice, but it has not escaped mine: my blog has been silent for months, many of them!  It’s not for want of things to say -and write- simply that I’ve  not made time to sit down and type them.  I could say it was because I started a new job, or because of challenges in my personal life, which are both true, but the simple reality is that I’ve not made the time available.  I’ve chosen to do other things with my time.  I admire those dedicated people who come up with regular musings, monthly, weekly, daily even for some people!  Hats off to you professional bloggers out there!

It’s all about prioritising.  I’ve not managed my time in such a way as to make time for writing my blog.  I have used the time allocated me to garden and walk, and go to the cinema; to take photos, and generally be outdoors as much as possible.  It’s not that my blog doesn’t matter to me, just that other things have been more important, other demands more pressing: family, work, health, all the priorities we juggle on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.

I am learning not to be too hard on myself.  When I don’t get everything done that I want to, the important question is, ‘have I done what I need to?’  Isn’t that what matters?  When my ‘Superwoman’ status takes a nose-dive, I have to remember not to beat myself up about it, not to let guilt erode the knowledge that I’ve done my best. That email to my friend, the 2 hour phone call to my sister, the cup of tea with a team member, they were all more important than writing this!

But, here’s the thing: writing my blog is important to me.  Having a ‘voice’ out there that can connect me with others gives me an outlet I need, whatever the impact, or lack of, on others.  We all need to ‘make time’ for ourselves, that hackneyed phrase, bandied about, and all too frequently ignored in our frenetic western lifestyles.  For me, whatever else it is, writing is making time for myself.  For you baking a cake, reading a book, or going for a run might be the way you claw moments of respite from the frenzy of pressure on you to be doing something else.

Our time is limited.  We have elected to measure it in 24 hour periods, subdivided into hours and minutes; to organise it into allotted moments which we can use profitably.  Not all cultures and philosophies have such a regimented view.  It is, science tells us, a flowing continuum of time-space which inexorably moves us along.  View it how you will, we have no choice about that.  The choices we have are about what is important to us, and it is that which will ultimately govern our philosophy on life, and the way we chose to live it.  We can be ‘in the moment’ and live for that, and we can plan for a future that may, or may not, happen.  All that is certain is this day, this hour, this minute.  The consequences of our decisions will ripple through time, impacting people we don’t even know in ways we can’t imagine.  We can’t control the consequences any more than we can control time, for all the imaginings of HG Wells, or Mark Gatiss and Russell Davies.

So, I am writing now because I’ve used some minutes to do this, rather than something else, and I feel good about that.  The thing I could have done instead will get done at some point and no one will have died, or even been hurt because of that. We often give too much importance to what we do, as if the world will fall apart or stop if we take a moment to relax, a moment to connect with ourselves, and yet so much of what we do is inconsequential, not only in the great scheme of things, but in our own lives.

‘Time and tide waits for no man” – or woman- it carries us along.  We should give up fighting against it and relax into our own rhythms; rhythms that suit our temperament, our objectives and our lifestyles.  The pressure to conform rigidly to other people’s schedules can panic us into under-achievement and regret, and life is too short for that.  Life is long enough, however, for a few blog articles now and again, a walk on the beach, a game of Frisbee, or a good book, whatever it is you enjoy, whatever frees you to be more yourself, with more energy, and time, to engage with your fellow human beings and with LIFE.



A Kind of Alchemy

I’ve blogged about bread before: the naff content of the average chemically laden commercial loaf; the virtues of making your own bread.  But this is different.  This is sourdough!

I’ve made sourdough bread before of course – a white loaf, a rye bread, a wholemeal- but I never really paid much attention to it.  I was irritated that it took so long for the starter to be ready, that you had to make a sponge before a dough, that it took so long to rise.  Patience has never been one of my virtues. 

It’s been over a year since I made my last sourdough starter, and hence my last sourdough loaf, and this time it’s been different.  This time I have marvelled at the process, the chemical changes that take place, the fact that wild yeasts, which I can’t even see, are slowly working their magic, and yes it is still SLOWLY.  The process can’t be speeded up at all.  It can’t be mechanised into some time-saving shadow of itself, and that is part of the beauty of it. 

The starter has to be fed and watered, nurtured daily into a glooping primordial soup of something very messy and initially at least, not very lovely.  Those of you who like the smell of fermenting beer will probably love the initial stages of a sourdough, given that that’s what it smells like; unfortunately it’s not a smell I enjoy!  As you continue to care for your culture it morphs into a fruity smelling liquid.  It’s quite amazing really.  These microscopic organisms harnessed from the air, the same organisms that used to make wine, and is some cases still do, transform flour and water into something you can make tasty, chewy, crusty bread with.  Time and love are the magic ingredients which change these ‘base’ items into something precious.

It isn’t a difficult process: you weigh, add, mix.  You wait.  It take no more than a few minutes a day to do.  When the starter is ready you add more flour and more liquid to it to make the ‘sponge’.  You wait.  When the sponge is ready you add the final batch of flour, the final quantity of water and then, like a normal dough, you knead it.  This will take 10 minutes or so of your time.  You wait again.  You knock it back like a deflated football and shape it into the final stage, your loaf of choice, and then you must wait.  Again.  A sourdough loaf will rise, every bit as well as a loaf made with commercially produced yeast, but it will take its time.  It is the time that produces the flavour and texture of the loaf.  It’s the time that makes the gluten more digestible to the human gut.  In total you may have spent half an hour or so making your sourdough loaf, but you will spend the half an hour over 7 – 10 days rather than one!

This time I have enjoyed the process.  I haven’t stressed or fretted. There’s something relaxing in a product you can’t hurry.  I have let nature take its course, and I am sure that both my loaf and I will be the better for it!  Is it worth the wait? You will only know if you try it!