BEDA 3: What’s going on?

You may have noticed, if you are a frequent follower of SWB, that there have been several long blips where I  have simply vanished over the last couple of years. These almost exclusively match up with periods of ill mental health for me, and mirror the rather pathetic picture of what the past few years have been like for me.

I don’t like to harp on about my anxiety and depression- not because I’m trying to hush it up, but because I write because I enjoy writing, and because I want this blog to be the sunshiny place it should be, considering it is so full of cake. But, I have anxiety and depression, that is the truth of it. And my job was making me a lot worse.

I’m not going to go into the nitty gritty of each miserable detail of my descent into woe, nor each nail splitting, heart wrenching step back up, nor knock back down I’ve suffered. But looking back, a frightening number of blips match up to times I had to be signed off work, or times I tried to fight my way back there.

The job I did was an good job- well paid with a reputable firm, several benefits… it was also in London, and pretty dull. It was waaaaay outside my field of interest, being that is was a financial firm, and there wasn’t even a hint of creativity or do-gooding to the work. The deadlines were pressured, the work load high, and the payoff not grand. Such as are a great deal of jobs I have done. Such as are most jobs. However, this, combined with some shakeups in my personal life (including my father leaving and being made homeless), combined with some real ‘characters’ in the office one by one snapped whatever cords were keeping me balanced, and I fell. And looking back over the past couple of years, I never really made it back up.

In March this year, after another six months off sick and several botched attempts to return, I bit the bullet. I quit. It took three days of panic attacks to do, and the final day in April took another three days of doom to face, but I did it. I left. I never need go up to London again, except for pleasure. I also don’t have a job.

But you know what? Financially, currently, I’m not any worse off. After a time, sick pay withers away, after all. Obviously I need to find employment, but for now, nothing has changed. Except the two ton weight I’ve flung off my shoulders and into the abyss, that is. Within days of quitting, people noticed a difference in me. I noticed it too. I could smile again. And laugh. I didn’t sit locked and tense, eyes darting all the time. I relaxed. I slumped. My confidence started to return, smidgen by smidgen. I went on a date. I started going out more, and feeling able to cope with that. The shrivelled little version of me left crumpled on the floor began to pick it self up again.

I’m not saying I’m fixed, cause I’m not, but I am better. My creativity is back. My energy is better. I want to do things again. I feel stronger, and prettier and more powerful than I have in years. It’s like my doctor said; it’s amazing what the wrong job can do to a person.

So…. what have I learned? Well, I’ve learned that a pay check and healthcare is not the be all and end all in life. Yes, I need to pay my mortgage, but wanting to not wake up in the morning in the darkest way is NOT the way to do it. I have to be true to myself.

Currently I am job hunting, and adapting what I’m looking for. I instantly signed up with agencies looking for a carbon copy of the job I just left. Which is really fucking stupid, excuse my french. I’m nearly 27- I need to fall into my career now, and stop dicking about putting things off just so my bank balance will look ok. Look how much good it has done me thus far.

Current plans include pushing my arts and crafts ‘business’, which I have been doing for years and happily earns me a bit of pocket money. In terms of bill paying work, unless the former suddenly leaps ahead, I’m going to canvas bakeries and cafes with my wares, and ‘worst comes to worst’, take part time work, so long as what I’m doing isn’t completely soulless.

So yeah. I did promise you’d get wet with my thoughts this month.

I hope today finds you bright and sunny, despite the weather. I’m off to find some brunch, then pack for a trip to Brighton. Whee!

 

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Quince: Part 2

If you are a longer term reader of She Who Bakes, you’ll remember this little rant about a certain yellow fruit. The rage persisted within me long after posting about it, and I never did get any very helpful responses. It turns out my Aunt has a fruiting Quince tree in her garden (likely a Japanese one), but I didn’t discover this until after I had already taken action.

As I have probably noted previously, I do like to garden. I wouln’t say I’m completely green fingered (though, I am wearing OPI ‘Gargantuan Green Grape’ today’…), but I can keep things alive, get them to flower etc. I’m actually pretty good with roses. But I digress. This spring, being the first spring in my new house, I was keen to start planning my new outdoor living space. I live in a fairly normal Portsmouth house- a victorian terrace 2 bed with a yard out the back. My back garden is concreted over, almost in its entirety, which was a little dismaying, but actually, considering how much I am out of the house with work, it’s ideal for a low maintenance set up, and whilst it isn’t vast (also a blessing, really), there’s room for most things I want to do in the short-medium term. It also has a very handsome shed.

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My dream for the garden was a leafy idyll, a respite from my busy commuter lifestyle. I wanted somewhere to relax with a glass of wine in the last of the summer evening sun, private and not too structured, harking back to my garden and the wooded village in my previous Kentish home. And, as an avid preserve maker and baker, I wanted a productive garden- Tomatoes and chillies for chutneys, any other veg to supplement mine and my pets’ meals, berries and fruits for jams, conserves, jellies and desserts, and herbs for all of the above.

The Quince drama made me certain I wanted to grow my own Quinces; that was an imperative. However, my garden as previously mentioned is small, and fruit trees are generally large. I began to investigate cordons, and asked a keen gardener acquaintance of mine, Tony, for advice. He told me about grafting (a lot of commercial fruit trees are actually cuttings from one ideal tree grafted onto, wait for it, Quince rootstock. WHAT.) and advised dwarfing varieties. In my mind, a dwarfing fruit tree would be, say, half the size of normal, so still 3 metres instead of 6- great for fruit picking, not so great for my postage stamp garden, particularly if I wanted more than one. Oh, what I did not know then!

Tony told me about a very good fruit tree producer in my county, Blackmoor. A little rummage (I say little…) on their website introduced me to their Patio Collection– dwarfing fruit trees that grow very happily in large planters or in the ground, and when full grown won’t exceed 1-2 metres in height. This was EXACTLY what I had been looking for. And, lo and behold, they offered a dwarf Quince.

SOLD.

A short drive up past Liss on the same chilly february day of ordering (I could have had it delivered, but I’m impatient), and I collected my beautiful new tree. He was dubbed Quincey, MD.

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It’s now June, and the tree is disgustingly healthy- a testament to the quality provided by Blackmoor. It’s doubled in size, put on leaf and blossom. It will likely fruit this year, and come winter I will be making preserves from them. That’s all I wanted. And, if we apply the maths, It would have cost me in excess of £5 to buy TWO quince fruit last autumn. For £25 plus compost and container (approx £32 all in) I have a beautiful tree, and I will have plenty of fruit to satisfy my curiosity. I only need 12-13 fruit for the tree to have paid for itself, which could theoretically happen this year, looking at the number of buds.

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I’m still annoyed about this. I wouldn’t be if I was talking about a Kiwi (though I have a Kiwi tree…) or a Dragon Fruit (sadly, I don’t grow these), or something else exotic that has to be doused in chemicals and flown halfway around the world for us to eat it, or grown in a hot house at great expense. I am talking about a fruit that not only grows well in the British climate, I’m talking about a fruit that has been grown in England since 1275 AD, a fruit that has grown successfully as far north as Scotland, and is a Eurasian native species. When in season (late autumn), Quince should be in greengrocers and supermarkets, yes, I concede, perhaps only the more specialist ones. I should not be having to shop online for them, nor should they be imported, nor should I have to tell a greengrocer what a Quince is.

We import vast (and I do mean vast) quantities of fruit as a nation that we are quite capable of growing ourselves at likely less expense to the consumer, of greater quality than most imported stock, and with a much reduced impact on pollution and food miles. Every year, tonnes upon tonnes of British fruit rots beneath forgotten trees of old orchards- on roundabouts and sidings. One of best jams I ever made was of little wild plums picked from the side of the approach to the M25 motorway. More and more productive ground is lost, and more and more productive trees are destroyed for space, but also because people can’t be bothered with them.

I’ll do a post another day about ‘scrumping’, and the wealth no doubt available in your home area, but please; just think about how wasteful we are. I’m all for convenience, but please, please look at your labels. Support British produce, buy local and in season in you can. And why not think about looking for fruit in your area, or, even better, planting a fruit tree? It’s good for the environment, good for your well being, good for your tastebuds (you can’t beat homegrown), and, possibly most importantly, good for your pocket.

And for God’s sake, someone agree with me on this Quince issue?

Later days,

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Quince?

I’m genuinely getting cross about this now. Quince, a fruit in the same family as apples and pears. Somewhat déclassé, but still grown in abundance in this country and made into wondeful jellies and jams and accompaniments.

But can you buy any fresh? Can you f-!

I have looked at every mainstream supermarket’s online inventory. No one stocks them as far as I can tell. Not even Waitrose! You can get them, pricey though they are, from Ocado.com, an online supermarket, but I don’t want a whole shop, I just want some Quince, maybe some cranberries too (which are now readily available, hooray, but when you consider they aren’t really grown in this country, preposterous!), and I can’t faff about with delivery for a couple of items; it isn’t worth it.

I’m going to try the morrissons ‘fresh market’ stores near where I live (Southsea, Portsmouth, UK), also because I want some italian white onions but… and greengrocers, but so help me if I have to go to Borough Market for this…

I’m sorry for ranting, but it really is silly. If Asda can stock seasonal Persimmons and Passion Fruit, why not Quince!

I’ll let you know how I get on, but if anyone has any ideas beyond growing my own, I’d like to hear them!