I remember hiding in a room with my parents’ record player when I was a young teenager, their huge bucket headphones precariously perched on my too small head, a twirling plastic wire winging it’s way back to the socket so I could dial the volume high and sink into the pounding, evicerating sounds of the 70s pouring like a deluge into my 90s-filled mind.
I was struggling at school, I was struggling at home. I was 14 years old and deep in the throws of teenage-hell. It felt as if my body couldn’t possibly contain all the confusion and rage and passion and terror that coursed through me. Reality was rapidly becoming a horror show and I wanted to get off the ride others had plotted.
It was in that room, sunk deep into a chocolate brown, corduroy bucket chair – the only remains of my father’s misspent twenties – that I discovered Pink Floyd.
The opening lines of Comfortably Numb, wailed in B minor, was a far cry from the upbeat, major key ditties of Kylie Minogue and NKOTB, the music I knew at 11 and 12. It siren-called to the chrysalis of my mind, tearing into the safety of my childhood and promising a fluidity I rapidly came to crave.
I became cradled by breath-stealing chords and hammered by lyrics of the greats: Floyd, Reed, Cohen, Marley, Hendrix. They spoke of war and passion and hate. They crooned of Them and Us. They turned me inside out and stuck themselves deep inside my teenage soul.
In the meantime I was being taught English and Physics and French and Maths in a very private school in central London. I would sit in a hard, wooden chair – the type that seem perennially destined for classrooms – staring at a blackboard that espoused the values of X and wondering how I could get to the end of class without screaming. It felt as if adults spoke about subjects that couldn’t possibly matter while my mind was splitting in two – representing both the me I was and the me I might become. Both sides indistinct, awkward and crying in pain. I didn’t want someone to teach me to understand the periodic table. I wanted someone to teach me to understand the periodic insanity.
It’s no wonder Comfortably Numb sounded like a promise to me. A promise I subsequently worked on for more years than I would now like to count, before I realised that comfort in numbness can only happen in moments. Moments that need to be surrounded by large doses of life. My life based on being numb was nothing but a lonely void.
The truth for me, is that I can only move through life’s obstacles – I tried over, and under, and running in the opposite direction, and numbing myself for years. It never worked, in fact it eventually hurt a lot more than reality ever could.
Finally, the relentless pursuit of fantasy broke and twisted me to the point that I would give anything for a quiet dose of reality. I started travelling the path of living gentler, I began to seek reality in tentative, fear-filled steps. I sought to merge Them and Us into a unity that centuries of seekers from all walks of thought-life assured me led to peace. And gradually, falteringly, I found the ease and joy that permeates my world most of the time today.
I’ve added the likes of Stevie Wonder to my music repertoire. I’m a pretty good head and shoulders bopper in the car. I brain-boogy to Earth, Wind & Fire (anyone who’s read my Versatile Blogger Award post knows that it needn’t go any further). I recently downloaded Pitch Perfect to my laptop. It sits alongside my laptop’s only other film, The Fog of War, and I think they secretly quite like each other. I’ve skipped to the last Barden Bella’s song quite a few times now and grinned in sheer delight – I think I might even be picking up on some of the moves…
To speak to both the torn teenager I was and the mostly content adult I’ve become, I’ve been playing around with granola – a dish I found far too grown up for years. The addition of a breakfast panna cotta, less sweet than the dessert version, is still rebellious enough to satisfy. My mother-in-law brought down some beautiful home-grown organic raspberries this week from her garden so I’ve soaked them in rosewater and added them as well – it turns out they were the balance I needed. Enjoy…
Granola (from Nigella Lawson’s Feast)
- 450g rolled oats
- 120g pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 120g sesame seeds
- 175g apple compote or apple sauce
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 120g brown rice syrup (or golden syrup)
- 4 tbl sp runny honey
- 100g light brown sugar
- 250g whole natural almonds
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbl sp sunflower oil
Preheat oven to 170˚C
Mix everything together very well in a large mixing bowl
Spread the mixture onto two baking tins and bake, turning over about half way through – the idea is to get the granola evenly golden without letting any part cook too much
After about 40 minutes to an hour, when everything is nicely coloured allow to cool and store in an airtight container
Lemon Panna Cotta
- 185ml double cream (heavy cream, if you’re American)
- 55g caster sugar
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1.5 gelatine leaves
- 250g greek yoghurt
Place the cream and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat
Add the lemon zest
Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then just bring to the boil before removing from the heat
Soak the gelatine in cold water until soft
Squeeze out the excess water and drop the gelatine into the hot cream mixture and whisk until dissolved
Add the yoghurt and whisk until smooth
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve
Divide between four 125 ml (1/2 cup) ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours, or until just set
- 125g raspberries
- 1 tbl sp icing sugar sifted
- 1/2 tsp rose-water
Place half the raspberries in a glass bowl and crush with a fork.
Stir in the icing sugar
Fold in the remaining raspberries and the rosewater
Chill until ready to serve
Upend the panna cotta into a bowl, scoop a good size amount of granola around the pannacotta and spoon the raspberries on top.