Cooking With Twitter

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All the veg. All of it.

If I absolutely have to, I will cook recipes with great, long lists of ingredients that require great, long trips to assorted shops.

But most of the time, I cannot be arsed. I want to cook, not go to bloody Mordor, and that requires recipes that give me maximum bang for at most 10 ingredients. Shepherds Pie. Risotto. That sort of thing. My recipes for Domestic Sluttery all seem to be along the “mum recipe” or “sod this, add condiments” line. A rut? You don’t say.

On Sunday night I cooked Maria Elia’s Slow-Roasted Paprika Chicken with Butternut Squash, Smashed Butter Beans and Tomatoes which I’d read about on Pip Cooks The Books ages ago, and looked simple and delicious. And oh dear God, it was. Apart from having to spatchcock the chicken. I swear: after the harrowing nightmare of figuring out which way is best to wrench a chicken’s bones off, I am writing to the Girl Guides to suggest that modern cookery techniques replace semaphore in Brownies. Continue reading

Mourning someone you never met


Two incredible women have died this year, both young, both of cancer. I never meet either of them, but through their blogs, Twitter and the sheer force of their personalities and achievements I felt like I knew a little of them.

There was Alice Pyne, the teenager whose worldwide smash bucket list I wrote about for The Times. She could just have spent her time enjoying all the generous offers to tick off that list, but she set up a charity, raised more than £100,000, met the Prime Minister, raised awareness of the bone marrow register and was awarded the BEM for her charity work and campaigning.

Then there was Lisa Lynch. Bloody hell, she’s an impressive woman. I read her book The C Word the year after my aunt and my friend Ben had died of cancer. At first I felt annoyed by how cheery and bullish she was about the whole thing. Jesus, it was cancer, not a day at the races. But that was the point, wasn’t it? I mean, how can you not be drawn in by a woman who calls cancer “The Bullshit”, who writes so brilliantly and is such a palpably loved and loveable person?

I saw on Facebook last night that she had died, and cried all the way home, just as I had when I found out that her reappeared cancer was terminal. And both times I asked if this was ok, to feel so incredibly sad about someone who you have never met.

I am sad that I never met her. Plans for an epic SingStar lunch were put on hold when her cancer reappeared. Instead, I sent her cheery rubbish through the post, and asked her for advice when I wrote up my experiences of volunteering on a palliative cancer ward at Guy’s.

People can care deeply for people they’ve never met. When my friend Blonde was hit by a cyclist last week, she had a flood of messages from Twitter people concerned for her. So in the real sense of the word, I am a stranger. I don’t know Lisa or her family in the way some of my friends who actually know her. But I will miss her, and quietly pay my respects because she is someone who deserves bells, whistles and fireworks.

Write Club

Story notes and Joan CollinsI have great difficulty concentrating. In four years of university, I don’t think I did a stitch of work in the library, just wandered through it staring at industrious people before running outside and having to breathe slowly into a paper bag. I liked to work in the coffee shop, with a fag and a constant stream of coffee, chatter and people. I spend too much time in my head, so filling it with the sound of other things is infinitely nicer.

Fast forward eight years and I am still one of life’s perpetual knuckle-crackers, always warming up and never actually getting on with it. Last month, I booked myself into the Urban Writers Retreat in Shoreditch to guarantee a few hours with no internet just so I could get cracking. It’s amazing what shelling out £40 and eating cake and drinking almost constantly will do for you: I wrote three chapters! Admittedly, I had to ask my neighbour how long a chapter should be, and then guiltily sellotape chapters one and two together, but I felt like I’d achieved something and discovered, much to my surprise, that I really adored writing again.

On Bank Holiday Monday I went to the Ritzy’s cafe (home of the best flat white this side of anywhere) to try again. It was ok, about 3000 words of babble. Since then – nothing. Even when I have the time, I make any old excuse to avoid sitting down and writing.

Happily, so too does @MissCellany, who may well be my writing soul twin. I met Elizabeth at Literary Death Match a few months ago, after weeks of talking about our love of cleaning on Twitter. We both won LDM with the only story we’d finished since 2006 and were feeling the pinch of expectation and drastic unachievement. We’re ready to get on and do it. We just aren’t quite actually…well, doing it.

So we formed Write Club. This is basically Fight Club but with laptops: write something to a deadline, otherwise the other one punches you in the face. I missed our first deadline by three weeks, and Elizabeth kindly refused to punch me, instead delivering the death by a thousand cuts of a really, really good 3,000 words for the book she’s been working out in her head for years.

“Writing is really hard,” I complained to my boyfriend back in November.

“Yes,” he replied. “Um. It is.”

The sketch group he’s in sit around a Google doc and write in it for days. They are committed and organised and Get On With Things. I write wispy bits down in my iPhone notes, get over-excited, send unedited first drafts to my writing group and then spend entire weeks in slough of despond when they reasonably point out that some of it could be clearer or just a bit less shit.

I am the queen of procrastination. Sitting down and writing, just plain getting on with it, when there are a million trivial distractions to claim your time, is difficult. It is inviting the possibility of failure into a dream that has previously consisted of “I will write the book, everyone will love it, I will buy a boat and live on it wearing a turban.” To not write, to just keep putting it off, is to keep that delicious little pipedream alive.

But fuck it. I might not finish this book this year, but I will at least get something done this weekend. And my chapters will be exactly the right length for what they are saying.

Buy Elizabeth’s story: Shortfire Press and Amazon

Buy Kat’s story: Shortfire Press and Amazon. Read the write-up of Kat’s Literary Death Match. Tell Kat to stop fucking talking about herself in the third person like a colossal spanner.