Friday, 10 December 2010

Coming soon

The knitting tales! Including a lovely pattern wot I did myself. No time right now, but soon.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Accidentally great cake

On settling into our new abode in Manchester, I decided that a high priority was to test the baking power of the oven.

A plan formed in my head over the course of the morning - my never-fail chocolate cake mixed with walnuts, coffee essence and a ganache topping made with half dark, half white vegan chocolate.

The usual cake recipe makes and extraordinary quantity, so I made 2/3 this time (mostly to avoid having an excess of cake in the flat). I also used no caf instead of just water as we don't have coffee, but if you wanted a fully caffeinated cake it's probably best to use real coffee! I thought the no caf lent a nice malty quality to the finished product though. It may be impossible to ever actually recreate the flavour of the cake as I made it as my coffee extract is a year out of date, but I'm pretty sure that if your coffee extract tastes of coffee, the cake will still be delicious.

Not-quite-coffee, chocolate and walnut cake

2 cups wholemeal spelt flour
2 tbsp cornflour (to compensate for the denseness of the whole spelt flour)
1 1/3 cups sugar (I used 1 cup raw cane, 1/3 muscovado)
3 tbsp cocoa (more if you want more chocolatey and less coffee-y)
1 rounded tsp baking soda
1 scant tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
1 1/3 tbsp vinegar
1 and a bit tsp vanilla
1 and a bit tsp coffee extract (more or less to taste)
1 1/3 cups no caf (or water, or coffee)
1/2 cups crushed walnuts

Preheat oven to 200/mark 5. Grease and flour the tin. As usual, mix wet ingredients, mix dry ingredients, then stir until just combined before adding the walnuts. Now, my book says bake 30 minutes and that's usually been fine, but i used a deeper tin and an uinknown oven, and I have to leave it in for aaaages this time. So start with 30 mins and add more in 5/10 minute increments if necessary. You can test doneness by sticking a sharp implement into the middle - if it comes out with goo on it, it's not done.

Ganache topping

1/4 cup soya milk
30g chocolate - normally just dark but this time I used half vegan white and half dark for a mellower taste (as a result I omitted any further sweetner due to the huge amount of sugar in the white choc, but if you're going with all dark, add 2 tbsp maple syrup or agave)

Heat the milk until it's just boiling, then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth and delicious-looking.

Make sure the cake is completely cool before covering it or the topping will get too runny. If you're feeling particularly decadent, the cake can probably stand a double quantity of ganache! Don't forget to add some walnuts to the top before it sets completely.

Also, we don't have a fridge yet so I couldn't do this, you might want to consider splitting the cake horizontally and adding some whipped soya cream in the middle...

Thursday, 12 August 2010


I've experienced a recent spate of people throwing their toys out of the pram, and in my direction. I don't understand it at all - why do people think it's appropriate to behave like this? First there was the juicer company who promised a 25% refund because they had sent out an ex-demo unit (eventually and after many unreturned phone calls) and then disappeared off the face of the earth; then the tenant who left without paying his last month's rent or any bills for the time he had been here (after much harassment I received a cheque, from his parents! for the rent, but still nothing for the bills).

Now in the last week the uselessness has been upgraded into a meanness. (My apologies, this may take some time.) A courier company whose bid I accepted on (like a reverse auction for transporting goods) to deliver a quite expensive item I had bought on ebay, from Nottingham to Brighton, has reduced itself to ultimatums and defamation after I left feedback on their profile about their uselessness. I heard nothing from this company for more than 2 weeks, after their initial email to get the seller's details - despite about 4 follow-up emails from me. So I emailed again to tell them I would be re-listing the job on Shiply since I had not heard from them. I then left negative feedback simply stating that I had had no contact from them despite repeated emails from myself - totally factual. About half an hour later I receive a phone call from them asking what is the problem, what is going on, we have your item and we are delivering on Wednesday! They told me they had received no emails and that they only make contact the day before delivery! Excellent system, clearly. After much wrangling and various calls they say that they did not get my emails because they had been sent from when on Shiply I am listed as Erm. Aren't they the same thing!? the next mornig they call again to say that they have spoken to their manager and I have two options. Either I change my feedback and they deliver for free, or if I won't change it then they will take the item back to the seller. Incredible! I can't believe that people really do things like that. Of course I refused and told them they would have to take it back - there's no way they were going to bully me into leaving them a false review! And they told me they had done nothing wrong, it was me who had done something wrong because i had left 'not genuine feedback'. Right. Then they said I would have to pay a £25 administration charge for cancellation!

I realised that I had caught them out, though, when looking back through the email I had sent them. The second email contained the details of where to collect the item - and guess what? they managed to collect the item! So they must then have received at least that message. When I pointed this out to the man I was dealing with he said oh no, we got the details from Shiply. Aha! This I know to be a lie, because all that was listed on Shiply, and on the ebay listing (Shiply lifts the details of the item from ebay), was the street name and postcode. I very much doubt they knocked on every door until they found the right one... He went quiet for a moment then said he's look into it and get back to me. When I next spoke to him he maintained the blatant falsehood and said he would send me a screenshot of his Shiply page when he got in that evening, along with my invoice for £25. Great I said, I'll be interested to see that. Of course no such thing appeared that evening. This morning, however, looking on their Shiply profile again (noting that mine isn't the only negative feedback!), I see that they have posted a reply to my comment! I am quoting this directly:

This person - completed lier!!! We NEVER received single email from her!! Went courier out to collect 3 times unsuccessfully!! Completed timewaster!!!

Clearly they are trying to enhance their professional profile with defamation and poor spelling/punctuation, but I fear they may have shot themselves in the foot there. It's not my problem that they are childish and have no idea how to run a business, but I am concerned that they are still in possession of my property! As far as I know, anyway...

There is another incident but I'll keep it brief after that rant - someone messaged me on OkCupid saying they liked the tattoo on my arm and could they have a jpg. I asked why, they said to look at, I said no (very politely), they replied with this:

That's pretty fucking mean, I must say. I'd have to guess you didn't read the bit in my profile that said ARTIST which means I can just copy the thing.

And to balance out your meanness I'm going to copy it an give it to my tattooist friends for free.

What a dick. Why did he even bother asking if was just going to steal it anyway. I was unnecessarily enraged by this incident - maybe because the tattoo in question is particularly special, and personal to me, because I share it with my sister and I don't want anyone else to have it! Still, I don't think that refusing to give out pictures of yourself to any tom, dick (in particular) or harry on the internet who asks is unreasonable.

Now I'm off to take some deep breaths and try to relax...

Monday, 2 August 2010

Veganising - by request!

First of all I'm shocked at my own turpitude in allowing so much time to pass between posts. So I've submitted to a recent request regarding my previous post - in which I commented several times that (cake) recipes required veganising. 'But how?! How do you veganise it?'

Aha! Now I can't claim any kind of credit for these morsels of information: I learned virtually all I know (with the exception of a little trial and error) from Isa Chandra Moskowitz! So to anyone in possession of a copy of Vegan with a Vengeance or the Veganimocon, I'll be preaching to the choir, but for the rest of you, I hope some of it helps!

Ok, so replacing dairy - very straightforward, milk = soya milk, yoghurt = soya yoghurt, butter = dairy-free spread, and so forth. If you don't have any soya yoghurt, apple sauce works quite well. Other non-dairy milks can in certain circumstances be used, unless - and this is very important, I learned the hard way! - your recipe relies on the curdling of said milk, because rice, oat, almond and so forth do not curdle when vinegar or lemon juice are added! Curdled soya milk is also good in the absence of yoghurt, or if the recipe calls for buttermilk, and generally as a binder/moistener for cakes. If you want you can probably get away with using oil instead of spread, but the quantities are more difficult to get right - you need less oil than spread. And it doesn't work in any recipe that requires the creaming of butter and sugar! The best method when using oil instead or marg is the 'mix wet, mix dry and combine' strategy. If you've got a blender, chuck all the wet ingredients in it and whizz it up - the oil emulsifies very nicely.

Now the difficult part!

Eggs. The little buggers... There are several ways to replace them, but one must exercise caution when selecting the appropriate replacement for a recipe!

- the old-fashioned bicarb of soda/baking powder and vinegar method
- flax seed (linseed) powder
- soya yoghurt
- the ubiquitous banana
- silken tofu
- egg replacer (bleurgh)

I won't even mention the last, we can all do better than that and there's really no need for consuming such a vile substance. The first is tried and tested but it can be tricky to get the ratio right - some of Isa's cupcake recipes use 3/4 tsp here, 1/4 tsp there, and so on! I don't have the patience for such experimentation, but a standard cake is less vulnerable than a cupcake so a teaspoon of baking powder plus a bit of soda depending on the acid content of your cake is normally what I do - alongside a cupful or so of soya milk curdled with a teaspoon of vinegar. There's no residual flavour and if you get it right this is the best way to mimic the leavening properties of eggs - it's an old wartime technique actually, when eggs and dairy were scarce (the source of my favourite chocolate cake recipe too!).

Flax/linseed is a good one too, but it has a distinctive flavour, a sort of 'healthy' taste (which I like in general but it's not quite right for Victoria sponge, for example), so use it in strongly flavoured or oaty-type things. One tablespoon of powder mixed with three of water and left too goopify for 5 minutes equals one egg. Then just throw it in with the wet ingredients. If you can't find the powder, you can leave whole linseeds to soak in water overnight - the water will get the same goopy effect.

Soya yoghurt is good when you want a really moist cake, and doesn't leave much taste - about 4 tablespoons for an 'egg' is I think what Isa recommends. A little extra never hurts though... This method doesn't leaven though, so if you want a light, structured end result you need to combine this with the baking powder method.

Ah. bananas, what would we do without you! Those really black and squishy ones that no one else wants are the perfect thing here. I tend to use one small banana per egg. They do a grand job but bear in mind that whatever you use these in (especially if you're using more than one) will, surprise surprise, come out tasting a little banana-y. All you have to do is mash it up really well, and then add it to the wet stuff. Things with banana in also tend to brown a bit quicker so don't panic and think you've overcooked it!

Silken tofu is a slightly expensive and occasionally elusive one, but great if you want extra richness and cakeyness. Blend or mash 3 tablespoons until as smooth as humanly possible for one 'egg', then add the other wet ingredients to it and blend again.

It's always a slightly creative process, you can never be sure if it'll work perfectly, but unless you're hankering after a very specific result the chances are a cake made with any of these egg replacements will be at least servicable! Things to remember are 1) the purpose of the egg and therefore your replacer - sometimes it's just binding, like in a muffin or quick bread (which all of these achieve), sometimes it's leavening too, as in classic cake recipes like the Vicky sponge or lemon drizzle (trickier), and sometimes recipes just stick eggs in where there's clearly no need whatsoever (banana bread and biscuits being the usual culprits). The other factor is the liquid content of the recipe - replacing margarine with oil and eggs with curdled soya milk is going to leave you with a significantly thinner batter, so you might need to add more flour. You can also combine more than one method (often a good idea) if you've got, say, 4 eggs to replace and have doubts about replacing them all with just soya yoghurt or just flax seed goo.

Happy veganising... And I'm no expert but if you have any questions I will do my best to help!

Friday, 18 June 2010

To-cook list...

A list of recipes I've been salivating over but haven't got round to trying out yet!

Blackberry and apple crumble cake (also requires veganising, more fun for me!).

Banana walnut cake with date-sweetened chocolate frosting (sugar free, yay, but needs veganising).

Just this minute noticed another yummy sounding confection on that same site that had passed me by somehow - carob brownies.

Some version of this Thai coconut soup.

Urid Dhal with feungreek - I love fenugreek, and now it's growing in my garden there'll be nowt to stop me!

Chocolate coconut pudding.

This one's for a cold grey day! Spelt macaroni with cashew cheese.

Chinese dumplings a la Vegan Dad - he never fails!

This one sounds so exciting that it's probably going to be my next dinner party/celebration meal recipe. Tofu, sesame, spinach and miso napoleons.

I've been googling shortcrust pastry recipes like there's no tomorrow since my new-found success with it - and found all kinds of potential deliciousness! Spinach and mushroom quiche, sausage rolls (obviously to be filled with vegan sausages/some vegetable-based treat instead of pork), pesto pastry wheels (again filling to be transformed into cruelty-free goodness), and (om nom nom, really shouldn't but you know you want to) treacle tart. I might even attempt to de-sugar it a bit with dates and that sort of thing.

That should keep me going for a while!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Is it a samosa? Is it a pasty? Who cares... My pastry worked!

A vat of chickpea, carrot and spinach curry cooked up yesterday inspired me, for some unknown reason, to make some pasties with the leftovers. Today it seemed less of an appealing prospect, with the messy and tiresome dough-making process that may or may not succeed...

But wait! What's that? You looked up pastry making in all your recipe books and randomly selected the one that actually worked?! YES! It's true. You can make pastry without fear, without gungy hands, and without even breaking a sweat, thanks to Nigella Lawson. The woman is a genius. I've always liked her 'just chuck it all in then eat it like you mean it' approach, which is maybe why I picked her method out of all the others I looked at.

First genius stroke - put all the ingredients in the freezer for 10 minutes before starting. (Ingredients, for me, being 300g white spelt flour and 150g dairy-free marg - you just need twice the amount of flour to fat.) I sort of knew this already, but it really does make life a lot easier. Second, really amazing true genius stroke: put the flour and the fat into the food processor. Honestly, who knew it could be so easy? No craggy, gluey hands, no aching arms, no margarine all over the place. Add a bit of water (with lemon juice or vinegar and salt added) in small increments until the dough is almost holding together, then take the dough out of the machine, wrap it in a bag and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes. True, I left mine in for more like an hour due to some Scrabble-related distraction, but when I took it out, the woman was right! Even if you added a but too much liquid by mistake (it's almost as though she was talking directly to me...), there was 'a dough that anyone can roll out'. Incredible.

I was impressed just with the food processor bit (I mean really, I've had a food processor all this time and I didn't know how much hassle I could be saving myself?!), and then with the smooth, lovely, cool, pliable dough that came out of the fridge - but the most impressive part? Naturally, the post-cooking eating part! Thin, flaky, crisp, but with maximum stuff-holding capacity.

Take heart, all thou pastry naysayers! It can be done.


That's what I should call the smoothie I made this morning when I finally write that cookbook.

Two kiwis, one banana (all slightly too ripe for eating but perfect for smoothies!), three large basil leaves, a dollop of plain soya yoghurt, a splash of water and some raisins for good measure. It could probably stand more basil as it was a very subtle flavour, but I didn't want to overdo it on my first try and ruin the whole thing!

I've also heard that pineapple and basil is something of an experience, so I shall have to keep my eyes peeled for reduced pineapples!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Cold sore magic!

Cold sores: the mere mention is enough to strike fear into the hearts of sufferers! Ever since I can remember I have been afflicted with these fuckers, sometimes appearing two at a time, or one after the other in a continuous stream of pain and ugliness. And I have tried everything. My dad used to tell me to keep licking it and the saliva would make it go away. How wrong could he have been! This is the worst thing to do. Well, almost, along with picking, itching, poking, etc.

The best lesson I have learned over the years is: DO. NOT. TOUCH. IT.

At all.

The minute you put finger to tingle, that nasty, spiteful little virus will come flocking to the surface in a cornucopia of red, swollen, liquid-filled blisters, rendering you frustrated and cross for the next two weeks. If you can resist the urge to touch, the blisters will be minimal and the whole ordeal will be over far sooner- not to mention minimising the risk of a second infection by spreading it inadvertently across your face. The other thing I should point out on this note is do not use any kind of lip balm while the poisonous pustules are there. It too will become infested, and the next time you come to use it, guess what? Yep. I don't need to elaborate.

But now, the real purpose of this post is actually to share with the world a wondrous discovery that I hope will ease the horror for all sufferers! And here it is.

Tincture of Myrrh.

Press a tissue or a piece of cotton wool soaked with a few drop of it to the afflicted area for 30 seconds or so (it will sting, if it doesn't you need to press it on for longer), every few hours. The alcohol in it will dry it out, and the myrrh is a strong anti-viral, reducing the swelling and irritation and the life of the beast. I managed to get rid of an uber-sore in a week with this method - normally that would be two or even three weeks start to finish! It would probably have been less if I'd figured out the technique sooner - to start with I was just applying drops of tincture directly onto my lip, which was actually annoying it more because the pipette poked it a little bit and made it extra itchy.

I've read about people doing this with nail polish remover, which sounds completely horrifying! It's the same theory though, drying it out with alcohol - the difference being that acetone is extremely toxic and poisonous if consumed, whereas tincture of myrrh has beneficial effects and will not harm you if you accidentally swallow a bit. I know what i'd rather go for!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Blending frenzy!

I've been trying to up the raw content of my diet lately, which means: smoothies! Yum yum. Trouble is, I have a rubbish blender. In fact, it's not even a blender, it's a food processor with a liquidiser attachment. Sadly it has trouble liquidising even so much as already-cooked soup, but we do our best.

Regardless of this handicap, and in anticipation of the new (well, second hand) super (or should that be souper?!) duper blender I have purchased from ebay and now wait for with bated breath, I have been having some fun breakfast/lunch/snack times throwing various ingredients recklessly into the liquidiser in search of delicious combinations, and ignoring the fact that I have to eat the results with a spoon. Yesterday I made two constrasting drinks - first was orange, apple and ginger, which was tasty and refreshing, though it could have done with a little more ginger as mine had got a bit dry. Second was a more porridgey-breakfasty protein-rich number that I found particularly pleasing. It contained, if I can remember it all, oats, wheatgerm, almonds, oat milk, a banana, two little apples and some raisins - and a teaspoon of maca for extra goodies!

This afternoon, in a moment of listlessness, I decided to get Aztec with some chocolate powder - I warmed up a mug of oat milk and put it in the blender with 3 teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder (I'm going to sound like I've been sponsored here, but this stuff from Equal Exchange is just so good! Dutch processed and everything), a teaspoon of maca, a teaspoon of flax seed powder (a mistake in a blender that can't crush a boiled potato - it just wound up unpleasantly bitty!) a pinch of both cinnamon and ginger powder and a spoonful of agave nectar. Now that's what hot chocolate should taste like! Next time I might even throw a little bit of chilli powder in there too.

It's going to be at least three weeks until I get my, dare I say it, whizzy, new blender - how will I ever contain myself!? I'm also slightly upset that I haven't been able to get more blending-related puns into this post. Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Puddingy goodness

I just created a new and completely delicious pud out of desperation for something sweet after dinner this evening - I'm so dead tired after working at the wood shop all day I really needed some sugar supplies!

My initial plan, formed under the duvet, was to mix sultanas and oats with the bit of soya yoghurt left in the fridge, and add something sticky like syrup. Gaving made it downstairs, found an appropriate receptacle (difficult and potentially plan-scuppering tasks) and poured out some oats, I opened one of my kitchen drawers to retrieve the raisins and ponder the something sticky. This is where I had the brainwave that turned it all around. Cocoa powder. I shook out a generous helping over the oats, scraped the remains of the yoghurt over and mixed it up. It didn't taste nice. Then I remembered the wonder-substance waiting quietly in the fridge... Maple syrup! A generous splosh and a good handful of raisins were the transformative ingredients.

The resulting smooth/chewy/chocolatey/fruity pudding was exactly the right thing. I think next time it would benefit from a sit in the fridge to properly macerate - and perhaps a few slivers of crystallised ginger...mmm...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Clearing out

It's so difficult to do - I know they're just clothes, but I can't part with them without some serious heart pangs. They seem like old friends. Not to mention being completely fabulous. My other worry is that they won't get the price I think they deserve on ebay - and of course they won't, because their value to me is much greater due to my emotional involvement. In an ideal world I'd just give them away to someone who will love them as much as I do. But in this world - I need the money.

I wonder whether listing them alongside each item's personal story will increase their selling power, but I know it'll just make me look like a fool. So instead perhaps I'll put the photos up here as well, with their stories. Then I will have a record of them, at least!

Why am I selling them, this all begs the obvious question.
1. Money.
2. Space.
3. Practicality - I will never wear these things again and it's stupid to hold on to them out of sentimentality.
4. I need to move on.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Review: Sherlock Holmes

It's been a while since I felt compelled to write a review of something, so it seems a little odd that the inspiration should have been a disappointment. Speaking of which, those of you who dislike 'the book was so much better' reviews, look away now. Though I hope to remain above such a simplistic analysis.

Guy Ritchie's attempt to capture the excitement, adventure and subtle homoeroticism on Conan Doyle's marvellously dark and deadpan detective has somehow left us with something like an over-risen cupcake. It stretches too far, the top explodes, and by the time you've taken them out of the oven all you're left with is a structurally catastrophic mess with a hole in the middle you could drive a ten-tonne truck through, only edible due to the compulsive quantities of sugar contained therein.

What I really don't understand about adaptations like this (and there are many of them), is that the original material is so good one really wonders where you could possibly go wrong. Yet somehow - perhaps in the assumption that modern audiences lack the sophistication to appreciate the nuances of immaculately constructed dialogue and a watertight storyline - somehow, so many of our classic works of fiction are cinematically short-changed. This adaptation plays somehow like Sherlock Holmes as written by Chuck Palahniuk on a bad day. Robert Downey Jnr, much as I normally enjoy spending two hours admiring his visage, is not only no Holmes (he's American, for goodness sake!) but brings an extremely irritating, almost 'madcap' quality to the detective that grates the whole way through. Almost as excruciating as Johnny Depp's psychotic Willy Wonka. The frisson between him and the also totally miscast Jude Law as Dr Watson, is transformed into some sickeningly teenage 'bromance' as I believe it's termed. Whilst I did notice snippets of original text slipped in at inappropriate junctures - the set piece about the pocket watch, for example, was paraphrased from one of the books - much of the dialogue lacked the arch precision that makes Conan Doyle's stories so enjoyable to read. The action scenes were lengthy, pointless and distracting, verging on the slapstick; Holmes' periods of isolation and despair were played as comedy; and, most disappointing, there was not even a hint of the classic interplay between the two central characters. Not one single raised eyebrow, not one outburst of 'But my dear Holmes! That's incredible! How on earth could you deduce all that from this one tiny piece of evidence!'. I've made this up, but there's a lot of that sort of thing. I believe Watson is famous for such expostulations. Or he was, at any rate.

No. The campness was all there. And here it is, misinterpreted and misplayed, thrown in for kicks but missing the point altogether. What really disappoints me about this sort of thing, though, is not so much that they've made a slightly sub-standard film out of one of the canons of English Literature - it's not even that a generation of kids will thinks that this is what Sherlock Holmes is all about, a bareknuckle underdog with a neurotic demeanour and a tendency to wind up in destructive Indiana Jones-esque brawls. (And I can see how, if you have no prior experience of Holmes and Watson, that it is probably entertaining enough to satisfy.) It's that it could have been a really great film. Wasted potential is the key here. The styling is all right - the brilliant steampunked design, the cinematography, the costumes - Ritchie certainly cracked the look of the thing. And that might fool a lot of people. But not me. Sorry, Guy.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Remember Gaza - Smash EDO

Right, I've done the washing up, removed the cornucopia of rotten bits of food from the fridge and various plastic containers around my house, ordered a compost bin, rung the council about the rats (erk), slotted my cobwebby TV neatly into a cupboard in the corner of the living room, got the dinner on, and eaten the last cupcake (oops). So now I can relax for a minute and write my more comprehensive account of yesterday's march. (Edit: it's now been a week since I started this... apologies for my tardiness.)

I arrived at the meet point (the cafe in the park behind the factory) at about 12.30, expecting to join the crowd, only to find about four other people looking vaguely like they might be hanging around for a demo. After 15 minutes or so I was beginning to feel slightly bemused and concerned - not to mention chilly! - no one else had arrived, and the time advertised was 1pm. Maybe I was just uncharacteristically early, or maybe it was some kind of decoy plan and us mugs were the only few not in on it. The police has certainly got the same memo - they were all over, in cars, on horseback and on foot. An Australian woman I spoke to asked if it was normal! Sadly, yes. What was not normal was the lack of protesters!

Eventually, other people arrived, sneaking out of the woods with props and trickling in from the main road. By 1.30 about 100 people, all dressed in black, had gathered, and we set off towards Home Farm Road. The road was predictably blockaded by several police vans and a double row of coppers. I had no idea of the plan, but as we came to a halt at the bottom of the road, most of the crowd started to move up onto the verge by the side of the road. Someone with a loudspeaker gave the go ahead, and about two-thirds of out number legged it up the hill (no mean feat considering how steep it is) to get around the back of the factory. The cops didn't seem especially interested and we supposed they must have known it was covered. Later someone who went up there told me that they had mounted police and dogs all around the perimeter!

The rest of us stood in the road for about an hour waiting for them to come back, and I felt a bit disheartened at the whole tedious exercise. It was cold and we didn't seem to be achieving much, except providing entertainment for passers-by. Eventually we regrouped and headed off down the road towards town (actually, one of my favourite things about demos is being able to walk down the middle of the road! somehow familiar surroundings seem to appear differently). All along Lewes Rd we were stop-started by the police. They'd start a line, we'd try and dash past them, then they'd move a bit further back and try it again... It's all so pointless. Then they started to get a but more pushy as we reached Brighton uni. On a loudspeaker they announced that there'd been an accident and there was an injured person in the road, which was the only reason they were stopped us. We were totally blocked in at this point, despite several attempts to find a way through the campus. Quite a few people got bored and wandered off here I think - the crowd had swelled quite a lot on the walk, but seemed to thin out considerably once we got moving again. Now, I'm not accusing anyone of anything - but there was not a single ambulance in sight, no sirens were heard, no injured people spotted, no damaged vehicles parked up at the side of the road with drivers being questioned. I'm just saying. I did, however, count 20 - 20! - police vans following the march, on top of the lines of police both mounted and on foot, some in riot gear, and several other cop cars. As one protester on a loudspeaker said - 'ladies and gentlemen of the public, do not panic - we are being kept under control by the people in the yellow jackets'!

Ar the bottom of Elm Grove we were temporarily kettled again, and given an ultimatum - we could go as far as the Level and continue the protest there, or we would be in violation of the Section 14 notice they had failed to issue whilst we were in the park earlier. There was a very amosing moment when the police line was ordered into formation - each one of the officers in the line shouted out the order, and they all fell in step one by one like some little dance routine, closing together with one shoulder back and one forward. I expect they'd been practising that all week. They looked very pleased with themselves. So we were allowed to continue, but naturally ignored the instructions to stay at the Level.

The problem, once we had run off towards town as per the plan, was that there was no plan. We couldn't decide which road to run down next, and as a result became split into several small groups. I was lucky enough to be in the one that decided to squeeze, inexplicably, down Kensington Gardens, where surely enough we were immediately and resolutely kettled for several hours. Lucky I brought snacks. What is baffling about this scenario is their reasoning: 'we are stopping you because you are causing a public disturbance'; and, 'we will let you out providing you agree to disperse'. Now, call me crazy, but isn't this a bit like walking up to someone, standing in front of them and telling them that they're in your way? I'm fairly sure that blocking off one of the main roads in the North Laine with cars, horses and various double-strength police lines is more of a disturbance than a group of 50 or so people walking through town. Of course we all know what it's really about isn't 'protecting' the public (because we are not members of the public, of course), but making sure that anyone foolish enough to protest is criminalised in the eyes of the general populace. Nevertheless, the ridiculousness of it still doesn't fail to astound me. Some of the police seem to actively enjoy it, too - I saw a couple of them in the line giggling at our predicament. The mind boggles.

Two arrests were made while we were standing there - neither with any apparent reason. One man who was directly up against the line of coppers was pulled out after a bit of argy-bargy (I didn't see what happened as there were too many people in front of me) and bodily wrestled to the ground by about 5 police, then had both his ankles and wrists cuffed. I believe he was later de-arrested, but the whole unsavoury proceeding was caught on camera by a sympathetic onlooker from an upstairs window, who announced this to the offending officers once the incident was over. The next one was more unnerving - with no warning suddenly 10 or so police marched into the kettle, shoving us out of the way (and causing injury to at least one person that I know of) and seizing one of the medics.

Eventually we were allowed to leave 'in groups of 5'. Just like a school trip.

In which I achieve something most people learn when they're about 10...

Walking home this evening I had the feeling that it was very late - like walking home after a party. The sky wasn't quite dark and a few lone birds were singing in the trees. But, of course, the reason for this was that it was only 9pm. The late-night feeling was caused by my tiredness and wiredness - that post-action feeling where you're exhausted but somehow hyper-aware.

I'd been on the Smash Edo demo. It was a funeral march to remember the people killed in Gaza a year ago, during a siege in which bombs, whose components were manufactured in Brighton, were used to murder 1417 Palestinians. It's unfortunate to admit that as demos go it was pretty unspectacular, and little seemed to be achieved (thanks, as usual, to the over zealous efforts of out boys in blue - or fluorescent yellow, as it seems to be these days - but we'll get to that in a minute). But by the end of the day I felt like I'd had some personal kind of revelation; or at least joined up a few more dots. I attended the demo alone - though I briefly saw one or two acquaintances on the march - a first for me, and something I'd never have considered before. And despite my semi-isolation faced with a huge police presence, I didn't have the same tremulous fear as on previous demos. Perhaps it was just because I felt a bit more prepared, knowing what to expect now.

After being released from a ridiculous kettle on North Street (about 30 of us, stuck in an area not much bigger than a pedestrian crossing), I headed to the Cowley Club for food, warmth and, most importantly, a toilet. Having fed and relaxed for half an hour I went to help my... non-boyfriend, for want of a better word, in the kitchen, washing up and bringing out the orders. It's not a great leap or anything and I've waitressed (albeit badly) in many a pub, but somehow I've always been a little timid about working at the Cowley. Maybe it's the volunteer aspect, maybe it's the anarcho aspect, either way there has always been a sense that I don't really belong there and I'll get it all wrong - but in the light of my dashing about playing cat and mouse with riot police, perhaps it was put into perspective! And made me feel a bit more hardcore... Whatever it was, by the time I made that walk home, I had a sense of being strong and able, in a way I haven't really before. I hope this experience bodes well for my imminent steps off the cliff into self-unemployment.

I'll write some more about the demo itself - but now it really is extraordinarily late, and I might finally be unwired enough to sleep. (This, no doubt, will prove untrue - I'll turn the light out and spend the next hour composing my follow-up blog post in my head.)