Chain of cakes

I don’t remember the first time I ever heard of a Herman cake. It’s one of those concepts that has been in my consciousness for so long that I no longer recall the origins.

You can find more about Herman cakes online   but it is a yeast based starter that you are given, feed and tend for ten days before splitting into four, giving three parts away and baking a cake with your share. Sort of like a chain letter but with cake.

I have only ever been given a share of an existing Herman from friends, dutifully cared for it, baked some and passed it on. A Herman did the rounds here on Rum during our first year here, I made several different varieties of cake, shared the started around and even supplied the Teashop with a couple of versions of Herman cake. I remember chatting to a tourist who had enjoyed the chocolate and cranberry Herman about the idea and stirring her memory of the Herman cake. She was delighted to know the idea was still going strong having had a Herman pass through her kitchen many years previously and we pondered on whether the Herman on Rum was in any way related to the one she had had.

A Rum friend  had some of the very last of her Herman cake defrosted from her freezer when I had a cup of tea with her yesterday and a quick poll revealed no one seems to have Herman here any more. I put out a plea on facebook for someone to send a Herman to Rum and was met with the suggestion of starting a new one. What a splendid notion! A pioneer Herman, born and raised on Rum, finding a home in every kitchen here, getting added to by every household, touched by every hand. Having a different set of ingredients added in every home to make a series of very different cakes all based on the same foundations. It feels like the most symbolic Herman ever….

And so, on  our worktop this evening the 2014 Rum Herman was born. Over the coming days he will bubble, come to life and be nurtured and witness some of the Croft 3 spirit before growing, spreading and being handed out to go forth and multiply. Spreading friendship, cake and happiness.

Productive Tea

In my head January is all about new beginnings, being very industrious and working away to ensure that come the start of the tourist season I am poised, ready with a large stash of lovely things ready to sell.

The fact is that our caravan is damp, a bit moldy and that romantic prospect of tucking up cosy and warm though the cold winter months is not quite as appealing when the home you are tucked up in is not always actually that cosy.

One of the (many) lessons we took from the Big Lunch Extras event was that you need to take time out to nurture yourself too before you can do good for others. I already knew this – happy mother equals happy baby was a very early life lesson in my parenting career and back in the early days of motherhood I spent a lot of time drinking tea and comparing nappy contents, spoonfuls of food eaten, hours of unbroken sleep totted up and ml of milk drunk with other new mothers. Infact it was part of the advice I gave to my sister in law about retaining sanity in the face of parenting a toddler.

So regardless of anything else I achieve I will be taking at least two mornings or afternoons out every single week to sit and drink tea and chat with fellow islanders. It is a soul feeding activity… you either play host or get someone to bring you one (usually two) cups of tea. There are often biscuits. Wrongs get righted, the world gets set straight, problems are halved by virtue of being shared, laughs are had, confidences shared and regardless of what the weather is doing outside it all ceases to matter for an hour or so.

Emails, texts, tweets and the like are all well and good but what I miss most about my mainland friends and family is the unscheduled, go where the mood takes us with no agenda, freestyling conversations that happen over kitchen tables and a plate of flapjacks. I’m championing the return of the cup of tea and a chat and I’m not afraid to ring a doorbell unannounced and demand one!

Streets of London

Rum is in a state of flux just now. There is lots of coming and going and change and upheaval. I strongly believe that change is good – let’s face it, you don’t drop a conventional life like we used to lead, head off in an old campervan and end up on a remote island living in a caravan if you are all about the status quo!

But it is unsettling and inevitably tears will be shed as we say goodbye to fellow islanders. If you live alongside folk and share the day to day stuff as we do here on our island then a big hole is left behind when they are suddenly no longer there any more. At least two people commented to me when we got back from our mainland trip that the island felt different without us here. At 10% or so of the island population I guess the four of us missing leaves a space. Particularly when you are as loud as we are!

So everything is being shaken up once more and before it all settles back down in a slightly different pattern there is this time of readjustment, of working out the new normal and everyone reasserting their place, finding their role and checking that nothing important has been moved or shaken up too much. Over the coming weeks and months we are likely to have people changing their address here on the island as some of the house occupants get jiggled about a bit. Some of the job roles will have new members of staff, several of the voluntary posts on the island will have different people filling them. There will be new faces, some of the familiar ones won’t be here any more and this will take a while to process and get used to.

So why am I talking about Streets of London in the blog post title? It’s because the inevitable politics surrounding some of the changes has had me pondering my stance on a few things and very briefly testing out some of my old mainland mentalities looking at what my neighbours might have, considering my sense of entitlement and judging what others deserve. I caught myself getting wound up and comparing what I have and what I want and what I’m worth. It didn’t last long. I might need to remind myself of the words of the song once or twice in the coming weeks but I have it stored in my mind ready to press play whenever the need arises.

It turns out that for me the sun does shine….


Untitled by nicgee
Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

We walked a different part of the island today and the view back to croft 3 was stunning. It looked like a little toy farmyard in the January sunshine. Good to be reminded of how small everything is relative to the rest of the world.

Big Lunch Extras

The main thrust of our mainland trip last week was Ady and I attending a Big Lunch Extras Camp at the Eden Project.

Big Lunch Extras is a three year programme funded by the Lottery, sponsored by Halifax and delivered by the Eden Project to help individuals across the UK create positive change in their communities. We got involved with the project last year when we held the first Big Lunch here on Rum and have stayed in touch with the Eden Project since. When the opportunity to attend one of the weekend camps came up we were really keen to go along despite it being a rather epic journey and we are very glad we did.

There were a selection of workshops, talk and activities over the course of the weekend. Some were delivered by Eden staff – and I have never met a bunch of more enthusiastic, energetic and happy staff in my life! Every one of them truly loved their job, believed wholeheartedly in the aims of their employer and were positively evangelical in everything Eden stands for. A very refreshing and inspirational group of people to spend time with. Also appearing were some key speakers from various places – we heard from Matt Hastings community energy guru, Matthew Thomson from the Cornwall Fifteen restaurant. We participated in some workshops hosted by the fabulous Sue Hill of Wildworks and some of the volunteers from Barefoot taught us some great new arts, crafts and hands on skills. A highlight for everyone was a talk from Sir Tim Smit (I was going to tag him as ‘Mr Eden Project’ but of course he is so, so much more!). I had an unexpected chat with Tim afterwards just as he was leaving when he told me he had spent 3 months here on Rum back in 1976 studying the ticks here. He asked what had made us come to Rum so I gave him a very brief answer – brevity never being my strong point! It was lovely to shake his hand and exchange a bit of mutual ‘yay you’ ‘no, yay you’ with such an inspiring man. I do love meeting a hero, particularly when they prove to be so wonderfully ordinary.

The Eden Project has a fantastic back story, continues to evolve and grow and this was our third visit there. It was great to see such changes and moves forward and to hear of the exciting plans for the future. I think what I love most about it is that it will never be done, it will always be a work in progress, what a great ethos. So, a wonderful location was provided, the hospitality by way of excellent hosting staff, fantastic food and drink and every logistical need more than met was faultless. The timetable of information, thought provoking speakers and workshops was really good but what really, really made the weekend such a memorable one was the other attendees. We were among forty odd other people from all over the UK. Activists, local heroes, fundraisers, community members, parents, teachers, coaches, young people, mature people. It was sharing stories and getting to know these people that made for such a magical weekend for us. We laughed, we cried, we learnt. We were inspired and re-energised. Ady and I told our story countless times, pointed out Rum on the map, explained how many of us there are here, why we came, why we stay, what we want to achieve. In telling our tale we were once again reminded of how passionately we believe in our island, our croft, our community and what we can make happen here.

I have come home filled with new ideas, a new resolve to do things just a little differently, validated in some of the choices we’ve made and decisions we have taken. We are part of many communities – our own little family, our island, our corner of the UK, our online Home Education friends and now another, equally scattered about the country but joined in spirit, in ideas and in a passion for making a difference community. Massive thanks to all at Big Lunch Extras for everything that went into making last weekend happen and to all of the other attendees for making it all it was.