21.04.15 (Day 485 / 42)
There is a for in the road, for things could go either way at the moment.
In short, I’m behind on the rent and I’m not kidding myself this time when I say that it’s not my fault. It’s the fault of the same authorities I’ve fought for the last fifteen months.
When I completed my housing application form, I stated in all honesty that some of the rooms in this little new chez moi were shared, because they sometimes are, with visiting family. The tenancy on this place though is for my sole occupation of the flat. I’m being paid for the former by the council but being asked for the latter by the landlord. It should all be resolved soon but until it is, even though I’m fully settled with everything in place, I don’t feel that I can settle with doubt hanging over me. I honestly don’t think I’ll be evicted but the uncertainty is something which is bound to play on my mind. And make me more unwell. Stress makes a person suffering chronic depression more depressed, as does the ongoing battle to be recognised as being mentally ill for the purposes of claiming PIP. That claim dates back to February last year and is a great savings pot if it’s ever released. Now I have to go to tribunal to prove that I’m a bit mental. But mental illness is invisible. I know how it feels sometimes.
I’ve stopped the cleaning which was financing my bar bill as the host pub needs to cut costs. So I’m confined to my bedsit within the flat, which suits me as it’s where I want to be as there are sometimes some real tools in the bar downstairs. I hated the cleaning to be honest but it was a means to an end, made worthwhile by the daily visits from the postman bearing goods which I’d ordered online while I still had money. Now I get to stay up late, smoke lots, write more and sleep in most mornings.
The only interruptions are the visitors to the bar downstairs, wanting to see me. I like being visited but wish that some were by prior arrangement. It costs me money to have guests, as every time I descend to the bar, I feel obliged to buy a drink and some visitors expect to have a drink bought for them.
I’m ranting and digressing. I needed to get things off of my chest, so that I can move on, which is what I thought I was doing for forty two days. Today is day forty two of being in my little place and all of the above aside, I truly love it. It really is me. Once a living space is aesthetically pleasing from all angles, it is truly home and somewhere one can feel comfortable.
So the fork in the road concerning security is one which will hopefully go in the right direction. My rent on the place has been built into the business plan, so hopefully that’s not a knife drawn for me downstairs. All of these responsibilities are ones which I’ve not had to deal with for the last fifteen months, having not had a home. I will do my best to keep the place though and continue to be spoon-fed by those who continue to support me. A quick hello to the two best mates, the two sisters and the two daughters then.
Now it’s all about putting the fights behind me and hoping that I’ve done enough to keep myself going here. There’s no point worrying, so I shall try not to dwell, concentrating instead on my writing and food.
On the writing front, I’ve signed the contract with a magazine publisher and my short stories are going into print. The first novel is selling in modest numbers on Amazon and I’m receiving royalty payments for everything. We’re talking pennies though. But I won’t give up on the writing, nor the cooking.
With the loss of the cleaning income, the absence of PIP, the underpayment of housing benefit and the limited equipment available in the kitchen of the flat, food has had to be frugal and creative. Pending the arrival of a cooker, I am limited to a microwave and a slow cooker for the preparation of meals. I surprise even myself sometimes though with what can be conjured up on a budget and less than half a kitchen. But there are many others in a situation similar to mine and as I’ve always shared things when I have them and helped people out, so I will continue and as I experiment and hit upon things which work, I’ll share those as well.
So for the food part of this blog, I’ll assume that most people don’t have a slow cooker and only possess a microwave. Microwave roasting bags are available, as are coated, non-metallic plates for browning food. Get those and you’re rarely likely to need a proper oven and many in my position will only have a microwave anyway. We’re back in the eighties and I’ll assume my readers have a toaster and a kettle. If not, all three can be procured from Argos for under fifty quid and will take up little room in the corner of a completely self-sufficient bedsit. And toaster bags are easy to come by for heating things from the outside rather than the inside. Assuming the bedsitter only has a microwave, kettle and toaster though and not the roasting bags and plates, or the toaster bags, here’s a simple variant on bacon and eggs for breakfast tomorrow:
You can have the eggs poached, scrambled, or baked in ramekins. Scrambled is simplest, so we’ll do that for tomorrow:
Serves one, living alone in a bedsit:
Beat 2-3 eggs together in a cup. Season to taste with salt and pepper but dried herbs and spices are good to add if there are any in the store cupboard. Add half an eggshell full of milk per egg if you have milk in a fridge. Otherwise, prepare some instant milk in advance by adding powdered milk to boiling water and allowing to cool. The milk can be omitted though. Also if you have a fridge, add a knob of butter. The eggs can be cooked without milk or butter in any case.
Some people find it surprising to learn that bacon can be cooked from raw in a microwave. I learned this from Marco Pierre White: three rashers at full power for two and a half minutes will give you well cooked – though not crispy – bacon. Put the cup containing the beaten eggs on a plate with the bacon and your bacon and eggs will cook together. Serve with toast and a tea or coffee, using your toaster and kettle respectively.
The point is, with a bit of imagination and ingenuity, and with limited means financially and equipment-wise, a lot of things are possible. As with all other cooking, the key is in not being afraid to experiment.
Enjoy breakfast courtesy of me sometime. I’ll be experimenting in my limited kitchen and brining you new recipes when I come up with them. For now, your food blogger is retiring to the half kitchen to fuck around. Jack Monroe, eat your heart out.