Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Getting out from behind the curtain: a few thoughts on ambition, fear and what we can learn from various random wizards.



I know it’s not just me who, in the face the super-streamlined efficiency of micro-blogging via Instagram, now struggles with traditional long-form blogging. (Crikey, yeah, this kind of blogging has become ‘traditional’, old school, a mere whiff of WiFi away from being as on-trend as a Telegram. Times and technologies certainly do move fast.)

I know it’s not just me who struggles with getting round to completing those projects she started in a whirlwind of inspiration and excitable ‘newness’ … and who now can’t bring herself to return to see it through to the end.

I know it’s not just me who has equal amounts of both the ambition to do more, create more, reach more people … and the sheer gut-knotting, brain-whirring, horror of all that that would involve.

And, because I know it’s not just me who feels like this
, I’m sharing a piece of writing today which hopefully will help someone else reading it (maybe even you?) realise that it’s not just them either.

Because it’s me too.


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Background: This piece began life a couple of months ago as a 30 minute timed exercise in response to a writing prompt which suggested talking about: The fear of putting yourself out there. Why do we feel it? What purpose does it serve? And how can we overcome it?It’s been edited and titivated-up since.

The photos:
 aren’t the best I’ve ever taken, but they fit with what I wanted to say today.

Finally: there are multiple, non-deliberate,  references to wizards in this piece ... who knows where they came from. Make of that what you will ...

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Getting out from behind the curtain ... 
The fear of putting yourself out there. Why do we feel it? What purpose does it serve? And how can we overcome it?’ 

Sign at Beamish musuem
Two immediate, and sharp, prongs spring to mind when thinking about the fear of putting myself 'out there': The fear of rejection and The fear of failure.

Recently for me the key to overcoming the fear of rejection has been faith in my starting point, the idea, article etc which I’m trying to persuade someone else to look at. I need to wholeheartedly believe in that idea before I begin; partly because it provides the motivation I’ll need to pitch and self-promote with a clear conscience, but also (and perhaps most importantly) because that original confidence can later act as a welcome buffer upon rejection.

Rejection is hard enough to combat without it catching on the tinder-sticks of self-doubt as it stalks past sending them up in flames too.

The idea might well be rejected but did you like it? Was it good work? Were you happy with it before you asked someone else to like it? If not, then come on ... if you had doubts about it too, why wouldn't someone else? But if  you did like it, and it was good solid work then fair enough, you get a pass, you can sail on to the next pitch with impunity. 

Following rejection your self-doubt sensors may feel a momentary hot-flush ... but you needn’t abandon them to the flames while they to burn to a cinder. Although in those initial moments you’ll feel like it, don’t (neither literally or metaphorically) throw your work or your self-belief into the fire, just find another marshmallow to roast on it until you feel strong enough to try again.
Sign at Beamish musuem
For example: J.K Rowling may well have felt the heat of so many rejections but she loved Harry. Believed in Harry. And believed that someone else out there would too. And she was right.

So undoubtedly it’s easier to stay motivated when you know you’re on to something good, but how do you reach this belief? 

Like I say, it must mainly come from the work itself. Surely? But if so then how are we meant to reconcile the fact that something we thought was good was turned away by others? In this case I guess all we can say is that it just wasn’t for them.

Sign at Beamish musuem
That’s how my latest rejection email read at least: “this isn’t going to work for us”. Which, for a short time, was a disappointing answer but at least it was an answer. At least I wasn’t left hanging or pestering, and - because I still like the article in question - I'll find a place for it somewhere else. Another website, another magazine or right here sometime or other. 

And at least receiving a rejection proves I did something.  I put myself out there, once again, and I guess the more times I do it the more I’ll get used to the heat. 

Asbestos hands’ that’s how some people explain their ability to pick-up hot things without flinching isn’t it? Well maybe if we're intent on being 'out there' some of us need to cultivate ‘Asbestos self-worth’.

But what if, unlike J.K Rowling, you don’t know if your work is any good? Oh … that’s a tricky one. Of course you can ask someone else for their opinion but then that just takes you back in the realm of subjectivity where whatever it is you’re creating might never be for them; they're not your target audience; they’re just not that into you.

And - forgive me for doubting you but - are you sure you can’t tell if what you’re doing is any good? Surely you do? One way or another?

Maybe you don’t know it every hour of every day. But which of us do? 

(I mean, it’s usually only the people who really ought not to who often hold an unshakable confidence in their abilities, leaving the more reflective among us to do all the soul-searching. Did you ever read about my mini-writing-related-breakdown? If so you'll definitely know that I don't believe in myself 24/7 and I’m certainly no stranger to a crisis of confidence).

But at some point, deep down, under all that uncertainty, you can surely determine the quality of your own out-put. Or you know enough about its worth to keep you going. Or at the very least you recognise that there’s something there ... even if you haven’t found the words for it yet, let alone the confidence to share it with others.

Don’t you?

Don’t I?

Sign from a local museum: a quick refresher course on the purpose of doors ...
As for the purpose of that fear of sharing more widely who we are and what we do then surely it’s related to protection, to safety, to self-defence; all perfectly noble, perfectly reasonable, responses given the circumstances. Which begs the question “Then why do you even want to put yourself out there?”

Why are you contemplating it? Why would you risk it? What do you want to come from it? Why now?

And I guess it would be in taking some time to answer these questions that you ... we ... will unearth the answer to that final question: “How can we overcome it?

Because once you possess a clear idea of why you’re doing it, what you’ll get from it, what will make it worth the risk then you’ll be holding in your hands the seeds of the revelation on how you’re going to overcome all those fears. Those answers will become the motivations which will keep you moving, in increments, towards being ‘out there’ in whatever form that takes for you.

You, the small, soft, vulnerable Wizard of Oz, easing yourself out from behind the safety of the curtain …  revealing yourself as you really are,  in which case … 

… maybe we both need to just click our heels together three times … the answers have probably been with us all along.

Sticky-note I found stuck to a computer screen on campus during assignment deadline season. 
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I have some interesting projects in the pipeline that will involve me having to put myself 'out there' once again later this year ... and you know full well I'll be sharing it all with your here when I can (chances are I'll be going on about it so much that you might wish I'd stayed behind the curtain). 

For now though, I'm eager to hear your side of things ... 

  • Are you struggling to put yourself out there, even though you want to? 
  • Do you know what's stopping you? Or daren't you even start questioning the feeling? (No judgement  here ... I'm absolutely just as bad. Nothing like a bit of reading/starting a new project to dampen down those scary deep thoughts ...)


  • Or do you have any stories, tips or motivation of your own that you'd like to share in the comments?
Let's start a conversation here* about ambition, motivation, fear, rejection, wizards, ruby slippers ... whatever ... 


I'm all ears (and pointy hat).

Julie x


*Can't be bothered going through the torment of blog-commenting while on your phone? I don't blame you. Just grab me on a less cumbersome app instead:



Friday, 1 July 2016

My Month in Numbers 2016: June


June. What a wash out.

While there were definitely some good things happening ... there was plenty of rain, grey clouds, and ... everything else too.

If you're like me (and, granted, you won't all be) I won't deliberately try to cheer you up today. Some of us don't want to be cheered up right? Things are difficult and real right now and the last thing I want is to pretend nothing has happened and just get back to posting about pets (come to think of it ... I never do that. Mainly because I don't have pets).

But I might just divert you for 5 minutes if that's OK? Normal despairing-of-the-world can resume later. How about, for now, you join me on a look back at June 2016  ... in numbers ...

How's this for a statistic? 
I spotted this ray of sunshine in York the other weekend. Something to take into consideration if you haven't already booked your 2017 holidays.

Maybe I'm drawn to eschatological signs like this because back in 2001 I called my English degree dissertation - on post-apocalyptic fiction - 'It's Not the End of the World'. Who knew that 15 years later the ability to analyse end times would come in useful again?

I'm 1 of the 48% who voted 'Remain':
I'm not going to talk about it all now. But neither am I going to 'be quiet now and just move on' as many Leavers seem to want us to do. Living in a democracy means that when I don't agree with what's happening I still get to talk about it.

While we're on the subject of the Greeks (they invented democracy right?) ...

We went to see Dan Cruickshank's talk on The History of Architecture in 100 Buildings:
Rubbish photo - better story
If you don't know Dan Cruickshank he's a historian who's worked a lot for the BBC and writes books, his latest of which was the subject of the talk he delivered at Middlesbrough Theatre this month. He discussed the meaning behind all kinds of buildings throughout history, starting with some very early examples from Syria and Greece, covering why they were made, how structural developments were made and what value civililisations have put on them.  

Then .. at the Q&A at the end, after other people had asked various questions, a boy in the front row asked him a very long and convoluted question about the Greeks and how they must have liked architecture because - and non one was quite expecting this particular reason - because in the Percy Jackson books/films the Gods of Olympus live in the Empire State Building so it must be significant to them. 

Cruickshank was very sweet and, recognising there was no simple answer to this, said 'I'm going to come and have a chat with you'  then let us all go home so we didn't have to sit through the kid's entire thesis and came and sat on the front of the stage near him so they could talk. Probably not the end he had planned for his serious talk .. but handled very nicely. It's things like that that leave an impression on people, isn't it, I'm sure many people - not just that boy - will remember his kindness. 

In other cultural news ...

We used our £10 National Art Pass card 3 times, visiting 3 museums/galleries in York, saving £10.50 so far ...

Back in April, I saw Laura Howard (@bugsandfishes on Twitter) tweet about a special offer where you could buy a 3 month National Art Pass card for just £10, which would allow you to get into all kinds of galleries and museums for free (the offer's ended now but there's a regular year-long price too). So James and I both bought one which meant getting into the 650 year old Merchant Adventurers' Hall for free ...
Where, amongst other treasures, I enjoyed this touching detail of how a wealthy woman left money in her will which she wanted spending on teaching '6 poor girls to read, knit and sew':
After that, seeing as how we had the card ... we hopped across town to The Yorkshire Museum (saving another £7.50):
Which is where James learned that he's slightly taller than the backside of a moa (a big extinct bird). 
And they say no knowledge is ever wasted ... 

Our 3rd saving came by visiting the York Art Gallery but, seeing as how I've already written a full review of the place already I won't go into that.  I will however share with you something else that happened in the Yorkshire Musuem ...

James's 1st brush with a bear this month: 
I know, it was a bowler hat last month and now it's a Topper ... I think he might be gradually working his way up to crown. 

And  I say it was his 1st brush with a bear because ... he had another ...

James's 2nd brush with a bear: 
This time it was at the Animal Inside Out exhibition  at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle where, alongside bears, there are 100+ other preserved animals on show. I took lots of photos ... but you're probably having your lunch right now aren't you ... so I won't share any more just yet.

Yet it is a fascinating show about anatomy and wonder ... if you can stomach it. And, to be fair, if I can, you probably can.

The best/worst part was when a tiny girl wandered up to the glass case we were looking in - pointed to a preserved human leg - and asked in her toddler English "Wha tha?".

"You don't want to know " I replied under my breath.

Now before I move off the topic of his heroism (posing with dead bears and all ...) let me tell you about ...

James's hole in 1!
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story ... or so they say.  During a visit to a suppliers who happened to be hosting a sport-themed sales promo one of the reps tweeted a photo of James clutching a golf club and his prize for getting a hole-in-one: a bottle Prosecco. So far, so impressive, except ... rather than making a single clean shot James claims it actually took him about 18 attempts to get the ball in the bucket! Apparently they gave him the prize as it was the closest anyone had got all day! But hey ... free wine!

His main concern afterwards was not that they'd 'embroidered the truth' but that they might invite him on corporate golfing days! When it comes to sport ... he makes me look veritably Olympian.  

On the other hand, if library visiting was a sport I'd be on top form this month.

I read 2 library books - from 2 different libraries - and attended an author event at a 3rd:

  • The first book I read was Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant which I really enjoyed. Part mythical fairytale part musing on againg and memory.
  • Next was Chris Kraus's I Love Dick which is not quite what the title suggests ... but you can imagine how cautious I was about getting the book down 3 flights of stairs and through the self-service machine without bumping into anyone I knew!
  • And lastly I read a memoir of avghost-writing career Ghosting by Jennie Erdal which wasn't from a library, I found that gem in The Minster Gate Book Shop - a 5 floor secondhand  book shop in York. As usual you can find links to all the books I've read on my Pinterest board.
As for the author event, that took place in a library I'd never been to before, involving a journey on 2 buses and memorising the names of the roads/bus stops before mine so I knew where to get off! I'm tempted to write more about this journey in a post of its own, so I'll leave you with photos of the novels by the authors in question, who were very generous in discussing their process and careers.
In unconnected news ...

I re-embraced the 1990s by using those twisty spongy rollers (is there a proper name for them?) for the first time in 20 years! 
The results have been varied - today for example I've had to put it in a pony tail as it turned out soooooo big and fluffy. I'd forgotten the 90s was the decade before frizz products were invented ... and with styles like these we needed them!! 

The first attempt wasn't too bad ... I just pulled on my (fake) leather jacket and pretended I was 14 again:
To complete the look I should have dug out my ripped jeans and my Walkman.

Speaking of my 'look' ...

I paid just £11.48 for these 2 monochrome pieces in charity shops:
The dress was £4.49 while the skirt was £6.99.

I've been completely and utterly re-inspired to seek out charity shop outfits lately and these are just 2 of 6 items I bought during June which in total cost just £32.45! (More on those at some time or other I'm sure.)

On the first day that  I wore the skirt it paid for itself with a compliment ... as she was letting us through the entrance turnstile at the Life Centre in Newcastle one of their staff members leaned in and said "I really like your skirt". How nice was that?

Just the kind of morale boost you need before going to look at the preserved internal organs of a gorilla and the blood vessels in a shark's liver.

Oh and, before you ask if everything I bought this month had to be black and white ... then maybe this will answer your question:
After 16 years of valiant service we finally had to retire our old car and welcome a new set of wheels into our lives. 
The fact that the new car - both inside and out - also obligingly matches my recent outfits is purely coincidental ... 

... probably.

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So, that was my June. If you've got a post of your own to share then don't forget to leave me the link when you leave me a comment.

If you've been meaning to join in on social media then check out this photo by @ikibana_banana on Instagram as Miriam came up with her own clever way to share her May numbers via her IG feed!

And if you fancy joining in casually then simply share a story/photo with a numbery element to it,  use #monthinnumbers and '@' me @withjuliekirk and I'll hop over to see.

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Well then, it's just me and you now July. What've you got for me?

Not hiding a warm summer and a stable government/opposition up your sleeve by any chance are you?

Julie x

Monday, 27 June 2016

Timed creative non-fiction writing: My Heart


Hey there. 

Remember the other day, when I was trying to avoid all the referendum talk, and I blogged about a nice vintage skirt I'd found instead of writing about what I called "real, messy, life stuff"? 

Well, 'real messy life stuff' has a way of living up to its name, and post-referendum - while skirts undoubtedly have their place (usually covering your dignity) - I'm not in the mood for them much today. 

So, instead, I thought I'd share something I wrote last Friday afternoon while I was struggling to convince every fibre in my hands not to respond to some of the opinions I saw on social media. I thought giving my hands and brain another challenge might distract me nicely for half an hour. I was wrong. 

This began as a 15 minute 'timed writing' exercise suggested by Chelsea Hodson in her 'Begin with the Body' online workshop [hosted on Skillshare]. Chelsea suggested beginning the piece by choosing a body part and then keeping your pen moving until the time was up ... funny what comes out when you just let your mind wander. I then spent more time editing it to get it to the point it's at here.  

[FYI: My first line is the opening line from the 'My Own Heart' by English Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, if you don't know it I urge you to indulge yourself as it, and indeed he, is one of my favourites. And it sprung to mind the second I'd decided to begin with my heart ... ].

My Heart

My own heart let me more have pity on, let me live to my sad self hereafter kind. (GM Hopkins).

My heart that bounces ... in danger of snapping its tethers, working its way higher, reaching, climbing, attempting to escape its place. Banging away from beneath where my chest – its skin tightly stretched over bones – is turned into a drum, two felt-padded sticks beating rhythmically from the underside.

My heart that ignites a pilot light of adrenalin inside me whenever a dog is too close for comfort ... but where exactly is ‘too close’? Right there? Yes. A few hundred metres away? Yes. Nowhere at all? That too, just thinking of them can set my blood hammering for its freedom.

My heart that sends footsteps into my ears ... regular, jogging, pavement-pounding footsteps that run along a clear pathway with nothing to slow them down. A dubstep, wob wob wobble bass throb of blood through veins. My heart noisily deciding where my head ought to focus.
Preserved animal hearts from the Animal Inside Out exhibition by Body Worlds.
My heart that aches ... distractedly, for injustices, for mistakes. I place my hand on it over the linen of the summer dress I wore to wander London last year. It feels hot, why should my heart be hot? I remember it’s June and things are meant to be hot. I also remember that I haven’t been able to concentrate all day, my blood clearly as restless as my thoughts.

I knew.

I knew from the second word out of the radio news presenter’s mouth, and all he’d said was “Good Morning”. But he'd sounded serious. ‘Major Event’-serious. He continued, confirming my fears: “Britain has voted to leave the EU”.

To leave.

My heart.


--------------------------------

Julie x

p.s: I welcome any reflections on topics such as online courses, timed-writing, creative-non-fiction, blogging about emotions and just general chatty comments with open arms. But I don't intend to use my comments section as a debating area regarding the referendum results. Anything offensive will be deleted.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Dressing Myself ... in vintage and clashing patterns


Hey you. 

Some days, when I think ahead to where I'd like to take my blogging and writing, I ponder over sharpening-up my content; focusing on real, messy, life stuff [such as sharing how strange it was when one of my tweets went viral last week in the aftermath of something awful]; chatting about hot topics and events. And then ... 

... on other days, like today, I just want to shut off and blog something frivolous; something non-taxing; something easy

After having voted in the EU Referendum before I'd even had my breakfast, I'm avoiding the real world for the rest of the day. I'm packing up craft kits, working on my book, and avoiding the TV until later tonight when I'll settle in to watch the last ever episode of The Good Wife

If you fancy joining me in forgetting the outside world for 5 minutes come here ... and let me show you the vintage skirt I found ... 

The vintage piece:
  • I found this beige and brown, slightly stretchy, tropical leaf print tapered midi-skirt in the 'vintage room' of a nearby charity shop.
If you're local then head to Age Concern in Guisborough if you're on a true 'vintage' hunt. Their back room is an absolute retro treasure trove where I've found many great buys. The latest being a dress, shirt and skirt just yesterday! I will have to show you the dress. It's ... I can hardly ... I'm in love. Actually ... I shouldn't have told you to go there should I? Leave something for my next trip ...
  • This particular shop often has a sale rail featuring its vintage items and this skirt [like several other items I've bagged] came from that rail. 
  • And it set me back the princely sum of ... £1.99.
Yes, I did type that correctly. No I didn't miss out a digit after the 1. It was one pound, ninety nine pence. And for that kind of price you can afford to take a chance on an item you might not otherwise have thought of wearing. 

Saying that, I think I only wore it once before putting this outfit together, so I wanted to rectify that. I thought that if I could find a fairly relaxed way to style it I might get more wear from it. And, seeing as how for the last 7 years my Twitter bio has stated: "I write. I cut up paper. I drink tea. I wear patterns. I try to be funny." ... I thought I'd live up to at least one element of that ...

The outfit I built around it:

  • So I leapt right into the patterns and combined the leaf print skirt with a denim shirt featuring an all-over small heart design. [The shirt is H&M from a few years ago and is so versatile.]
  • I accessorised with a chunky necklace [a gift], opaque stone tights [Primark] and woven leather lace ups [Office]. 
  • Hopefully the end result is interesting ... without feeling too much like I'm a historical re-enactor. I like to use vintage pieces without ditching to many modern aesthetics.
  • Then I stood in my back garden, hoping my neighbour wasn't watching through the fence, and posed awkwardly while James took photos.

If you want more awkward posing, here's a previous outfit built around a vintage piece; this time I'm wearing a jumper on my driveway. [Now if that's not a teaser I don't know what is.] 

So how was that for you? A diverting interlude from the real world? I hope so.

Shall we do it again sometime? It's a deal.

Feel free to share your charity shop tales, triumphs and tips in the comments or catch me on social media. 

[I still haven't made an Instagram button for my sidebar - but you can leap to me over there from here.]

Later.

Julie x

Friday, 3 June 2016

Almost ... a recipe for chorizo and bean casserole.


Yes I’m posting another recipe. It's as much a surprise to me as it is to you as I'm not known for my foodie-blogger credentials [I did once write about how some tinned spaghetti shapes tasted like cardboard, if that counts???].

The first recipe I wrote, and blogged, was for an Italian stir-in sauce and contained, to my mind, one of my most memorable lines [“you might want to lay off the penises”]. A line which I may or may not quote when touting for a literary agent ... But that was 7 months ago so no, I’m not transitioning into a domestic goddess blogger just yet. Or if I am, it’s a veeeeeeerrrrry slow transition.

If the penises haven’t already given it away mine are not the most serious recipes you’ll ever read [I come from a family, perhaps even a region [North East England] where, if anything’s worth taking seriously, it’s worth not taking too seriously. Even the serious stuff. Especially the serious stuff. So recipes don’t stand a chance. All of which information is intended to wash my hands clean: it’s not me, it’s my environment. Nurture makes me do it! 

And, speaking of family ...  I adapted this recipe from something sausage and bean-y my Mam used to make back when I still lived at home and I’ve been making this, my own version, for a long time now. So, all joking aside, this does make an edible, tried and well-tested meal. Seriously …

Almost … a recipe for chorizo and bean casserole.

Serves 2 – 4 depending on portion size. 
It also depends on whether – if there’s only two of you – you want to find two extra people to share it with. 

If that sounds too much like ‘socialising’ to you, just freeze the remainder instead. It both freezes and re-heats pretty well and avoids that unpalatable need to make small talk with two other people.

Ingredients:

One large chorizo.
  • This should be the really firm, solid, kind that often comes in a loop or in a 10-ish inch length*.
  • Not the squishy raw sausage kind.
  • *I have no idea of the official terms for any of these 'formats' of chorizo and experience tells me not to Google any of those keywords if you don’t mind …
A note on pronunciation: Be thankful you only have to read this recipe and that we’re not trying to chat about it in person because if we were we’d have to reveal to one another what we call this particular sausagey thing. Then embarrassment or the rolling of eyes would likely ensue while we debated whether it’s actually:
  • ‘choree-tho’ [how I pronounce it] 
  • ‘choree-zoh’ 
  • or ‘chor-it-so’.
And, look, I like you, and don’t want a sausage to come between us ... so it’s best left unspoken

Unless of course you need to ask for it in the supermarket in which case … you’re on your own. If all else fails just ask for ‘spicy Spanish sausage’. [But do not, under any circumstances, resort to mime unless you’d be happy with having ‘Lewd behaviour in Aldi’ as the reason for your arrest].

Red kidney beans. 
  • A full tin of pre-cooked beans, drained.
  • Can be substituted for any kind of pre-cooked bean you prefer. 
  • If you don't like beans, no  probs, this'll have to just be a 'chorizo casserole'. Now's really not the time to tell me you don't like chorizo either.
*A note on bean storage: If you don’t happen to use a full tin, then make sure to empty the leftovers into a proper container with a sealed lid. Otherwise when you forget about them [which you will] you will discover they have an inbuilt fail-safe which prevents you from forgetting about them for very long: they will gradually taint your fridge with a smell so sour and corrupt that you’ll think there’s a yogurt in there with a particularly virile vendetta against you and your people. 

So, yeah, don't leave beans unattended. Lessons to live by kids. Lessons to live by. 

One tin of tomatoes.
  • Or make your own tomato sauce. See my recipe. 
  • I know you're going to use a tin. Fair play. Me too. 
Tomato puree.

One medium to large white onion finely sliced.


4* cloves of garlic, chopped. 
  • *Or more. Depending on whether or not you’re going to have your mouth near anyone the following day.
Paprika.

Cayenne pepper [optional]

Method:

[1] Remove the strange, post-sunburn type, papery skin from the sausage.
Again, I have no idea if this is what you’re meant to do before you cook it or if everyone [or indeed anyone] does this …or not. Mainly because I’m worse at reading recipes than I am writing them and have therefore never studied this topic.  But to me, it makes sense not to have it getting in the way.

Granted this task can be a little fiddly but usually, once you get a small edge lifted free, the rest will come away easily. A bit like with old dry wallpaper. Or pent up hostilities.

While doing this make sure to look around to check that there’s no one nearby with a camera. No one wants to log into Facebook of a morning only to find they’ve been tagged while in the process of unsheathing a European sausage.

[2] Slice the unsheathed chorizo long ways - then into centimetre chunks. [So the end result gives you lots of meaty semi circles*].

*Any death metal acts out there looking for a name are free to use that with my blessing.

Throw the meaty semi-circles [the ingredient, not the death metal band] into a large, hot, frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes. You do not need to add any oil to the pan as the sausage will release more than enough fat of its own.

The amount of oil that comes out of the sausage may initially startle you. I used to pour this away until I realised that life was too short* to miss out on all that savoury lusciousness, so now I keep it. 

[*Or at least, life probably will be too short if you continue to eat melted processed pork fat … but …y'know ... mmmmm].

[3] Once the fat has begun to ooze from the sausage lower the heat, throw in the sliced onions, and stir.

If you have a lid for the pan, put it on now. 

[I accept that this may involve rummaging around in the ignominious lid cupboard / draw of the kitchen. Apologies in advance for the inevitable landslide that will follow accompanied by the soundtrack of metallic clattering and banging that TV sitcoms from the 70s and 80s used to suggest a calamity off camera.]

[4] Once the onions have softened add in the chopped garlic and stir for a minute or two. [It'll burn if you add it at the same time as the onion.]

[5] Add approximately 2 teaspoons of paprika. 
[Although, realistically, the amount can also depend upon whether you’ve opened up the small or large opening in the lid of the jar … and whether or not you were aware that you’d meant to open the small side but actually opened the large and tipped out a heap of it accidentally.]

If you don’t mind spicing things up add in a quick shake of cayenne pepper. [In this case make certain you know which side of the lid you’re opening!]

Stir everything together and cook for a minute or so.

[6] Add in the tinned kidney beans and stir to combine them into the dish. 

[7] Tip in the tinned tomatoes and a squirt of tomato puree and bring to the boil. As the beans are already cooked they'll only need to re-heat in the sauce.

Try to resist stealing pieces of the irresistibly richly flavoured chorizo that’s now softened in its own juices. Then stir to distribute the remaining pieces of sausage evenly throughout the pan to hide any obvious gaps after you clearly failed to resist stealing some. [I don't blame you for an instant. And a jury would never hang you for it.]

[8] Leave the mixture to cook over a low heat for as long as you can bear to. But if you’re desperate to eat it then and there [which you will be] then the dish is ready to eat at this point. 

However … not wishing to sound like an annoying TV chef with all the time in the world to do things like ‘marinating overnight’ etc but … truly, the longer you can bear to leave this, the richer and deeper the flavour will get. It really is an  ideal meal to make a day before you need it.

Whenever you chose to eat it ... 

[9] Serve with rice* or a flatbread.
*Brown or white rice, your choice depending how wholesome you’re feeling, and how far from the ‘facilities’ you're going to be the following day. What with kidney beans, brown rice and pork fat ... that's some well oiled roughage you'll have going on there. Just saying.

Buen apetito!

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That is quite the thought to end on isn't it? Apologies. But I guess it's a natural conclusion to a meal. Awkward and appetite-suppressing yes, but natural all the same. 

And, be honest now, you don't get that kind of follow-up advice from many food writers do you? I suppose I'm less of a celebrity chef and more a public service really ... 



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So what do reckon? 
  • Are you going to give the recipe a try some time? [You might as well pin it to one of your Pinterest boards now to save for later.]
  • How many of the ingredients have you already got in the cupboard? 
  • Which do you need to put on your shopping list [which you'll inevitably leave behind on the worktop, but it's the thought that counts eh?]
And if you do try it - let me know! 

Photographic evidence and comments are to be welcomed:

Those photos of you unsheathing the chorizo however are perhaps best left in your private family album, OK? OK.

Soon.

Julie