Leiths: The Beginning

Tomorrow, I am going back to school.

After I finished my university degree, I said to anyone and everyone that I was done. No more studying for me! No more exams! No more reading lists! No more downing glasses of white wine to try to bully my beleaguered brain into coming up with the goods for writing a 3,000 word essay in two hours (totally works, by the way). I was going to have free time to truly call my own and not feel guilty for not studying in every spare minute. I was going to read what I wanted, when I wanted. I was going to say goodbye to revision forever.

It’s only been two years, and I’ve broken my solemn resolution.

This lovely tree is just outside our flat, and when the leaves start to turn it always reminds me that autumn and new beginnings are on their way.

In fairness, I’ve broken it for – in my eyes – the best thing ever. I will be doing the Leiths Diploma in Food and Wine over the course of the next academic year and, all being well, I will graduate in July 2016. I’ve been longing to do this diploma for years – literally, years – and have spent many wistful hours poring over the website, reading blogs, and wishing that I could be there learning to properly fillet fish and make consommé and do puff pastry from scratch and all the things that I haven’t quite gotten around to doing as a home cook. I cannot wait to be surrounded by people who are as boring about food as I am, and we can all be boring together in the same way and thus be the exact opposite of boring.

I mean, I’m terrified, of course. Excited, definitely, but out-of-my-mind nervous too. I’m scared that I will be rubbish, and that everyone else will have much more experience than I do and I won’t be able to keep up. I’m scared of cooking in an entirely new environment – usually, I’ll be bopping around my kitchen with earphones in, taking breaks to flop around and read or watch some TV, with no one watching me or criticising my lack of technique. I’m scared of changing the entire structure of my life to accommodate travelling into London every weekday for a 9-5 studying session at the school. But I am only going to get this opportunity once, and I fully intend to make the most of it.

An event at the gorgeous Bush Hall earlier in the week, celebrating Leiths’ 40th birthday.

I will be commuting from Oxford daily. That might sound mad, but we live here and are happy here, and I can’t afford to rent in London. It means getting up at 5.30am, a ten minute cycle to the train station, an hour on the train to Paddington, and then a twenty five minute cycle on the other end to get to the school. Then I do it all in reverse and get home at around 8pm. It’s two hours door-to-door, which means that I will spending four hours commuting every day and cycling ten miles. And that’s on top of being on my feet and cooking for hours at Leiths, rather than just vegging out in an office job, slumped over a desk and trying to set up an IV for effective delivery of biscuits into my bloodstream.

Whenever people hear that I will be doing this commute, the response is usually a sharp intake of breath and a look of shocked horror, followed by a commiseration: ‘Oh, you poor thing.’ I know these people all mean well (and god, believe me, I think ‘poor me’ too), but the fact that almost everyone else thinks that this will be an unachievable nightmare is actually not massively helpful. I need to be positive and delude myself. I have two friends who have commuting experience who promise me that it will be absolutely fine, and as someone who has never commuted for more than fifteen minutes before, I cling to their reassurances like a kitten to its mother. It will be fine. It will be fine.

Of course, the last time I cycled in London I got knocked off my bike. But I’ll wear a helmet now.

Triumphant after having completed a test commute last week without even coming close to dying once, sexy helmet and all.

So, that’s what I will be up to for the next year. Forgive me, friends, for dropping off the social radar entirely and not hosting any more dinner parties, but I will be too busy cooking to cook. I am hoping to blog the Leiths experience – partly because I want to remember it and partly because as a prospective student I liked reading other people’s blogs and I want to pay it forward – but I don’t know how feasible this will be in terms of battling through crushing exhaustion. If I get any time to myself to cook, then I will try to keep writing the occasional recipe post, and I want to limp along to the end of the bake along if I possibly can. Also, we do get the classic school holidays! So, if I am not sleeping or doing work experience, then I will try to keep this little blog alive then.

Bonne chance, mes amis. May your autumns be fruitful.