Antidote to the winter blues

As part of the  residency here at The South Bank on each day I  send a poem to all the workers of The South  Bank. This includes the construction workers, the security guards, the   administrators, the cleaners and the other artists. Here is one of the postings.  Though not a poem more a recipe found  a while ago I  posted it    to Jamie Byng of Canongate Books.  Mr Byng put the recipe on    the canongate website as “Lemn Sissay’s Antidote to Winter Blues”. That    was a few years ago. I can’t think of a better time to share it with    you.


1 cup of water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle vodka
2 cups of dried fruit

– Sample the vodka to check quality. Take a large bowl, check the vodka again.
To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
– Repeat.
– Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
– Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it’s best to make sure
the vodka is shtill OK.
– Try another cup … just in case. Turn off the mixerer.Break 2 leggs and add
to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
– Pick fruit off floor.
– Mix on the turner.
– If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers pry it loose with a
– Sample the vodka to check for tonsisticity.
– Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who giveshz a shit.
– Check the vodka.
– Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table.
– Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
– Greash the oven and piss in the fridge.
– Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don’t forget to beat
off the turner.
– Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the vodka and kick the

Fall into bed.

14 thoughts on “Antidote to the winter blues

  1. *does a little he-replied-to-me-yippee dance, trips over computer cables, picks self up off floor, shamelessly seizes opportunity to waste even more of his time*
    So, er…what do you think about using sport as a tool in conflict situations? (I mean as a tool for a variety of different issues ranging from trauma relief to conflict resolution.) One argument that's commonly put forward in favour of using sport (over other approaches) is that it's 'apolotical' or an 'empty cultural form'. This allows people with different points of view to put their hostility to one side and play by an agreed set of rules.
    From your point of view, do you think poetry would be just as useful a tool or even better? (Namely because it might give participants a chance to actually voice their concerns without putting them to one side.)
    I'd love to hear your opinion on this.
    *crosses fingers and hopes he hasn't fallen asleep reading this post*

  2. I shall reply with pleasure, but I can't right now. I gots ta scoot. i want to give your message the fulla ttention it deserves. Maybe tomorrow or Monday?

  3. Ah yes, Usha is correct (that's me). I work for a non-profit organisaton, which examines the relationship between sport and development (development in the 'Third World'/developing countries/'developing' countries that develop in the context of 'developed' countries). For the moment, it's just me who's asking (as far as I know) because I'm very curious as to what you think. Of course, because I have a great deal of respect for what you do, I would hope that your comments will be heard by other individuals who might be involved/interested in the same things I am.

  4. Many thanks for your message Usha. In answer your question yes I too believe sport can play a role in bringing communities together.
    One of the biggest days on the ethiopian and eritrean calender is the football tournament – mostly played in america. This has become a fixture in the ethiopian and eritrean social calender. These two countries have been at war with each other for many many years. If any of my facts are wrong please correct me.
    For me, mohammed Ali showed us that sport is more than a goal. It is a common goal. Norman Mailer the great writer would see sport as metaphor, symbol and at the same time alternative.
    Sport is hard work, focussed work and rewarding work. It is about competition without venom. It is about structure and at the same time anarchy. It is about collective effort and yet encourages individual flare. The dedication and commitment to a common goal – Excuse the pun – employs charachteristics of the human spirit exemplified in sport.
    In fact there you have a campaign message right there – “The Common Goal”.
    I ahve worked in all kinds of communities regards to poetry as means of expression. I have two criteria in my workshops – we work hard and we have fun. The same could apply to sport.
    What is it that a commentator might say when he watches a skillful soccer move, or a perfect inspired netball through, or a devious but brilliant chess move, he might say that watching it was like watching “poetry in motion”.
    Lemn Sissay

  5. What is it that a commentator might say when he or she watches a skillful soccer move, or a perfect inspired netball through ball, or a devious but brilliant chess move, he or she might say that watching it was like watching “poetry in motion”.
    Wishes Lemn Sissay

  6. Mr. Sissay,
    Forgive me for posting this inquiry to your festive cake blog. I just read your comments re. adoption on BBC News website and hoped I might encourage you to expand on them a bit. I am curious to know if you believe your adoption experience would have been better if you had been adopted by a black family? Or, would it have been better if you had been adopted by a family of any color if they were able to provide you with a more culturally relavent childhood – rather than the religious extremists you were placed with. I have many questions as I think this is an important subject to discuss. I'm American and feel very strongly that there has been a great disservice done to black children who until recently were generally not adopted by white families because if was frowned upon. Unfortunately, many of these children languish in poor foster care or group homes rather than enjoying the benefit of growing up in a household with adoptive parents. As a mixed race woman, I know that my mother (who was Irish/German/Spanish) could not always relate or guide me through my experience as a “brown;” nonetheless, having the benefit of a multi-racial household was really priceless in my view. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Best regards, Kelly Elizabeth Sloane

  7. Great recipe. I have been following your story and thought of a poem to commemorate your journey:
    Gaping Wound
    You sit there an you think
    Who did me wrong, Who did me wrong
    Blood drips down
    Who did me wrong, Who did me wrong
    Blood gushes
    Who did me wrong, who did me wrong
    Blood gushes further
    Who did …….
    That is the song of your family
    The bleeding only stops when you begin living

  8. That's beautiful wendim. But I have long stopped trying to aportion blame. In fact here is a line from my play, a thought process that I established at a very early age after leaving the childrens homes. It is this. “I don't want to survive. I want to live.”
    I hope you don't mind my saying but I may neither be gaping wound nor a healing one. I am neither looking for a person with the sword nor defending myself against them.
    I simply love my life in all its complexity, the friends I have in all theirs, the family I have found in the epic search and the people of my proffession – writers.
    Bitterness rots the vessel that carries it.
    Lemn Sissay

  9. Many thanks for posting here. On the contrary I think your question is perfectly placed. Before I answer I think this may have started with your reading of The BBC world article available here:
    Though you had “just read my comments on BBC News Website” I didn’t see you quote me in your question. I am very careful about my words regarding this, or any other issue, and would be interested to know which words I said that would lead you to your questions – otherwise the question itself is not rooted in my comment. Hope this makes some sense. However I am going to try to have a go…
    Fortunately or not I am unable to answer the question in part of “ would life have been better with a black family” as I find hyphotheticals in this context to be sort of Bermuda triangles in which I prefer not to find myself lost. When in doubt, walk away from the Bermuda Triangle.
    However, should the social worker, who stole me from my mother and illegally named me after himself, had the foresight to place me with foster parents of my own race it, though may not have been better, would have indicated that he was thinking more about the adopted child than the needs of the adopters.
    Unfortunately in my case it was the latter. And their need was to show that they care and to display their Christian values hence in their eyes elevating them past their own past. Um…
    I had little to do with the foster parents virtually feral need to display basic human instinct through the Baptist church. . Human instinct alone can be a dangerous thing except when tempered with understanding. It is the understanding that I hold dear and the love that I expect as a prerequisite to any adoption, in any form. Hence to say “I did this because I love children” is by far and away a long distance from what a child needs. The fact that this is a declaration is in itself a possibly dark moment and weighs heavy on many a Childs conscience.
    I, however, was never adopted but essentially, stolen – all of which I have proved in documentaries on TV and radio over the years. The term was “long term fostering”. My mother never signed the adoption papers because in the end she wanted me fostered and on that level alone it is difficult to answer your question. I ahve letters of her pleading for me back from the social worker who had already named me after himself – the cheeky sod. 😉
    The subject is emotive because we are born. It is primal – The idea of birth and the trade of babies. Hearts race opinions form battle lines are drawn and a fight ensues, meanwhile depression, like gas in a small room, seeps under the door while we adults argue. I hear the Malawian government will decide in two years that Madonna can take full and total charge of the baby. But it isn’t after two years that the boy shall ask questions – and it may be never. It may be on his deathbed and it may not be on his deathbed. But the questions will come and they will rise from this fermentation – that would happen whether Madonna was famous or not. But the question is this. What will the answers be?
    And finally, I think Madonna is Amazing. What she has done for years is to push taboos. She has done this with sexuality, Gender and Race. She has pushed an industry (the music industry) which is conservative by nature. She has done this so that young girls will not be scared of themselves and their own development, so that black and white people can see a representation of a black Jesus. All this on MTV. It would take a brave rap artist to do such a thing. Rap has also become conservative by nature. She has made a difference.
    And just to let you know – some of my best friends are black and mixed race and were adopted by white families. The others that were adopted or fostered, they were bathing in bleach to get the dirt off and some are rocking back and forth in mental institutions around Britain. There’s one here in London who paints her face white and red and walks up and down Oxford Street in London talking to herself.
    It's been great talking with you and thanks for the question. Though my answer may not deliver the bold statement I hope it delivers something much more real and universal and can add to the debate in the hope for understanding.
    With all good wishes

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