Letting a little light in

There is a crack in everything,
that’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen

First of all, thank you to everyone who’s said nice things about this new website. And more crucially, perhaps, to those with more suggestions on how to make it clearer still. Thankfully, the design is built for iteration, and so all suggestions, improvements and comments are welcome.

The purpose behind redesigning the site is to create a space that naturally helps expand on the ideas that I’ve been pulling together over the last few months.

To do that requires more writing, talking, making and sharing. Making sure there are cracks for the light to get in. The crucial lesson then is that rather than trying to perfect things in isolation, I want to keep finding new places to talk and explore the topics with folk.

It was really useful, in this regard, that Jess and Phil at Subsector invited me to be their guest on a Subsector Short, a (supposedy) five minute discussion slot on a particular topic. I chose to see what would happen if I tried a crunchy, straightforward description of the idea that information is light, not liquid, the first of the TENET tools.

Jess listening, Phil drinking tea, me looking at something else it would seem.

Already it’s generated some great thoughts elsewhere about the concept, and how it butts up against other conventions in interesting ways.

I’ve also put together a Miro board to walk people around the thinking. I’m gradually pulling examples and projects into as a way of developing a relevant narrative in conversation with guests.

It is a little like being a tour guide around your own head, so I’m experimenting with quick introductions and then leaving folk to wander through at their own leisure over subsequent days.

Another work in progress – a Miro Map around the tools

Over time, it may be something I can just open up for everyone, if there is enough DIY guide material in there that helps people follow a rough route.

Finally, as I’ve been writing about topics, ideas naturally occur to me on how to visualise them.

For instance, one of the tools, Kaleidoscopes, is based on some work called Flow Engines which I talked about way back in 2014, at things like Brilliant Noise’s Dots Conference, and the Happy Startup Summercamp.

It evolved into the Smithery logo too, a glanceable glyph to continually prompt a way of setting up productive working practices.

Original ‘flow engine’ diagram, and the Smithery Logo it inspired

What evolved in combination with the new thinking was a need to accentuate the visual aspects of work more – especially relevant when thinking about when planning and running workshops remotely. How do you make sure people see the elements being ‘brought to the table’ and make connections they otherwise wouldn’t have?

The Kaleidoscope metaphor was a natural fit here, as a way of reminding people that no matter how creative the output, the inputs can be quite delightfully mechanical. You need to put all the materials together in such a way that participants can simply twist the devices themselves to see new possibilities. A simple bit of After Effects helps bring that to life, I think.

(And it also gave me the chance to make a GIF of a classic moment from High-Rise…)

If you fancy a tour of the board, do let me know, I’m really interested in the opportunities people can see for the tools for teams in a wide variety of different work. More soon.

Introduction to Assemblage Space

I wanted to expand on a new idea I’ve been working on, Assemblage Space. I was invited by Steve Simmance to give a short talk as part of a Future of Work Forum he was setting up for some clients. They were looking to take part in a conversation with other likeminded leaders about the Future of Work given all that’s been happening in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was a short, punchy, useful intervention it seemed, so I’ve recorded an audio track for it, and uploaded it below.

A short talk about futures from Smithery on Vimeo.

Most pertinently for me, the talk was delivered on the last Friday of July, which is typically when the Innovation and Future Thinking course I now lead at IED in Barcelona finishes. And the last day is presentation day, when the students in their groups come back and show what they’ve been working on – presentations, prototypes, experiences and the like – which point to a type of future they foresee in Barcelona.

The course was originally set up by Scott Smith of Changeist, of course – he led it, I came to teach on it for a couple of days, then we swapped over four years ago. We’re both missing spending time in Barcelona this year, with the students, our friends who come in to teach on the course (Christina Bifano, Natalie Kane, and Elisabet Roselló all joined us last year), and the brilliant staff at IED.

Somewhat tellingly, Scott and I seem to be trying to replicate some of the experience by making Spanish foods through this summer too, and sharing pictures as we go, as if it’s some niche, alternative universe Instagram…

Short PSA: If you want one book to read this Autumn, it’s Scott’s How To Future, which expands on everything which went into setting up the course in the first place and a whole lot more.

Anyway, what I’ve been doing in the absence of the course is reimagining some of the tools, methods and approaches we’ve used over the last five years.

With a title as broad as ‘Innovation and Future Thinking‘, the course covers a fair bit of ground, and the balance each day across the two weeks is to give students something to learn and take away, but also practice in applying it a practical sense. Each year, there are always thing that get dropped out in favour of other tools, or included because of the context of the class.

At first I was doing this with a mind to having an alternative ‘online’ version to offer in replacement of being there; how to teach in shifting pockets of time with global audiences and small groups, recording the presentation parts, breaking up into small tutorials throughout the day, making sure there were clear threads running through everything so that people could follow along from wherever they were.

Whilst the possibility of running an online version quickly faded (so much of the course, and our research material, is about bringing a wide selection of people together who often have little in common apart from the city itself), my own work continued.

It expanded into a full revision of basically everything in the Smithery kit-bag, with a permeating theme running through everything – the talk I did earlier this year, The Blacksmith Makes Their Own Tools, really helped me see that all of the work I’ve done in the last twenty years is around information as illumination, and suddenly a lots of things came together in a way they hadn’t before.

I’ll no doubt be talking about this a lot in the months to come as it evolves, but in short each section is an idea to hold onto, either in isolation or combination with some/all of the others, and is comprised of an essay and a model to help Identify & Illuminate, or Focus & Frame.

I just want to touch briefly on the last one, Assemblage Space.

It has it roots in the adaptation we made for the course of The Futures Cone, best explained here by Dr Joseph Voros (its most famous exponent).

Over the years, working with both students and clients in practical ways with the Futures Cone, two things have become apparent to me.

The first is that the boundaries should look as impermanent and uncertain as possible. People can and will get fixated about getting ‘the answer right’, and fitting their groups of signals, or whole scenarios, in a certain place.

Is this a Plausible Future?

The more solid the cone becomes, the more rarefied, the less useful it is.

You should fight against the trend of making lovely, designed versions of the Futures Cone with gradients, different coloured cones and so on; though they are perhaps logical in the act of making a nice presentation, they are not helpful for you in the practical application for the method.

Hence the point in the talk at the top; there is no cone. It is a container that help sets an enquiry off at the beginning, that sets some rules for participants about how they might start thinking of the research they do and the ideas they pull in, but you should work hard to make the cone disappear through the process.

The second thing that’s become apparent is that it’s useful to identify ‘other spaces’ to sort information in, rather than just the forward looking boundaries of the cone itself.

Assemblage space, or A-Space, is my way of making people think about the research and ideas they gather in a wider way. Assemblage Space is no more real than the Futures Cone, it’s just a device to help tease out information and connect it in different ways.

Assemblage is a term I’m pulling in from the philosophical definition“Assemblage theory provides a bottom-up framework for analyzing social complexity by emphasizing fluidity, exchangeability, and multiple functionalities through entities and their connectivity.” – without trying to get pulled too far into that particular rabbit hole.

There are six spaces on the map; I’ll talk about the four Over/Under spaces another day, but for now the point about going backwards to look forwards is what I want to concentrate on.

As people begin to populate the cone with information, we need to recognise that they have not made this stuff up. Even if the idea they pull in is seemingly from their own head, not based on research at all, the world around them, and their experience so far, has led them to that point.

So the key question becomes – “where does that come from?”

Reflecting the areas of the Futures Cone (Probable, Plausible etc etc), I found it helpful to think about the lived experience of the past, and what evidence we have.

Firstly, there’s tangible things, the things we can point to in the world. A bus stop, or a can of tuna.

Then there are intangible things; we know they exist, and they are part of our lives, and we can prove it by chasing down the visible aspects if we tried. A corporation, a press release, or a Pikachu in Pokemon Go.

Then there are things which are remembered collectively by people, but no longer exist. A long-defunct tram system in a city, or (the infamous) white dog poo.

Finally, there are things we’ve forgotten; sometimes they are waiting to be rediscovered, oftentimes not, and can only be summoned by inference.

These four things (Tangible/Intangible/Remembered/Forgotten) seem so far to be a useful way to start unpicking the “where did that come from?” question, and naturally help people focus even the most flippant futuristic notion in some vestiges of evidence from the past. It helps test the assemblages you bring together by grounding them in evidence.

Thinking back to last week, from the Future of Work perspective it helps you think about not just a continuation of the near-past, but makes you examine further ideas which may have been lost to time with different technologies.

One of the topics that came up in the forum was trust, and how leaders need to trust people working at home more to get on and do their jobs.

Thinking back to a pre-email work life though, how were people trusted then? When leaders didn’t have the chance to have an electronic record of conversations, decisions and actions? Where did trust live in companies, and what can we learn from that for now?

To finish then, this is a partial view of the practice, of course, but I hope a useful one in that it makes an abstract thing more practical. Practicality has been a theme running through the course at IED since the beginning.

Indeed, one year, at the final presentation, I decided it would be a good idea to draw parallels to the Susanna Clarke book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, about the emergence in 19th century England of two ‘practical magicians’, much to the initial scoffing and disdain of the ‘theoretical magicians’, groups of learned men who would gather in taverns to discuss magic but not ever actually do any.

It was, to be honest, a little lost on the audience at the time (the strange Scottish man is saying strange things again…), but perhaps the point is more pertinent now; in these strange times, we need more practical futuring.

Traffic Signs, Not Billboards

I went to our local high street today in Haywards Heath. I had an errand to run; my watch battery ran out two weeks into lockdown, and I wanted to get it fixed at the independent jeweller (hey, kids, support local businesses where you can).

Knowing I’d have an hour or so to wait, I took my camera (and mask), and looked around at what a high street looks like when its trying to reopen in the age of COVID-19.

The graphic designers of Britain have certainly been busy.

And individually, they’ve no doubt interpreted the prevention strategy of each individual shop or organisation as best they can, to communicate to shoppers what is expected of them, and what staff are doing in return.

But together, as an experienced the extraneous cognitive load on the working memory of shoppers is certainly substantial. As you move from shop to shop, you would find yourself navigating through slightly different interpretations of the broad rules. Sometimes it’s 2 metres, sometimes it’s 2 metres if you can. Some places, only one person per household. In others, one person per household plus one child.

It doesn’t help that a lot of the instructions are in full brand regalia, and so it takes a second or two to locate where the information is.

All in all, it feels exhausting, through the inconsistency.

Perhaps now is not the time for freedom of expression. If the powers-that-be want high streets to function for shoppers, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to have centralised production and distribution for communicating how to shop. Consistent posters, stickers, floor graphics, window vinyls and so on; same colours, shapes, instructions.

Perhaps in the age of COVID-19, the high street needs traffic signs, not billboards.

Oh yeah, and more masks, people.

The full set of pictures is here, if you want them.

Playing the hand you’re dealt

I’ve been thinking a lot about Assemblage. It’s been prompted by Anab’s inclusion of it in her More-Than-Human-Politics manifesto, pointedly positioned against Systems (“Assemblages are diverse, indeterminate and precarious… Acknowledging the entanglements without the desire to have the ‘full overview’”).

It also took me back to some of the thinking I originally did around Artefact Cards specifically, and more recently working with information particles generally, and a few other conversations and pieces I’ve been working on in the background.

This week, I started playing with a short explanation, which felt worth sharing:


An assemblage is like being dealt a hand of cards for the first time, in a game you don’t know the rules for.

You have these five cards in your hand, of a mix of suits and numbers, and you have to work out what to play, and how to do it. When the time comes, you play some cards as best you can, but you lose that first hand. Yet you saw what was going on, and figure that you might have a better chance at working out the overall game come the next hand.

Except when you are dealt your new hand, it contains a new suit you’ve never seen before, and a number that you didn’t know existed. You’re not sure what the new suit means (is it more senior than other suits? Equal?), and from what you know of numbers, you try and establish where this one might fit in a ranking. Additionally, the previous work you put in to trying to establish the rules of the game is now potentially of lower value, though it’s hard to let go of answers you think you’ve worked out.

You play, and of course you lose that hand as well. But again you learn more about how to sort through the cards you’re likely to be holding in the next round.

So when the third hand arrives, containing another unfamiliar suit, moderately taxing algebra, a postcard from a relative, and some cheese and pineapple on a stick, you’re at least a bit more prepared for the possibility that different things will turn up that don’t fit in with your expectations.

Thinking in systems asks that you work out the rules of the game.

Thinking in assemblages helps you become better at playing the hand you’re actually dealt.


Postscript: There’s a lot of diverse and interesting debate and discussion around what Systems Thinking actually is, of course, but I’m blithely operating under the following rule of thumb for now – “If you mean constantly moving and changing things, maybe you shouldn’t use the word ‘system’?”

Firing Korben Dallas

There’s been a lot of attention paid to a comment that Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays, said on Wednesday 29th April 2020 in comments to reporters.

“…the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”

The emphasis of that statement is about the infrastructure itself, and the notion of a centralised office.

Yet we were playing through some future scenarios earlier this week for a client project, and started wondering if there’s an underlying, pointy realisation that emerges for this business and others like them in two to three years time.

What if it’s not so much the building they don’t need, but the 7,000 people instead?

And if everyone works from wherever they just happen to be, is it just easier to let people go automatically, discreetly. You can’t storm into the HR office if there is no HR office.

You might get fired like Korben Dallas…

Towards Leastmodernism; Mr Prosser’s Bulldozer

I was at my second International Futures Form (IFF) breakfast this morning. On Zoom, naturally*.

One of the conversation threads in our breakout group was about clutter. We’re spending much more time in our homes, and so undoubtedly eyes and activity will turn to the things we’ve accumulated over the months and years. What to keep, what goes.

Another person drew a lucid picture of great tension point; we’re being told that the economy must restart again, which is basically a veil for increased consumption.

Hence the cunning wheeze of extending Sunday shopping hours, which feels like a doomed trick from the eighties economic playbook. If you really think people aren’t confident in spending because the shops aren’t open long enough on Sundays, I have some miraculous hair oil I want to talk to you about.

It made me remember an idea, a word, a loose concept I’ve had floating around since I talked at dConstruct in 2015.

The theme that year was about Designing the Future, and whilst I was uncomfortable in claiming or assuming that it was our future to design (which still remains my view), as part of the metadesign stance I talked about, a word popped into my head the day before the conference… it often happens the night before, as you’re sweating over the slides.

Leastmodernism.

I don’t have a crunchy description of exactly what it is. I referred to it again in a talk called The Oliver Twist at the RCA, but it’s an idea that every so often creeps up on me then I wonder what exactly to do with it, or how to articulate it.

Leastmodernism is about trying to harness a similar energy around solving societal problems that existed round modernism (for all its flaws), in a way that focuses efforts on what we are not doing, rather than what we are. It happens in pockets perhaps, and certainly can find allied concepts in parts of things like the Green New Deal.

How do you starting building an economic model around it, though? There’s something about drawing the connections between the thing, the creator, the customers, the money and the brand. We can take a stance that money is just a construct, as are brands. These two constructs float around the actual thing ‘made’ in the middle. Then a lot of the connections circumvent the actual thing in the middle:

Which perhaps opens up an opportunity to think about what you might do to replace that thing. Is it possible that money can flow from customers to creators, building a shared sense of what the brand means as a connection between people, but without the impact (or better still, negative impact) in the middle?

This might be the year to start thinking and articulating this more, but for the time being, the proxy I’m using is Mr Prosser’s Bulldozer.

Mr Prosser, of course, is the man from the council in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, who is trying to knock down Arthur’s house. Arthur is lying in front of the bulldozer, preventing it from doing so.

Then Ford Prefect, in order to whisk Arthur away, comes up with a cunning ruse… well, you might as well just read it for yourself:

(Except taken from NPR)

Ford looked across to Mr. Prosser, and suddenly a wicked thought struck him.
“He wants to knock your house down?”
“Yes, he wants to build . . .”
“And he can’t because you’re lying in front of his bull-dozer?”
“Yes, and . . .”

“I’m sure we can come to some arrangement,” said Ford. “Excuse me!” he shouted.
Mr. Prosser (who was arguing with a spokesman for the bulldozer drivers about whether or not Arthur Dent con- stituted a mental health hazard, and how much they should get paid if he did) looked around. He was surprised and slightly alarmed to see that Arthur had company.
“Yes? Hello?” he called. “Has Mr. Dent come to his senses yet?”
“Can we for the moment,” called Ford, “assume that he hasn’t?”
“Well?” sighed Mr. Prosser.
“And can we also assume,” said Ford, “that he’s going to be staying here all day?”
“So?”
“So all your men are going to be standing around all day doing nothing?”
“Could be, could be . . .”
“Well, if you’re resigned to doing that anyway, you don’t actually need him to lie here all the time do you?”
“What?”
“You don’t,” said Ford patiently, “actually need him here.”
Mr. Prosser thought about this.
“Well, no, not as such . . .” he said, “not exactly need . . .”

Prosser was worried. He thought that one of them wasn’t making a lot of sense.
Ford said, “So if you would just like to take it as read that he’s actually here, then he and I could slip off down to the pub for half an hour. How does that sound?”

Mr. Prosser thought it sounded perfectly potty.
“That sounds perfectly reasonable . . .” he said in a re- assuring tone of voice, wondering who he was trying to reassure.
“And if you want to pop off for a quick one yourself later on,” said Ford, “we can always cover for you in re- turn.”
“Thank you very much,” said Mr. Prosser, who no longer knew how to play this at all, “thank you very much, yes, that’s very kind . . .” He frowned, then smiled, then tried to do both at once, failed, grasped hold of his fur hat and rolled it fitfully round the top of his head. He could only assume that he had just won.
..

Now, the obvious problem in drawing this parallel is whilst Mr Prosser doesn’t knock Arthur’s house down immediately, he does eventually.

Therein lies the trick. How do you hold back Mr Prosser’s Bulldozer indefinitely?


*Yes, the breakfast is a welcome space to connect, it’s not a room though. Off the back of another participant describing the rooms in her house, I realised how much I miss walking into rooms. Rooms that I don’t know, know barely, or know well. Subconsciously scanning, sitting down or leaving.

I’m looking forward to walking into other rooms again.

What does good thinking look like?

Earlier this week, I posted up the four images above on a twitter poll and on instagram, and asked the simple questions; A, B, C or D? No context, just that – of the four images, which would you choose. I’d said I’d explain a bit about it, but first though, what were the results?

Twitter folks go for D, then A:

Instagram folks are kinda similar, though it’s a much smaller sample size. The reactions, when people sent some additional thoughts, are also really interesting, but in particular I’m going to draw attention to Richard‘s comment here:

The real extremes in the test are A and D, to my mind.

The former is a solid, simple structure that’s trying to do one thing. All the colours are aligned, all the gradients are consistently directed. As Fraser said in his response, “a designer’s designer would say A“.

The latter, D, has a whole lot of things going on.

At first, it just feels a bit like random chaos, especially in context with the others. But then as you scan it a bit more, looking more closely, or holding it at arms length, it starts revealing different things. Richard’s idea about it making the mind feel ‘kaleidoscopic’ is bang on, I think.

Beyond playing with delights of isometric shapes and gradient effects though, I did promise to explain a bit more about what it’s for though.

Last year, various streams of work and teaching the Innovation & Future Thinking course at IED in Barcelona made me start wondering about revisiting the underlying tools and frameworks of Smithery’s work (Strategy, Prototyping, Culture, Design, Innovation… etc), and how all of those things connect. The last time I’d done this was back in 2014, when a month of blogging every day produced a set of theories and practices which formed the backbone of the following five years’ work.

Back in January, in ‘the before’, I gave a talk called “A Blacksmith Makes Their Own Tools“, which set the seeds of the reading and reflection on our work so far since starting in 2011. Then these past couple of months have provided a brilliant opportunity to get torn into that work properly, and start to shape a few early parts of the new work, of which the images are part.

What I’d been working on was a graphic representation of a basic information process, from sensing what’s out there in the world, through to the actions people take as a result. It pulls on a few pre-existing models already (Boyd’s OODA loops, some of Boisot’s information space) as well as some other reading I’ve been doing, and it’s not finished as yet. As a basic general framework, it’s a fairly useful starting point for me at the moment, and would already serve as a useful tool in asking questions of clients or students (Where do we get information from? How do we process it? What filters can we identify that prevent some information getting it?) in order to identify intervention points and practices to deploy.

I’m not going to dwell on it a lot now, but come back instead to the “A versus D” thing from above, as to which best represents the ‘in here’ part of the model. In short, what does the processing of information look like internally, be it as an individual (the things in your head) or an organisation (the knowledge we hold)?

Now, if I’d framed a question around this (perhaps ‘which of these represents thinking?’ or something similar), and presented people with the four images, I would imagine the answers would be very different. We are aware of the unstructured nature of our own minds as much as we are of the information and knowledge that resides inside the organisations we populate.

I would argue though in this context, the neatness and perfection of A is likely not what we’re looking for in these terms; the Sisyphean task of organising all our ideas and workflows into perfect order, I think, will remain forever beyond the grasp of people. Which opens up the question; if striving for perfection in structure is a futile goal, then what should we be aiming for instead? What does good thinking look like?

Anyway, that’s the next couple of months of thinking and writing sorted – pursuing the above and the themes obliquely sketched out below. I’ll be sharing more as soon as it is ready (and maybe an additional post on why it’s not following the same process as a month’s worth of blogging from the last time). Thanks to everyone who played along with the picture experiment.

Pond life

There’s a giant tadpole in our pond, the amphibian Jaws of suburban Sussex.

I started wondering if it had just had a head start out the frogspawn, and so did some research. In a way, it probably has had a leap ahead, but from last year, not this. It turns out that if the conditions aren’t right to turn into a frog (too much competition for food, weather, etc), some tadpoles just stay as tadpoles during the winter. Waiting, feeding, growing. Then when the spring conditions come round again, they’re first out the gate, and become bigger than average frogs.

This is perhaps a year to live in the pond, and become a stronger frog when spring comes around again.

Table View: a video call hack

During the first virtual Cardstock meetup on Friday, we (the collective group) mentioned we’d play around with different ways of making the ‘card method’ work for us all online, and report back. I was going to find this, a prototype made from an Ikea desk lamp and a webcam, from five years ago, and see if I could get it working again.

One day later, after our friends suggested finding a way to play a board game with our two families over a video call, I dusted it down, and it was very effective in setting up a game of Diamant across our two houses.

I’ve upgraded it a bit.

A better Logitech 1080p webcam, and now attached with a Joby GorillaPod to the main desk lamp piece, means a sharper, higher-res image with more flexibility in positioning and set up.

And running through the laptop (with sound off and mic muted) as one call into whereby, and then using an iPad as the device for the main room camera, means everyone can see and hear you, as well as the muted feed that shows you the table.

Home Cured Bacon

No, not the usual kind of Smithery post… but these are strange times, no? Helen and the kids bought me a bacon curing course for my birthday a few years back, and since then I have regularly made some bacon we’re feeding lots of people (Christmas, half-terms, camping trips, etc). I offered to share the recipe on twitter, and so a few folks put their hands up. Here you go…

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

Cure mix 

There are various types of bacon cure you can buy online – try:

https://www.weschenfelder.co.uk/bacon-curing/curing-salts/supracure-dry-cured-bacon.html

…which is a 5% cure, meaning for a 1kg piece of pork, you will use 50g of cure (5%)

Different cures have different ratios – ALWAYS follow the instructions that comes with a specific cure mix.

Flavouring

When you combine other ingredients with the cure to make a rub, what happens is that the meat will be gently flavoured with the other ingredients, as the cure begins to replace the water inside the meat. This is my standard recipe that produces a tasty bacon that doesn’t need smoking – you need allspice, rosemary, black pepper and sugar. But do search online for other ideas.

Pork

Either use pork loin to make back bacon, or belly to make streaky bacon. Get the meat deboned by the butcher before you start, or just buy a piece without bones.

If you can include the bones when you’re curing, in order to get bacon bones for making stock for soup. If you do this, then the meat weight includes the bones when you calculate the amount of cure to use. You can leave the skin on in order to have a rind. If you do, make sure to take a sharp knife and pierce through the skin into the meat in various places, to ensure the cure penetrates well.

Two large ziplock plastic bags

Some folk have vacuum packing machines at home already, but I’ve never found the need for one for bacon.

METHOD

1. Prepare the mix for the rub

Combine the curing salt, sugar, allspice, rosemary and pepper in a bowl, and mix round. The amounts are dependent on the weight of your meat. As a general rule…

1 kg pork
50g of 5% cure (e.g. 5% as the name suggests)
20g sugar (unrefined granulated sugar, brown or Demerara sugar)
4g allspice
4g freshly chopped rosemary leaves

A pinch (0.5g) of crushed black peppercorns

2. Rub the mix all over the pork

First, place the pork in a large ziplock plastic bag. Then tip some mix in on one side of the meat, and rub it in throughly all over. Turn the bag over, and rub it in on the other side of meat, and down the sides. By the end, all the mix should be in the bag with the meat, and you can seal it up, getting as much air out as possible. I then put that bag in a second ziplock bag too, and get the air out again.

3. Cure for 4-7 days

In the bag after the first day or so, you start to see a watery brine forming in the bag, as the water is replaced in the meat. Keep turning the bag over every day or so, and give the meat a little massage when you do – it means the cure will distribute evenly. Don’t empty the brine out of the bag. The longer you leave the meat to cure, the saltier it will become – my personal preference is a 4 or 5 day cure.

4. Rinse and dry

Finally, open the ziplock bags and empty the brine out into the sink. Take the meat out and give it a really good rinse under the tap, or place in a sink of cold water. It’s totally fine to submerse it like this, and leave it in there for a while if you want it to be a bit less salty.

Pat it dry with a tea-towel all over (you’ll probably need two tea towels).

Place on a chopping board covered in baking parchment. You can cut a small slice or two off the end now, just to try what it’s going to be like (I’m not judging you, I never fail to do the same).

But you’ll find (especially if the rind is still on) that it’s a little hard to slice. Leave in the fridge for another couple of days, and it’ll firm up a bit more, the rind is easier to get through, and the joint holds its shape better. Then just slice rashers off with a long sharp knife when needed.

A good trick is to use a second, thick chopping board over the top of the bacon, and slide you knife blade down the edge of it as you cut the bacon below.

If you cured the bones too, just rinse them off too, and make a stock but putting the bacon bones in a large soup pan of water with a few roughly chopped vegetables and maybe a bay leaf. Makes an excellent stock for a pea soup.

And there we go, home cured bacon. It will keep like this, unwrapped, for a good few weeks in the fridge.

If you get to the end, and it’s becoming tricky to slice, just chop into small pancetta style pieces to add to other dishes.