Ian MunroThe journey to Dough Re Mi. (excerpt)

Around the end of August 2016, I began to work as a full-time baker at Dough Re Mi, the artisan bakery on 5 St. Peters Buildings in Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield area. I had approached Nir Badihi, the owner of Dough Re Mi about taking a position with them back in June 2016. I basically just walked into the bakery which is right around the corner from my apartment on Viewforth. An A4 sign on their window front indicated ‘Staff required’ and had a number to call for questions about trial shifts. Nir and I had a brief conversation, he said I should call him to arrange a trial shift and asked me to contact him whenever I would be ready. I mentioned I would be out of town for a few days and that I would definitely call him as soon as I was back in Edinburgh. Soon after a short trip to attend a conference in Havana, I took my trial shift and Nir asked me to start. I gave my resignation at Pizza Express and began to work with Nir at Dough Re Mi in August 2016.

I should note that since September 2008 when I moved permanently to the UK, I have taken several jobs that required basic skills to support myself and later on to support my family. I should also note that what seems to be an innate skill for kitchen work has been an advantage. It has been the fastest way to get work, and to keep a job. I admit I also enjoy the work. I do not like the personal politics of working with other people, what I enjoy is simply doing the job and getting along with everyone. Although it has been hard to break out of this particular cycle of the UK’s labour market, in this case, hospitality, restaurants, bakeries, cafes), I have had an experience of working and living in the UK, Scotland in particular, that I would not have had any other way. This angle of my research narrates an aspect of my personal experience as a member of the labour pool in employment in Edinburgh’s hospitality sector and the activity of listening to music in the workplace. The details of this methodologic exercise in sounded ethnography attempt to cover what listening to music at work has allowed me to do and lays out the context of my life as a worker in Edinburgh.

By the time I first met with Nir in June 2016, I had already worked for over four years as a pizzaiolo with Pizza Express in Edinburgh (PE from here onwards) and had a gained a bit of experience in how to work with dough and professional ovens. Such experience became essential in gaining access to professional work in a high-end artisan bakery without any previous experience of work as a trained baker. As a PE employee, I worked at PE Holyrood for my pizzaiolo training, then at the PE Morningside which opened in February 2013; and then at PE Queensferry Street, downtown Edinburgh. All that time and work with PE did not mean I had actual baker training; rather that I was aware and understood the elementary routines of how to work with food in the UK. I understood cleaning cycles, rota work, and had received training in UK Health and Safety regulations. I know how to work a professional oven, and was used to work standing for hours. It made sense to join Dough Re Mi. Quitting PE to start work at a high-end artisan bakery was a good move, and even though the hourly rate (at £7.50 per hour) was lower than at PE (at £7.79). In any case, at Dough Re Mi I was paid more because I could work a lot more hours a week. After almost a whole year of working at PE Queensferry Street, the flagship of PE restaurants in Edinburgh (an A/B certified restaurant with a higher salary band per hour), I was forced to change restaurants again. I felt like I had had enough of PE, none of it had gone actually well, fellow staff were generally bitter, pay was low. On top of that, working at PE, Ocean Terminal meant at least a one-hour bus ride across town. In the background of my labour odyssey I had begun the PhD programme in Social Anthropology at the University of St. Andrews and my share in rearing our two children required I picked them up from their kindergarten every day.  The opportunity to work at Dough Re Mi, a three-minute walk from our flat made everything much easier.

These are some of the questions, I will try to answer when this page is complete.

  • How does a Black Caribbean man do anthropological research in the UK today?
  • Is there a transformation in the category of ‘home’ when we migrate?
  • In what ways is Edinburgh’s weather different than Havana’s?

This exercise yielded an octophonic capture of over thirty hours: I used my iPhone 6s, a Zoom H2N, two Zoom H6 field recorders, a Zoom H4N Pro, a Marantz PMD 661 and a Sony PCM-D100 to create a sonic survey of the bakery. For this exercise, two of the field recorders were used to also create a quadraphonic capture of what went on outside Dough Re Mi while I sonically surveyed the locale’s inside for over five days.

Due to the length and the fact that deploying the full breadth of this exercise would require more physical space than this page per se; I have prepared a short sample of one of the moments when Ian Munro and I worked and discussed music.