Wednesday 22 December 2010

A Different Kind of Day

I knew as soon as I got up this morning that I wouldn’t be going to the shops.

And there seemed to be little point in finishing off my current picture book manuscript. Editors are too busy with holiday matters right now and anyway the post boxes are full to overflowing. So I decided to do something scarily different. I decided to bake some cakes.

For me cake baking is close to magic. If I don’t wave my wand... sorry, wooden spoon in quite the right way, it’ll be a disaster. So I spent some time consulting the book of spells... I mean, cookbook [lent to me by a very good friend] and I set to work measuring, mixing...

...baking and *abracadabra*...

I’ve only gone and magicked up a lemon drizzle cake! (It’s quite easy this baking business.)

Encouraged by my success I try a second cake. It’s a tad more complicated and so Mr A is called in to help with the decorative bits.

This goes into the oven and *izzy wizzy*...

...we have a Danish Apple Cake. There's only one thing left to do. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Delicious!

Talking of yummy food, I’d like to send a great big THANK YOU to one of my Twitter friends, Keris Stainton, for the lovely box of chocolates which is in the post to me as I type. I won her recent blog competition and the prize was a box of Hotel Chocolates from the Chocolate Tasting Club. I can recommend a visit to her blog post of a hilarious Strictly Come Dancing extract. [And yes, I'm still missing Strictly.]


Friday 17 December 2010

My Little Nut Tree – a warning about wishes

The other week I heard that children’s rhyme about nutmegs and golden pears. It goes like this:
I had a little nut tree. Nothing would it bear,
But a silver nutmeg and a golden pear.
I thought how lovely it would be to have a tree that was covered with silver nuts and laden with golden fruit. Wow! But then I had another think and I wrote this little rhyme:

It all began one winter. I was sick of nuts to eat,
So I asked my little nut tree for a very special treat.

When spring arrived my garden was all lit up with the glare
From a shining, silver nutmeg and a gleaming, golden pear.

‘What luck!’ I thought but people came from miles around to stare
At my super, silver nutmeg and my gorgeous, golden pear.

Some of them were greedy and I knew I must take care
Of my solid silver nutmeg and my great big golden pear.

So I hired guards with snarling dogs and a sign that said, ‘Beware!’
To protect my lovely nutmeg and my precious, golden pear.

But the guards gave me a bill and said, “You know it’s only fair.”
I couldn’t pay. I only had a nutmeg and a pear.

They shouted and got angry and it gave me quite a scare,
So I paid them all I had… which was the nutmeg and the pear.

That winter I was hungry. I’d not even nuts to eat.
So I made a wish and asked my tree for yet another treat.

It worked! I have a nut tree and lots of nuts it bears.
Not a single, silver nutmeg and no silly, golden pears.

I guess we should think carefully before we wish for things.


Tuesday 14 December 2010

Why I’m obsessed with Strictly Come Dancing

(Dancing with the Stars for those outside the UK)

I’m usually uninspired by the television schedules but I only have to hear one bar of that music and I’m racing for my armchair with a virtual ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign above my head. I’ve even been known to switch off my phone while I watch!

Maybe it’s to do with timing. Just as the nights draw in and the weather becomes dour, Strictly Come Dancing provides glitter, glamour and bling by the bucket-load. I know that I’ll never get the chance to dance like those couples but I can dream, and I do. Every time they glide, chasse or do neat little heel turns, it’s me out there wearing a beautiful gown or skimpy cat suit, with the audience admiring my every move.

Strictly is different from most reality TV shows. The contestants are celebrities. They know how to entertain. They have camera presence and charisma... well most of them do, anyway. Of course they want to win but it doesn’t ‘mean the whole world’ to them, unlike those reality contestants who sob with utter desperation because this is their ‘last chance to make it’.

It’s not only the contestants and their sexy, slick professional partners who provide quality entertainment. The Dave Arch Band are am-az-ing (said in Craig Revel Horwood’s fabulous accent, dahling). The Band can play and sing any style of music the dancers choose. Such talent! What a shame we don’t get to see more of them. They may be tucked away at one end of the dance floor, but Strictly certainly wouldn’t be the same without them.

This is not just a weekend obsession. I’m also hooked on Strictly It Takes Two and so every evening there’s a scramble to prepare supper and be sitting in front of the telly by 6.30. I can’t miss Claudia.

Strictly Come Dancing keeps me going throughout the autumn and right into December, but what will I do with myself in January? I can feel a dose of the mulligrubs coming on already. I suppose I’ll have to make do with You Tube extracts until next autumn comes round again.

[For those with especially large birthdays looming, please note that Pamela Stevenson, who is dancing in this clip, is 61 years old. If I can dance like that at her age I’ll be a happy blogger indeed!!]


Friday 10 December 2010

My Award Acceptance Speech...

... and some awards to be awarded too.

A great big thank you to the lovely Pauline Barclay for awarding me the Versatile Blogger Award and as a mark of acceptance I understand that I now have to list out seven interesting facts about me. It’s not easy doing this. I’m more comfortable writing interesting facts about others but these are the requirements of the award and so, here goes:

1.      There is a musician inside me struggling to get out. I’ve had a go at playing the oboe, recorder, mouth organ, bodhran drum, classical guitar, folk guitar and piano. I still have the drum, two guitars and a piano around the house so visitors beware!

2.      For the first 45 years of my life I had a recurring dream that I was swimming with dolphins and I’d always wake up disappointed. At the age of 45 I learnt how to swim and I haven’t had the dream since.

3.      I didn’t go to University until after my children started school. I got a degree and trained to be a teacher. Before then I was a secretary, but not a very good one. I never did like being told what to do.

4.      When I was 13 I won a medal for amateur dramatics. I was the leading lady in a play called Dark Brown. (If anyone has a copy I’d love to read it again.)

5.      I have a secret stash of chocolate (Green & Blacks, dark, 70%) hidden in a cupboard but I’m not going to tell you which cupboard.

6.      I long to be able to dance like they do on Strictly Come Dancing. If only they would phone me... but first I’d have to become a celebrity. Bother! 

7.      I meet with a group of writers twice a month. One of the monthly meetings is for a writing workshop. The other is for an ‘everyone bring a dish’ lunch. It’s an excellent way of keeping your writing going through the hard times and it’s also an invaluable support network. In fact, everyone should try the lunch thing and so I end this list with a toast. Here’s to ladies who lunch.
Finally to my award presentation. I’ve provided seven interesting facts and so I’m going to pass the Versatile Blogging Award on to seven bloggers:

Amie Kaufman at

And I’d like to present the Laid Back Ladies Award to:

Friday 3 December 2010

Do you remember when cars were fun and quirky?

Every now and then I get an attack of nostalgia. I yearn for the way things used to be before the modern world came along and ‘spoilt it’. I’ve already blogged my rose-tinted memories of post-war food and those 1950s holiday-camp holidays and now I’ve come over all nostalgic about cars. It started the other day when I saw a classic car chugging down the road. It was a Ford Popular and it reminded me of Dad’s little car that he had when I was young.

This is me a long, long time ago sitting on the bonnet of Dad’s little car with my sister and mum.

The car looks so small and basic. It’s hard to believe how much they’ve changed. Surely they were better then than now... weren’t they? They were fun and quirky with things like:

•  Indicators that pretended to be little orange arms. They popped up from the side of the car and when they got jammed you had to bash the door to knock them back in again. They were to replace hand signals, I suppose. When I took my test you still had to show you could give hand signals. I had to demonstrate a signal for slowing down, a circular backward movement with the arm held straight out of the window. You’d get your hand chopped off by overtaking cars if you tried that now.
•  Bench seats in the front as well as the back of the car. When the car turned right the passenger would slide into the driver as, of course, there were no seat belts. This was particularly good for courting couples but not so exciting if you were taking your granny out for tea.
•  That big yellow AA badge fixed to the front grill of the car and whenever an AA man drove by on his motor bike he would salute you. I seem to remember that this happened a lot, especially when Dad took us for a Sunday afternoon ride into the country.
•  No wing mirrors but you could buy clip-on ones that were supposed to fit onto the window. They never did and they inevitably fell off if you opened the window... which you had to keep doing to give hand signals.
•  No in-car music, not even a radio. I used to hold my tranny (transistor radio) up to my ear and shuffle it round to try and get some sort of reception every time Dad turned a corner. Listening to your own music in the car was a non-starter. Can you imagine playing vinyl records with a stylus?!
•  The crank handle - talking of non-starters - which was kept under the driver’s seat in case the car wouldn’t start with the key, which in those days was most of the time, especially early in the morning, and there was the choke button which you pulled right out when the car was cold and slowly back in again as the car warmed up. If none of that worked we had to push and then run and catch the car up before Dad chugged off without us.

Oh yes! Those were the days!


Wednesday 1 December 2010

Was this the last train out of London?

It was going to be a bit of an outing… well not much of one to be honest, but two days of tests for Rod at the National Amyloidosis Centre, at London's Royal Free Hospital was as good as it gets these days. It was the first time Rod had been out since his stem cell transplant four months ago and so, if nothing else, we were planning to include a bit of window shopping in the new, shiny St Pancras Train Station on the way home. 

Fortunately the consultation at the end of Rod’s two-day test marathon was good. He is progressing as well as can be expected. The statistics show that the stem cells have just about done what they were meant to do. All we need now is for him to get stronger and put on a bit of weight which will, the consultant assured us, happen all in good time. 

There were light flurries of snow as we shivered our way from the hospital but at St Pancras 'cancelled' signs screamed at us from the departure boards. This was no time for window shopping. We joined the mass of panicky travellers and wedged ourselves onto what, according to the information displayed, was the only train heading to the East Midlands. It was going to Sheffield to be precise, with Leicester as its first stop. 

The journey was beautiful, white fields lit by dazzling sunshine, but by the time we reached Leicester it was snowing and as we alighted from the train we heard the announcer breaking the news to the remaining travellers. The train was no longer going to Sheffield but would terminate at Derby. We’re home now, heating on full blast, cuddling hot mugs of tea, but I keep wondering what happened to all those people who thought they were on their way to Sheffield.