Wednesday 28 December 2011

UK Writers and Small Stones

I don’t do resolutions. They’re like rules. They’re made to be broken, but this year I do want to get some of my longer manuscripts completed and out there. I’m always telling other people that their work will never get published if it's sitting in a pending file, so I suppose I really should listen to myself. This means that I’ll be doing a fair bit of editing over the next few months and, as editing can be tedious, I’ve planned two Twitter distractions:

@mariaAsmith and myself, @RosalindAdam, thought it would be useful for UK writers to have a tag so we can link up with each other to share news on Twitter. The news can be writing opportunities, competitions, conferences, in fact anything that's relevant to UK writers. 

If you're interested then please tweet ‘I'm in #UKwriters to @mariaAsmith and she'll include your twitter name on her UKwriters twitter list. If you're already on the list and want to follow more UK writers go to Maria Smith UK writers list where you can check it out. Do please use the #UKwriters tag whenever you tweet writing advice etc. Who knows, we might even get it trending.

I’m having another try at taking part in the River of Stones project.  It’s run by Fiona and Kaspa and this is how they explain what you have to do: 

"You'll create a 'small stone' every day when you pay proper attention to something (a cloudy sky, or your cat leaping lightly across the lawn) and then write it down as accurately as you can.

Writing small stones will help you to engage with the world around you - to enjoy every sip of your black coffee, to savour the scent of lemon wafting around your kitchen, to appreciate the grungy sliminess of your compost pile." 

You can find out more on their website at Writing our Way Home. I tried to take part in last July’s project but life overtook me. Hopefully, if I can keep ‘on task’, I’ll be tweeting a ‘small stone’ daily throughout January using the tag #smallstones. I’ll post up the best at the end of the month.

What are your plans for January?

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Festival of Lights

Today is the first day of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. In the UK it also happens to be the shortest day of the year... so it’s a time when we all need light in our lives in more ways than one.

Chanukah lasts for eight days. We have special candlesticks called Menorahs or Chanukiahs. When I was in Jerusalem in October I bought myself this lovely new Chanukiah. [Did I mention that we went to Jerusalem?! I did! Whoops, I do keep repeating myself!] 

The photo doesn't really do it justice. It's soooo pretty.
The middle branch is the lighter candle, called the shamash, which is used to light the other candles. Each night an extra candle is lit until on the eighth night there are nine candles burning. It’s a really fun time for the children who look forward to a small gift as each candle is lit.

Chanukah commemorates a miracle, a historical event that took place over 2,300 years ago. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem had been ransacked. When Judah and the Maccabees reclaimed the temple they found that all the oil had been contaminated except for one small jug which held enough for a single day. There’s always a light burning in a Jewish place of worship and so the oil lamp was filled and lit. Then a miracle happened as the tiny amount of oil stayed lit not for one day but for eight days, enough time for fresh oil to be prepared.

But when we light the Chanukah candles today we also celebrate the power of light. If our house is in darkness we stumble and fall over each other. The same can be said of the world. If we light a candle to light the world... 

if we ALL light a candle to light the world

then there’ll be no more darkness, no one will stumble, none of us need fall. Maybe one day.

Here’s a fun message from a cartoon character called Rabbi Infinity that shows us how light is more powerful than dark. It's called A Little Light.

Whatever festival you’re celebrating, or about to celebrate, may it be a happy, healthy and peaceful time for everyone.

Friday 16 December 2011

So Many Skills

If I was to ask you to write down all your skills you’d run out of paper for sure. We’ve all acquired so many skills in life that we take most of them for granted. I’ve had two email chats this week that have made me think about my skills. The first was about writing poetry. Sue from PoetrySpace Competition asked if I could write a post for her blog about my approach to poetry writing.

      “Yes, no problem,” I said and I picked up my pen but I couldn’t find the words to describe it. Of course, I managed to find some words in the end. I rarely am completely lost for words. [“That’s true!” says Mr A as he walks past my desk.] The resulting article is here. I’d love to know if you approach your poetry-writing in the same way.

The second chat was with Sarah from Empty White Pages. I’d commented on her blog that a song she’d featured in last week’s post has satisfying guitar chord changes. Sarah was surprised.

      “You play guitar?” she said. “I never knew.”

      “I’ll blog about it,” I said and we both agreed that it’s fascinating to find out about other things that bloggers can do so…

I learnt to play the classical guitar as a child and moved on to acoustic in my teens. I dabbled with the harmonica and for a short time was an oboist in the school orchestra. I rarely play the guitar these days. My once hardened finger ends have gone all soft and soppy and it hurts too much. I prefer to sit at the piano where I can just about plonk out a tune. Oh yes, and I also have a bodhran drum, a leaving gift from one of my teaching jobs, but drumming is a skill that I’ve never quite mastered, although I can make the most thunderous racket with it… especially when I’m stressed!

What skills have you got hiding under your bushel?

Sunday 11 December 2011

If we cared

I’ve had a go at one of Jenny Matlock’s weekend challenges. I can't get Blogger to put a link on her badge but please visit her blog. There’s always something there to make you smile. This week her challenge is to post up a piece of writing in any style as long as it’s less than 100 words and includes the phrase:

It doesn’t have to be that way

Excellent!’ I thought when I read her prompt. ‘I now have an excuse for one of my regular moans.’ So here goes:

Why is it nation fighting nation,
Always man versus man,
Another journalist’s sensation
As the bad news hits the fan?
We say we care about each other
But that clearly isn’t true.
What with brother killing brother
I’m afraid for me and you.
If we cared we’d not permit
All of that murderous display.
It’s our world we’re messing up. It
Doesn’t have to be that way.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

What does your computer screen wallpaper say about you?

Some people don’t bother to upload personalised wallpaper [background] for their computer. They’re content to make do with the Windows default one. My theory is that these people are practical and business-like and don’t want to be distracted by personalised add-ons.

I, on the other hand, am neither practical nor business-like and I’m more than happy to distract myself with personalised add-ons! I’m certainly spending rather a lot of time trying to decide on suitable screen wallpaper right now. It all went wrong when the dog died just over a year ago and I couldn’t bear to look at his adorable face on my laptop screen each day. I decided to go impersonal. I started to photograph flowers in the garden but I soon got bored with each one. The following three are some of my better attempts. [I've never been much of a photographer!]

Autumn Dahlia                        Clematis head                             Daisy
Every few days I would be out in the garden, camera in hand, but now that it’s winter there’s nothing inspiring out there to photograph so at the moment I’m using a picture from that lovely holiday we recently had in Jerusalem [did I mention that we went to Jerusalem?!?] I’m sure that I’ll soon be changing it again. I may go for ducks next time because, as I said in a recent blog post, ducks make me smile and we all need an excuse to smile while we’re working, don’t we!

  • What wallpaper do you have on your computer screen?
  • Do you keep changing it or have you had the same one for so long that you hardly notice it?
  • And what does that say about you?

Thursday 1 December 2011

Sticks in a Bundle are Unbreakable

The title of this post is a Kenyan proverb and a lovely way of talking about the security of being part of a group. Rather like ‘United we stand divided we fall’, it’s the sort of feeling strikers get when they walk out together in order to raise awareness of a valid complaint.

I decided to Google the phrase and discovered that Sticks in a Bundle are Unbreakable is the name of a movement based in South Korea who want to... 
"...reach to the needy through numbers, through working together and through spreading love. In unity lies strength and the more people who become aware of different humanitarian needs around the globe will seek out solutions faster." 
Now that's an amazingly positive use of group strength. If only everybody had the same ideals. You can read more about them on their Facebook page.

I decided to look for more proverbs with a similar message. [Yes, I was supposed to be writing and no, this was not a strictly necessary activity but it was enjoyable nevertheless!]

None of us is as smart as all of us:
Brainstorming ideas can produce much better results than sitting scratching your head and thinking on your own. It works particularly well with a creative writing class, which brings me to writers' critique groups. They're not only helpful but they're enjoyable and inspiring too. If you're a writer and you don't belong to such a group then you must join one now!

A single leaf provides no shade:
I’m not sure if the two examples I’ve given here quite fit this proverb. What do you think?

Firstly, singing in a choir has a totally different feel to singing solo. I’ve only tried it once and it was amazing to be part of that wall of sound.

Secondly, my most mind-blowing group experience was when I took part in a group meditation. I’d tried meditating on my own several times with little success so when I joined a group I wasn’t expecting much, but as the group leader talked us into the meditation I could feel an atmosphere surrounding me, almost like a presence. I felt calm and positive and there was something else that I can't put into words, something quite spiritual. I've never experienced anything like it before or since.

Have I interpreted the ‘single leaf’ proverb correctly?

And what has been your most powerful group experience?

Friday 25 November 2011

The responsibilities of being a cook

As the main cook and menu-preparer of the house I take total responsibility for the standard of our diet. If we eat rubbish then I’ve only myself to blame. Diet features high on the guidelines for caring for our kidneys and that’s something that I now have to take very seriously.

We spent the last two days in the Amyloidosis Unit of the Royal Free Hospital in London and we chatted with a lot of people whose kidney functions are far worse than Mr A’s and who are consequently on dialysis. Amyloidosis produces sticky platelets in the blood and so the kidneys are often the first organ to be affected. These tests that Mr A has twice-a-year are designed to keep him off dialysis for as long as possible but it’s not only Amyloidosis sufferers who have kidney problems... many of us abuse our kidneys on a daily basis? *sticks hand up in air*

As cook it’s up to me to take care of Mr A’s kidneys, to keep them going as long as possible and to stop abusing my own at the same time so here goes. I'm going to try and: 
  1. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables (including peas and beans) and grain-based food like bread, pasta, noodles and rice.
  2. Eat some lean meat like chicken and fish each week.
  3. Eat only small amounts of salty or fatty food.
  4. Drink plenty of water instead of other drinks.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight.
  6. Stay fit. Do at least 30 minutes of physical activity that increases my heart rate on five or more days a week.
  7. Not smoke.
  8. Limit alcohol to one small drink a day. (That's because I'm a female. It's two small drinks a day if you're a bloke.)
  9. Have my blood pressure checked regularly.
  10. Do things to help me relax and reduce my stress levels.

I don't really drink and I certainly don't smoke but my hardest ones are 3 (I can’t resist eating crisps!)(I’m lazy!!!) and 10 (I get wound up too easily!)

Which ones are hard for you?

Monday 21 November 2011


I do love ducks. In fact, I think they’re becoming something of an obsession. 

These are my top three ‘Things About Ducks That I Love.’

1.  I love the way they appear to glide across the water with very little effort and yet you can see their feet pedalling manically beneath the surface.

2.  I love the way their quacks sound like hilarious laughter. Whenever I hear them I have to smile.

3.  I love their beautiful markings, especially the ones with the petrol green/blue heads.

My favourite cartoon duck is Donald Duck. My son can do an amazing impersonation of him. Quacks me up every time! [Sorry]

And I love writing about ducks too.

Several years ago I had a picture book shortlisted in The Little Tiger Press' Picture Book Competition. The story was called A Day on Duck Park. After the competition was over I submitted my story for publication with more than my usual amount of optimism. It went out to sixteen publishers and was rejected sixteen times. Apparently it’s not ‘strong enough to make it in the present competitive market’. *sigh*

I have now written two new duck picture book stories. The duck characters are lively. I think they’re funny. I’ve done all I can to make the storylines ‘strong enough to make in in the present competitive market’ and they’re about to be submitted. So, with webbed feet crossed, here's hoping they have more luck than my first duck story.

Wednesday 16 November 2011


We drove up to Manchester to see the family last weekend and, even though the doctors have said that Mr A is well enough to drive, I’m still doing half of all our journeys so I don’t lose my nerve again. [What a wuss I am!]

Mr A’s half of the journey took in a bleak stretch of the M6, so I grabbed my pencil and notebook and wrote this:
The trees beside the motorway
Cling to man-made banks,
Drop carbon-coated leaves
That crumple beneath wheels
Revealing fields
of apathetic animals,
Stubbled crops
And barns that at a glance
Could be our local B&Q warehouse.
On Sunday morning we walked on Manchester’s lovely Heaton Park and saw these amazing Beech trees... a world away from those weedy M6 trees.

Thursday 10 November 2011

The Sleeper Train to Venice versus EL AL airlines

From the inconceivable to the incomparable 
[I’m still blogging on about holidays - Sorry!]

The inconceivable is what I think about the Sleeper Train to Venice. I’m terrified of flying so when, in 2009, we planned a holiday in Venice we decided to take the Sleeper Train from Paris. I thought it would be romantic to travel across the Alps by night and arrive in Venice next morning. I was wrong!

Firstly it was pitch black and you could see none of that beautiful scenery. Secondly, this was no Sleeper Train. This was a Wide-Awake-Screech-Lurch-Clang Train with cabins that were hardly big enough to stand up in.
[Mr A has just asked me to point out that the only thing stopping him from sleeping was me moaning about not being able to sleep!]
The only compensation [and it was a massive compensation] was that this was our view of the Grand Canal as we had breakfast every morning on the hotel terrace.

On the other hand, the incomparable is my view of EL AL airlines. Like I said, I’m terrified of flying so when we planned a holiday in Israel we decided to fly by EL AL, the Israeli airline. It’s more expensive than a package flight but I suspected that it would be money well spent. I was right!

Boarding an El Al flight was like entering a crazy village. I forgot that we were about to be suspended high in the air with no safety net. I didn’t even notice that we were over an hour late taking off. This was gold standard people watching! When the staff tried to get us to prepare for take-off few of the passengers saw the need to sit down, or fasten their seat belts, or turn off their phones. The airline staff were very patient. They’d obviously done this before.

Once in the air there were cots to be assembled, babies to be fed and changed, prayers to be said by the men gathering at the back of the plane, not to mention the drinks, nibbles, trays of food and, at the end of each aisle, drinks machines and snacks.

I’d been told that some people never fly to Israel. They walk and now I understand. This was a large plane with two aisles. A number of the passengers spent the entire flight walking up one aisle and down the other... even when we were coming in to land. On the flight home, as we were about to touch down at Luton airport, a lady casually wandered to the toilet as if she were in a cafe. That’s what it was! It was more like sitting in a cafe than being on an aeroplane and it was the first time I’d stepped from a plane with a relaxed smile on my face. As I said, El Al are incomparable.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Are you a 4p Worker or a Papillon?

Plus some more photos of Israel!
I've made up the phrase 4p worker so please don’t rush for the dictionary. It stands for perseverance, persistence, pertinacity and patience. I do love alliteration. So a 4p worker is someone who has:

      Perseverance – plain old-fashioned hard work
      Persistence – sticking with that hard work
      Pertinacity – stubbornly sticking with said hard work and
      Patience – the ability to not be irritated by and so not be distracted from the hard work.

These are valuable skills, especially if you’re a writer, and I must mention all those people who have just launched themselves into this year’s NaNoWriMo (write a novel in a month) challenge. I admire you all. I couldn’t stick to the strict regime, but then I’m not a 4p worker. So good luck everyone [assuming you’ve got time to read this blog post!]

Last week I saw two amazing 4p workers. [Did I mention that we were in Israel last week? Oh, you read my last blog post? Sorry. I’m still on a high!]

4p Worker Number One

We were visiting an Italian Synagogue in Jerusalem. It was a beautiful, gold leaf-adorned Synagogue.

The Synagogue had a small museum for tourists and there we met an antique restorer. She worked constantly while we stood and gaped.

This is said to be one of the oldest Arks in the world. [The Ark is where the Torah Scrolls are kept in the Synagogue.] It had once been very beautiful and the restorer was working hard to recreate that beauty. What a job!

4p Worker Number Two

Masada is in the Negev desert and when we visited it was steaming hot. In the heat of the midday sun we were taken on a guided tour around the ancient ruins.

We ended up at what had once been a Synagogue. The tour guide pointed to a small structure in the corner of the ruins of the Synagogue and said, 
      “There’s a scribe in there, writing out Torah scrolls.” But it was getting on for 90o up there! Surely it must be a museum dummy-style mock-up, but no! There really was a man writing each letter of the Torah with perfect precision.

Now that’s what I call a 4p worker. I only hope he had air-conditioning!

If I was a 4p worker I wouldn’t have five half-finished manuscripts on my computer... or an ironing pile that keeps falling over. I guess I’m one of those people who are destined to flit from one thing to another, like a butterfly... or rather a papillon! [I do love alliteration.]

So, what are you, a 4p worker or a papillon?

Tuesday 1 November 2011


We’ve just spent a week in Jerusalem. I was dubious about going. I’m not a great traveller but there were several reasons why I forced encouraged myself to go.

1.  I’d never been to Israel before.
2.  Everyone kept telling me that I had to go at least once in my life.
3.  When my Dad was very ill [he died in 1977] he said how he wished he'd gone to Israel.

So I went. This was my first view of the Old City. It didn’t fill me with awe but with trepidation...
A view of the outer wall from Jaffa Gate.

...because this was how we got lost in the Old City.
Don't know where we were, but it was somewhere in the Old City!

 This was the start of our second day and the moment I fell in love with Jerusalem

View from our hotel window as the sun rose over Jerusalem.
I don’t know how it happened but the rest of the week flew by in an emotional whirlwind. We went to Masada and floated in the Dead Sea.

Cable car about to take us up Masada.

A view of the Dead Sea from the top of Masada.

We walked right down to the Western Wall.
Men's section of the Western Wall.

And I was sad when it was time to come home.
El Al Departure Lounge and, yes, that clock does say 4.40 am!
I have a feeling that we’ll be going back sometime soon to see a bit more of that amazing country but first I have to get my head out of the El Al clouds and back into doing some writing. This isn’t going to be easy.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Blogging Introspection

Thank you Nutshell, from The Writing Nut, for the 7 x 7 Link Award, especially as it’s provided me with a most useful morning. For this award I've got to post 7 links from my own blog and I must say that trawling through old posts has been fascinating. My blog style and outlook have changed without me noticing it. I'd recommend this activity to anybody who's been blogging for over a year.

[One thing I've discovered is that my blog's 2nd birthday is imminent. I didn't know that! I’ll have to throw a party... again!]

According to the 7 x 7 Award rules I have to find posts in the following 7 categories: [You can click on the category title to visit the post.]

This has to be the one where I travelled on 7 trains in one day [nice link to 7 x 7, huh!] to visit my brand new grandson. There’s a photo of me holding him and, I know I’m biased, but he really is beautiful.

OK, I’m being flippant, but the post does claim to be a warning about wishes. It’s my poem called My Little Nut Tree.  

This was the virtual Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning post which is no surprise as I worked hard to spread the word. This blogpost raised £215.50 for support for people with Cancer, a very worthwhile cause, and it was done in memory of my Mum.

This was my campaign to improve care for the frail elderly in hospital. It was initiated by the appalling care that my Mum received when she was so very ill and the realisation that many people are too frightened to complain. I’m proud to say that changes were made at the Leicester General Hospital in response to my campaign.

This has to be the one where I itemised my complaints about my Mum’s hospital stay.

According to my stats the post about a shivering mid-winter visit to the National Amyloidosis Centre is one of the most frequently visited on my blog which is good as the main reason for starting this blog was to try and link up with other people affected by Amyloidosis. Mr A is such a positive person that it’s easy to forget that there’s no cure, just courses of chemotherapy to keep control of the accumulation of sticky platelets in his blood.

I love this one. I was hoping it might become an official UK sport with as big a following as football but sadly the sack race is still only enjoyed in primary schools during the annual sports day.

So once again, thank you Nutshell for encouraging me to partake in this session of introspection. I’m passing this award on to anyone who would like to have as useful a morning as I’ve just had… and now I’m off to reorganise my labels. I can’t find a thing in this place!

Thursday 20 October 2011

My Strictly Secret

Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens.
I’m as happy as Len with a ten.
Cause for three months I’ll tango and jive in my dreams
With the Strictly Professional men.
I’ll dress up in sequins, a basque made of lace,
High heels and a teeny tight skirt,
Doing chasses and flicks with a smile on my face
Cause not one single muscle will hurt.
Now, I know that a dream should remain strictly that
But this dream is a much longed-for goal.
It's to dance a routine with a cane and a hat
In the arms of that cute Brendan Cole.

EXPLANATIONS [for those who need them!]: Strictly Come Dancing in the UK is similar to Dancing with the Stars in the US. It runs for about three months and I blogged about it last year here

Brendan Cole with
Lisa Snowdon in 2008
Len is one of the judges and he doesn’t often award the top mark of a ten. Brendan Cole, one of the Professionals, is pictured left...  enough said!

Celebrities are paired with professional dancers and have to perform a dance each week. It’s tough, not least because they have to wear gloriously skimpy, glitzy outfits [and that’s just the men!]The public votes for their favourite couple and each week the least popular is voted off.

The main show is on a Saturday evening. The results show is on Sunday and every week day there’s a half hour show giving an update on training and interviewing the couples. So you see I’m quite contented for the next three months. My TV viewing is sorted.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Across Borders

A few posts ago I mentioned that I’d won a copy of Can’t Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill and that it hadn’t arrived yet. Well, thank you so much to Susanna because... it just arrived!! and what's more it’s travelled 3344.841 miles. Can you believe it? It’s crossed New York State, the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland and England. What a big journey for a little book [Actually, it’s quite a big book with great pictures that include huge animals… but I was using poetic licence!] 

I’ve been following Susanna’s blog for some time now and although we live 3344.841 miles away from each other, there are many similarities between us. She’s an ex-teacher who loves animals [just like me]. She’s not so keen on housework [definitely like me!] She writes children’s picture books [just like me again!] and I now have one of them. The book is hilarious. It’s one of those stories that you look at and say, “Why didn’t I think of that!” Well done, Susanna.

There may be similarities amongst us bloggers but there are differences too. This week’s posts hit a bit of a language problem and thanks to a number of my blog friends I now know that:
  • In the US a cooker is called an oven 
  • US bakers do not use castor sugar [which is finely milled sugar and has nothing to do with castor oil].
  • J. L. Campbell explained that in Jamaica electricity is so expensive that they prefer to cook on gas.
  • And during a Twitter chat with Misha I discovered that ‘holding thumbs’ in South Africa is the same as ‘crossing fingers’ in the UK.

I love it when there are similarities and I’m fascinated by the differences but more importantly, I love the way that we can all blog and chat and get on with each other across all the borders of the world. In fact, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could nurture world understanding and peace just by blogging together? Maybe I should suggest it to the United Nations.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

My New Cooker-thingummy and a recipe for Orange Biscuits

I mentioned my new cooker in my last post and was taken aback to discover that in the US it’s not called a cooker. I don’t know what it is called. I’m hoping that one of my blogger buddies will tell me. To clear up any misunderstanding, this is it and you can even see my delicious Orange Biscuits cooking in the oven.

It’s a Belling electric cooker with induction hobs and I love it. The only down side was that we had to have new saucepans. The induction works by magnet and so the saucepans have to be able to stick to a magnet (there is a technical term but...) It was worth the extra investment. The heat is almost instant... Hang on, I’m starting to sound like an advert so I’ll move swiftly on to the biscuits (cookies!).

These biscuits are so easy to make. All you need is:

5 oz self raising flour
2 oz castor sugar
4 oz butter
Grated zest of one orange

Put all the mixture into a bowl and rub together. 

Mix until it forms a dough and then roll small pieces into balls and place them on an ungreased baking tin.

Press down with a fork and bake at 180C/Gas 4 for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with caster sugar, let them cool and eat them... if you can wait that long. The smell of orange oil is mouth watering!

I can’t promise they’ll do much for your diet or your cholesterol but they never hang around for very long in our house.

That’s it. I’m off to put the kettle on so I can have a cup of tea and an Orange Biscuit... but I’m still curious to know what people in the US cook their dinners on.

Monday 10 October 2011

Winning Books

I’ve won four books this week! 

Two books arrived in the post the other day from John Dougherty. I’d entered a book title competition on the AwfullyBig Blog Adventure site during their Litfest 2011 and have won a signed copy of ‘Zeus on the Loose!’ and ‘Bansi O’Hara and the Bloodline Prophecy’. They both look like wacky reads and have joined my tbr pile.

Susanna Leonard Hill had a competition on her blog recently and I've won a signed copy of one of her picture books, ‘Can’t Sleep Without Sheep’. It sounds like fun but I haven’t received it yet as it’s having to travel all the way from the US.

And this morning the postman delivered a signed copy of RebeccaEmin’s book, ‘New Beginnings’. I entered a caption competition on her blog and this is my prize. It sounds fascinating. 

Here's the sales blurb:  Sam Hendry is not looking forward to starting at her new school. Things go from bad to worse as the day of truth arrives and all of her fears come true... and then some. When Sam meets a different group of people who immediately accept her as a friend, she begins to feel more positive. With her new friends and interests, will Sam finally feel able to face the bully who taunts her, and to summon up the courage to perform on stage?
So when I’ve finished here I’m going to settle down with a mug of tea and a piece of homemade fruit bread and start Rebecca’s books.
[Yes, you did read that correctly... homemade fruit bread. We have a new cooker and it’s amazing. I now know why I haven't been able to bake recently. This new cooker can be set to different temperatures unlike the old one which I now realise was cooking everything on a temperature akin to furnace level.]
Before I settle down with Rebecca’s book I’d just like to thank everyone again for their support during our virtual Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. We raised £215.50 for the charity. If you missed it you can still visit the blog post and the JustGiving page that we set up in memory of our Mum.

That only leaves the fancy dress and coffee morning joke awards to dish out.

The fancy dress award goes to *roll of drums* 
JO for her amazingly outlandish fairy costume.

And the coffee morning joke award goes to *another roll of drums* 
Doctor doctor, my right eye hurts whenever I drink coffee.
Well take the spoon out then! 
 Well we did ask for coffee jokes and that’s what Sarah gave us!

Thursday 6 October 2011

Are words more powerful than photographs?

I think so. Photos show the superficial. You don’t get to see the thoughts, the before and the after. On the other hand they can be pieces of art, carefully framed, pleasing to the eye... except when I’m behind the camera. I’m very much a novice. If one of my photos is pleasingly framed, it’ll be a complete accident but I’m working on my skills. I’ve just signed up to the 365 Project which means that I’m posting a photo a day on this website.

I suppose the idea behind it is to produce a diary in picture form. If this was a written diary I would have no problems. I could record and relive any number of experiences in just a few short sentences but as you’re only allowed one photo each day I’m finding it difficult... and I’ve gone and set off in my usual unplanned panster style. The first two photos were of the cats [naturally]. The second two were flowers in the garden and now I’m wondering, should I decide on a theme or should I just snap and post?

This was yesterday’s contribution. It’s a close-up of a dead clematis head but it looked so pretty sitting amongst the yellowing leaves that I thought I’d capture it. [Between you and me I’m a bit pleased and a lot surprised at how it came out.]

Today’s contribution could be a lunch table filled with food... provided I remember to get my camera out. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve arrived home from a visually spectacular outing and realised that, although my camera was in my bag, I’ve not used it once! Today is my book group/ladies who lunch time again. We each take a dish to contribute to the meal and it always works deliciously. All I’ve got to do is to remember to take a photo before we’ve eaten it all.

What theme would you choose for a 365 Project or would you be a panster? 

Monday 3 October 2011

We Raised Money

Having a virtual coffee morning was always going to be a bit of an experiment. It’s one thing throwing a virtual party for a bit of fun. It’s quite another inviting people to a virtual fund raising event... but it worked! 
Some party statistics:
  • 172 visitors shared virtual coffee and cake with us over the last three days.
  • There were 20 fancy dress outfits and 5 jokes. [awards announced later this week.]
  • More importantly, we’ve raised £177.50 so far for the Macmillan Cancer Support charity (and there are a few more donations still to come in!)
The JustGiving website has been a great help, ensuring that all your donations went straight to the Macmillan Cancer Support team. If you haven’t visited the memorial page that we set up then please feel free to do so. There’s no obligation to donate and we’ve talked a bit about Mum and about the way we lost Dad to cancer too. The page, which you can find here, will stay live for the next few weeks.

There has been an additional bonus for me over this weekend. As I explained a few posts ago, my sister, Hilary Rifka, and I have lived 200 miles away from each other for over 15 years now. We’re always talking on the phone but we don’t often see each other and we weren’t sure quite how running a joint virtual party would work... but it did! 

We’ve giggled our way through her three fancy dress outfits, my deteriorating parrot costume and we even ended the party in the way we always used to end parties when we were kids... 

We sang “Sisters, Sisters”. 

Members of the family reading this now will be grimacing and nodding their heads and saying, 
     “This is true. They did. And they still can’t sing it in tune!” But do we care? No! We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend so thank you to everyone who came along and turned it into a real virtual party!

Hilary Rifka has asked me to include this message from her:
It’s been a fantastic party.  I've loved meeting everyone, the jokes, the fancy dress, the endless coffee making and the feather clearing.  But on a serious note this was all for a really good cause and something very close to our hearts. Our way of giving something back to the Macmillian Nurses who do such a wonderful job. A big thank you for sharing this with us - and honestly Ros has been the brains behind it all - I'm just the clown playing for laughs and clearing up the mess!!!!!! So Ros (my lovely little sister), credit where its due -  Well Done sis..... *big hugs*.
And *big hugs* back... in fact let’s all pat ourselves on the back and have a group hug. [or is that a physical impossibility... hmmm!]

Friday 30 September 2011

Macmillan's World's Biggest Coffee Morning

Welcome! It's lovely to see you

This party will continue until Sunday evening 
so everyone gets a chance to come along
Would you like tea? Coffee? Something cold? My sister, Hilary, is in charge of the drinks. Her speciality is coffee, freshly ground. [She’s the classy one of the family. I prefer instant! I’m such a pleb.] Perhaps you’d rather have a glass of wine? She can rustle up absolutely anything! No trouble!

As for me, I’ve been busy in the kitchen 
*fingers crossed behind back* 
I've been making ice cream and snacks so do help yourself.

[Just think how much easier life would be if it was all virtual. We could have anything we wanted by just thinking about it... or would the novelty wear off?]

Ah! You noticed that I’m wearing FANCY DRESS! I bet you thought I was a real parrot for a minute there. Difficult to do? Not at all! I stitched each feather on by hand. Every feather is a different colour and my wings are tied on with wire. Good, isn't it! "Squawk!"

Do tell me what you’ve come as.  I can't wait to hear about it. *jumps up and down with excitement* There’ll be a Coffee Morning Fancy Dress Award for the most ingenious/amusing fancy dress outfit.

Which reminds me... COFFEE MORNING JOKES! 
There’s a Coffee Morning Jokes Award too. [Clean jokes only please. Remember that I’m a Grandma!] Extra points will be awarded for coffee morning topics and they don't have to be hilariously funny. I’ll start us off to show you what I mean... *clears throat*
Knock, Knock... Come on!!... someone answer me!!!!...
      “Who’s there?”
Thank you! That’s more like it! Honey bee. 
     “Honey bee who?
Honey bee a dear and get me a nice cup of tea. 

And now for the serious bit. This coffee morning has been registered with the Macmillan Cancer Support team and they have given us the ok to run our coffee morning virtually. 

As regular visitors to this blog will know, our mother, Frances Denning, died of cancer in April of this year. The Macmillan nurses were there for her during those last few weeks and this is our way of thanking them. 

We've set up a memorial page through JustGiving so that donations will go straight to the Macmillan Cancer Support team. Please visit the page at 

Thank you for coming along and we hope you've enjoyed our 
Macmillan World's Biggest Coffee Morning
The fun will continue until Sunday evening.
 Do pop back after you've visited the Frances Denning memorial page
There'll still be plenty of tea in that pot.