Monday 28 December 2009

A Gift from Pop on Blog Takeover Day

My friends call me Frank, but to my family I am known as Pop. If you’ve ever read one of my granddaughter’s stories and it has featured a very tall, slim, dignified gentleman with high cheekbones and blue eyes, chances are you’re reading about me.

I was born in 1895 and I had three sisters and five brothers. My father was killed in Rotterdam in 1908 when he fell into the dry dock. Some say he was drunk. Some were probably right.

Until then he worked for the GER on the Amsterdam as a fireman. But enough about him, this is about me and I’m much more interesting. If I could I would add a twinkle and a wink to that sentence, but I’ve been dead for nearly thirty years and I haven’t yet got to grips with this new technology.

The year my father died my mother emigrated to Canada taking me with her. Just me. We left from Liverpool and lived for a while in Canada before moving down to North Dakota and finally settling back in Manitoba. My mother worked as an exhibition cook. She was tricked into marrying a man who used to beat me and probably her too.

But this isn’t about her or him, it’s about me. Twinkle, wink.

Eventually my younger brother joined us. He made the trip to Canada alone. He was 11.

We weren’t the only immigrants living in Sifton, Manitoba. There were a lot of Ukrainians there too which brings me to my New Year gift to you. A simple recipe, but more of that later.

My younger brother and I joined the Canadian Army and returned to Europe. When it was all over we went home to Canada. Our step father died soon after our return and we brought our mother back to England the same year.

I ended up working as a chief cook on the boats – steamships they were then, where we often had stars like Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester on the passenger list.

I had permission to wear a specially made chef’s hat. Instead of the tall one which was the issue, I had to have a shorter one made as the tall ones used to get knocked off my head by the galley ceiling and no one wanted my hat in their soup.

And I was one of the first people to be given Penicillin. It saved my life and then many years later, damn near killed me when I became allergic to it.

I never used a recipe in my life, but I have tried to recreate a family favourite here for you that I made every Christmas (as well as the mince pies and sausage rolls) until my daughter took over.

This was of course in the days before mum could go to Iceland and party food came in boxes. We’d have roast chicken with my own version of sausage meat stuffing for lunch on Christmas and Boxing Day and at tea time we’d have cold chicken, cold stuffing, sausage rolls and Russian Salad.

I know that most people refer to a potato salad as Russian Salad, but I never have. Potatoes belong in potato salads. No room for spuds in my Russian Salad I’m afraid.

There is nothing like cold meat turned pink with beetroot juice and the clean crisp flavour of celery as a delicious antidote to all the traditional heavy Christmas food.

So here it is. My Russian salad. Still made by my granddaughter to this day – but she doesn’t eat meat so she has her quiche turned pink, which isn’t the same at all to my mind.

First you need a bunch of celery. Dirty if you can get it. But wash it of course. You don’t want to eat the dirt. Chop it into small pieces and put in a bowl.

Beetroot, freshly cooked if you can bear to spend the time (and leave some stem on to stop it leaking that wonderful red juice all over your saucepan). Use a jar if you must. Chop it into small pieces and mix it with the celery.

Add a chopped onion. Small, big, medium – whatever your taste. Pour on some vinegar – again to taste. And that’s it!

Quantities? As much or as little as you like. It’ll keep in the fridge for a good few days.

It’s perfect with cold meat. Ay? Oh the owner of this blog says it’s perfect with quiche too. Tuh!

Lessons and Takeover Day

It doesn’t matter how many times you look at the Weather Channel or Metcheck or the Met Office website or even the BBC weather – you cannot make the snow and ice melt. Also it should be noted when they all give different forecasts, it is not an option to choose the one you want.

If the M25 is blocked and the tailbacks extend for forty miles, checking the status of it on Keep Moving or the Highways Agency website or even the BBC travel site every two minutes will not make all the traffic magically disappear.

Endlessly checking your emails will not bring an acceptance into your inbox however much you want it to.

Looking at your bank balance three times a day on the internet will not make it get bigger.

Looking at your bum in the mirror three times a day will not make it get smaller.

Standing with the freezer lid up and staring at the contents until your eyeballs freeze will not make a loaf of bread magically appear.

Playing endless games of Bubble Spinner on Facebook will not lead to enlightenment.

Keeping the empty tub of Hotel Chocolat Kirsch Cherries to sniff will not remind you not to make such a pig of yourself, it will simply make you want to eat more.

Watch out for another Blog Takeover Day on January 1st 2010. More info on Sally's blog here.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Happy Christmas One and All

This year I took my first tentative step into Blogland, worried that I’d be making a complete idiot of myself and wondering what on earth I’d find to blog about, but now I feel as if I’ve been here forever.

Hey, whoever threw that rotten tomato and yelled out “Feels like it to me too,” can go and sit on the thinking chair (that’s what they call the naughty chair at school).

I’ve got to know so many nice (no apologies for using that word) people in Blogland and I have to say it’s been lovely.

I’d been lurking around for a while too scared to dip my toe in and comment on so many wonderful blogs – you know that saying, how does it go? “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” That’s me that is!

Why did I worry? No one yet has said “Bugger off and don’t sully my blog with your vacuous comments again,” or “Call yourself a writer? Not one word of that made sense.”

Anyway, to get to the point I wish you all a very happy Christmas and if anyone out there is lurking wondering whether to dip in a toe and make a comment or ask a question or just say hello, please do, you’ll be more than welcome.

Have fun my dearios xxx

Friday 18 December 2009

Tis the Season . . .

Love them or loathe them it is the season for the Round Robin. I gave up reading them years ago and they head straight for the shredder unread. I have neither the time nor the will to read them.

Personally I would rather read a couple of personal lines scribbled on a Christmas card.

My daughter has written one this year. I've changed the names to protect the innocent, but have decided to reproduce it here.

So with thanks to Lisa Johnson . . .

January - a new niece was born, and Boris turned 4 years of age! We were entering month 4 of an endless bout of sickness which lasted another 2 months! We got through it by singing songs and hitting each other with holly leaves.

February - Valentines Day arrived along with a diamond ring from Dad for Mum, it was so perfect and un-flawed that we have had to put it in a vault and visit it at weekends. We all celebrated by singing and hitting ourselves with holly leaves.

March - Boris completed his A-level Maths. Next year he is going for French and History of Art! We rewarded him by allowing him to sing to us and hit us with holly leaves.

April - Spring sprung and we went to Disneyland Florida with our annual passes on our private jet, we stayed in the queen’s villa, which has a hot tub, and is actually situated in the middle of Disneyland. Mickey Mouse invited us for dinner and served us with white chocolate cakes and mint toothpaste on crackers. We were a bit surprised that he was drunk and we had to leave quickly. We hid ourselves under some holly leaves and sang to ourselves quietly to comfort ourselves.

May - Eugenie starred in her own play, she wrote the script and all the music and was mentioned in most of the major London newspapers - she met God and Jesus and they signed her t-shirt. We gave them some holly leaves and sang to them.

June - We were so wrapped up in ourselves we barely noticed that summer was upon us! We spent a lot of time outside singing loudly much to the delight of all who live near us. We cooked nasty food on the bbq, and Eugenie turned 2. We sang to her and hit her with holly leaves.

July & August we took a tour of Mars and stopped off at the moon on the way home, we got a real feel for 'life in space' and wonder how we ever got on before we went there. There were no holly leaves to hit ourselves with and our singing got lost as there was no atmosphere.

September - Boris started at university, he adores it! He spends most of his time reciting the dictionary (his favourite book!) and he recently drew plans up for a new luxury home for us! He has made so many little friends and he hits them with holly leaves and teaches them to sing.

October - Dad was released from his duty at the local charity 'cash for the under-privileged' he has spent 65 hours a week for the last 20 years doing good works and looking down on the needy and stupid. So he has now joined a barbershop quartet and sings with them while wearing holly leaves as a buttonhole.

November - Boris has excelled at his music lessons, and has passed grade 57 recorder with angel wings, but only managed a distinction for piano at grade 33.

December - we are getting ready for our Christmas celebrations, we shall be singing locally, dancing through the streets, visiting the needy and baking them some delicious pies and things because the needy love pastry. Mum will be cooking her famous 7 meat Christmas dinner and Dad will be descending on earth from above on a golden cloud. Rainbows usually fly from our arseholes at this time of year because we are so bloody wonderful - so if you see a rainbow at this time of year, chances are you will find an arsehole at the end of it!

Merry Christmas - our lives are better than yours!!

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Pony Rescues - Urgent

Have just had an email concerning the urgent rehoming of ponies. I'll copy it below just in case anyone out there can help.


VERY URGENT- 30 UK Ponies in danger of slaughter- needing rescue placements or homes asap

DEADLINE- before 19th December- otherwise they will be slaughtered for meat!!!!

SWAP team UK have received an emergency appeal tonight for 30 lovely Ponies in danger of slaughter in the UK. We are asking all our supporters for help with this very special appeal, please see below.

Shy Lowen Horse and Pony sanctuary in Merseyside (UK) have a short window of opportunity to get these ponies into homes or into sanctuarys before they are slaughtered, they have until the 19th December to do this.

The ponies are unhandled. Please help all you can to save these precious lives by reading the appeal below, including full contact details and their website, you can also make a donation on the link below, their charity number is-1122891.

Homechecks will be done on those kind individuals offering a forever or temporary home. All rescues please help with this appeal. Bernadette at the sanctuary can be contacted at telephone - 07960 230548

Any rescue centres that kindly offer help please meet the following criteria

On 5th December over 100 Welsh Mountain ponies ranging from this years foals to 2 year olds were auctioned at Conway, N Wales. 67 of the ponies were not sold and originally an agreement was made by the breeder to sell them at £3 each to the meatman. They were to be collected on Monday 7th December. The Meatman didn't turn up and we have a short window of opportunity to get these ponies into homes or into sanctuarys. There are currently 30 who have not got anywhere to go and the farmer has extended the time we have to place them to 19th December.

The ponies are subject to a deposition order and have to be microchipped for passporting at a cost of £15.00 each before we can move them.
What we need is homes or placements (even if this is temporary) for the ponies, help with transport and funds to cover the microchipping, gelding and passporting.

If you can help please call 07960 230548 Bernadette Langfield at Shy Lowen Horse and Pony Sanctuary

If you'd like to make an online donation towards this rescue please do so on this link

Saturday 12 December 2009

Roving Eyes

You know how it is. You get a title in mind and feel you have to write something for it.

That’s how it is with the roving eyes.

I was told by an English teacher at school never to use the word nice as it is a lazy word and I should look for a suitable alternative. I believe she was the same one who told me never to write “All of a sudden” but to use “Suddenly.”

These days if I want to use the word nice, I have to grit my teeth and force myself, but there are times when nice fits. For years I carefully edited Nice from my work and as for All of a sudden, it didn’t get a look in.

Oh and I was told “and then” no no no!

But I noticed other people using these words and phrases and gradually I allowed them to creep in to my writing.

I happen to like the word nice. So there Miss!

Which brings me to roving eyes.

The book I have just finished reading was full of eyes flying around like tennis balls. They were landing on cartons, flying to the door, falling on carpets, dropping on letters; those eyes were all over the place.

It was written by a popular and well respected writer and it was a damn good story, but those eyes plopping round all over the show bothered me. It’s something I never even noticed until Stephen King pointed it out and now I try very hard not to have any of those roving eyes wandering round in my work.

So the point of this blog? Well I think what I’m trying to say is do your own thing, get your own style and write what feels right.

There was no Christmas play for Lachlan. He came home from school on Tuesday looking dreadful and he’s not been at all well. Now his little sister is ill too.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Money Well Spent

In the post yesterday I had a reminder from Writers' Forum that my subscription has now ended. Will I be renewing it? Is it cold at the South Pole?

I was going to say the latest issue is a particularly good one, but then I could say that about every issue. There’s an interview with Cally Taylor by Helen Hunt and we see Glynis Scrivens in her (gorgeous) writing place.

I was going to go through the magazine piece by piece, but it’s all so good. Olivia Ryan’s article about using a pseudonym, Sally’s competition pages, a new Book Deal or Bust, Lynda Lewis’s terrific column. And I haven’t even read everything in it yet.

And Della has a new Toolshed, this time one for people trying to make the transition from short stories to novels. This is particularly relevant to me because it’s something I find very difficult. Fifteen, maybe even ten years ago, I could rattle off hundreds of short stories and at least two novels a year.

Not that the novels were ever publishable. I was too keen to get onto the next project and wasn’t interested in polishing and refining my work. All I wanted was to get it all out of my system and onto the page so that I could move on.

Anyway back to the here and now, I do exactly what Della says in her Toolshed. I get to a certain point, usually about 30,000 words and I run out of steam. I think I may have said before that my problem is that I can’t shut the inner editor out and get on with it. So I would renew my subscription just to read Della’s new series, that’s without all the other great stuff in there.

So that’s one lot of money that will be well spent.

My other buy last week was a couple of coats for Indy and Tilly. I’ve often considered buying them coats and with all the rain we’ve had lately my mind has been made up.

Tilly couldn’t care less about getting wet if she’s going for a walk. Ask her to nip out in the garden in the rain for a wee and it’s another matter. But Indy looks the picture of misery. His shoulders hunch, his nose droops and he plods along as if he’s on his way to the gallows.

It goes back to him almost dying as a pup when he used to be icy cold all the time. He can’t stand being cold. So raincoats have been bought.

I spent hours trawling the internet for something suitable. They agreed they wouldn’t suit tartan and they pulled faces when I suggested anything high-vis and shook their heads when I found one with a hood.

Then I found these. They fit perfectly, were inexpensive and they’re lightly padded, but should keep the wind out and the worst of the rain – and they have chest guards and neat little turn up collars too.

They have high vis strips and are washable. They tried them on and when I showed these pictures to my friend, she suggested the captions that I have used here. Actually those captions could have been applied to me when the post arrived and I saw the big brown envelopes on the mat.

Six rejections. Hey ho. But like Indy & Tilly in the last photo - I'm smiling inside, really I am.

It’s raining and cold so the new coats will get their first outing today.




Friday 4 December 2009

I'm Still Here!

And why wouldn’t I be I hear you ask? Where else would I be if not here?

Well, lost in the shadowy darkness actually.

Nothing to do with writing really, but something interesting has been happening to me. I’ve been getting messages . . . from the other side. Cue Twilight Zone music.

I belong to various survey and points gathering things on the web and I was offered 200 points if I’d register with a visionary medium. So I registered. Where’s the harm? I thought. What do I have to lose? What the hey?

So let’s begin by saying I brought this upon myself. But perhaps there are people out there, desperately worried and unhappy people (rather than greedy for points people like myself) who will respond to an invitation for a free reading out of desperation.

The emails began to arrive. Guess what – this woman is my best friend. She has dreams about me. She works All Night Long on my charts.

At first the emails promised me wealth and riches and £70 – all I had to do was pay her some money. Then she offered me £80 . . . then £90.

I decided to unsubscribe myself. Blow the points. I could do without them anyway.

Still the emails kept coming.

And when offering me wealth and riches didn’t work she wrote to tell me that I was under psychic attack. Surely I must have noticed my luck had been going from bad to worse lately? Well yes, but isn’t that happening to everyone at the moment what with the recession and all?

Still I wouldn’t pay her to save me. So offering me money had failed, scaring me had failed what next? Three lucky dates – I would get large amounts of money paid into my bank on three dates, but only if I knew the secrets . . . which of course this woman who cares so much about me would tell me . . . when I paid her.

Three or four emails came with the dates and still I wouldn’t pay.

On Tuesday morning I got the most disturbing one so far. Something Very Dangerous was going to happen to me in three days. I’ve got the evil eye upon me. I’m being victimised and what’s more, this evil eye business could cancel out the good fortune that she’d promised me earlier. Eeek!

In her dreams I was calling out for help and she reached out and tried to save me, but I slipped from her grasp. Well at least she tried. What a wonderful woman.

She’s going to perform a magic ritual for me because if she doesn’t I may lose out on the chance of winning one of the biggest jackpots ever. And all I have to do is pay her £19, yes you heard it folks, £19 instead of the usual £139. Bargain!

The amount has been dropping steadily. But as she cares so much about me will she eventually offer her services for free?

The thing is I am naturally paranoid. I do feel victimised. And yes my dears there are times when I feel that the evil eye is upon me, but don’t we all feel like that sometimes?

Okay I can laugh about it. I know about evil eyes and how they work and if you are in to such things then you know that it brings more harm on the sender than the receiver.

I have no doubt that there are people out there who will be getting these worrying emails and reaching for their credit cards and I think that’s sad. I would suggest that if you are worried by something like this and tempted to pay the fee to be saved – don’t.

If you’ve the money to spare, give it to charity instead, give it to the homeless guy sitting on the corner, buy some food for the cat’s home – at least then your money will do some good and who knows, your gesture may bring you good karma.

I looked up this so called medium on Google and the first link was to a complaints site. And what do you know? Someone had posted up an email from her which was identical to one of those she sent me and what’s more . . . several people said they’d had the same one and worryingly, a lot of people have been frightened into paying up.

I think it’s despicable.