Thursday 29 November 2012

Dear Delia...

...I believe I've written to you before on this blog.

I like you. I really do. You are bright and attractive and seem a nice person. But I cannot make your recipes work.

Take poached eggs. I like poached eggs, but mine always emerge from cloudy water resembling tattered ghosts, trailing clouds of, well, egg. So I looked up your method. One minute simmering, you said, and then ten minutes off the heat. Set the timer, you said. I did. And what did I get at the end of all this? More tattered ghosts.

I'm disappointed, Delia. Really I am.

I'm now going to see what Jamie and Nigella have to say. I'm determined to crack this (ha) , one way or another.

BTW if anyone reading this has a foolproof recipe for  poached eggs, I'd love  to know about it

Wednesday 28 November 2012

A new way of giving to charity

Follow these simple steps;
1. Decide winter boots are uncomfortable.
2. Take them to Oxfam shop.
3. Interlude to enjoy warm fuzzy feeling that follows having done a (slightly) good deed.
4. Remember that the boots were quite useful for brief social occasions.
5. Return to Oxfam shop. Buy back the boots.

Simple, eh? ( as that meerkat  would say, only I can't write the squeaky sound)

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Pre-1970s - the best inventions?

My eldest son has a theory that everything we really need was invented by the 1970s*,  and thinking about it, I believe he has a point. Computers and mobiles (for example) are great, but do we actually need  them? We never used to be in touch with everyone all the time. And time was when we were happy to write letters, use typewriters, look things up in reference books etc. We only think we need all these things because we've got them; we were fine before they came along.

For myself, I think all the best inventions happened before 1970; the car, the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner among them (the washing machine would get my vote as the best. After all, horses are more fun than cars, and the old carpet sweepers did the job adequately. Hand washing, on the other hand, is the pits). What do you think?

*The son himself was invented in 1972. I know. I was there.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Magpie 145


"Sofa, so good," the landlord said.
"And it could double as a bed."
The tenants looked at one another.
"We think we'll move back in with mother."

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture)

Friday 23 November 2012

Really irritating expressions

There are lots of these, of course, but these are some of my favourites (quite the wrong word, but no matter):

There's nothing worse . Example: "there's nothing worse than running out of milk on Christmas day". Of COURSE there are worse things. Being boiled in oil is worse. Losing a partner is worse. Being hung, drawn and...well, you get the picture.

If you like. Someone will choose an expression, and then attribute his/her choice to the listener. Example: "it's, if you like, similar to a new way of boiling carrots". But what if I don't like? What if I can see no connection at all with the boiling of carrots? It's your expression. You use it if you want to. Leave me out of it.

At all (when used in an odd position in a sentence). The best example of this comes in one of the Pooh Books (where it's not irritating at all, of course):
Pooh (to Kanga): Are you interested in poetry at all?
Kanga: Hardly at all.
I tried this out in a building society once when asked if I wanted to open an account. It was met with stony silence.

No problem (in pubs, restaurants, shops - you name it). This needs no comment from me!

Can anyone think of any more?

Thursday 22 November 2012

Letters from Death Row

In the governorship of Rick Perry, Texas has executed more than 250 prisoners, many of them  with very low IQs (this contravenes US law). As I think I've said before, Perry is on record (and I've  heard him) as saying that he wouldn't lose sleep if any of these prisoners were later found to have been inoocent. Just as well, as many of the verdicts were dubious.
I have no idea when it will be J's turn (my pen friend). But I dread it. I recently sent him a subscription to a magazine he likes. Should I give him a year's subscriptoin or six months? Difficult, when you don't know how long the recipient has to live.

J writes amazing letters. We have been discussing religion, and he says: I have no idea what love or faith are supposed to feel like. Does that lessen me? Since I've never been loved, how would I know what it is?...I have never been loved. I don't feel loss becuse of it. I used to try to, but if you've never had chocolate ice cream, how would you feel loss if you never had it?

I could go on, but enough for now.

Now for the commercial (again)! There are over 200 prisoners on America's many death rows who are on the waiting list for pen friends. If you are interested, do please contact Lifelines to find out more. You won't regret it.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Writing and the recession

Several years ago, a producer approached my publisher because she wanted to make my novel, Dead Ernest, into a screenplay. Having bought the rights, she worked her socks off to get the play made. She had a writer who was keen to do the script, and a Name (and I wish I could say who she is!) who really wanted to play the part of Annie (the central character). I gave up hope ages ago - one thing writing teaches us all is to be prepared for disappointment. Always! - and of course the play never came off, simply through lack of funds.

I had an email from her today (we have become good friends) saying that she, the writer and the actress are still keen, but the recession has prevented them from going ahead. There simply aren't the funds.

This is soooooo frustrating! I never got my hopes up, but if only I'd been writing just a few years earlier! But I know many of us have been hard hit by the recession (not to mention the celebrity "culture"), so self-pity really isn't on.

Oh well. Back to the keyboard. I  just might come up with an irresistible masterpiece this time (or fifty shades of failure...)

Monday 19 November 2012

Magpie 144


When Cedric went fishing in Gallway
He left both his coats in the hallway.
His binoculars, too,
(Since there was wasn't a view).
Now he's drowned. And he's missed. (In a small way.)

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture)

Saturday 17 November 2012

A non-PC picture for the week-end

I have a disabled sister with a great sense of humour who regularly falls out of her wheechair. Because she  sent this to  me (and she found it hilarious), I'm allowed to laugh at it too (and I'm afraid I did. A lot. Because it is totally her). She says that from now on, this will "be her logo".

Having said that, I do wish she'd be a bit more careful and look where she's going. She worries us all to death.

(I did think twice about posting this in case it caused offence, but I hope it will be viewed in the spirit of the person who sent it to me.)

Thursday 15 November 2012

Why I haven't voted today

I know I ought to vote; at the very least it buys me the right to grumble. But I have NO idea what today's election is about, who's standing and, above all, why it's been politicised. We've had one very political leaflet, and that's all. So instead, I've been out and (I think) found myself a lovely new horse!

Monday 12 November 2012

Where do you stand on smacking?

My last post got me thinking about the whole punishment thing, especially now I see my own children trying to bring up theirs.

First, I'll come clean. I did smack mine, when I felt they deserved it. I don't necessarily think this is ideal, but it worked. When mother and child have reached a certain stage, sometimes a smack breaks the tension, tells the child exactly where they stand, and the whole thing is over. I'm not talking beating about the head, or adminstering the belt. Just a smack on the bottom. I would never, ever smack anyone else'se child, because I think that a smack is the other side of the warm, affectionate physical relationship a parent has with his/her children. After all, some animals (the cat family, for example) smack their offsping!

Those who are  anti-smacking say that violence breeds violence, but I simply don't agree. My children are four of the nicest, kindest, least violent people I know. They are my best friends, and I hope I am theirs. But they were smacked. Not often, but occasionally. I did try the "no sweets" thing (sweets day was Friday), but by the time Friday came, everyone had forgotten what the punishment was for. As for the naughty step, that hadn't been invented, and my youngest would never have stayed there. I didn't have the time that Supernanny (well-rested after a good night's sleep) has for putting a child in his "time out" place 22 times until he stays there, or  making colourful graphs and charts. I had a job, and besides the children,  a busy husband and an elderly father to look after.

I admire people who manage to discpline thier kids without smacking. That's great. But I think smacking, carried out in extremis, is OK, and I don't regret doing it. What do you think?

Thursday 8 November 2012

On feeling foolish outside Tesco

So there I was, outside Tesco, and there was a large toddler lying on the pavement, refusing to get up. The parents had done the "no sweets" thing, and had progressed to "no Christmas presents". The big guns were out.

So I - Mrs.. Busybody, experienced (ha!) motherer of four, grandmother of seven bla blah - step forward with a helpful smile.

Me (to child): Can't you stand up? Oh dear! How sad! I can't believe you don't know how to stand up. A big boy like you!

The toddler lay comfortably on the pavement, a knowing look in his eyes. The parents looked on unsmilingly.

Me (getting desperate): I  bet you can't stand on one leg. Look! Like this! Can you do this? I bet you can't!

The toddler regarded me pityingly, and remained firmly where he was. The parents looked on. Passers-by saw a child lying on the pavement, parents standing by, and a woman of a certain age trying valiantly to  balance on one leg.

 How to get out of this with even a shred of dignity?

I didn't. As for the child, for all I know, he's still lying outside Tesco.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

I'm a celebrity. Not.

So Nadine Dorries MP is leaving her parliamentary duties to eat kangaroo testicles and other delicacies in the jungle with Ant and Dec and a few other people nobody's heard of. Is there any other job where one can just take off for a month, and still expect to be paid?

This dire programme (I did see one snippet. Once. And that was enough) should be renamed "I'm not a celebrity, but I want to be. Please let me in!" Anyone who's prepared to eat grubs among strangers and be thoroughly humiliated on TV for that length of time, never mind risk sacrificing a well- paid career in the process, needs their head examined.

Tst ts. What is the world coming to?

PS does this kind of thing help sell novels? I just thought I'd ask....

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Downton Abbey (again)

I know I've said this before, but are we the only people who think this series is utter b*****ks? Yes, we do watch it. But with a mixture of mirth and wonderment.

The plot. This is weird and yet predictable. Example: when the vengeful lady's maid places soap on the bathroom floor, you KNOW that her ladyship will slip, that she will lose her baby, and that said baby will be the longed for heir. In the last episode, my lord is far more concerned with the them-against-us cricket match than the recent loss of his daughter. One of the servants turns out to be an amazing pianist. Matthew leaps unscathed from his wheelchair. I could go on and on...

Acting. Wooden. (Odd, that, as I've seen some of them being good in other productions.) But not Maggie Smith, of course, because she is always wonderful.

Script. Clunky.

Characters. Unsympathetic. We've decided we don't really care about any of them. And we've tried, really we have. Upstairs find themselves falling out over every trivial thing, while those downstairs seem to spend all their time standing around chatting.

Anachronisms. Where to start? "Don't be such a girls' blouse". This originated in the 1960s. Cook calls some one "Mr. Stick-it-up- your-jumper". This expression is thought to originate in the 1930s, but was made popular by Tony Hancock in the 50s. "Learning curve" - not certain about this one, but I'm pretty sure it came much later. There are lots of these, and they really jar. How DO they get past all the editing?

That's all. Rant over. But please tell me what the appeal is (beautiful set, vintage cars and costumes apart). Or if (faint hope) by any chance you agree...?

And yet we go on watching, just to see whether the emperor is wearing (very subtle) clothes, after all.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Magpie 142


They've taken my "Hungry and Homeless" sign.
I've nothing much left that I can call mine.
I've lost all my friends, and I've left all my roots -
But I have got a pair of designer boots!

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture)

Saturday 3 November 2012

One last silly present

                    Inflatable zimmer frame (quote from catalogue)
"Picture the scene – a dignified 50th birthday party. The wine is poured, the nibbles are out, there’s an oldies CD playing in the background and several people have rattled off boring toasts. The atmosphere is getting a little dull when, with a mischievous grin, you hand over your gift, an unassuming, beautifully wrapped, box. Just imagine the roar of laughter that will follow it when they open up the gift. Fun will be had, the Zimmer will be passed around and you’ll be spotting photos of party guests with it all over Facebook in no time!"
How can you resist?  But don't forget the mischievous grin, the beautifully wrapped box, and the crowd of party-goers just dying for a good laugh. (I'm not sure whether the man in the picture s helpless with laughter, or has just suffered a blow to the knee. But no matter. It's all good clean fun, isn't it?)

I promise I'll try to stop now. Well, I'll try...

Friday 2 November 2012

Happy memories

When my  two elder children were small, we lived on the edge of Knole Park in Kent, and our regular walk was through the park. There was a fallen tree stump, and we would have a picnic sitting on that stump, pretending it was a car, with the children taking it in turns to "drive", using a forked twig as a "key". Then we used to walk down the hill, and the children took it in turns to jump off these steps; the higher, the better.

Yesterday, my daughter took her own three there on a trip down memory lane, and they too took turns jumping off these steps (Geoffrey the dog could only reach step 2. He has very short legs!). My - and my daughter's - memories are of a time many years ago, but it's nice to know the steps are still there (although the tree stump is long gone. Sigh).