Hello! Mr Giant, Can You Hear Me?

megaphone by J Scott via Mary Ann Clarke Scott Wana Creative Commons

Image courtesy J Scott via Mary Ann Clarke Scott – Wana Creative Commons – some rights reserved

This is what I’ve been feeling like this week

Hello! Mr Giant, Can You Hear Me?

It started when I was preparing a tweet. Yep, you can find me there too  @annfoweraker with random tweets about Cornwall, writing, my books, what I’m up to… etc. So, there I was preparing to re-tweet that I had noticed Amazon had discounted one of my novels: £9.50 down to £8.95 and I thought I had better check the offer was still there. Amazon makes or stops discounts as and when they feel like it, with no rhyme or reason I can discern, but as I get the same amount and Amazon are discounting out of the amount of money they make from retailing my book I like to let my readers know when offers are on, so I tweet them.

I quickly went into the page for the book and, lo and behold, the offer was still on… but now, though the actual reduction was the same 55p, Amazon were claiming it was a larger discount than previously. WEIRD!…. then I noticed they were claiming that the RRP was £9.71   - of course the discount would look to be a higher percentage. I went to my other book pages on Amazon – all had the same problem but each one had a different RRP (all more than the correct £9.50) How could this be?

I didn’t tweet – even though there was still a reduction – the fact that there was an error in the quoted Recommended Retail Price, and therefore the percentage reduction Amazon was claiming they were making, seemed dishonest

I noticed that the one closest to being accurate was the one last added to Amazon. This novel was being offered at a 1% discount – down to £9.50… yes – down to the  actual RRP. What on earth was going on?

I worked out that this change had come about after my latest paperback was added to my lists. Now I am used to Amazon taking a few weeks to sort things out when a new book goes on. It seems (I queried this with my distributor the first time it happened) Amazon put books onto their US (.com) site first, the UK (.co.uk) site picks up the data and puts it on the UK site – but as if it was a book published in the US, giving delivery dates of weeks and translating the price from the US dollar price of the book – which was set as correct when the book was published.

Now, as we all know the dollar, sterling rate fluctuates. So a few weeks down the line the dollar RRP price converted to sterling gives an incorrect sterling RRP.

Usually after a couple of weeks this gets sorted out – the book appears as delivery 1 – 2 DAYS and the price is accurate. This time, however, somehow this glitch had not sorted itself out… and, instead, had infected my other novels. And, as the longer ago a book was published the more inaccurate the conversion will be, the earlier published books had larger discrepancies .

I do not know about you.. but if I bought a book at a discounted price (even of just 1%) and when the book turned up it’s face value was the same as I had paid I would be miffed. (if the discrepancy was more I’d feel proper cheesed off) Who would I blame?  It might be obvious to me to think it is Amazon – but then I deal with Amazon both ends, as it were. I am not just a customer, I also sell my ebooks through Amazon and my publisher distributes through Ingram to Amazon.  I know a little about how it works.

Who would you blame? The publisher? The author? Amazon?

I soon found that there was nothing I could do to point out the glitch to Amazon directly and get it rectified. Hello???

At the moment, after many emails to and fro to Ingram, and their ‘channel specialist’ to Amazon,  Amazon seem to have straightened out two out of the three books .. maybe by the time you read this they’ll all be ok.

Now, all that is left to sort out is how Amazon can say a book is ‘out of stock’ (as they also had for two of mine along with the false ‘discounts’) … when the book is a POD (Print On Demand) as in, you buy it, it is printed same day and posted to you… Ah, Mr Giant … can you hear me??

I really hope this gets sorted out soon as I’m on Radio Cornwall next Friday (7th) and the new Looe Lit Fest on the 15th November, both of which I hope will generate interest in my novels and, like it or not, Amazon is the go-to place for a huge number of book buyers nowadays.

Do you get frustrated when you are trying to deal with organisations so large there seems no proper way to get through to them?

Would you have though the publisher might be the one to blame for the misleading information on Amazon sale page for a book?

Do share your trials and tribulations with the GIANTS – you know I love to hear from you.

Some things are better put off until tomorrow

DSCF7557This blog was the one I meant to write last week … but it didn’t get written as home events took over.. that blog started with watching the first of the new series of  ‘Trust me, I’m a Doctor’ on BBC 2  (not to be confused with Trust me, I’m THE Dr’ as in Dr Who)

This is the second series and I quite enjoy these programmes as I nearly always learn something I didn’t know – and as I try to keep up-to-date with things on the nutritional front I do spend a lot of my time saying to the TV, ‘yes, about time too’, as popular nutrition catches up with what has been going on in science for quite a while.  The programme is headed-up by Michael Mosley (of the ’5/2 fast diet’) drawn from his previous programmes and ‘fast exercise’ – ditto)

I say I enjoy them.. I do, that is, apart from its ‘bitty’ approach where the team investigate about 4 different lines of scientific health issues at the same time (meaning that we start with one idea – move on to the next and the next .. and then pop back to see how the first is going along , than catch up with the second etc. etc.) At least they do not do the exhaustive re-cap each time… but it is annoying when it really doesn’t have to be. I want to say that I am sure we can cope with quarter of an hour on one health issue at a time… followed by the other three … and I’m sure that if we are watching this type of pr0gramme we will wait through the one that may not be immediately relevant to our own situation to learn something on the way.  (OK .. rant over)

Now you may know, if you’ve been following this blog for a long time, that I managed to lose quite a bit of weight by doing weights exercises, designed by one of my sons, for less than fifteen minutes a day, while continuing to eat in a low carb (not no carb) way(as I had done for years before menopause caused weight-gain)  If I eat pasta, bread,rice or potatoes I eat a limited amount – and I always go for the ‘brown’ wholegrain versions as this gives better nutrition, more fibre and uses more energy to digest.

The nutritional scientist on ‘Trust Me…’ carried out a small on screen test of just 10 people. She knew what she was expecting with the first two trials in her experiment – but she’d also thrown in a third variation she’d not tested before.

Eat pasta and very soon you’ll have an insulin spike in your blood. Now this is natural as pasta is a carbohydrate and that is only a simple digestive step away from being a sugar… and to deal with sugar your body pumps out insulin. Fine so far… only problem is that this spike is followed by a dip in that the insulin is running around your body looking for the sugar to deal with (even after its finished with the stuff you ate). This makes you feel hungry again; gives you the ‘munchies’. It is far better for you if you can keep you insulin stable and low, not such a spike, less of a dip. Keeping your insulin levels steady is key to managing your weight and your long-term health.

The experiment: #1, eat hot freshly cooked pasta – wait -  measure insulin in blood. #2 eat cooked and then cooled pasta – wait – measure insulin in blood #3 eat cooked, cooled and kept until the next day and reheated pasta – wait – measure insulin in blood.

Results: #1 – high insulin spike #2 lower insulin level (but who wants to eat cold pasta anyway?) #3 EVEN lower insulin levels! – and that surprised even the tester. When Michael pointed out that 10 people were not much of a statistical sample, she agreed, but then added … but it was ALL 10 of them!

For the scientific details of the how and why, watch the programme  – on iPlayer for 2 more weeks here: Trust me I’m a Doctor s2 – 1:

or for those of you abroad or reading this blog later-on – on youtube here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r9WfXtDOHA

Only problem is – when I do pasta it is usually because I am running out of time and need a fast carb to complete a meal!

However, maybe, I’ll get my act together early enough to cook, cool and reheat my pasta, as, you see … some things ARE better put off until tomorrow :)    

What’s your take on Pasta? Would you eat re-heated pasta if it was better for you?

What is your favourite pasta based meal?

Look forward to hearing from you

So, what does a typical WI member look like? #IamWI


#IamWI   Ann Foweraker (St. Dominick WI)

Let me say from the start – I’ve been a member of the WI since I was 15  – excepting my years at college, and five living in a city – no WI branches allowed in universities or cities back then, as they are  now. (It’s good to see how well they are developing  in these places now and how many young women are joining them!)  This came about because my mum was going off to her WI meeting ON my 15th birthday… and, as that happened to be the age that you were allowed to join our branch of the WI back then .. I went along. (NB for insurance purposes, apparently, the joining age is now 18)

Now the WI (Women’s Institute) has developed an unfortunate image over the years – emphasised by almost every press report and slanted so that we appear to be jam-making fuddy-duddys and of the pearl and cardie-wearing, tory-voting brigade to boot. Even my Aunt thought this (when she moved from a town in Essex to our Cornish village she expressed this view – despite the fact that I, my mum and another Aunt belonged – none of whom fitted that description in any way whatsoever – except the jam-making part).

‘Jam and Jerusalem’, the papers say, in a disparaging way. Well, yes our rousing ‘song’ is Jerusalem, by William Blake, and I find the ‘bring me my bow of burning gold, bring me my arrows of desire,’ quite stirring ;) though we do not sing it at our usual meetings nowadays. And as for Jam making – that was effortful war work. What other war work is disparaged?

In nearly a hundred years of being an organisation, the WI has made a huge difference. Though started to help rural women, for education and support, it has taken up the cause in many aspects of life. Some of these then grew into themselves as separate organisations, which still acknowledge their links to their inspiration and formation. Like the Keep Britain Tidy group… an idea and movement initiated by the WI in 1954 and, though now a national organisation, often the people on the ground in villages doing the organisation will still be from the local WI.

Each year we have a resolution and our National arm campaigns on these resolutions. Not just on that year’s one but on any that we have passed over time. They have our mandate; that is the mandate of 212,000 women, to campaign on these issues. Over the past five years these have included ‘No-more violence against women’ ‘SOS Honeybees’ ‘The need for more Midwives’ ‘Care not Custody – for people with mental health issues’ and ‘Time to Talk – about Organ Donation’. It educates, it campaigns and is listened to.

Yet still the WI is disparaged, though now we are also the ‘calendar girls’ (a doubtful accolade) where some potential members are as wary of being asked to strip off… as much as to run a cake stall (or should that be buns?)

So, when one of our members on the UnOfficial WI FB page, a page for WI members to chat and share (not the Official WI FB page which is more for National WI matters) suggested we each took a photo of ourselves holding a sign with the words I AM WI written on it – I thought this a great idea – for, though you know I like making Jam (in my microwave), I also think I am a typical (but NOT-STEREOTYPICAL) WI member! Active in my own life and in the community, busy and enjoying life to the full.

All of which explains the photo at the top of this blog  :)

Do you belong to the WI?

 If not, what is the image you have of the WI

 Look out for the hashtag #iamwi

My Latest Cover Up …

The saying goes ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ … but we all do, don’t we? And that goes for real books as much as new people and situations that the saying is really about.

So choosing a new cover for a book is one of the hardest non-writing things I have had to do as an Author. After all, I know the whole story inside the book, all the nuances that I would like to hint at, the twists and turns. A cover is just a snapshot of the idea, but it’s an image that has to do a great deal of work.

I have been reminded that I really can’t ‘tell the story’ through this one image, that it has also has to be ‘eye-catching’, ‘look right at the thumbnail size’ that many (most even?) people see a book as when looking for it (ie online) as well as interesting full size (ie on the shelf), ‘be alluring to pick-up’ to scroll down, or actually turn over, to read the back-blurb, and that has to ‘be informative but raise questions’ to instigate the flick through (or open the see-inside feature)

All this from the cover! No wonder it is so difficult.

Now when I placed my books online, before I even dreamt of paperback, when Amazon’s Kindle publishing was the only avenue open to me and they hadn’t got their ‘cover help’ going at all, I got my eldest son to help create the right (pixel) sized covers. He was only over from Malaysia for a short time and we had to work fast. I had a perfect picture for one of them, Nothing Ever Happenes Here, but the others had to be created.

So create we did …. We decided that as the one picture I was happy with had view through a gap between rocks we’d keep that sort of theme. So for Divining the Line I took a photograph between two standing stones and for Some Kind of Synchrony we took a picture of a skyscraper, reflected it and manipulated the second tower to look as if it were wavering, as if seen through rippled water. Well that was the idea… it never did look quite right and was certainly too clear and clean a picture for the type of book. Time ran out and Some Kind of Synchrony stayed under that cover.

It has now become the latest of my novels to move into paperback. I know I have been lapse with the blogging but I have been totally immersed in the world of Faith, Diane and The Story within Some Kind of Synchrony. Once bonus is that I’ve had the opportunity to finesse the ending. At this time space from my original I was able to choose a better arrangement of words to show what I saw in the end scene. That felt good. Then I had to work with my cover designer to create the cover that would do everything asked of it.

The paperback goes into print this week! I am really excited about this, it feels like a having a new release, that I’ve done the story justice at last by giving it a proper working cover and I hope readers, previously put off by the old cover, will be tempted by the new.

Here is the old one  cover




…… and here is the new!  (looks fuzzy here – just click on it to see it clearly)










I feel we’ve hit the nail on the head … there’s gritty … there’s the element of real life and reflection … there’s a slightly retro feel, there’s … well you tell me! Whether you have read it already or not!

You know I love to hear from you!

A spectacle affair

specs pic

courtesy wikimedia commons

As readers of this blog will know this year has been my big six ohhh! Along with this age come a few bonuses, and one of these is not paying for a few things… no, I’ve not taken to pinching stuff… suddenly I do not pay for prescriptions … and, as a letter from a high-street opticians reminded me, nor for an eye test.

Well I have been thinking that perhaps I ought to get them checked, after all I’ve been using those ‘1.0’ basic glasses (you know, £3 and fold up nicely into a slim tube) for a quite a long time now, for reading at odd times, like when in poor light, or small writing, like that on packaging. Oh, all right then… and for ease of reading speedily … without having to squint! Oh, ok… so what if I do have a set in every room and in both handbags? Just means I do not have to go round looking for them! Anyway, the ‘1.0’ were sometimes not quite doing the trick lately (mainly on product ingredients on food packaging etc) so I thought an eye test a good idea at least.

It’s not as if I haven’t had to wear prescription glasses before. Way back… just after I had my first baby I suddenly noticed that I could no longer read the road signs at a distance easily. Now, prior to giving birth, I had excellent eyesight at all distances. When I went for an eye test the optician told me that the hormonal changes could, in some cases, set the lenses. This mean that my eyes now had a mid range only, and I needed prescription glasses for long distance, and to do fine or very close work (like threading small-eye needles) at least a ‘point-one’ basic pair of glasses.

Strangely, my eyesight kept changing .. back .. perhaps the lenses softened again – I really do not know but after about thirty-five each eye test meant a weaker pair of lenses, until, at about fifty, I no longer required glasses for long distance at all. My long distance is excellent at the moment, however, my close vision became steadily worse, so that the spectacles used for only close work were needed for not-so-close work.. then for reading in poor light … or for reading small writing.

I was glad not to need the long distance glasses any more – didn’t have to keep finding them before driving (or buying a second pair with darkened lenses for bright day driving – and finding them when it was bright!) and didn’t have to fork out the huge prices for the frames. Note, not the lenses. I have no problem with the cost of technical, precision-made, personalised items such as the lenses… I do have a difficulty with frames that cost so much when the £3   frames on the ’1.0′ have been doing their job quite satisfactorily for many years.

So it was with great delight (not to say surprise) that I received the ‘prescription’ from the optician… my eyes were not as good as they were, true, but a ‘2.0’ cheap pair would be fine!

Luckily both my eyes are almost identical in their requirements. She asked what I had been using so far … and when I admitted to using the off the shelf ‘1.0’, she said that the ‘2.0’ should be fine – with a ‘2.5’ for working on a computer (as in when writing the novels!) . WOW

Now as I was waiting for my optician’s appointment I had been looking at some of the frames available.  As it happened the weekend before my friend had just been showing me some snazzy ‘1.0’ – under a £5 each – that she had just bought. These were at least as nice as some up on the racks costing sixty pounds or more. So with my new ‘prescription’ I ordered a few pairs at ‘2.0’ and one at ’2.5′. They arrived and are comfortable and attractive. Which begs the question … why do the ones available from the optician have to cost so much? (even before the lenses are added)

Any opticians out there would care to enlighten me?

Any one else want to share an optician story?

You know I love to hear from you!

A little pampering … perhaps?

Well I hadn’t actually included a massage and a pedicure on my 6 in 60, though they both fit into my criteria. ie, things I have not ever done / experienced before. This may seem odd to those of you who often indulge in a little ‘pampering’ but there it is, I had never had a massage, not had any brave soul ventured near my feet to give them the once over.

Truth is that my feet are not my favourite part of my body. They are, and have always been, an odd shape and suffer from having a high arch and being wide. Add to that the genetically curled under fourth toes, and the leathery sole induced by my choice of wearing sandals both summer and winter..  and you probably have a pedicure nightmare.

p ready

setting the atmosphere

p table

massage tables

However, having been invited along for a ‘hen day’ for my prospective new sister-in-law, I duly signed up for both the massage and the pedicure!

The massage was very relaxing, however,  I found that I really wanted to ask so many questions, but couldn’t as it would have spoilt the relaxing atmosphere, which, as this was a ‘hen-do group thing’ would have meant spoiling other peoples relaxing moments. I wanted to know if the masseuse ended up with aching hands, whether masseuse often suffered with arthritis or carpel tunnel syndrome in later life, why she seemed to count carefully down my vertebrae before swooshing her fingers down from spine to side of the back, how comes her hands seemed to generate so much heat from her palm as they traversed my back and if she could feel any tension or not within my muscles, (she didn’t seem to stop and work on any places in particular, though I know others were told there were knots and had them ‘kneaded away’.)

p getting grips

getting to grips with my funny feet

We also had time to indulged in a nice swim while we waited for our turn, which I always enjoy! Then came the time for the pedicure. I was quite surprised that there was no soaking of the feet involved, but then as we had been swimming perhaps our feet were already softened. The filing with a fairly coarse emery board was fast and tickled the ends of my toes. The blocks that were used to rub away dry skin and a layer off the hard skin was effective. I couldn’t help wondering if the girls really ought to be wearing a mask as they certainly seemed to be a dust created, perhaps it isn’t a dangerous one? The massaging of the foot with creams was surprisingly pleasant and not ticklish at all.

p finish touches

finishing touches

Then came the nail lacquer. Now, I decided to go for a burgundy to match the dress I will be wearing for the wedding, but also opted for a layer of sparkle so they’d go well with belly dancing (which you all know I love!) Now I just have to avoid kicking something and chipping it before the big day!

So… if I count this as one of my 6 at 60 … the question is ‘would I do it again?’ Well, to be honest, probably not. It was a great as part of a really fun day with a super group of ladies, but I don’t think I’d go for a massage and a pedicure on my own (unless to ask all those questions!). Did I get anything else out of the day? Well, yes, and this is what is so great about being an author, just about anything you do, try, learn or experience is great fodder for the creative brain, adding dimensions to your characters!

Do you love a massage or a pedicure?

What is your favourite ‘beauty treatment’?

Do share, you know I love to hear from you!

How to be a Pirate …

You may have missed me ( or not) but I have been away and had not got my act together sufficiently to have blogs up and ready to post. I had been a very good girl earlier when I knew I was going to be busy and had prepared posts for your delectation. However, in the afterglow of being visited by my ‘long-missed’ grandchildren I did not get more in hand for when I went away. Enough waffle! (or perhaps not …  that might mean the end of the whole blog if I say that!)

Now I am not here to suggest that you learn how to take hostage hapless yachts as they sail round the world, or to pirate music, or (worse still) ebooks. No, being a pirate is what I was having such fun doing when my grandchildren visited for a while. As they live on the other side of the world and I hadn’t seen them in the flesh for two years, you can imagine I was excited.

The youngest was just 17 months (and I had not even cuddled him) the other two, one nearly five – the other nearly 7  – and all boys! I was a granny prepared. I had collected bits and pieces and put them in boxes – different boxes to spark different games or activities. So on a nice dry day when we opened one box in it they found scarves (triangular) red or mostly red, a couple of pirate plastic swords, some black and gold strips of cloth to make belts with, a pirate sticker-book and some squashy pirate figures (for the little one)

boys on ship

Boys on the ‘ship’

Now we are lucky.. we have a big garden .. and the type of washing line that is hauled up a steel post – renamed ‘the mast’. This made building a pirate ship easier. We headed off to the ‘old wood’ shed and collected lots of pieces of wood that had come from taking old pallets apart.  Even the 17month carried planks. And we ‘constructed’ a ship around the ‘mast’, in outline, with planks across to sit on for a deck, a plank to walk (of course) pointing out from the ship.  The finding of an old piece of flue trunking made a great cannon. A heavy lump of metal ( U shaped) was chosen to be an anchor  and duly tied to the ship with binder-twine. The sail (an old sheet with skull and crossbones drawn on by gran and shaded in by the boys) was tied to garden canes and thence to the washing line… this meant it could be raised and lowered using the line mechanism, and an old plastic lid was nailed to a piece of wood and hammered into the lawn to make a steering wheel. All that was needed now was good imaginations :)

The dog served very well as a sea monster too, sharking’ her way around the lawn…  and duly jumping on me when I was made to walk the plank and fell into the ‘sea’.

So the first day of pirating went well, with the rowing of totally imaginary rowing boats to islands  (trees and their patch of shade on the lawn) and general taking in turns to be captain and making the others walk the plank and chasing around the place.

boys find treasure map

boys find treasure map

Pirate Day two:  Granny prepared again I had filled a cannister with small bags of  money (5ps and 10ps that their great aunt had collected from her loose change for them) and some lovely bright shiny glass cabochons (that you can put in the bottom of vases etc) to be jewels, and had sneaked out and buried it under the leaf-litter in the woodland garden.  In another cannister I had hidden a Pirate map .. with the features of the garden all given new piratical names – hence the pond became Dragon Lake… and a stone bench became ‘the lookout point’ etc… Of course, on the map X marked the spot… and after hiding the treasure I had marked the spot with an X made of sticks… just as well as it turned out :)

boys treasure hunting

boys treasure hunting

I informed the boys that I had heard that there was pirate treasure on the island nearest the ship… so we all ‘rowed’ to the island and searched it. No treasure but the cannister with the map was found. We then rowed back to the ship and read the treasure map, worked out we needed to row to land, collect some shovels and set off on the journey……..

What fun! Carefully they made their way, finding the features as we went… but not just running straight to where the X should be … eventually I had to focus their search on where the X might be in relation to all the other things they had found…and that was when I asked them how they’d know where the treasure was buried. ‘There will be an X on the ground’ – I was told, with certainty!

The X was found … dug up .. and the treasure taken back to the ship… *sigh* We had so much fun!

boys openind treasure

Back on the ship – opening the treasure (2)

Later we decided to visit the post office as I thought that they could buy something with their treasure money … the oldest was a bit worried that the money might not be real (after all he’s used to ringgits)

The lovely lady who runs the post office entered in to the spirit of things and matched  her real money with the pirate money, which showed them it was real.. and they bought themselves a small treat!

boys I can be a pirate too

I can be a pirate too!

The ship was in use day after day(until grandad wanted to mow the grass) – with the boys playing their own games .. and a second map was found on a different day sending them on a different treasure hunt – this time with some chocolate gold coins in the treasure cannister!) Pirates was only one of our games – we also played other games  (with different things in a different box to kick it off)

Are you a granny who loves to play?

Do you believe imagination is the best toy?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you





On the anniversary – 100 years since ‘the war to end all wars’ began

How to Grow Poppies

For flowers in abundance
row after row, whole
landscapes turned crimson, first
turn the soil.
Digging trenches works well.
Poppies thrive in open spaces,
the removal of trees and other shade
is recommended.
Fertilize well, blood and bone is best.
Water in, a long winter of rain at least,
and leave … nature will do the rest.

©Ann Foweraker



from our forthcoming collection (Liskeard Poetry Group)

Reflections WW1 Poems

Having a Jammy time …

DSCF7517The house is feeling empty; having been jam-full for the past five weeks. It has been a joy, this big old house and garden likes to be full of young people, from the very young (grandson #3 at 17 months) through his brothers (4 & 6) – right up to their Mum and Dad – all over from Malaysia, plus two other sons of ours, and a girlfriend, then after the ‘Malaysian’ contingent left, my second cousin and boyfriend (from Australia) .. it’s been great … and busy!

And now it is quiet and the soft-fruit needs picking and the jam stocks need replenishing.

It is blackcurrant time and ours have produced a good quantity. Most of this will go into the freezer – having been carefully ‘picked over’ to remove bits of stalk, so that jam making through the year will be easier. After all, who wants to be making jam when the sun is shining? It is also useful when you want a bit of extra flavour to sharpen up an apple crumble or similar, to know you can just pull a handful from the bag in the freezer and throw them into the mix knowing they are ready to cook with.

A new comment on my ‘recipes’ on the drop-down (above) made me think I ought to put my MW recipe for Blackcurrant jam into a blog as well as just on the recipes. If you are a regular reader you may have realised by now that I use my microwave for a lot of REAL cooking – and especially for jam as I find it faster, much less of a bother (no standing over steamy pot stirring to prevent burning or sticking) and less messy – easy cleaning of bowl as there is nothing burnt on.

My MW blackcurrant recipe has proved to be very popular – in fact Google Analytics shows me that over the last week alone 89 people came to view my microwave recipe for Blackcurrant jam (and 20 the MW Apricot jam one) and, judging by the average time spent on the page, many of them chose this recipe over other recipes available on the net.

So here goes:

My microwave Blackcurrant Jam recipe (makes 5lbs)

2lbs blackcurrants (picked over to remove stalks – if using frozen, make sure they are fully defrosted overnight, defrosting by MW seems to make the skins tougher
3 dessert-spoons water
3lbs sugar

1, Place blackcurrants and water in large* Pyrex or similarly heat proof microwave safe bowl, covered, 10 mins on high power to soften fruit and release pectin. (*large enough to hold at least twice the amount of fruit you are putting in it – mine holds 6 litres)
2, Add sugar and stir in well.
3, Lid off, bring up to the boil again in MW on high – about 6 mins.
4, Stir well and put back into MW to Simmer for 8 mins ( Simmer or med > low power)
5, Stir well, and put back into MW to simmer for 4 mins and check for set (place a teaspoon of jam mix on a cold plate – pop back in fridge – will show a set if the jam skin forms wrinkles and feels thick when finger is pushed though it when cool)
6, Into well washed jars pour about 1 cm (half an inch) of boiling water, place in microwave on full power for 3 – 4 mins until the water boils in the jars. Take care and tip them out well and stand to evaporate the last bit of water while you re-heat the jam mix
7, If a set is demonstrated by your test – return jam mix to microwave and heat until bubbles appear then remove from microwave and ladle into hot jars. (if no set then simmer for another 3 mins and retest, continue until a set is demonstrated)
8, Cover with clear jam-covers as per instructions with the packet, and label.
9, Enjoy!






This recipe makes a very intensely favoured Blackcurrant jam … which we also use to flavour our home-made yoghurt, just by stirring in a scant teaspoonful at the table – YUM!

Are you a jam maker?

Do you like to use your microwave to make jam or is this a new idea for you?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you.

6Oh – and if you are a Facebooker – there is a draw on Pendown Publishing’s page to enter where you can win a paperback copy of The Angel Bug  – please do pop over there and enter – you just Like the page and answer the fun question – ‘What genre would your life-story be?’ to enter. Thanks

Pavlova time! My ‘fool-proof’ recipe

Lovely sun, luscious strawberries … it’s the perfect time for pavlova!

Sweet, dessert, pudding, whatever you like to call it, is the topping-off of a good meal. Carefully chosen to balance the type of meal preceding it, it can be a delight … and so very, very tempting, because one thing they nearly all have in common is a high carbohydrate content.  Still, don’t you find that  no matter how filling the main meal was, there still seems to be room for the sweet treat? (in our pudding stomach ) :) And my favourite – the Pavlova – is no exception so I offer it to you again.phpG50cumAM.jpg 2


Kiwi Blossom on our plants

This one, made last week, was loaded-up with double cream, local strawberries and the very last of our own Kiwi fruit! Yes! Our own Cornwall-grown Kiwi fruit ... kept in an outdoor vermin-proof shed – 500 odd of them lined up in egg-trays – but these were the very last. There was one tray left – but the heat of the last couple of weeks had pushed most of them over the edge (too ripe). Not bad really, considering that the blossom is just opening on the kiwi plants!

It is believed that the dessert we know as the Pavlova was created in honour of the Russian ballet dancer Ann Pavlova when on a tour of New Zealand in the 1920s (though Australia hotly contests this, claiming to be the nation that hosted this culinary naming)

It is one of my favourite desserts and a long time ago I found a virtually fool-proof method of making them which has become much appreciated in the family as when I make them I usually make 3 bases at a time (well, if you have the oven on you may as well fill it up, and they do keep quite well in a sealed cake tub) and this means more than one meal-time gets this treat.  These Pavlovas are also brilliant for when you have a horde of people round – each one cutting into 8 generous servings. Best when the fruit is in season – so choose in-season brightly coloured soft or softish fruit when you can (hard fruit, like sliced apple, just doesn’t sit as well with this dessert)

Ann’s Pavlova ( or Vacherin  – not the cheese!)  

This  looks like meringue but it is really an adaptation I have made of a Vacherin – which is a type of meringue made with icing sugar (usually whisked once, but over hot water – my method seems to work just as well and be less of a bother)

Makes a 9 inch Pavlova base or 40 half mini meringues

2 egg whites
4 oz of sieved icing sugar.


1, Whisk the egg whites until in stiff peaks.
2, Sieve the icing sugar and add to the whipped whites.
3, Whisk again until the mixture returns to stiff peaks
4, Either scoop into a piping bag and pipe small meringues onto a  greased baking sheet  (makes about 40 halves)
Or line the base of a 9” sandwich tin and grease the sides (or line a baking tray , draw a 9” diameter  circle, grease the sheet, spread or pipe the mixture over the area of the circle – adding a little more towards the rim).

Bake at 160 C or 140 C fan oven or Gas mk 3 (until palest fawn)

15- 20 mins for the small
1 ½  – 2 hours for Pavlova

Allow to cool gradually – I usually turn the oven off and allow it to cool before removing the pavlova bases.

To decorate use either 4 – 8 oz Cornish Clotted Cream or whip at least a quarter pint of Double Cream (taking care not to make too thick – nor runny) and spread evenly and thickly over the top.  Decorate with slices of soft / softish, fruits.

For mini-meringues. Whisk 1/4 pint double cream, place in piping tube with rosette nozzle. Pipe on one half – squeeze lightly as you stick the other half on.

Hope you find this recipe works well for you too!

Food is such an important part of our lives, it brings back memories, it can brighten our day or it can be a drudge and a scourge. How people eat and what they eat can help set scenes in novels too, can tell y0u a lot about the character without spelling it out. Take this excerpt from my novel Some Kind of Synchrony

The unexpected aroma of pizza, unmistakable in its amalgam of cooked cheese and oregano, stopped her for a moment, standing in her own hall, a rabbit poised for flight.  Then Andy appeared, filling the kitchen doorway.           

       ‘Thought I heard the door,’ he said and turned back into the kitchen.  Faith grabbed up the shopping bag and her handbag, pushed the door shut with the vigour it required, and followed him.  Two large size Pizzas stood on the table, one with the lid flopped back and a ragged wedge missing.  Andy held the remains of this piece in his fingers as he lounged against the worktop.  ‘Thought we’d have a pizza tonight – got the kids a video out too,’ he smiled, shoved the thick crust into his mouth and chewed contentedly, wiping his fingers on his jeans then folding his arms. 

I hope it’s painted a picture of Andy for you – to read the first three chapters of this book, and my others, free in PDF  just click here

What is your favourite dessert?

Are you enjoying the heat summer?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you and, fingers crossed, the glitches on the comments should be sorted out now – so i will know when you have written  :)

Trouble With Numbers

I little while ago, in responding to a comment on one of my ‘Rants’, I mentioned that I was ‘dyscalcic’.  DSCF7514

For most of my life I just assumed I was ‘bad at maths’… however, when it comes to it I often understood perfectly what had to be done in maths. In fact, one of my abiding memories is meeting my friend Jenny, who had won a place at Grammar school, on the bus home and helping her understand what she needed to do to complete her maths homework. The fact that I frequently did not get my maths work correct, despite me checking it more than once, did not compute with my understanding of the method …

I could never remember my times tables, despite being at the sort of primary school that had us reciting every morning.  I would learn them, revising as I went to school, recite them.. then by lunch time I would have lost them again. I still do not know my times tables – but I have developed strategies for working them out. I use the 9 x tables trick of one number down from the times-ed number plus – whatever it takes to make nine. Even I can manage the 5 x, 10x and 11x and extrapolate from those, often adding on the extra. So, because the 5 x is easy I can manage most 6x this way quite quickly. So my biggest bug-bear; 7 x 8 will go 5×8 is 40 so 6x easily is 48, now just add another 8 = 56. Strategies.

I did a lot of ‘pairing to make 10′ work at one time (adding up columns of figures for a local village post-office) – so my ‘numbers that make 10′ is quite good. This means that I can add up a column of figures fairly well – though I will frequently have to do it more than once.

However, the biggest problem I have is in transposition. Put a list of numbers on one sheet and ask me to copy them onto another and at least one number would end up transposed incorrectly. Like when I used to write certain phone numbers in the back of my diary – copying them across each year and not realising a mistake until I phoned someone. For instance I might call using 350646  and get a wrong number, only to look back at the old diary to see the number should have been 350464!  I can now look back and see how easily I could have copied the sum incorrectly from the text book, completed the calculation correctly but, obviously, got the wrong answer when compared to the ‘answer book’. It would be an unusual teacher that checked to see if the sum had been copied correctly in the first place!

Dyscalculia involves frequent difficulties with everyday arithmetic tasks like the following:

  • Difficulty reading analog clocks  [I often look and recognise what I need to know (i.e. is it near the time I am keeping an eye on) - but ask me just after I looked what the actual time is and I will almost always have to look again to be able to tell you]
  • Difficulty stating which of two numbers is larger  [written numbers are ok - given a moment or two, obvious differences are ok, like when the starting numbers are the ones to focus on but numbers said that are similar and of a long duration in saying, ie, one million, five hundred thousand, seven hundred and forty six .... followed by a similar large number with, say the hundreds changed... I may not recall the first number accurately enough to tell you.]
  • Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting, sometimes even at a basic level; for example, estimating the cost of the items in a shopping basket or balancing a chequebook [Sometimes great  sometimes way-out - having somehow bunched a group of similar items and made them add up to too much or too little]
  • Difficulty with multiplication-tables, and subtraction-tables, addition tables, division tables, mental arithmetic, etc. [Yep - that's me - See above re: times tables & mental arithmetic,  for example the other day I was working-out quickly how many items I needed to sell at £5 profit to cover a £100 pitch fee and came up with 200!  Yes, written down I can see it is stupid .. but I actually thought it was right for a few minutes!]
  • Difficulty with conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time. May be chronically late or early. [I hate to be late.. so am often early  - but have to set myself alarms to make sure I am. (when did this start - was it because I knew that I could not trust myself to know how time was passing) I always assume that when I get lost in time it is just my absorption in what I am doing... I admit I didn't realise this might be something else?]
  • Problems with differentiating between left and right [Ask the OH if I have trouble with left or right ... he calls my left --'the other right'.  Thank goodness for Sat Navs!]
  • Inability to visualise mentally [No - not this one! I have extremely good mental visualisation - so good I can, at a push, do some mental maths this way - imagining the numbers written on the board]
  • Difficulty reading musical notation [I have been trying to learn to read music on and off since I was 13 - by the time my mind works out the relationship with the notation and the fingering/note the moment has passed]
  • Difficulty navigating or mentally “turning” the map to face the current direction rather than the common North=Top usage  [Well that is just logical isn't it ?? - to turn the map so that you are traveling the same way along it ... Thank goodness for Sat Navs AGAIN!]
  • Having particular difficulty mentally estimating the measurement of an object or distance (e.g., whether something is 10 or 20 feet (3 or 6 meters) away). [No, not this one either - goes with the overheated mental visualisation]
  • Often unable to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulas, and sequences [Sequences! What is the next number in the sequence? ALWAYS totally baffled me!}
  • Inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks. [Unable to concentrate on mentally intensive NUMBER tasks - doing my taxes is a nightmare and so tiring!!]
  • Low latent inhibition, i.e. over-sensitivity to noise, smell, light and the inability to tune out, filtering unwanted information or impressions. Might have a well-developed sense of imagination due to this (possibly as cognitive compensation to mathematical–numeric deficits)  [Well developed sense of imagination - tick (Hey - I'm a novelist!) And - actually, rather over-sensitive to particular smells, and can find myself focusing in lense-like on certain visual patterns in nature in particular]
  • Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. May substitute names beginning with same letter. [Oh! And do I do this? So often it is embarrassing - though I have developed strategies for getting over the awkwardness of this in everyday life... and even more if I meet a person out of the usual context. And woe-betide me if they have changed hair colour! (which I do seem to notice first and remember most about people oddly enough)]                                                                         (diagnostics courtesy wikipedia)

Fourteen ‘diagnostics’ – and I fit 12!  (no I won’t attempt a percentage on that thanks)  so not an official diagnosis but too good a fit to be accident and it explains a lot.

Now when I went to school there wasn’t even dyslexia – let along dyscalculia -  so I just became ‘poor at maths’. I struggled to get a GCE grade C in maths, yet got my A Level* in Physics. Back in a more enlightened time this is what got me over the maths hurdle entering teaching. (*other  A levels were Biology and English) When I re-trained for Primary teaching after the youngest boy was in the juniors, we were introduced to the idea of maths strategies!  I was ahead of the game – and I believe I was a more effective teacher of Maths for having struggled with numbers myself.

In retrospect, I think I am glad that no one told me I had a ‘problem’ because it made me work hard to find ways around the difficulties. However, it does help now to explain the struggle I have had with numbers all my life … and still do!

Is Dyscalculia new to you?

Have you lived a life with a hidden problem and just made the best of it?

You know I love to hear from you – do share.