How to Give an Author Wings

Has your summer holiday provided you with that luxury of luxuries – time to read one book after another, to finish whole books rather than odd chapters before you have to do something important that keeps life on its usual tracks?WP_20150901_10_47_08_Pro

How many books have you read over the summer? One, three, half a dozen?

How many made you want to look for another by the same author?

I love finding an author whose way of writing I enjoy. Sometimes the quality of the writing will carry me even if the story seems mundane. Sometimes the story will carry me even if the writing is a bit clunky. Sometimes the quality of the writing and the story just take me away from where I am and immerse me in the new situation and place that the book is set in – and when I finish I feel withdrawal symptoms –  and that’s when I go hunting for other books by the author.

These books I take the time to pop over to Amazon or Goodreads and leave a review because it’s good to spread the love, let others know what works (despite the plot or the clunkiness) as well as that which transports. You see, I know that a review is worth writing, the author (unless they are mega mega) will read it, they will  take heart and write on.

Give your favourite Author wings

If the author is an Indie (not published by the Big Boys of the publishing world) or even one of those but just starting out, they will be so heartened, happy to see a positive review, that it will give their typing fingers wings and they’ll press on with their latest work in progress. It makes it all worth while.

Give Your Review – not a précis

I have heard some people say they ‘don’t leave reviews because they don’t want to take notes while they are reading’ – it is unfortunate that people have come to think that they have to write those type of reviews, you know the ones that summarise the whole plot – that is a précis; not a review – but has become quite a popular way of doing things – sadly.  Not to forget the ‘spoiler’ element of giving away the plot in this way of ‘reviewing’ – disastrous for a thriller / crime / mystery book!

A review should be the reader’s reaction to the book, how did it make them feel; excited? sad? emotional? enjoyed the ride? What sort of pace was the book ; a page-turner? a steady, building, read? a sorry to come to the end? type book. Would they read another by this Author? Was there something they liked about the writing? Did they learn/gain insight/experience something from reading the book? With a few examples of why the book made them feel that way – if they wish. That would cover it!

But what if the book was one of those that I didn’t like, didn’t get on with. First I remind myself that it may not be the book, it may be me. The most popular and biggest selling books in the world have hundreds of 1* reviews – you cannot please everybody and personal taste comes into this. Then, as an author, I tend not to write a review for anything I’d give less than a 4* or perhaps a 3 – it just feels like bad karma. So almost all my reviews will be those books I got on with fine – all except one which I have to admit to.

Whatever the book – I finish it – and it is the finishing it – that time spent – that drove me to that one 2-starred review. It was for Danielle Steel – yes, I know, well known, best selling author alive (according to Wikipedia), highly rated with tons of books on her list. I wrote my review and explained why I was giving it a low star rating, the points which spoilt the book for me (treating the reader as if they had no memory by repeating every key point multiple times; research-information dumps; dishonest head-hopping) It is the one review that I have written that has garnered likes… many likes. I seem to have hit the nail on the head for many other readers with this one  – but not the die-hard Steel fans – they continue to rave 5* wonderful reviews. Like I say – you cannot please everyone all the time.

It could become addictive.

Each notification of a ‘like’ for that review seems to vindicate my stated opinion, and I know this could become addictive. In fact if you look into two star and below ratings and see what else they have reviewed, you often find that the writer is locked into only giving out bad reviews – almost troll-like. I won’t be writing a low starred review again for a book – even though that author will probably never read it as she is mega mega – I feel bad for her. I know how even a 3* (my only one so far) made me feel – it did not make me think ‘I’ll show them!’ It made me hesitate and wonder if my writing is worthwhile at all – wonder if it is worth the incredibly long time and deep effort that it takes.  This does not make the writer write better or faster, it just builds a wall, of the type commonly known as writer’s block.

But what of potential readers? Surely reviews are to warn people of rubbish as well as to extol?  I agree, then the review needs to explain what it is that didn’t suit the reader in particular in specific terms without revealing the story – then other readers can judge properly whether they are likely to agree with the viewpoint or not. If you enjoyed the story and the way it was told but found errors, in punctuation for example, it doesn’t mean you have to de-star it drastically – even giving it a five-star as a story you can say what you liked about it and add your comment about the punctuation to show you noticed, to tell other potential readers and to alert the author for the future.

The Much Kinder Way would be to see if there is an author contact in the ‘About the Author’ in the back of the book or on Amazon (there often is – maybe as a link to a blog or a webpage) – this way you could start out as a critic and end up as a friend! The author would be happy to receive this privately as they could then make adjustments to the ecopy and the next edition in printing. If you comment  in a review it would remain there forever, even after the corrections were made.

The big boys and girls of the publishing world garner reviews easily – there is a lot of advertising power, and marketing to the big-name reviewers, behind them so they barely notice an actual review – though their publishers will note  the numbers and stars.

A review is worth a lot to the new and the Indie –  you can really make a difference here – so, if you liked the book, give your favourite Authors wings – Review :)

Did you have a great reading summer?

Do you review books?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you


Rhubarb, Rhubarb … Rhubarb & Ginger Fool!

DSCF0198This damp August in Cornwall seems to suit some plants, the courgettes are going mad and the rhubarb, which I had feared was on its way out, is flourishing. So what to do with rhubarb when crumbles and pies might seem inappropriate for summer (note: though not in this house where a crumble is the favourite dessert of all the menfolk whatever the weather!)

I decided on a cold dessert – a Rhubarb and Ginger Fool – I included the ginger as I like this taste combination. I wasn’t quite happy with the recipes I found so created my own – and now present it for your delectation.

Ann’s Rhubarb and Ginger Fool

This recipe makes sufficient for 4

300 – 400 grams of prepared rhubarb  (3-4-or 5 sticks of Rhubarb – depending on size)
150 ml double cream
Teaspoon or two of ground ginger – to taste
4 – 6 chunks of crystallized ginger – depending on size
Sugar to taste / Sweet Cicely if you have it
Optional – Green food colouring  DSCF0188

  1. Wash, trim and slice rhubarb into very thin slices. About 1cm, easily and swiftly done if you bunch the stems together and slice them all at once. (Only slice longer sections if you actually like ‘stringy’ rhubarb – which I do not!)DSCF5419
  2. If you have Sweet Cicely place fronds over the rhubarb – if not sugar will be added laterDSCF0196
  3. Place in oven-safe glass dish, cover with lid and cook for 4 mins in the microwave on high, remove lid, stir and cook for a further 2 – 4 mins on high until all the rhubarb is cooked and separates easily. Place somewhere to cool. sliced ginger
  4. When Rhubarb is cold (remove the Sweet Cicely leaves if used) taste – sprinkle over a teaspoon or two of sugar, beat in well and taste. You want it to have a bite but not be too sharp. Add more sugar as required.
  5. Sift a teaspoon of ground ginger over the mixture – mix very well – taste. Repeat until a hint of ginger comes through the rhubarb – not overwhelming.
  6. Whisk double cream until thick.
  7. Add ¾ of the cream to the rhubarb mix and beat in well until totally blended.
  8. At this point you can decide to leave this au naturel, or drop a drip or two of green food colouring in to give it a fresher colour – if you do, beat it in well.
  9. Add the final ¼ of the whipped cream and swirl together.
  10. Place in 4 pretty cups and saucers / sundae dishes / wine glasses – or pile into a serving bowl.
  11. Slice the crystallized ginger in to VERY thin slices and dot about the top to decorate.

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Now, to turn my mind to the glut of courgettes (or marrows as they like to become almost overnight!)

Do tell me if you try this and like it …

What is your favourite summer pud?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you  :)


Talk about the Weather!

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Members of Dumnonika with Sally at her book-launch

Oh? Yes! It’s me, I guess you’d forgotten about this blog… it looked like I had, but I hadn’t. Life had just got in the way, but this time pleasant life.

We are fortunate enough to have been off to Malaysia to visit our eldest son, wife and their three sons – our grandsons. So Good to see them at their home!

I won’t give you my travelogue here, but when I came home it was the weather that struck me most of all. Apart from the feeling that you are living the the perfectly moderated air-con environment when outside (this lasts for a day) it becomes abundantly noticeable why the British are obsessed by the weather.

It is for a good reason that one of the most popular opening gambits in a British conversation, with both friends and strangers, is a comment about the weather.

No one seems to talk about the weather when it is 36 degrees and very humid everyday when you wake (to a sunrise at the same time everyday of the year) followed by more of the same until late afternoon/ early evening when the wind will get up, the sky darken, lightning flash, thunder crash and the rain will sheet down like a waterfall for about ten to fifteen minutes before the sky clears and everything quickly steams dry again before nightfall swiftly arrives at the same time as it always does, around eight.

What is there to say? ‘Looks like the weather will be the same today?’

So home; the first day cloudy when we arrived, turning to bright sunshine that lasted into a late evening.

Second day; started dry but overcast and quite cold over the morning, brightened into hot by late afternoon and into the evening.

Third day; rained and drizzled all day.

Fourth day; a day of blazing heat and beautiful sunshine – and I know because I spend this day outdoors with the lovely Sally Newton at the launch of her novel ‘Caradoc – The Defiant Prince’ - set AD25 – where we were accompanied by Dumnonika – an Iron-Age re-enactment group for the first day of the Upton Cross Art and Craft Exhibition and Sale.

Book launch Upton cross poster Black &  Red & BlueIn fact it was such good weather and it was so hot it wasn’t really the best day to draw in the crowds … though rain would have proved even more difficult for an outside event like our part of the day.  As it was, hordes headed to the beaches, though a good sunburn could be had where we were too, and we had small groups of interested and engaged people instead – perfect. This made for a very successful launch of Sally’s novel which is the first of a trilogy covering the life of Caradoc, a real historic figure of the Iron-Age.

If you live in SE Cornwall (or SW Devon even)  and would like to see the Art and Craft Exhibition and Sale at Upton Cross it runs until 6pm on the 16th August and is well worth a look, but though signed copies of my books, and Sally’s, are on the Pendown Publishing stand I’m afraid we will not be there, nor will Dumnonika – but if you want to know more about them go to their website at Dumnonika.com.

 

Have you ever been away and then found the simple things of home more pleasing?

Do you like historical novels, Iron-Age anyone?

Do share, you know I’ve missed you    ;)

 

[p.s. – seems I will be there on Friday afternoon – helping out – so if you want a book dedicated just ask at the door where to find me :) ]

 


Standing room only!

They ran out of chairs! Yes – when we held the official book-launch of Some Kind of Synchrony at Waterstones in New George Street Plymouth we started with the 45 chairs from the Costa end of the upstairs set out nicely for the author-interview at the book-shop end. set up

Lee, manager of this Waterstones, had created a lovely display of my books and set two leather chairs in front of this, nicely angled as per a chat-show with the audience seats in a neat block in front of us.

The bubbly and nibbles we set up on a table off to the side and then we waited.

The audience began to arrive. To begin with I knew most of them; I had invited lots of friends and acquaintances to help me celebrate the launch of the novel. It was so exciting to greet people as they arrived. Soon it was obvious that Lee would need to put out the reserve folding chairs… but the audience continued to grow, with people I did not know swelling the numbers. Eventually all the heavy armchairs were manhandled over from the Costa end as well so that most people could have a seat. … even so, some had to remain standing.waterstonesNow the audience was not confined to a block in front of the set up arrangement, but ranged around the top of the stairwell (and therefore behind a large pillar) so, to make sure that the most people could then at least see and hear me while I talked I abandoned the seated ‘chat-show’ format and took to standing at the far end of our space. I find I like standing to talk – probably from years of teaching!

I ought to be able to remember everything I said… after all I had primed Simon, who was conducting the interview as well as there to add his own insight into the venue, with suitable questions, but I can’t! Everything is a bit of a blur … did I say ‘this or that’ then… or when I was talking to the journalist at the Tavistock Times earlier that same day?

One point I know was made … Some Kind of Synchrony is largely based in a Newspaper office and so is the story within the novel, and I had done my research for this at the Western Morning News. This particular Waterstones is housed in what was the original Western Morning News building – making it the perfect place for the launch of this novel!chat 1

So at an opportune moment Simon Parker, who is an editor with the Western Morning News and an author in his own right, painted a verbal picture of what that very building we were sitting in was like when it was the Western Morning News building and he was a young journalist. You could almost smell the smoke, hear the clatter and recreate the surrounding as he described them.

The time seemed to fly – I know that I really enjoyed myself  (once we got going – bag of nerves before)  and feedback seems to indicate that my lovely audience did too.

A very short reading to finish up and we were breaking open the bubbly – or rather others were as I had the honour of signing and dedicating books! I even had a queue at one time! queue

If you came along – thank you – an author is nothing without readers and neither is a book launch without friends and readers to share it with.

empty rack

Rack emptied of Some Kind of Synchrony

Eventually I worked out where and who the people I did not know came from, mostly friends and acquaintances of friends, and asked for my thanks to be passed along to them for coming … all except a young man with a long-ponytail who had his copy of Some Kind of Synchrony dedicated to Daniel (his name I presume) and who, at the time, I assumed was a friend of my nephew. Seems not, so whoever you are Daniel – thank you too for coming along!

Finally I have learnt three things from this event – and you all know how much I love to learn – a day where I have learnt something is a day well spent. One, from a question put to me about setting aside time to write… that I have been looking at this all wrong. I managed to write my first (never to be seen again) novel in short half hour blocks. Even if I can not manage my ideal of two hours uninterrupted I should ‘go for it’ in any half hours I have – these exist where the two hours slots are elusive. Two, I always knew I used my hands a LOT when I talk (it has been commented upon on numerous occasion) and isn’t about to change, but flicking through the photographs taken by Krissi on the evening I had not realised how many funny faces I pull as I talk. Now, having not realised it I probably can’t do much about it – but trying to find ‘nice’ pictures to post was tricky! And three – I am blessed with lovely friends who are willing to support me when the call goes out – and that is a blessing indeed.

Did you come along? What were your impressions?

Did you have a question you wished you had asked? I can answer now….

Do You want to know about the next book launch when it comes up – just let me know by email and I’ll send you an invite :)


Pictures at an exhibition

pic3Yesterday I went with a friend to see an exhibition of paintings by another mutual friend (what a lot of friends) Let’s call them Krissi and Anthea.  Yes, that Anthea – Anthea Lay! – the one who was on the Big Painting Challenge on BBC1 earlier in the year.pic2

Paintings were displayed across the top of the grand staircase as we arrived, as well as this lovely poster, the background being a painting by Anthea’s co-exhibitor the equally talented Katy Stoneman.

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The exhibition was in a delightful space atop the visitors centre in Bodmin. Inside it was on a sort of  indoor balcony, as you can see, with wonderful light.

The balcony went around half the top of the visitors centre – here is Anthea alongside paintings at the other end of the balcony to the previous photograph.

As you will know I am really excited that I managed to commission Anthea to paint me a picture that will become the cover for my work in progress set in a fictional village in the Tamar Valley.

However, that has to wait! First I have the official Book Launch of Some Kind of Synchrony coming up this Friday – and in preparation I went down to Truro to talk to Tiffany Truscott on BBC Radio Cornwall again. As always she was a delight to talk to as we looked at the triggers that got me writing this book when I did. Tiffany  and me skos for blog Listen again (for next 21 days) HERE

And it is still not too late to come and join us at Waterstones  – 65 New George St. Plymouth [UK  ;) ] at 6.30pm on Friday 15th May, where I am lucky to be joined by Simon Parker, editor at the Western Morning News, author and publisher, who will be conducting my author interview and shedding light on the choice of venue.

After which we’ll have a well deserved glass of something bubbly, mingling and book signing. Waterstones SKOS BOOK LAUNCH Friday 15th May back colour poster pic .doc

I look forward to seeing you there.

In the meantime – if you are around Bodmin between now and the 22nd DO go to Anthea and Katy’s exhibition at the visitors centre in Shire Hall – I am sure you will enjoy it!

 

 

 


Another ‘sweet-treat cheat’ Mini-Mille-Feuille

DSCF7366

Apricot Crowns

Back in January I showed you how to make Apricot Crowns (method and recipe here) - an easy to make but great looking  finger-buffet dessert I created.

Earlier this month I did a demo for our local WI on making these and two other finger-buffet desserts – and now I am going to share another one of them with you.

These finger-buffet desserts are also ‘cheats’ in that they are really quite easy – but look and taste as if they have taken ages to achieve!

This one, like the apricot crowns, uses all-butter puff pastry. I use the ready made – not because I cannot make puff pastry but because this is one thing that I think the machines do better – besides I do not have all day –  and making puff pastry properly Takes All Day!

I also use ready-rolled puff pastry – not because I cannot roll my own – but because our local branch of Tesco (as in this is the only one of the two local supermarkets that does the All-Butter puff pastry at all – and I do want butter) – does not do the blocks … only the ready rolled!

So here goes! To make Mini Mille Feuille:DSCF0119

Mini Mille-feuille – makes 48

1 pack All Butter Puff pastry (ready rolled)
Half pint double cream – whipped
Half jar of seedless raspberry jam

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Top and base – two halves of same rectangle of puff pastry

Method:
Take out puff-pastry – roll to flatten only.
Measure – trim to discard wavy edges – you should be able to make 48 rectangles of 2” x 1”  from the sheet at 12″ x 8″
Cut with a sharp knife and place on greased baking tray in hot oven (200 degrees C fan – 220 standard)
Bake for 10 mins or until risen and golden.
Remove from oven – slice open sideways, tipping tops to one side, return to oven for 2 mins to crisp soft pastry.
Remove and leave to cool.
When cool spread a little jam on the base of each one.
Using a piping bag with insert but no piping nozzle, pipe along inside of top section.
Place on top of the jammed base and set onto serving dish
Finely dust with icing sugar when all completed – YUM!

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Mini-Mille-feuille

Two bites and they are gone!

Ideal if you are having a party, the pastry pieces can be made up well before (even frozen if a long, long time before)  and just finished off in the afternoon (they’ll keep well enough in the fridge til the evening)  Great if you’ve been asked to ‘bring a pud’ to a finger-buffet – as they look stunning and soon get snapped up!

Has anyone tried the Apricot Crowns already? How did it go?

Do you have a favourite dessert that you always like to make?

Do share, you know I love to hear from you


So Excited … and a little terrified!

Some of you may know this already … but I just have to tell everyone!

The long over-due OFFICIAL Book Launch of Some Kind of Synchrony is going to happen on Friday the 15th of May ….

at WATERSTONES in Plymouth.

 

SKOS

Cue lots of preparations and negotiations.

I am now delighted to announce that Simon Parker, an editor with the Western Morning News and an author in his own right, will also be coming along. He will be asking me questions and also throwing light on why the branch of Waterstones, at 65 New George Street, Plymouth, is a great place to launch this particular book. (Not the one in the Mall!)

Now some of you, who have had to opportunity to get your hands on a pre-launch copy, (Yes, I have had them out and about – arranging the official launch took much longer than expected!) may be able to guess the reason, depending on your knowledge of Plymouth, but even then I am sure that Simon will be able to add colour to that black and white picture.

You, dear reader, are therefore cordially invited to come along to this book launch – where, at 6.30pm, we will have an entertaining Author interview followed by questions, bubbly (of one type or another) mingling and book signing and still leave you time to go on elsewhere for the rest of the evening (or home to recover)

Waterstones SKOS BOOK LAUNCH Friday 15th May back colour poster pic .doc

Have you been to other book launches before?

Do you live close enough? Are you coming? I’d love to see you along!

The more the merrier – do bring your friends too!

I love to hear from you – do share :)

… and please do share using Facebook – click the button below to like and then share – thank you


Good-News : Bad-News and … gardening

Thinking about this blog (while handling scaffolding poles) I kept thinking about that skit – Good-News : Bad-News.

HOUSE for blogGood news – (well it will be for some lucky person who decides to buy our lovely historic house here in Cornwall) – we are selling our beautiful house.  Bad News – it will mean we will be leaving this lovely place which once rang to the playfulness of our four boys as they roamed the huge garden as they were growing up. Good News – we do not intend to move far – after all, as the village is in the lovely Tamar Valley within half an hour of Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor or the Sea!! – why would we? In fact we are converting the barn.  Bad News – we are doing most of the work ourselves. Good News – this will keep the OH happy (nothing he likes more than ‘a project’) and will be cost-efficient.  Bad News – this means I am now
‘The Gardener DSCF0149 crop
as well.

Or, as today, right-hand-woman in the conversion – today ‘scaffolder’s mate’ passing up the the poles, boards and stuff. Just as well I do weights to keep fit!

Now, to be the gardener is not my delight, and this job has been the OH’s since I returned to work after time-out to bring up the boys (in the days when we both went to work outside the home!) and mightily glad I was of it!

There are problems with me being the gardener at the best of times. One, as a general rule, if I lavish love and care upon a plant it is sure to curl up and die. You have heard of ‘green fingers’… well I think mine are red (that being opposite on a colour-wheel to green) or black – that being the colour the plants end up as. Two, I find it seems to take an inordinate amount of time and my time has many callings upon it already – not least finishing my latest novel! And, thirdly, this is not the best of times … when the house is on the market there is this extra pressure for the garden to look nice. Weeded. In bloom. Tidy. Dead-headed (I’m showing off now)

So yesterday was a full-on gardening day (not the first this year I hasten to add, but one I had been dreading) A small, nearly circular garden of about a metre and a half in diameter, which is semi-shaded (in that it is in the shade for part of the day) had become infested with a garlic-smelling bulb with leaves like a daffodil or a bluebell but curling over more and a white and green bell-like flower arranged somewhat like a bluebell. DSCF0159Allium triquetrum – a form of wild garlic with a triangular stem (not to be confused with Ransoms with their heads of lovely star-like flowers – also known as wild garlic) It seems it is edible and can be used to make a good pesto* but that is no excuse to mess up a perfectly good flower-bed. (*as can Ransoms – and I may try one day – I know there is another patch of Allium triquetrum further down our wood, as well as plenty of Ransoms!) This had started a few years ago as a single flower and had been mistaken for just that – a ‘flower’. It was in a bed that was mostly filled with perennials (showing off again) a huge fuchsia, a perennial poppy with gorgeous large flower heads, daffodils of various types, primulas and Alcheilla mollis (lady’s mantle) I wish I had taken a BEFORE photograph to show you how thoroughly and comprehensively this weed had taken over. There wasn’t a trowel-full of soil that did not contain ten to fifty of these plants, some as fine as thin grass, some as stout as a daffodil. They had both seeded and divided and were woven in and out of all the other perennials that had, hitherto, made this garden an almost self-maintaining spot.

SO, everything had to come out. I was loathe to part with the fuchsia, so instead broke it apart and wheedled out every sign DSCF0152of the little blighters before replanting about half of the pieces. Similarly I ‘cleaned’ all the other plants I had chosen to return to the fold. I then dug up the ‘blocks’ of weed, two wheelbarrow loads, and then sieved all the remaining earth to a depth of about five to six inches to remove every trace of the weed. I dug in a wheelbarrow-load of home-made compost and replanted what I had chosen to start the bed off with again. I have a few different perennials I am bringing along in the greenhouse which will fill the spaces and bring the plot to life again later in the year.

Meanwhile – in other parts of the garden, nature has made some bits look lovely , the orchard is full of daffs, the camellias are glowing, the primulas abundant – if only the flower beds would be so well behaved and simple! DSCF0151DSCF0153DSCF0156Are you a keen gardener – or a reluctant one?

Where do you live? What do you love about your area?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you :)

 


What our Ancestors can teach us about healing

It is odd that today I came across not one, but two examples of the ‘super-‘bug’ MRSA being defeated, or at the least severely dented, by ‘old recipes’ for fighting disease.

The first was a report in NEW SCIENTIST that scientists from the University of Nottingham have worked on a recipe to cure styes, laid out in a 1000 year-old Anglo-Saxon medical recipes book called Bald’s Leechbook . (article here)    DSCF5518

It sounds like the three witches in Macbeth, ‘Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together… take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek… let it stand nine days in the brass vessel…’  But this is exactly what the scientists did.. though they made sure everything was sterile, and had controls set up, and had each element set up separately too (to see if only one would work – none did on their own)

The result: ‘The potion was tested on scraps of skin taken from mice infected with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. This is an antibiotic-resistant version of the bacteria that causes styes, more commonly known as the hospital super-bug MRSA. The potion killed 90 per cent of the bacteria. Vancomycin, the antibiotic generally used for MRSA, killed about the same proportion when it was added to the skin scraps’.

Just imagine how long and how much experimentation had to have taken place in ancient times to come up with this particular mixture of herbs and the vessel to use to make it in, made up so carefully (another ‘try’ with this recipe by a US university in 2005 resulted in  ‘a loathsome, odorous slime‘ that did not work,) and left for that particular length of time to discover it worked, that it cured styes (for that is what the recipe was for – and as styes are caused by Staphylococcus aureus – this is why the scientists were trying it)

This method has been peer tested by Dr Kendra Rumbaugh, of Texas Tech University in the US, who was asked to replicate the findings. She said that the salve performed ‘good if not better’ than traditional antibiotics at tackling the superbug. The findings were presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham which runs from March 30 this year.

IMG_0384The second MRSA attacker I heard about on the radio — my ears pricked up when I heard the goats (we used to keep goats) and they were the source of this other unexpected beater of MRSA.  It is a long story – but the goats had initially been kept to help with their son’s asthma (this is well documented that Goat’s milk is a less antagonistic to bronchial conditions than cows milk.) They also found that it helped clear up his eczema when made into a cream and a soap.

Now, eczema is an auto-immune disease and many auto-immune diseases appear to be triggered in the gut. By making a fermented product from the goat’s milk, called kefir, they found they had something that seemed to help many auto-immune gut related conditions. Kefir is a powerful probiotic that has been made for hundreds of years in Russia, though the name is possibly Turkish (from keif meaning good feeling).

Then, after surgery, the husband contracted MRSA from the hospital. The wound wasn’t healing, worse, the MRSA was attacking the skin and flesh and making the wound larger and worse and, despite treatment, would not go away. Having read of the curative powers of kefir and having seen how it had helped their son with both asthma and eczema, the wife started treating her husband with kefir by getting him to drink it. She also read-up on essential oils and, believe it or not, the bubonic plague and a bunch of perfumiers who didn’t catch it, and created her own blend of essential oils which she used to bathe his skin, after which she used the kefir on his skin too. In two weeks his skin was testing negative for MRSA and soon healed. The blend of essential oils has since been lab-tested to show it is effective against a whole bunch of pathogenic bacteria, and they are currently working with Swansea university on the effects of kefir and the essential oils  (read an article here)

Now these are concoctions that have been ‘known’ about in the western world for hundreds of years – and we are still only just realising how nature works, how our bodies work and how they can work together – or against each other. If this is the state we are in with cures and remedies we already ‘know’ about  – how many more cures are out there in nature, especially in the most bio-diverse regions like the rain-forests that man seems set on destroying? It makes you think!  (Yes, I did quite get into all this while I was writing ‘The Angel Bug’ as one of the main characters was deeply concerned for the rain-forest and its bio-diversity – does it show?

Had you picked up on these stories in the recent media?

What are your thoughts?

Are you fed up with the general election  (UK) ALREADY?

Do share – you know you want to :)


Something to Sing about

I’ve told you that I was going along to see why I couldn’t sing – despite loving to sing. I set off expecting to be asked to hit a few notes, perhaps played on a piano or something for me to repeat, or a trilling ‘lalala’ to copy, perhaps even a rendition of “Doe a deer a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun, me … ” from the sound of music or just a ..me-me-me-me-me…Hmmm?

None of it, well not for a long time.  My dear and lovely friend, (this is why I felt safe even though still vulnerable) made us both a nice cuppa and we sat. ‘Why do you think you cannot sing?’ she asked, without having heard the evidence (ie, me trying to sing.)  ‘When, in fact, did you first think you could not sing?’ I did tell you before that she is of the belief that everyone can sing!  Did I mention she is also a beautiful singer and ex speech-therapist?

Picture credit to Gryffindor

Picture credit to Gryffindor

As it happens the first time I realised I could not sing is etched in my memory. I must have been about nine – as I was in Mrs Snow’s class. I can see the room, the double desks on cast iron frames, the ink-wells set in them. Mrs Snow was choosing people for some sort of special choir. The actual reason is, for me, lost in time. I suspect it was something to do with the church, as our school was a C of E and we trooped next door to the church for various events.

‘All those who would like to be in the choir put your hand up.’ Me, me, me, my hand up and waving. She picked out about a dozen, maybe fifteen, hand-wavers. Pointed at me and said, ‘Not You,’ then also to a contemporary sitting two desks away. This was a lad whose voice I had heard often in our ‘Singing Together’ lessons (A lesson broadcast on the radio and followed in class with special booklets of the songs) as he sat quite close to me and, I thought, sang like a frog.  He was a keen joiner-in though so had his hand up for the choir too, finally a ‘Not you,’ for one other child, over towards the back of the classroom. Everyone else who wanted to sing was chosen.

It was obvious to me then … I knew the lad couldn’t sing .. so I must sing like a frog too.

Sadly that was not the only time I was deterred from singing, my dear OH wonders aloud ‘if I am ill’ if he hears me singing loudly in the kitchen (as he often does – as I love to sing along to the radio) and I was even asked to mime at the end of an Am Dram panto as I was ‘putting the others off in the last big chorus.’

So, after an hour of chat and probing about my memories of singing, which included the times I liked to sing, happier memories of singing and the like, she gets out the words to Good King Wenceslas. ‘Lets have a go at this,’ she says, ‘but as you sing I want you to swing your arms from side to side.’

And so we did. We sang the first verse together.

‘Perfectly in tune,’ she says. ‘Next verse you sing ‘the King’ I’ll sing ‘the page’.

‘Great – perfect. Next verse, together..’

Well I was right in the swing of it now I thought (arms swinging away rhythmically too, to help distract me from thinking too much – I think)  ….. but when we came to the second half of the verse my voice went to pot…… ‘Ah HA!’ she said, ‘You tried to sing that high when it didn’t need it and it went everywhere!’

And so it had.

‘You could be as low as a tenor,’ she said, ‘or at least second Alto.  And if you sang naturally low even as a child you may have not blended in with the high voices of the rest, so that Mrs Snow wouldn’t want a low voice mixed in with the general high voices. You sing low – but not out of tune and not like a frog!’

‘I suspect that you try to sing like others around you, but the melody line is frequently out of your range so your notes go all over the place – which explains why even in later life you have been told not to sing.’

WOW

So, like the Page I follow, placing my feet in the footprints as we  ‘siren’ swooping from high to low and back up high – and higher. Good vocal stretching, silly noises that are not singing but may extend my range. I am to practise.

We are going to have another meeting. None of this is to teach me to sing… but I now know that it is not without hope. If I choose I can find my voice – perhaps have some singing lessons, perhaps join a choir that needs low voices… exciting or what? Certainly something to sing about!

Do you remember ‘Singing Together’?

Have you ever been told not to sing?

Is it possible that it is only a misplaced voice?

Can we really all sing??

What do you think – do share, you know I love to hear from you.