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.


This is not a real post – just a Litter-rant update

This is not a real post – just a Litter-rant update, honest – the post I was writing and didn’t post will arrive early next week.
DSCF0145
THIS is how much rubbish was collected on our Saturday Litter-pick. THIS MUCH! from just the roadsides round out parish.
So you can see our litter-pick happened but not before yet more hurdles were placed in our way…. as you will know I was railing against the fact that one of the volunteers had to travel a total of 50 miles to borrow the equipment to do this litter-pick with… well .. this is what happened……
We headed off the the Liskeard, Moorswater depot … having checked where it should be… it turned out to be a place so unsigned that we had to ask in two other places before we found it! Even when we drove into the yard it wasn’t clear where to go – the office door having only a sign that said ‘visitors must sign in at reception’ though no sign to say where reception was, whose office this was, or anything. I stuck my head inside and said ‘I’m supposed to be collecting some litter-picking equipment?’ Slight surprise but recollection too, then they went to retrieve it from where-ever.
Boxes were brought… I looked and checked numbers ….. instead of the 25 pickers, 25 hoops, 20 tabards and 50 sacks ALL they had to loan us was 19 litter-pickers, 11 hoops, NO TABARDS and 50 sacks.  It transpired that they DO NOT keep this equipment at Moorswater – it had been delivered to them … and that is all they were sent!
 
Now, what you need to know is that without high-visibility tabards a litter pick should not be able to go ahead, as wearing these is part of the Risk Assessment that has to be complied with to receive the Council’s insurance to cover the event.
I asked for a receipt for the numbers I had actually been given as I did not want a different person telling me I had items missing when I returned them and set off wondering what we could do.
 
Luckily I had half dozen adult tabards and 19 small (child size) tabards that we have had since we first began our litter-pick and we were sent them from the national Keep Britain Tidy group. These are like bright green plastic bags with writing on and holes  for heads and arms. I then spent and hour  ‘converting’ most of these to fit an adult – so at least the litter-pick could go ahead. Everyone was very understanding, (including one gentleman who squeezed into an unconverted child-sized tabard – I wish I had taken a photo!) and we had a record turn-out of thirty helpers. (some helping at a different time to others) AND many thanks to all those valiant people who turned out and a special mention for Daniel who picks up all the bags and brings them back to ‘HQ’ for collection by the council later.
Was it worth it? Well, you be the judge – above is the photo of this year’s haul, thirty full bags of rubbish plus a couple of dumped tyres, some hub-caps and a television stand. Just think what it would look like if this much rubbish were left to lie beside our roads and lanes, with the same again added year on year.
So my rant stands, I think Cornwall Council are not helping to encourage volunteers who are picking up the litter, that the council should be doing, by effectively charging volunteers to borrow the equipment (that’s paid for through council taxes) by making them travel so far to collect and return it. We all know times are tight for councils, but this is wrong-headed. They have had plenty of advertising for their ‘Clean-Cornwall’ but what use is that if they treat volunteers in this manner?
Promise – the next post is far more pleasant  :)
Did you come on the litter-pick?
Have you been on one in your area?
Do share- you know I love to hear from you – even when it’s only been a rant :)

Council Kicking the Gift-Horse in the Head

You will have read here before of our annual litter-pick – clearing our beautiful Cornish country lanes of the litter debris that accumulates over the year. You will  have seen the HUGE pile of bags filed with this rubbish, numbering twenty or more, plus sundry car tyres, plastic buckets and unidentified parts of something or other … Here’s last year’s collection DSCF7445

This all done through the goodwill of VOLUNTEERS. Volunteers who arrange the day, the allocation of routes,  the borrowing of tools to help in the job, the driving round the routes to collect bags that have become too heavy to carry, the collection of all the bags filled and sundry objects, and, ultimately the collection of all this by the Council.

All fine and dandy … we’ve been doing this for nigh on twenty years. However this year I am very UNHAPPY. The council have decided that the equipment can only be collected from one of four depots around our long county. … expecting us, in this case, to make a total of !!! 50 miles !!!  journey to borrow these items ….  TO HELP THE COUNCIL DO ITS WORK ???

# Their excuse is ‘the cuts’ … Umm excuse me ….. wind back a bit ……

Last year* (and for a number preceding this) we have been able to collect the equipment from the local One-Stop-Shop (once these became established – before then the equipment was delivered to us [yes that was extravagant] and, sensibly, collected when the refuse was collected.)

In this* model the equipment was delivered TO the One Stop Shop by the Council Van – which goes to round to each One-Stop-Shop  ANYWAY.  We could arrange to pick it up on a day during the week preceding out litter-pick – to suit us – and return it the next week. This meant it was picked up and returned when someone was already going into the local town RESULT = NO EXTRA TRANSPORT REQUIRED = less impact on the environment + less expense for the volunteers!

The Council blame ‘CUTS’ ….  HOW can volunteers travelling 50+ miles be better? As I understand it, one other volunteer group has already cancelled their litter-pick… and were it not for the fact that ours has been advertised I doubt this one would go ahead. Will we feel inclined to organise it next year? I doubt it.

The council appears to assume - by asking the volunteers to collect and return at distance – that the volunteers have the TIME in their working week to do this, that they have the SPARE MONEY to afford the extra cost, that they care so little about the environment that driving unnecessary miles is fine with them.

“A VOLUNTEER IS WORTH TEN PRESSED MEN”

It isn’t enough that we give up a Saturday afternoon (when we could all find something more pleasurable to be doing) to clear the litter from the highways and byways of our parish – it seems we are now expected to ‘pay’ to do so. This is not to say that we are not grateful for the loan of the equipment, we are, it makes doing ‘the council’s job’ easier for us, encourages more people to get involved, which encourages more people to care for their environment. The enthusiasm with which people work at this task is wonderful – as the saying goes ‘a volunteer is truly worth ten pressed men’

INSULT TO INJURY
Cornwall Council choice of recycling-collection method even causes litter

Litter-picking also means we get to see the types and locations of litter. We can highlight the patterns of offenders, the ‘every-week stop for a snack and a smoke – drop it out the window’ the ‘regular buy a Costa Coffee – drop the empty cup out the window as they finish’ the ‘chuck the cigarette-packet as they drive into the parish’ types. Since the council have changed to a new recycling collection system, where the recycling is collected loose from kerb-side bags, we have also identified another type of litter. Domestic recycling that has ‘jumped’ out of the recycling wagon, or been ‘sucked out’ by the wind as they drive along. 

How do we know? Well, who would fold flat a Quaker-Oats box (to give a specific example) then drive a couple of hundred yards or so to throw it out? Or lids from cans of fruit of similar? Or washed, squashed milk-bottles? This litter is usually a long way from residences; where the lorry gets a bit of speed up. Indeed, litter being ‘sucked out and whirling into the air’ has been observed by one of our group when following a recycling lorry down a long stretch between houses.

Ironic, then, that they are causing more litter AND effectively dissuading people from helping clean it up!

Looking again at that HUGE pile of litter and rubbish and debris we collected last year from the highways and byways of our small Cornish parish … It seems Cornwall Council want that to stay blighting the countryside this year, and the same again added every year! No amount of advertising ‘Clean Cornwall week / fortnight’ will get this picked up without the Volunteers that they are turning against them.

Do you think the council are being blinkered by ‘the cuts!!’

Are they ‘cutting’ off their nose to spite their face?

Are they kicking the gift-horse in the head (to mix my metaphors?)

What do you think we should do next year if they do not change this policy?

Rant over …  normal service may return next week… though it depends what rubbish we find on the litter-pick :)


Famous friend and Fictional place

Have you been watching The Big Painting Challenge on BBC 1? (iplayer link HERE to first episode- runs out in 21 days) I have to say it has inspired me to think about my drawing and painting skills, long left to lie. Except when in meetings… I am an inveterate doodler – and when in meetings will doodle.

Some are of the opinion that doodling is akin to ignoring the meeting altogether. Not so! In fact it has been shown that those who doodle actually are taking in more than those who merely sit and listen. Even if I am chairing the meeting, I usually end up with a doodle or two – usually around the items on the agenda that cause most discussion. DSCF0133

Doodles, it is said, can also be interpreted, sharp angular ones indicating dissent, or difficulties, loose flowing ones indicating calm and non confrontational thought. I really can’t comment on this! Enough about doodles – on to some real Art!

If you have been watching The Big Painting Challenge you will, by now, be a little familiar with the contestants. Next time you watch please notice Anthea.  Anthea Lay exhibits her paintings at the same morning market that I mentioned last week, where I take my books as an opportunity to meet friends and the buying pubic, and has become a friend.

A long while ago I asked Anthea about painting a picture that I could use as a cover for my next book. At that time I had only just started writing but I knew my main protagonist was a woman who was very involved in art, and I felt a cover that was, and looked, like a painting, would be appropriate. Fast forward to this winter and I now know where my protagonist lives (in a fictional village near Kit Hill in the Tamar Valley) and much more about the story, so I commissioned Anthea to create this fictional scene.

To assist with the transition of my idea to her vision I gave her a photograph of a ‘wild’ sky I had taken over Caradon mast, another with Kit Hill in the background, saying the fictional village could be on the ridge by the valley full of trees you could see, a photograph of a converted chapel that I had in my mind’s eye for the home of the main character and a plan of the ‘village’ that I created to make sure my characters move around their landscape properly; and then asked if all the relevant details could be squished onto the right hand side of the painting as this would be the front cover. Tall order!? Not for Anthea!  ‘Landscapes’ are Anthea’s thing and she usually paints only from life but she had fun creating this new, imagined and ‘painterly’ landscape and I am delighted. IMG_1680 CroppedSo lucky to have such talented friends!

The sky is suitably ‘Turner-esque’ and though from a ‘real’ sky looks as if it could only exist in a painting, the salient points in the story-village are identifiable should you wish to do so, the whole countryside effect is perfect.

To be turned into a book cover it, obviously, has to have the title and author’s name across it.. and blurb and other info on the back – to give you all an idea I have just added the words to the front cover part (not done professionally – words will be better and properly spaced on the real thing) The whole painting will be used for the cover – running right through onto the back.

FRONT MOCK-UP  ARLWhat are your reactions to this book-cover idea?

Do you DOODLE?

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

If you live in SE Cornwall or SW Devon you are lucky to be close enough to see some of Anthea’s work on exhibition and for sale at The Wharf, Tavistock; Compton Engine House cafe, Florence Road, Kelly Bray; Jane’s Florists and Art show room, the Pannier Market, Callington and The Public Rooms, Liskeard as well as the Wednesday morning Callington Country Market aforementioned, don’t miss your chance now that she is not only talented but also ‘famous’!


Which one did they win cabbages on?

So began an interlude when I turned up at the village shop the other day. ‘Was it Crackerjack?’ Mary asked.

‘Surely not, didn’t they win pencils on that?’ I replied, well and truly intrigued already (doesn’t take much – this is country-life after all)

Now, I have no idea how this conversation had started before I arrived, but I do know that Alan was already on the computer looking it up. ‘It was!’ he said, ‘but they didn’t win them they had to hold them.’  (he was referring to cabbages!)

Seems my memory was duff – they did win pencils with Crackerjack printed on them (certainly into BIG prizes back then!!) – and everyone shouted ‘Crackerjack’ … but the cabbages came in a part of the programme called ‘Double or Drop’ whereby for each right answer they were given a prize to hold and for each wrong answer the contestant was given a cabbage to hold. They were ‘out’ if they dropped anything … or were awarded their third cabbage!  (here follows a youtube clip – you need to be reading the original post rather than your email to see it) 

This began a trawling through of other ‘game shows of our childhood’ which drew in another customer who, despite having a few years on us, declared he wasn’t old enough to remember any of them!

I do recall Crackerjack, though I have to say it wasn’t something that I was desperate to watch. I was amazed to find out that it was on our screens  from 1956 through to 1984 with many incarnations of presenters and added sections to boost interest. As it was essentially aimed at children I suppose that my interest, such as it was, waned as I ‘grew out of it’.

The game show that left the biggest impression on me from the 60s would have to be ‘Opportunity Knocks’ a sort of talent show with (I always thought the slightly creepy) Hugie Green. This was soon displaced by The Generation Game with Bruce Forsyth when it arrived early in the 70s.

All in all I didn’t really like the ‘slap-stick’ and ‘crazy-fun’ sort of game shows. Anything that depended on people being made t0 look inadequate or silly I didn’t find funny then (or now). (here follows a youtube clip – you need to be reading the original post rather than your email to see it)

A game show I do recall and loved from the 60s and 70s was Call My Bluff – not aimed at children, but watched avidly in our house. I loved Frank Muir’s vocal antics as he describe the ‘true’ meaning of the words!  As an easy-to-put-on entertainment (not easy to prepare mind!) we had a session of Call My Bluff last month at our WI…. with ‘characters’ reading out the definitions and the audience choosing what they thought was the right answer – good fun was had by all… and we now refer to heavy rain here as ‘lumming it down’ :)

Perhaps this was my early and enduring love-affair with words.  It is hard as writer not to use any word in your own vocabulary as you write and I have sometimes been chastised for using words that I am told ‘many people’ would not understand. Now, as an author you really do not want anything to hold-up the flow of thought-transition, between words on the page and the imagination of the reader to form it into their personal ‘film-of-the-book’, but, as an educator, I rail against the ‘dumbing-down’ of language. So as an author I have to tread a fine-line between the two.

My OH tells me he uses his ‘dictionary’ function on his kindle fairly often. Such a great little tool, whereby you highlight the word and within seconds you have the full dictionary definition there before you, and great way to expand your own vocabulary!

Which brings me onto another conversation … with another book-aholic writer. She confessed to having been saying a word she had only ever read, never heard, in the way she thought it ought to be said .. for years.. until she was horrified to hear it used by someone who did know only to find she’d been saying the word incorrectly all the time. My confession followed, my faux-pas was the word hyperbole … which I had been rendering as hyper – bole in my head …. when I heard it and saw it at the same time to be hy-per-bo-le  I too was mortified   :o

Oh! Where a random conversation can lead you…

Do you have fond/cringing memories of the game shows of your youth?

What were the game shows of YOUR youth?

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


Running out of time – 6 at 60

Okay… so I suddenly realised that it is February and my next birthday – marking the end of being just 60 – is coming up rapidly. I had intended to try 6 new activities / experiences in my sixtieth year and so far I have only managed three. So I need to squeeze three into the remaining month and a half!

Luckily I have one lined up already – I am going to find out why I sing so badly and, with any luck, learn at least how to keep in tune.

Now don’t get me wrong – I LOVE singing …. it is just that other people around me do not love my singing very much… well, not at all. (The OH usually asks me if my stomach is hurting or something if he’s within earshot)

But it doesn’t stop me because I LOVE SINGING!  It makes me feel good! It keeps me cheerful!

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Good job this isn’t a sound recording!

I can be found upstairs singing familiar songs from the sixties and seventies, complete with hairbrush ‘mic’  :)

I can sometimes often be found dancing and singing around the kitchen, especially if I have radio 2 on and the songs they play are those I know well.

I even apologise in advance  to new people near me if at a church service because I will (and do) sing in church (My reasoning is that He made my voice so He must like it ;) )

And even at the Country Market I go to on a Wednesday morning with my Novels to meet friends and the buying public (My OH calls it my social-club)   I sing, though not too loudly, :) as I do not want to frighten-off the customers!

Strangely, though I can tell a duff note when other people sing to music – or even play music – I could not tune my own guitar when I had one, not being sure whether I was hearing the same note or not. I used to say I was tone deaf –  but have since been told that this is rare and so I am probably not.

A dear friend who  is not only a beautiful and talented singer but also a trained speech therapist is coming to my aid.  She, of the belief that everyone can sing, asked me to do a few simple singing exercises and as a result has become interested to discover why it is that I can hold a note sometimes – but at other times I cannot.

This exciting revelatory experience will begin next week .. so I have to think hard and plan quickly what my other two New Things will be.

On my original list I had both things I would LIKE to do and things I would not like to do – in fact things that SCARED me – but I thought I ought to try before it was too late.

So which would you choose, something you would just like to do … or something you are a little scared of doing but feel you ought to try before it is too late??

Answers in the comments please – you know I listen to You!


Natural Dyeing – a Novel way to research

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Dried natural dye plant material

Well, when you SAY it as opposed to READ it it does cause confusion (and a little consternation if not concern) however, this is all soon put right when I explain  (waving hands about) that I mean dyeing – with COLOURS from natural plants.

A good friend of mine runs workshops from her beautifully converted small barn at Nine Acres near Callington, Cornwall. Workshops on all sorts of crafts. This one was on DYEING USING NATURAL PLANTS .

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Preparing the Weld

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The colour begins to come out – looking a bit green at this stage

So on  a chilly morning we met and after a welcoming cuppa went out into the garden to see some of these plants in their natural state. Now, as this was early winter most were as as stalks of dried out flower stems, or low growing base leaves, but it gave us the idea about the ones that were native or could be grown easily in the UK

Back in the barn we were shown a range of plant material we could work with, some harvested from Jane’s garden, some bought in, some native, some not.

There were eight of us and four work-stations and it was suggested we pair up and each pair work on a different dye in the morning, and yet a different one in the afternoon. Some people had come together, easy pairing. I was there for a very specific reason.

Jane had been to our WI and demonstrated dyeing using Woad, a native plant, and I wanted to know about dyeing using other native plants.

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The resultant colour from using dried Weld plant

 

I said ‘I want to dye with WELD,’ and immediately another guest said, ‘yes, me too!’ This is how Sally and I started working together.

As we gathered the ingredients together I confessed I wasn’t so much interested in dyeing for the product – but that I was researching for a book I want to write one day. Her response was ‘Me too. I’m researching for a book.’

RESEARCH

We worked on the WELD, producing a yellow dye which we then coloured some prepared sheep-wool with. As we worked so I learned of her Trilogy about the real historical figure, Caradoc, set in AD 25 onwards and I told her of my idea to write the legend (that doesn’t exist) to explain the naming of our church after an obscure Irish nun from the late 600s.  Both of us wanting to absorb the sights and smells that may permeate the backgrounds of our stories.

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Dried Madder roots pieces put in together with the wool (before adding water)

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Picking out Madder roots bits from the dyed wool

Now when it comes to researching for novels it can often be done at a remove. You can find many things out now with a carefully worded internet search request and a few clicks of the button. I have also ‘flown’ myself to different parts of the world when researching as I mentioned  here  in another blog - where I wanted my main character Luke Adamson in  The Angel Bug to travel to a prison facility in the USA.

Then you can ‘pick the brains’ of people you know (policemen / doctors / engineers /whatever) for the bits that research cannot really tell you  – sounds, smells, pain-levels, consequences etc.

You can also ‘extrapolate’ from your own experiences. You take the feeling / physical experience from say, the scary experience when some idiot was overtaking and caused a near-miss situation … and develop that snap-shot gut-twist  into the feeling that your character has in a near-death situation.

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From top Weld, Madder and Weld mix) Madder (un-soaked – so pale) and Woad (winter leaves so pale)

And then you can do some first hand work and absorb these sights, textures and smells yourself.

In the afternoon we worked with the third native natural dye – Madder, though the dried root we used was un-soaked, so did not give the deep ‘Beef-Eater Uniform’ red it should. The scent of under-simmering madder (you mustn’t let it boil) seemed sweet in comparison to the ‘cabbage smell’ of the weld, especially noticeable as we compared them directly.  Then at a whim we mixed the remaining Weld Dye with the left-over Madder liquid to produce a pleasant peachy colour.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek at Authors researching and the world of workshop experiences. I am happy to say that Sally’s trilogy will be published by my partnership publisher (Pendown Publishing) so we’ll get to see more of each other as our books go out together into the market.

Do you enjoy going on workshops?

What is the best thing you have ever done on one?

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