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   😮

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.

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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!

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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.

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Big this- Big that – But Bringing people together

I’d love to tell you about the great atmosphere, the laughter, the absolutely yummy food that was to be had at our village Big Breakfast last Saturday first-hand … but as I spent from half past nine to half past twelve cooking eggs and mushrooms non-stop, without time to even look up, I can only report second-hand on most of it.

Please imagine here a large plate, filled up with two rashers of bacon, two sausages, an egg,  then add mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans, to the side have a plate of toast and marmalade and a cup of tea – got that? Good – because I didn’t have time to take a photograph – despite remembering to take my camera!

It is true I could hear the buzz roar of convivial chatter and the laughter, and hear the diners who stuck their heads in the hatch to congratulate us on the tastiness of the food, and, when everyone was gone and we had a chance to eat, I could testify to that too. It was wonderful! However I can only remember one time when we were busier, and that time taught us a lesson in table management!

‘What is this Big Breakfast?’  You might ask, especially if you are not even from the UK (as I know some of you aren’t) or indeed, live in an urban environment where this feast has not caught on … yet.

Each year there is a National Big Breakfast week. Consisting of the traditional English Breakfast. This is partly to raise awareness of good quality British produced foods – bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms and more – and to raise money for whichever group are running it – traditionally here it has been the WI and Parish Hall funds

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Hedgerows of daffodils without litter!

Then in March we have our Big Tidy – which is a parish-wide litter pick of the highways and byways before our beautiful parish bursts into bloom with hedgerows decorated by daffodils and wild flowers. Again organised by us in the WI but participated in by anyone who likes to get involved.

The result is a HUGE (wish I could make the fonts go bigger on this blog) pile of bags of collected litter – and a really warm feeling of achievement! (though perhaps I should DSCF6776 cropwarn of the side-effect: of being able to spot the tiniest piece of litter at a hundred paces that doesn’t wear off for weeks!)

In reality both these are little events in the world scheme of things … but these little things make a difference – they bring people together, help build community, share in everyday things, feel good about their environment.

Big This – Big That – but these little things DO make a difference. Community, shared environment, shared lives.

What events are run in your area that bring people together?

Who is it that organises them?

Did you come along to the Big Breakfast? Are you going to join in the Big Tidy?

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

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